HURST REPORTS ON Cabinet OF Wednesday 18 May 2022

The Cabinet invited the Director of Family Services and two police officers who are all connected to providing protection to children who may suffer battering by parents and other guardians. The invitation was triggered by a particular case involving a young boy who was being beaten severely by his father, and a neighbour who reported what he thought was abuse of the child. The neighbour actually contacted the police who in turn contacted the child protection services; they travelled to the home and the parents refused the officials entry, leaving the child to the mercy of his parents. The Cabinet addressed the question of the sufficiency of the law to permit law enforcement to  actually intervene in circumstances where the welfare of the child may very likely be in grave danger. The issue arising was whether any action could be taken in a child abuse case when a minor is being severely beaten or physically abused by his or her parents. The Attorney General pointed to the Child Care Protection Act 2016 Section 136(e) which gives the police the power to arrest. It was agreed by Cabinet that there needed to be a cadre of police officers trained to intervene in circumstances like these, and that no amendment to the law is required.

ii. The Cabinet held a discussion with the officials about an 11-year old pregnant girl who was taken to the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre for fear that the pregnancy may endanger her life. The police operate a Special Victims Unit to treat with minors who suffer similar fate from sexual predators. However, under the law, confidentiality is required. The name of the victim and the names of those who may have victimized the young minor cannot be released. Confidentiality then serves to protect even those who victimize.

iii. One of the Policemen noted that substance abuse by children is prevalent, especially of marijuana; however, the law does not allow for random testing of minors; parental permission is required. The Cabinet decided that a multi-sectoral group would be organized consisting of the police, Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Child Protection Unit, NGO’s, Churches and other community groups to study the subject of substance abuse and to perfect ways of discouraging youth from participating in this harmful exercise. A number of activities were identified that have seemingly worked in other places where youth have been discouraged from engaging in this harmful behaviour.

iv. The Cabinet applauded the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education for placing Early Childhood Education as a top priority in the coming five years. The first of these centers was built in Buckleys, using funds from the Maria Holder Trust, organized by the previous Minister of Education/Parliamentary Representative for All Saints West. Similar centers are to be constructed in Bolans, Grays Green Community, and in several densely populated communities in and around St. John’s; similar centers are planned for St. Phillips and the Northern corridor. The research has shown that children who have exposure to formal learning between ages 2 and 5 are in a better position than those who have not. It also appears that they are less likely to drop-out of school in their later years and to become wards of the state.

2. The Cabinet invited the head of the Port Authority, the Principal of Blue Ocean and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism to report on the progress being made for readying the channel and turning basin, intended to accommodate the OASIS class cruise ships. The turning basin is 99% complete and the channel poses a challenge where some very hard material (125,000 cubic meters of volcanic rock) has to be removed in order to satisfy the operators of the OASIS class ships. It is anticipated that the work will be completed before the end of June 2022. Additional dredging will also take place to allow for the bigger cement-laden ships, heading for Crabbes, to pass through a deeper channel which Blue Ocean will construct. A plan for the disposal of the dredged materials is to be studied and authorized by the Department of the Environment.

3. The Cabinet agreed that National Solid Waste Management Authority will conduct a national clean-up in the Month of June, 2022. Old cars parked on the streets will be taken away to Cooks landfill; large X’s will be placed on them ahead of time to give their owners adequate notice of their pending disposal. During the lead-up to the commencement of the National Clean-up, the police will work closely with the Central Board of Health and the NSWMA to ensure that the lawful authority of the state is exercised.

4. Carnival 2022 will be launched on Thursday afternoon, 19th May 2022, at the Interpretation Center at Dowe Hill under the theme: “Reigniting the Spirits”. Carnival 2022 will take place at the Antigua Recreations Grounds, which will be significantly improved prior to the July/August events. Sponsorship for those events has already been secured with the exception of two.

ii. The Minister of Festivals informed the Cabinet that eighty-seven (87) fetes have been approved since the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. The information reaching the Minister confirms that the promoters are experiencing brisk sale of tickets; all are seemingly profitable enterprises, confirming the speculation of a pent-up demand for entertainment.

iii. The Minister of Health attributes the increase in active COVID cases to Labour Day public celebrations and encourages all eligible persons who have not yet vaccinated to do so immediately. Booster shots are also available.

5. The Minister of Public Safety reported that another fire truck will be landing at the Port on Thursday, 19th May, to supplement those that have already been deployed.

ii. The Minister of Public Utilities reported that the newly-arrived membranes have been placed in the desalinated plants at Crabbes and the output of potable water will be increased by 250,000 gallons of water daily, beginning this weekend.  

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