Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

The first week of March 2016 will be remembered in Dominica as one for the history books. It was a week made memorable because of sordid tales of sexual abuse of minors by powerful individuals in our society. Ports minister Ian Pinard, under suspicion of having unlawful sexual contact with a minor, resigned his position in the cabinet of prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit but has held on to his seat in parliament. The police are attempting to locate him with no success, presumably to read charges against him as well for his part in the Pay-to-Play scandal. Opposition MP Joshua Francis has been charged with one count of Indecent Assault for alleged inappropriate behavior and is out on $15,000 bail.

The most serious charges filed so far in the case have be levied against Kairi FM proprietor Frankie "Krazy T" Bellot. Mr. Bellot is charged with 3 counts of  Indecent Sexual Assault and 3 counts of Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a minor. Mr. Bellot is a high profile supporter of the ruling Dominica Labour Party government of prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit. Credible information reaching this blog indicate that persons known to be employed in offices located on the upper floors of the Financial Centre have been attempting to steer this case off course.

From the very beginning, when knowledge of this case began to circulate, overtures were said to have been made in the form of significant financial compensation to the victim's family in an effort to "sweep it under the carpet". These overtures, allegedly coordinated by both a current and a former government minister, are said to have consisted of offers of large sums of cash. The family is said to have rebuffed these overtures. MiTC condemns all attempts at perverting the course of justice.

The Roosevelt Skerrit government faces an existential threat. It has on its hands a full-blown crisis implicating, with some degree of involvement, prominent supporters as well as current and former government officials, that has the ability to cripple his government. But all indicators point to efforts afoot to throw this investigation off its rails. How else do you explain charges being filed against Mr. Bellot and Mr. Francis while former minister Pinard remains on the loose? Mr. Pinard is alleged to have committed violations far more egregious than what Mr. Francis has been accused of, yet Mr. Pinard remains at large. Why is that, Dominica? Is Mr. Pinard being given an opportunity to elude any charge while Mr. Bellot and Mr. Francis are turned into guinea pigs? Are the authorities plotting to delay the wheels of justice long enough to secure a financial deal with the family that would preclude any further prosecution of the case, and in turn provide Mr. Pinard an opportunity to return to his coveted position within the government? Time will reveal the truth.

In his resignation address, Mr. Pinard stated that he was resigning from his position in the Roosevelt Skerrit cabinet to "more appropriately address the allegations against me and focus on other very important personal matters". He went on to say that he will "continue to serve my constituents of the Soufriere constituency pending what I am confident will be a successful conclusion of this matter". Sounds great, but where exactly does Mr. Pinard intend to address the allegations or to serve his constituents? In hiding?

We are concerned about signals on the horizon that suggest that efforts are underway to ensure that a gross miscarriage of justice occurs in this case. We have received information about a second minor, a close friend of the first, who has reportedly disclosed to investigators that she has been involved with 2 other government ministers. With all these allegations of official misconduct and involvement, we fully expect the DLP administration to go into survival mode. We urge the government of prime minister Skerrit to avoid interfering in this case. We strongly encourage that you adopt a hands-off approach and encourage the police and prosecutors to see that justice is served. Things can only get worse if you do not.

We have come under sharp rebuke for publishing the names of the persons alleged to be involved in this Pay-to-Play scandal. We at MiTC will protect the identities of the victims and while we will insist that the accused are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, we are not obligated to provide deference. We vehemently disagree with the assertion that MiTC may be in danger of prejudicing the cases due to the publishing of the names of the accused. The jurisdiction of the Sexual Offenses Act is limited to the territorial boundaries of Dominica; they do not apply to the United Kingdom or anywhere else from which contributions to this blog originates. Furthermore, the police and prosecutors have sufficient evidence to move forward with or without the cooperation of the victims. Any attempt to use this blog as an excuse to pervert the course of justice is specious and should be rejected outright by the Dominican public.

The case against Mr. Bellot poses a unique challenge for his defense, police and prosecutors alike. Notwithstanding the charges laid out against him under the Sexual Offenses Act, we believe Mr. Bellot's defense team has far greater problems ahead that they may or may not be aware of and concurrently, all eyes will be on the police and prosecutors and the manner in which they prosecute this case; the proverbial "elephant in the room".

The phrase "the elephant in the room" refers to a major issue that is obvious to all but they either choose to ignore it in the hopes that it goes away, or they just do not see it. Mas In The Cemetery is not blind; we're sharp. In the case against Mr. Bellot, the "elephant in the room" is the United States Justice Department. Mr. Bellot is an American citizen. Unlike   in Dominica, federal law provides "extraterritorial jurisdiction" over sex offenses against children. Extraterritorial jurisdiction is the legal authority of the United States to prosecute criminal conduct that took place outside it's borders.

Section 2423 (c) of Title 18, United States Code, prohibits any United States citizen or permanent resident who travels in foreign commerce or resides, either temporarily or permanently, in a foreign country, and while there, raping or sexually molesting a child or paying a child for sex, or engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person. Any person who commits an act that is in violation of this law shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both. Persons can be punished under this law even if the conduct they engaged in was legal in the country where it occurred.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Mr. Bellot faces the prospect of being prosecuted in the United States for the part that he is alleged to have played in the ongoing Pay-to-Play sex scandal. Before that happens, however, our prosecutors need to ensure that justice is done in Dominica. We are all looking to this case as a test. The malignant abuse of our young people has been going on for far too long; we, as adults, must make it our duty to protect our young ones. We at MiTC are appalled at the volume of comments on social media that seek to blame the child. We find that reprehensible. This is a child; no amount of spin will be able to erase that fact. 

In the meantime, we urge the police to step up their efforts at locating the former Ports minister. We further declare that it is necessary to thoroughly investigate the allegations made by the second victim as well as to make an honest effort at locating additional victims. No individual in our society should be immune from prosecution for crimes committed against our most vulnerable and impressionable children. The police will enjoy our unwavering support in their pursuit of justice. We believe that our social services authority should immediately pursue the removal of this child from the home. We have reason to believe that the child has for some time been surrounded by inappropriate activities within the home, which may have led her down this path, almost with tacit approval. 

"Suffer not the little children". We are a nation that misses no opportunity to call on God for divine guidance; we quote the bible at will. It is time that we stop mouthing the words but live by them.

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1 comment :

  1. Thanks for bringing us the real facts and for educating us. Much appreciated. Justice MUST be served.


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