A 21-year-old trafficking in persons complainant has been removed from her home, putting the case against the accused at risk, and the young woman’s grandmother is afraid that she and her 17-month-old daughter could come to harm.
The young woman disappeared two weeks ago, just days before the next court date, and while her grandmother has heard from her twice she told the Sunday Stabroek that her granddaughter sounded afraid. The fact that she is a drug addict is even more frightening for the grandmother who said her granddaughter could be given an overdose of drugs.
“I am really afraid for my grandchild and her baby…,” the woman told this newspaper in a recent interview.
The victim was one of two women who were rescued earlier this year from an interior location by members of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO). After months of investigation the police arrested and charged the owner of the shop where she had been found.
The grandmother said she had gone to the yard where her granddaughter lived with her abusive partner, who is also addicted to drugs, to take some items for the baby and received the shocking news that her granddaughter had gone off with a woman from the interior, who had promised to give her $100,000.
What was also shocking to the elderly woman was the demeanour of the man who was laughing as he related information to her.
The woman said her granddaughter had previously expressed fear that she would be harmed, pointing out that the dilapidated building she lived in was not safe. She said the young woman had asked to stay with her but she had refused as she did not want her partner turning up at her house and creating a scene as he had done in the past.
“But had I known I would have kept her. When she comes back she will be staying with me and I will try to get her rehabilitated,” the saddened woman said.
Finding her granddaughter gone, the woman said, she immediately contacted an official of the Ministry of Human Services & Social Security.
She subsequently received two calls from her granddaughter and during the conversations she said she was alright and was working. “But she sounded afraid and I told her the child has to go to clinic. I take the child to clinic and she said she would bring the baby for me to take to the clinic but I have not seen or heard from her since.”
She then contacted GWMO President Simona Broomes and informed her of the situation. Broomes said she was shocked to receive the call and recalled that on the last court date the prosecutor had enquired from her about the whereabouts of the victim since she had not attended court.
Because of the gravity of the situation which also potentially involves the issue of witness tampering, Broomes decided to accompany the grandmother to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters, Eve Leary, and made a report to the officer who deals with trafficking victims. But while a report was taken the grandmother was advised to make a report at the nearest police station. She visited the Brickdam Police Station where a missing person’s report was made and she was told that an all station bulletin would be sent out. However, the grandmother was told that she should visit the Ruimveldt Police Station as that is closest to where her granddaughter lived.
When she arrived at that station she was told the officer to take the report was at a meeting and would not be at the station until 7 pm.
“But I am sitting right here until seven tonight when she comes because I want my granddaughter and baby to come home,” the determined grandmother told this newspaper.
The elderly woman however lamented the fact that she started the process of making the report in the morning and it was never completed until in the evening. She eventually left the police station at 9 pm.
But she was satisfied that the police responded when she told them she suspected her granddaughter’s partner had something to with her being taken and they went looking for him. However, he was not found. She also strongly believes that a large sum of money was paid to him to facilitate the process.
She described him as an “evil and cruel person”.
‘Never had a chance’
The grandmother related that her granddaughter never had a chance in life as she was born to drug addicted parents. She said the young woman’s mother is her daughter and she lives on the streets.
“All of her children born [with] something wrong with them. Right now, the youngest, a 14-year-old, is with the state because I cannot look her after,” she lamented.
The TIP victim also once lived in a state home and received a scholarship to attend a well-known private school. She attended school while living with her grandmother. However, when she was in third form her father removed her from her grandmother’s home and sent her to live with his sister, who, according to the grandmother, sells drugs.
“Since then she has been back and forth. She stopped going to school and she has been taking drugs. I tried to help her all I could but it was very difficult,” the woman admitted.
The young woman then picked up with her partner, who is much older than her, and she later became pregnant. The grandmother said she took her to live with her for the duration of her pregnancy and with the help of a doctor, she stayed off the drugs. But as soon as the child was born she returned to her old habit.
“He would beat her so bad, with a hammer in her head,” the grandmother said. “The last time she was hospitalised and I had to take care of her but as soon as she was well again she gone again.”
After the baby was born the grandmother took the child and was caring for her and it was during that period that her granddaughter went into the interior. She claimed that a friend of the child’s father told her a woman was looking for a bartender to work in the interior and she jumped at the opportunity since she was receiving no money from the man.
“But she said when she went the woman said she already had a bartender and she only come to do one thing…,” the grandmother said.
She believes the young woman is shielding her partner and that he was the one who arranged for her to go into the interior.
After the young woman was brought out from the interior, the grandmother fell ill and had to leave her home for a short while. She left the baby and one of the victim’s sisters in the care of two of her [the grandmother’s] children and it was during that time the child’s mother removed her.
“Now I come back and the baby like don’t even know me now and I told [victim name] that she has to come and spend a few days with me so the baby would become accustomed to me again,” she stated.
Even though the child lived with her parents, the grandmother said she provided for all of her needs.
Meanwhile, a frustrated Broomes said the situation with the victim makes her want to reassess her work in the area of trafficking.
“I don’t think it is fair for me to bring these victims out and can’t really guarantee them a second chance at life…” she stressed.
She said she had appealed to ministry officials to assist in paying for drug rehabilitation for the young woman in an effort to give her a better life but this did not materialise.
Broomes said she was told the victim refused help, but pointed out that because of her state the young woman was not competent to make a decision.
“If you see this yard she living in, when you going there you have to cover your nose…” Broomes said.
She said her organisation was trying to raise money to place the woman in rehab.