Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams, speaking to the media following a tour to view the ongoing renovations at the Government Industrial School, today. Looking on are Chairman of the GIS Board, Reverend Dr. Lucille Baird (left); and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Information, Deborah Payne (centre). (T. Barker/BGIS)

The departmental enquiry on operations at the Government Industrial School (GIS) is almost complete.

That is according to Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams, who was responding to a question from the media, following a tour to view the ongoing renovations at the Dodds, St. Philip facility, this morning.

Explaining why the enquiry had not been completed and the findings handed over, Minister Abrahams stated: “Two of the young ladies had absconded; they were not available to participate in the enquiry and they were not available to put their case. And as everybody knows, I’m not taking any tales out of school, their supposed experiences were very high profile and sparked a lot of public comment and were dominant in the public domain.

“We could not possibly conclude the enquiry without having given those young ladies a chance to put their evidence and to have that evidence tested, investigated and to form part of the findings of the enquiry.”

As it relates to what had transpired thus far in the departmental enquiry, the Minister disclosed that over 90 witnesses had been interviewed, excluding the one ward who was recently surrendered back into custody. 

He said an invitation would be extended to the young lady to be interviewed at a time convenient to her, but not one that hinders the finality of the enquiry’s conclusion.

Minister Abrahams pointed out that once her interview took place, the Committee would be in a position to complete the enquiry. 

He noted that the Committee had been working hard and had already started pulling everything together, and once there were no inconsistencies with the ward’s evidence and that in hand, the report would be compiled.

He said if there were any inconsistencies, additional interviews and evidence gathering would have to take place.

Mr. Abrahams stressed that the departmental enquiry was considering all operating aspects of the school, and asked the public to be patient and await the results and the recommendations proposed for the GIS going forward.

When questioned about the child protection legislation and the Child Justice Bill, the Minister noted that the child justice legislation had been drafted, however, the child protection legislation had to be drafted and a lack of legislative drafters in Barbados had been hampering the process.

“…It sends the wrong message to push out child justice legislation and have the child protection legislation lagging behind. We intend to do it together as a sweep because it is not just about dealing with children once they are in the system, it is also about what can we do and what measures can we, the State, put in place to keep them out of the system,” Mr. Abrahams explained.

He added that Government was aware of the priorities regarding creating and upgrading existing legislation, including those pertaining to the welfare of the island’s children, and revealed that the Attorney General and the Prime Minister are actively trying to “recruit legislative drafters”; an area he pointed out is “one of the most specialised areas in law”.

“Our legislative agenda is actually quite aggressive. A lot of laws have been passed and we’re trying to review a lot more and trying to get Barbados as current as it can be with all of the legislative input to make us the model country and to have model legislation in as many areas as we can.  So, it literally, at this point in time, is a case of too little resources, but we are out trying to shore up those resources, but it is not so simple,” Minister Abrahams stated.

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