Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister is calling on the public to report cases of domestic abuse. The Minister made this comment in light of the death of Toshao Solomon Lewis of Kurutuku Village (Middle Maz), Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) who was beheaded in the wee hours of Tuesday.
It was reported that Lewis and his son attempted to stop his 27-year-old son-in-law from beating his daughter. Annoyed at the two men’s intervention, the suspect armed himself with a cutlass and dealt several chops to his father-in-law, severing his head in the process.
He then turned his attention to his brother-in-law, dealing him several chops which also reportedly severed one of the man’s hands. Following the incident, the suspect fled the scene in a boat. He was however later arrested and is being processed for court.
However, the Minister said domestic violence “has been a worry for a very long time and while the Toshaos are Rural Constables, where they have the powers of arrest, they will still be insecurities as we have witnessed in this case, the overpowering of wrong doers of the authority of the Village Council”.
He added “this is something the villages and communities need to focus on and to take early step of curbing that situation to avoid another mishap. With this situation, I was told that this is not the first nor the second time that he has been an abusive partner, and she happens to be the daughter of the Toshao and it’s really, really sad”.
Allicock pointed out the need to have proactive Community Policing Groups noting that “we will have to find a way of encouraging Village Councils are establish Policing Groups who will deal with such matters at that level and who can also bring such cases to the relevant authorities”.
Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry, Valerie Garrido-Lowe who has direct responsibility for social and welfare issues said the Ministry, has taken steps to address such issues by employing and training welfare officers as well as providing training for members of the respective Village Councils.
“Minister Allicock and I after viewing the situation, decided that welfare officers should be employed and trained in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine so that they can help in these situations. We employed seven in 2018 and two more will be employed in 2019. They received training for one month on all these issues, where they would be able to give counsel, give advice to teenagers, women and men in a professional way,” Lowe stated.
Both Ministers shared a similar concern where villages “would close ranks and no one wants to speak out against the perpetrator and sometimes the victim themselves would not want to speak. Sometimes when it’s extreme then it would go further”.
The Minister said it is for the same reason welfare officers are employed from within the villages and receive the appropriate training. Minister Garrido-Lowe said while much was accomplished, much more will be done since the Ministry is aware that such issues must be addressed frontally.
Additionally, Minister Garrido-Lowe noted that visits will be made to the village in the coming weeks to meet with the women folk to ensure they are empowered “not only financially or economically, but also educate them in regards to their rights.
The Ministry has much more to do to ensure that the Indigenous peoples learn their rights, learn about domestic violence, the Amerindian Act and incest.
Even the teenagers in the schools, we also have to ensure that the Ministry of Education disseminates information to the primary schools with regards to what is appropriate behaviour in terms of touching. It’s a journey we have taken and we will ensure we complete it,” she added.
To date, two welfare officers are currently employed in Region One (Barima-Waini), one in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) and four in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo).
Meanwhile, both Ministers have expressed regret for this unfortunate incident and assured that the Ministry will provide the necessary assistance to the relatives of the now dead man during this difficult time. The passing of Toshao Lewis has put a dent on the village’s governance structure.