THE CANDID admission by Children’s Authority chairman Hanif Benjamin that society as a whole – including, presumably, his agency – failed Mukeisha Maynard should trigger meaningful action, not merely words of regret, when it comes to how we protect minors.
Mukeisha deserved much better. She deserved a better life. She deserved a better fate. And, in death, she deserved much better than the childish blame game that erupted this week between relatives, community members and even the police. Passing the buck, engaging in “shoulda, woulda, coulda,” all of it does nothing except rub salt in our wounds.
Benjamin said the authority is now investigating whether it received a report, what happened to the report and if none was sent, why not. And yet, such matters should have been clear before he even addressed this issue. The after-the-fact checking of these crucial facts speaks volumes.
The chairman also said the authority’s emergency response team was deployed to assess the environment in which Mukeisha’s brother is living. This is welcomed and we call on the authority, as well as relevant stakeholders, to provide as much support as possible in the circumstances.
But members of the family, speaking at the Forensic Science Centre on Tuesday, blamed the child’s mother. They said they tried to help her get her children out of the reach of their abusive father. But it seems the child’s mother, too, needed help. She was clearly fettered by her own fear.
In an unhelpful intervention, the police distanced themselves and said no reports were made at the Morvant or the Chaguanas Police Stations. However, they said there were three reports against the child’s father, two concerning abuse and one report of rape. Tellingly, these involved allegations of assaulting the child, threats and child neglect. It was reported the children – the victims of the abuse – denied being abused by their father. Most unsatisfactorily, none of this, it seems, was adequate to trigger more meaningful scrutiny, whether by the police or the designated child protection agencies.
Nor did a separate report by a relative who discovered the child’s mother was being beaten.
“They said because there wasn’t a female officer present they could not examine the child,” a relative said. “But she had a bruise on her back.”
Meanwhile, much anger has, rightly, been directed at the perpetrator who died by suicide. His state of mind will never be fully understood, but at the very least it veered into territory that made him a threat to the safety of his own family and society. Could he have been treated or helped in some way?
What is particularly aggravating is that we expect private domestic matters to be difficult to police. But in this case, all that was going on seemed most public. The whole system failed. A tragedy and a shame.