Kamla Weeps for Daniel

By Cecily Asson and Stacy Moore
February 22 2011 – newsday.co.tt

ViolenceAn emotional Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday described the killer of eight-year-old Daniel Guerra as a “monster” and called for swift justice.

She also announced that the tragic death of Daniel had strengthened her resolve “that we need to use more drastic measures in the fight against the criminals.”

She called upon all law enforcement agencies to do all in their power to bring the killer to justice, and also pleaded with parents and neighbours to protect the children in their communities.

According to reports, a detective assigned to the Southern Division is assisting his colleagues with their investigations into the disappearance and death of the little boy.

Two days after he went missing near his home at Bedeau Street, Gasparillo, Daniel’s body was found floating in the Tarouba River, off the Tarouba Link Road on Sunday.

Investigators have since seized two station diaries from the police station where the officer is assigned and impounded a silver car. A senior police source told Newsday the police officer who is a close friend of one of Guerra’s female relatives was questioned after the boy was reported missing.

However, ACP Fitzroy Frederick told Newsday the police did not have a suspect in custody and investigations are continuing.

“We are investigating and a lot of people have been questioned. I can say though, that we don’t have anyone in custody at this time,” said Frederick.

Daniel’s grandmother Shirley Indarsingh said his ambition in life was to become a “rich boy” and support his family. To this end, he had already saved $630 which she had deposited in a saving account in his name.

“All he used to tell me is, ‘Ma you see when I reach big all I know is that I want to be rich and I want to be a millionaire, and I will help you and Pa.’”

Shirley also called for swift justice for her grandson, saying the authorities should hang his murderer in full view of the public and suggested it be done on Independence Square, Port-of- Spain.

Persad-Bissessar, who constantly had to wipe the tears from her eyes, told relatives and residents in the small village that there were many “sick minds and sick souls” roaming the land. She spoke to reporters after meeting with Daniel’s mother Rona Indarsingh, 26, who, remained upstairs in a room away from the glare of the media even as an impromptu prayer meeting was conducted. The teary-eyed Persad-Bissessar was accompanied by Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Foreign Affairs Minister and Tabaquite MP Suruj Rambachan, as they alone were allowed to speak with Rona, privately.

Persad-Bissessar later told reporters she “prayed with” the distraught woman whom she described as “deeply bereaved” and offered words of comfort to her.

She went on to call for the passage of the Capital Punishment Bill “so that we can re-introduce hangings.”

“As you know, we have that Bill before the Parliament. We go back on Wednesday. Let us pass the law as well, so that when we do find that monster, he can feel the full brunt of the law of the punishment for taking a life.”

She said words were not enough to express the “pain and sadness” the nation felt upon learning of the death of Daniel.

Daniel, a student of Gasparillo Government Primary School, never returned home following a trip to a nearby parlour to purchase Lucozade. His body washed up in the Tarouba River in the vicinity of San Fernando Technical Institute late Sunday evening.

Persad-Bissessar said the death of any love one is painful, but when a child dies in such circumstances it creates more pain and grief.

“As a mother myself, as a grandmother, I can feel it in my stomach,” she said. “For us as a Government, we must leave no stone unturned to bring this monster to justice. Whoever is responsible for this we must find that person and the full brunt of justice and law must be applied.” She further called on the nation to join in prayer with the family and also suggested that parents must do more not to leave their children alone.

Persad-Bissessar was overcome with sadness and during the interview her voice cracked several times as she tried to control her emotions.

She called on the country “to band together and run the criminals out of our land.”

She also announced she will convene the National Security Council and also meet with President George Maxwell Richards today to discuss the way forward to deal with crime.

Persad-Bissesar further promised that counselling will be provided to the young family members at Daniel’s home and at his school. Also, she indicated the social services departments of Government will assist in whatever way the family needed.

During the short prayer service, family members and villagers joined hands with a crying Persad-Bissessar and her ministers as she led the singing of the hymn “What a Friend We Have Jesus.” She also joined in the singing of the hymns such as “Amazing Grace”, while Rambachan offered a Hindu prayer.

Daniel’s aunt, Renuka, said the little boy did not deserve to die and his killer was a coward. She too warned parents to ensure they always know where their children are at all times. “You can’t even send them in the shop alone,” she said.

Neighbours said they are now taking precautionary measures at their homes.

“This is shocking to all of us,” said Sara Nagil, 75. She said she was seated in a hammock last Friday when she saw Daniel walking on his way to the shop. “At that time I did not know that one hour later he would be missing. Then to get the news days later that he was dead, it broke my heart,” she said.

Moonilal Ramkisson, who began crying as he spoke about Daniel, said he thought of the little boy as one of his own grandchildren.

Angela Beharry, 49, said there is a feeling of fear and sadness in the village. “You see everybody was so close with Daniel and did not expect something like this to happen. So people are now scared for the lives of their own children,” she said.

An autopsy on Daniel’s body is due to be performed today at the Forensic Science Centre, St James. Investigations are continuing.


