Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator Sandrea Falconer, said the decision to transfer the Ananda Alert system to the Ministry of Youth and Culture will give it the kind of focus needed to address the crisis of missing and abducted children.
She said that discussions are well underway to facilitate the move "and we expect that (the) recommendations will be sent to the Cabinet in short order."
The Minister was contributing to debate in the Upper House on Friday (July 27) on a motion brought by Opposition Senator, Robert Montague, urging the Senate to recommend that the Ananda Alert System remain under the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and continue to be operated by the parish councils.
Senator Falconer said the transfer does not mean that parish councils will no longer support the programme through their networks island-wide.
She stated that the shift will call for increased collaboration and will place an even greater demand on the limited resources of the Child Development Agency (CDA), which will have direct responsibility for the system. She noted further that the capacity of the agency will need to be strengthened to provide intervention for children and families affected by abduction, kidnapping, runaways and trafficking.
Leader of Government Business, Senator A.J. Nicholson, in his contribution, said that the administration must move swiftly to ensure that the Ananda Alert system is upgraded.
"The Government should have the system appropriately resourced and widely embraced because this is with a view to meeting the challenge of this alarming increase in missing children in Jamaica," he stated.
Senator Montague, who had portfolio responsibility for Ananda Alert under the previous administration, agreed that the system needs to be fully resourced in order to function properly. "We need to re-engage the public once more because our aim was to get at least 100,000 telephone subscribers onto the network so that they could electronically receive information," he said.
The motion was amended and approved, urging the Government to move swiftly to upgrade the Ananda Alert system and to have it appropriately resourced and widely embraced with a view to meeting the challenge of the alarming increase in missing children in Jamaica. An update on the system is to be tabled twice a year in both Houses of Parliament.
Ananda Alert, Jamaica's response to reports of missing children, was officially launched on May 19, 2009. The alert system is triggered when a child goes missing and a call is made to the police, after which stakeholders such as the local authorities, and telecommunications companies Digicel and LIME are mobilised to alert the media and to get the information into the public domain.
The creation of the nation-wide missing children emergency network was inspired by the abduction and murder of 11-year old Ananda Dean, who disappeared on her way home from school in September 2008.