The relative of one member of the Qahal Yahweh Church in St. James; Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson
A relative of one of the members of a religious group whose St. James compound was raided last week and Tuesday by police has called for deeper investigation of the group which she says isolates and controls its members and denies children their education.
Six children were removed from a compound in Norwood following concerns about their welfare.
The relative told RJR News that her sister and nieces have attended the Qahal Yahweh Church for years.
She said the organisation seemed like a normal church except that members referred to God as Yahweh and Yeshua.
However, she said things took a turn about a year ago when a new leader took over and the group became isolated.
She said her sister told her the group wanted to live together as a "set apart nation" in a communal setting.
The relative said her sister's behaviour changed dramatically after she was allegedly told by the group's leader that she had a few weeks to live and was exiled from the congregation.
She then began "walking the streets of Montego Bay. She didn't want to eat, she didn't want to drink anything at all. All she was concentrating on is that I am going to die," said the relative.
The relative also described the shocked reactions from police who did not take her reports seriously when she sought their help to get her sister and niece out of the religious group.
"My first report was to Falmouth police staton when I told them that my niece has not been in school for over a month and I told them that I've heard of allegations of sexual assault and so on there; and I told them that whenever persons sinned or they did not obey their leaders, their heads were shaved, because my sister's head shaven" she recalled.
The Gleaner on Wednesday reported that 70 followers reside at the compound, having reportedly abandoned their homes.
The relative said her family is deeply concerned about the welfare of her niece who has been pulled out of school.
She said the 17 year old had been attending a prominent high school and had received several academic awards until a year ago when she started living at the Qahal Yahweh.
She said she questioned her sister about the development, but was told that "none of the children there were allowed to go to public school because they are a set apart people." The girl, she was told, would be taught dressmaking and how to cook.
The relative said she was told the children are being home schooled, but she questioned whether there would be a trained teacher and what curriculum would be used to teach.
According to the relative, her niece appears fearful to even disclose how she feels about the situation.
Six children back with parents
In the meantime, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson has said the six children who were taken from the Qahal Yahweh Church have been handed over to their parents.
General Anderson did not reveal details of the probe into the treatment of the children at the compound, but said the investigations will continue.
The Police Commissioner, who was responding to journalists at a media briefing Thursday afternoon, said persons who confronted the cops while they were removing the children from the Qahal Yahweh Church compound have been charged with assault.