A sad situation

Newsday Editorial
Wednesday, June 27 2012

VictimTHERE’S certainly nothing to celebrate about the jailing of a mother for having abused her child, as one wonders how all her children will now fare without her.

We refer to the imposition of a three-year jail sentence on Kamla Ramcharan, 29, of Longdenville, Chaguanas, for burning the left hand of her daughter, Vishala Bikharrie, eight, on a hot tawah, in a supposed attempt to discipline the child for allegedly stealing $5 from a schoolmate.

Reports are that Ramcharan tried to burn the child’s hand on the tawah, and then burnt it on a stove flame, for which Vishala incurred third degree burns.

Chaguanas Magistrate Gillian David-Scotland described it as a heinous act for which the mother had shown no remorse later.

While we would normally be the first to applaud the meting out of justice to an offender, in this case we ask whether imprisonment is in fact the best outcome to this case, given the circumstances leading up to the offence, and now the fact of the children’s deprivation of their mother.

It seems to us to be a case of an overburdened parent — a single mother of four children — clearly having inadequate parenting skills to cope.

However, unlike the gist of the argument posited by her friends and neighbours at the courthouse, we would not go so far as to suggest that Ramcharan just suddenly snapped under the pressures of life. We say so because it was a sustained act involving both tawah and then stove flame, and because afterwards she didn’t express shock at her own actions but on the other hand tried to justify herself to the police. She had said, “I not sorry for what I do. I sure she not going to steal again.” On the contrary it may well be that Ramcharan was exhibiting a pattern of learned, cultural behaviour. Many persons in pockets and communities across Trinidad and Tobago themselves grew up from childhood witnessing punishments such as kneeling on a grater.

It may well be that in the present case the presiding magistrate decided to send a clear message that burning a child is not any social norm that she is prepared to tolerate.

Supporters of Ramcharan — including Vishala’s biological father, Navin Bikharrie have argued that the three-year sentence was too harsh.

“That woman try hard but she is frustrated,” remarked one woman. “Three years is too harsh for a mother.” Navin agreed, vowing to visit her often in jail to offer words of comfort.

In addition to the first question as to whether Ramcharan’s actions were out of character or alternatively were a characteristic of her internal values, one must also ask whether or not she would be likely to commit such an offence again, to any of her four children.

However even if there is an unfavourable answer to both these questions, one must ask a further question: in general are those four children better off with or without their mother in their lives for the next three years?

It is a question not to be taken lightly.

Further, we would ask whether there might be some alternative to incarceration, that could let the mother retain contact with her children. This is especially desirable given the fact that this was her first offence.

For example in such cases one option instead of jail might be for a programme of counselling by social workers, and/or rehabilitation and psychotherapy at St Ann’s Hospital. Of course, Ramcharan has the right to appeal her sentence.

While we note that Vishala has now gone to live with her father, we wonder who is going to raise Ramcharan’s three other children, and whether any such new arrangements might now mean the break-up of the family.

This sad case certainly highlights the situation in hundreds of households across TT where some parents find themselves simply unable to cope with all the heavy responsibilities of raising children. What help is available for such distressed parents, we ask? It may be that a parent under pressure simply needs a place of solitude to get solace, away from the burdens of parenthood say just once a week, such as the centres for healing once proposed by former Gender Affairs Minister, Verna Rose-St Greaves. As TT moves away from living the ideal that, “it takes a village to raise a child”, it may be time for more State assistance to help reduce the burden of parenthood, such as sending children to homework centres.

More must be done, where possible, to help prevent such tragedies recurring.


2 Responses to “A sad situation”

  • Three years is too much for a mother, the children will be without their mother.

    This can happen only in Trinidad. I don’t like Comparing other Countries, However this is to Enlighten our People.

    If that happened in Canada, instead of Children without a Mother, It would be Children Taken away From an Unfit Mother
    by Child Protective Services.

    The Mother will also be jailed, the neighbours who are now supporting the mother, will also be Jailed if they knew the children were abused & not Report it.

    I know what I am talking about. It is also available on the Canadian Government Website, Under Community & Social Service, Child Protective Service.

    As Anyone There are Ambulances Services & Hospital Services for Animals in Canada, England & the United States. as well as other parts of the World. In Trinidad we Have Nothing in Place for our Vulnerable Citizens, Our very Young, Our Old, Disabled,& Mentally Ill Citizens.

    Yet the Government is talking about A Companion Build for the Red House. Only In Trinidad.. It is a Sad Situation Indeed,

    I notice Big Fete getting Ready to Celebrate (50) Years Of our Independence. I SAY WERE WERE BETTER OFF UNDER THE BRITISH RULE, I Know, I was Born in the Port Of Spain Colonial Hospital in a Ward, Not in the Hallway Because the Maternity Ward was Closed for the Night. That was when my mother went in. I ARRIVED AT (6.00 am) Oh An Ambulance Came for her,

    My Father was also Present. Thank God..

  • I agree that we were BETTER of with British rule.I was born in 1947, grew up British and schooled at QRC under the British. In 1975 I left TnT for America and is still here with 33 years employed in communications and expect to retire in a few years. When I look back at TnT now after Independence, all I could remember is neighbors were at each other’s throats if someone’s daughter got married to a nice boy; others were doing obeah(black magic) to others in their same village; if someone buys a new car and other bad things to each other. I had two small sons then. I told my Mom I cannot live here anymore, seeing such harm done to each other then. By this time four of my older brothers had already left TnT. My Mom said, “you too going away and leave me and your father here alone?” Both my parents could not read nor write. I said to her that I will not raise my sons here in this atmosphere. So I left. Recently one of my elder brothers retired here and went back home. He told me, “when I retire do not make his mistake by going back home. They are killing people like flies in TnT.”
    On the question of harsh punishment, I disagree. It is just. Not because she is alone to raise the kids. My argument is that if you cannnot support your kids or raise them properly, then DO NOT HAVE KIDS. It is your responsibility because you made them, just like I made my kids and supported them, why can’t they?
    I also read TnT news daily on the net. The muder rate is now about 191!!! I know death calls when your time is up and God takes no blame for someone;s death. But since Independence TnT has gone wild with “money is no problem,” with both Williams and Manning raping the country financially. Power is a terrible thing. Manning tried to be a dictator for life, like Chavez and the President of Honduras but all failed. Lastly, it is all our fault for voting for these incompetent idiots to rule us. I think our new PM is doing a great job trying to unfix the diasaters of Manning. It takes time and patience my fellow folks. In America we all rally around our President no matter what. We must do the same for or PM and give her a chance. For fifty years PNM ruled TnT and look at where we are today.Over 80 percent our our people live below the poverty line, all due to gov’t waste of our money. In the past TnT had lots of oil money to assist the poor to a better life. Now we expect Kamla do fix everything in 5 years? Remember I said patience before. Things must get better because of our long bad past (PNM). They go hand in hand, after bad comes good. God made everything in pairs of opposites; good and bad, wet and dry, high and low, cold and hot and so on. Good luck all.

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