9 Responses to “Kamla Weeps for Daniel”

  • Once again, a single parent child has died tragically. Once again, a mixed race child had died tragically. He is the same age as Hope Arismandez, the subject of my poem
    “I Weep For A Child I Do Not Know”, on file at the National Library, after my reading there last April.
    Once again, we see the specter of a child caught up in forces far beyond his child’s ability to comprehend. Once again, a Monster In The High Grass raises its head. “Monster” was a story I read to little girls at Arima Girls Gov’t School, in June of 2007, just before they closed for the holidays.

    Children, alas, do not see monsters when they come, like in the case of Little Red Riding Hood, clad in the clothing of a friend or relative. Children, living with one parent, reach out to others in an apparent constant attempt to fill that gap.This often leads to tragedy. A child will go with someone they percieve as a friend, totally unaware of danger, until its too late.
    I watch baby lions doing the same thing on the Discovery Channel. The new male, who has taken over the pride, walks over to the babies of another male and systematically kills them. There is nothing the mother can do, the cubs do not see the danger. Destroying another lions offspring brings the mother back into heat, so that the new male can implant his sperm. Are lions different from people? I think not, not much.
    As I think about this child, I say a silent prayer for my parents, and for my father who stayed. We often did not agree on much. It is a certainty that I strongly disliked my father in my teen years. He was this enormous African man who did not smile. He stared at you with a look so fierce that it forced you to review atll the pranks you had gotten into, to spculate on which one he had found out about. But he was there. He stood in the door way of our house, filling it up. You had to get past him to get into the house,or out.

    Only as an adult, with a family of my own, did I begin to understand that protective stance. A man is a warrior at the entrance to his house, when he has eight daughters.

    This child had no such warrior. If one of the Edwards’ girls had had to go to the parlour, one would have stood watch at the entrance to our yard, or two would have gone together. “To keep each other company” my mother always explained. never fully telling us the dangers that lurked all around.

    Had this child been in school that day, the death that was stalking him would have gone another way, and may have been witnessed by someone who cares. There are caring people all over the place, but circumstances in our society, often make them think they should care only for their own tribe. Was there such weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth when Hope Arismandez died? I was flying out if TnT the day she was discovered, and found out from the papers I bought in the airport.MAybe such teeth gnashing is just politics, mybe genuine grief. It could have been anyone’s child or niece or nephew, so we all should weep.

    Twentyfive years ago, myself,and others did workshops at the Public Library on child abuse. There is the need for a continuing series of such workshops, to help parents spot signs of problems in their children. There is the need for teachers to be REQUIRED to report such signs of abuse and neglect if they think they notice something. A Tobago teacher was killed for this, but another in Chaguanas successfully intervened in the case of the five year old prostitute.
    The entire nation MUST be vigorous in protecting our children. If you hear a child crying,please check on it. It IS your business. If you see a child in a grocery store with signs of fresh bruises, please note it and tell someone. These innocents Depend On Us to protect them. Failure in one spot is failure everywhere.

  • Daniel’s gone forever
    Lincoln Guerra blames his failed marriage for the death of his first born child, Daniel.

    …Daniel Drowned
    Eight-year-old Daniel Guerra died from drowning, an autopsy found yesterday. Who took the boy from outside his Gasparillo home last Friday is now the focus of the investigators, who have classified the case as a homicide.

    Homicide investigates Daniel’s drowning

    Family says it was murder

    ‘Be careful of strangers’
    SCHOOLMATES of Daniel Guerra were yesterday given the task by Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh to find out the meaning of the word “psychopath”.

    Rowley, Douglas horrified
    OPPOSITION LEADER Dr Keith Rowley yesterday described the death of eight-year-old Daniel Guerra as “horrendous.” He also called upon Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to ensure that Government brings proper legislation to Parliament to implement the death penalty instead of seeking to politicise crime.

  • The death penalty- A Ghaddafi solution, a Hitler solution, an Idi Amin solution, a solution much loved by governments of Asia, including Pol Pot, has no place in a modern society that Trinidad would like to consider itself.

    Instead, I wish we could “celebrate” the life of Daniel Guerra by building “Well Baby” clinics all over the country, by establishing child care centers all over, by setting up temporary drop off centers/ 2 hrs max.; where a beleagured single mother can drop her under 12 child for a period of daytime stress relief.
    Instead, we could use our money to guarantee a milk and fruit allowance for every child under 12 whose family income falls below a certain amount. We should lower the cost of basic footwear so that all children can have shoes for school. I went to school in wachekongs from Bata,and as surprised to see that they still exist in Mlawi, providing cheap footwear.
    We could plant a tree in his schoolyard for his schoolmates to nurture, and we could spend some money on training teachers to recognize signs of abuse in children. We should also train them in alternative discipline strategies besides hitting. Children who are hit, will, as soon as they get big enough, and hardened by brutality, hit back.Since teaching no longer attracts the brightest young men, the frail women who teach need other strategies for dealing with students bigger than them. Been there, know what I am talking about. In my last fifteen years of teaching, there were many students in my class who could lift me off my feet without the slightest effort. Dealing with them wih kindness was a trait I already knew, but it was more necessary in a poor neighbourhood.

