It was the usual defensive game being played in Saint Lucia following the murder of a four-year-old who was in the care of his father and stepmother. And once again Saint Lucians vented their anger on street corners and via the numerous talk shows. The mother wants justice, claiming that she had made reports to the relevant authorities that she suspected the child was being abused. Four-year-old Milan Ferdinand was placed in the care of his father after his mother, with no fixed place of abode, was deemed unfit to care for him.
The relevant authorities, meaning the police and Human Services, are not accepting blame. Elizabeth Lewis, Director of Human Services, this week acknowledged that her department did receive one report of abuse for Milan and acted on it. According to her: “Milan was examined by a medical doctor but at that time the issue was not deemed serious.” The question is who or what criteria determine how seriously a child has to be hurt before authorities will act. And were any further investigations into this child’s welfare done?
According to Lewis, pointing fingers at Human Services and the police, and removing ourselves, is not going to help. “There are several Milans going through the same situation and people must respond,” she fired back at critics of her department.
However, the fact that there are many other Milans around as I write, does not remove blame from the authorities whose role and mandate is to protect those they have sworn to protect. Remember the young boy who was in the state’s custody at the Boy’s Training Centre and burned to death? Since then no one has taken or accepted responsibility. And there have been many instances here of children being neglected and drowning in pools, at the beach; even brutally punished and maimed. Doesn’t the Constitution give every child the right to life, protection and certain privileges?
The excuse about the Department of Human Services not having the resources, any time criticism is leveled at it, does not fly. If the department is not properly equipped and funded then it has a duty to apply the necessary pressure on those in authority and to inform the public of its limitations.
More questions about this recent case: was the mother given any assistance in making her conditions more suitable to taking care of Milan? What kind of assessment went into the domestic conditions of Milan’s father to determine if he was a better choice for the child?
Questions are also being raised about the neighbours near the home of Milan, in Grande Ravine, Dennery. Did anyone hear or see anything? And whatever happened to the Christian society mantra of being my brother (or sister’s) keeper?
Police reportedly last week started their investigations into the abuse of the boy, allegedly at the hands of his stepmother. This, after the boy was taken to hospital in critical condition. The STAR has been reliably informed that the child’s body bore several bruises. Milan’s fatal blow came as a result of a concussion that he suffered and for which he was admitted to the ICU at the hospital. He never made it out alive and was reported dead on Friday October 9, 2015.
A post mortem examination has since revealed that Milan died as a result of severe brain damage and head injury due to blunt force trauma. Also noted were multiple blunt force traumas all over the body.
Police have labeled the matter a homicide. On Friday, October 16, police arrested and detained two individuals in connection with the death of Milan Ferdinand of Dennery. The STAR has learnt that those individuals are the father and stepmother. The case file has been handed over to the DPP and charges are expected to be laid next week.
A candle-light vigil for Milan was held last night from the Richfond Gap to the Grande Ravine Bridge.
As we were about to go to press we received news of another four-year-old boy, this time from Coolie Town, who has been hospitalized. The STAR has been reliably informed that the boy was severely beaten by his father.