The large gathering outside the Hall of Justice on Friday night should indicate to the authorities that the public anger that erupted following the kidnap-murder of Andrea Bharatt has not dissipated and is unlikely to do so.
In fact, the Candlelight Movement’s mobilisation initiative aimed at getting 100,000 signatures on its five-point petition to the Parliament is more likely to escalate as it moves towards its objective of delivering the petition to Parliament one month from Friday’s launch. That would be the Good Friday public holiday when Parliament would normally be closed, so it would be interesting to see how that plan unfolds.
It was evident from Friday night’s public response to the petition launch that the groundswell of anger that exploded in marches and walks throughout the country following Ms Bharatt’s disappearance runs deep. In an earlier editorial, this newspaper warned the Government that this was no nine days’ wonder and it required a meaningful response to the public’s anxiety, fear and pain arising out of crime, especially crimes against women.
It is instructive that not even the pandemic-level Carnival has distracted the public from its concern. And yet, the Government continues to side-step the public’s hurt. Perhaps, the Government, too, is at sea without a compass on the issue of crime. After five and a half years in office, it is yet to harness the totality of its resources and power to shape an effective response. It has relied almost exclusively on law-making as if laws by themselves change anything.
The Candlelight Movement’s five-point safety and security demands focus on debatable solutions to crime: decriminalisation of non-lethal weapons for women; fast-tracking of Firearm User’s Licences for women; registration and regulation of “PH” taxis; implementation of controls for issuing motor vehicle licence plates; and a Commission of Enquiry into the Criminal Justice System. While one might dispute their effectiveness, what cannot be disputed is the political vacuum that is leading citizens, more and more, to take matters into their own hands, for better or worse.
If the Government is hoping for the protests to blow over, it may be disappointed. The killing of women has not ended with Andrea Bharatt. On Monday night, 53-year-old Karen Rauseo Karim was found dead at home in Princes Town. According to reports, the death capped two days of domestic violence.
Every fresh killing comes like salt in the nation’s open wound, the bleeding unstaunched by policy clarity and effective implementation. The crowds that have been defying public health regulations that limit gatherings to 50 socially-distanced persons are out in force outside the Parliament because they do not believe they are being heard by the legislators whom they have elected to look after their affairs.
The crowds outside the Red House are an expression of politics in the true sense of the word. They represent people negotiating their personal power with the people in power. Some among them may even have dreams of catapulting themselves into political office, as would be their right. More important than all of that, however, is the civic activism which makes our democracy more participatory.