    Marriage counselling, as part of the Ministry of Social welfare
    is also a necessity.

    All of this, would be better for Daniel than hanging the one, two or three persons who had something to do with his death.
    May Ritza,Marco, Justin and Crystal, also named Guerra, my greatnieces and nephews, be foreever safe watched over by two parents, safe schools, caring communities, and an extended family of loving relatives.

  • It’s time for Kamla to stop crying, singing, dressing up and dancing and start governing.

  • hear dis na- did you tell dis to manning when all the kidnapping/killing was going on?

  • Continuing to link the Death Penalty debate to the death of little Daniel Guera, would be quite ironic of any of his relatives were involed in and convicted of the crime.

    What plans does the Government of TnT have for resurrecting a wrongly convicted man who was hanged? Would his family be entitled to the “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth law”? Would they be able to demand the life of the judge, or a jury member, or the prosecutor as forfeit in such a case? The state of Texas now has forty liing men, mostly Black but a few whites, who each spent 25+ years in jail for crimes they did not commit, who were finally freed by DNA evidence. At least four of these were on death row.
    We should not, as a member of the community of civilized nations, take such a giant step backwards.Crime is the bastard child of abject poverty, deprivation and despair.

    There is NO objective evidence anywhre in the world that shows that the death pnalty reduces crme.
    In addition, only non-white nations, and nations that were once slave owning have the death enalty. The white man abandonned this rule, after teaching it to his African, Chinese and Indian colonists, whom he considered barbarians anyway.

  • “I Weep For A Child I Did Not Know”

    This poem of rage, written when Hope’s body was found,in 2008, will be read in my home town at an international forum on March 4th, 2011.

    I will mention the death of Daniel Guerra in my preliminary remarks.
    Please do not think I am lambasting my country on an international stage; but I think it is time that we pull out all stops to look into cases of the disappearance and murder of our children. Some will party and wine that weekend, children may be left home alone, or with unreliable adults, while we fete.
    Childminding is serious business, and we get a failing grade as a nation.
    I am not intending to push away tourists, or in any other way bring my country into more ill-repute than it already earned.
    I beliee we are dealing with hardened criminals who do joy killing.
    To the parents of Hope, it is my hope that continued focus on the brutality of someone so near to the child, will wake up other mothers.Please understand that I am not trying to rub your wounds raw again.

  • I read today in the daily papers, the Prime Minister’s “Letter to Daniel” which addressed some concerns I raised in this column in my three previous comments. I am glad that she apparently read them, or had them read to her.
    Madame PM; outlining a plan of action, without enabling legislation and appropriate funding,is just political old talk. Let us, as we grieve over another child lost also remember Akiel, Luke, Hope, Vishnu, the four year old girl in Marabella who was beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend, and Mark Prescott, some of whom seem to have disappeared into thin air, as well as those poisoned by despairing fathers. Remember this.When a woman hears of the death of a child, she aches in all her childbearing parts. It truly is her child. I hope your demonstrated concern goes beyond International Women’s Day. I hope all those suggestions we made more than twenty-five years ago, of establishing hotlines, and requiring companies that market products to children, or infant products to their mothers, to put the hotline numbers on those products, would be implemented. Let the media know that government favor will go to those that keep this issue in the forfront of the national consciousness. Daniel’s death is one tragedy too many.
    I insist on repeating that a teacher training component needs to be added, police oficers need to be further sensitized to these issues and hospitals must have mandatory reporting requirements, including the requirement to report all births to young women who are not yet seventeen.
    Let us investigate and prosecute all those who trade in children, wherever in the society they are to be found We have become so modern that high society vices may now be ours. Child trafficking HAPPENS IN TNT, says Interpol. Check it out,but first we need enabling legislation, and funding for training staff to identify and deal with this issue.
    Fially, let me re-suggest an idea that I raised with previous governments- as part of a collective bargaining agreement, government workers far from their places of residence, should be able to bring thier children to a nursery in the building where they work. All that is needed is designated space on the first floor, or ground floor, called differently in different places, with a separate secure entrance, and separate washroom facilities.
    A woman returning to work, who can bring her child to daycare in her own office building, can see that child during her lunch break. She can take her home at the end of the day, and not worry about rushing home before the day care closes, or leaving the infant/toddler with irresposible adults. Yhis would put us on the map internationalls, as doing something positive for women and children, during your stewardship.
    The triangular trip of mother and infant to ducare from home, then mother to office, then back to daycare, then home, takes a severe toll on women who must work to make ends meet. Its even worse for single mothers. Do this, and all the gods/God will bless you.

  • This is a tragedy which hurts.my deepest condolences to this child’s family and those affected.however this p.m.must wipe the tears and be resolved in fighting a battle she were placed to perform.her disscussion with the president should also be that of willingness not only to advocate for more vigilance but to firmly fesolve her credibility to lead in developing strong effective and deciseve plans through out the justice and education system .tears would not be enough.her credibility for action is at stake.

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