'Watching very closely'

OCA keeping eye on MoBay church compound, children's issue

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 07, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison has expressed concerns for the safety of children in communal living at Bayith Yahweh compound in Paradise Gardens, St James.

Members of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) and the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), with the assistance of the Jamaica Defence Force, removed three children from the premises after their initial efforts were thwarted by defiant members of the religious sect on Tuesday afternoon.

“The situation is very fresh, it is still unfolding. I became aware of the matter sometime late last week and certainly, I am very concerned because of the unanswered questions I have concerning the activities that the children on the compound were exposed to, and, in fact, what they are involved in.

So, from that perspective, the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) is watching very closely,” Gordon Harrison told reporters in Montego Bay, yesterday. She noted that the OCA is investigating the matter “to get a full understanding as to what are all the circumstances attending the Norwood compound”.

“We noted that the police met a bit of resistance but have managed to extract a total of six children, based on my information so far, and that there are some aspects of the matter currently before the court with a possibility that other matters could be placed before the court to look at things from another perspective.

And so we are seeing and ensuring that the best interest of the children who were removed is preserved,” she said. One member of the church flock was taken into custody for allegedly assaulting the police, after a stand-off developed between the law enforcement team and Bayith Yahweh followers who doggedly sought to prevent the removal of the children from the church compound.

“The CISOCA team and the [CPFSA] went in to extract three minors from the premises. They met up on strong resistance from the occupants,” the Jamaica Observer was told by a senior police source. According to the police source, the team went to the premises following reports of child abuse, abduction of children, among other alleged atrocities being carried out against children.

“The occupants of the premises have children who don't attend public school, they are schooled on the premises and are sometimes allegedly beaten after being accused of demon possession,” the senior police officer told the Observer. “They are also accused of forcibly marrying off the children as soon as they reach the age of 16,” the source said.

Yesterday morning when the Observer went to the area, the church leader accused the team of working for the devil and money.

“You are not here to help us, you are here working for the devil, queen and money. I will not comment now. Our comment will be international,” the church leaders said, adding that they will be seeking a meeting with the heads of State.


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