A nation already raw with grief and anger found no respite yesterday.
While thousands of mourners lined the streets to pay their last respects to murdered Andrea Bharatt, protests continued in the capital while, not too far away, screaming rose from Sea Lots as a teenager was felled by police bullets.
It is regrettable that when the Prime Minister decided to break his silence over the killing of Ms Bharatt and violence against women, he chose to speak to members of the PNM as their political leader. The entire nation had been waiting for him to address them, hoping for words of comfort and the assurance of an effective crime-fighting plan. We may never know why Dr Rowley missed the cue but he must not continue to do so now.
Many who have been stunned by the outpouring of emotion for Andrea Bharatt are asking why her and not the hundreds of other women, men and children who have been murdered and brutalised. To this, we can only say that there are moments in the lives of nations when currents and undercurrents collide to electrify a situation beyond the proportions of a single incident.
In the United States, the seemingly commonplace police killing of George Floyd became the catalyst for the explosion of the Black Lives Movement. In Tunisia, the frustrated vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and lit the match of the Arab Spring that toppled the likes of Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak, among other long-serving leaders. Here in Trinidad and Tobago, the 1970 Black Power Revolution began equally innocuously with a protest by UWI students on February 26, 1970 outside the Canadian High Commission and the Royal Bank of Canada. Later, as the protests rose and ebbed, the situation exploded after April 6, 1970 when 24-year-old Basil Davis was shot and killed by a police constable in Port of Spain. That killing catalysed the nation and the movement itself, drawing over 20,000 mourners in a funeral march from Port of Spain to San Juan.
We note these pivotal moments in history to underscore the point about how abruptly circumstances can conspire to alter the dynamics within a country to unforeseen outcomes.
We urge the Government to put its ear to the ground and listen before it is too late. Trinidad and Tobago must urgently address the serious task of re-building an effective criminal justice system. People are begging for an end to political divisiveness. In this regard, the Opposition Leader’s call for a summit of leaders is worthy of consideration.
Immediate priorities for concrete action include the promised technological upgrade of the vehicle licensing system to provide public security; the urgent repair of the public surveillance camera system; better data integration of the court system to prevent situation where a man on 70 serious charges can repeatedly get bail; the security of persons in police custody; and the integrity of the operations of the Forensic Science Centre. All these were issues to emerge from the kidnap/murder of Andrea Bharatt which provides a good point from which to tackle the country’s number one problem of crime.