Andrea Bharatt, 23, was laid to rest yesterday, nine days after she was kidnapped and just over a week after her body recovered in the Heights of Aripo.
Her death brought the nation together in a way that this country has not experienced in a long time. The Arima Magistrates’ Court clerk, who was known only to a few, not only brought the national community together in a wave of support but finally pounded some sense into government and the opposition representatives.
Hours after she spoke at Andrea’s funeral, Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the UNC opposition voted with the government in favour of the Evidence (Amendment) Bill. It was what the country wanted, what the nightly vigils that have been taking place since Andrea’s disappearance were about.
Citizen wanted the two main political parties to work together. Now that the Evidence Bill has been passed, it will be up to those in authority to ensure that it becomes a necessary piece of this country’s crime-fighting arsenal and is implemented to its fullest.
As Andrea’s body was being cremated yesterday afternoon the Parliament voted unanimously all in favour of the legislation. It should not stop here. It is as we have said repeatedly—those who govern this country must stop playing politics with the lives of citizens. Just to be clear, the government under the Westminster system which we ascribe to is made up of both the PNM and the UNC. Both have equal responsibility when it comes to focusing on the people’s business.
Opposition Leader Persad-Bissessar said the UNC had supported the legislation “so the government could end its excuses and blame game on their total inaction to protect the citizens of our nation.”
It is good that common sense has prevailed. Mrs Persad-Bissessar is of the view that the government now has no more excuses and must begin delivering tangible changes within the justice system to protect citizens.
On Thursday night, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley assured that his government is prepared to do what is needed to assist the justice system.
Andrea’s death, sad as it was, has been a victory for the people as their constant cries to empower women with non-lethal weapons to protect themselves are finally being heard. Government, through Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi signalled that legislation is being developed to legalise the use of pepper spray.
If working together against the ills brought on by criminals and a snail-paced justice system can be fixed it would be a tribute to the outpouring of public support and activism following Andrea’s murder.
It would be a crying shame if we allow ourselves to go back to business as usual. It is time for change and failure to fix what is broken will further empower the small minority who continue to commit crimes and take the lives of our young women. Much as they hate to hear it, our legislators and decision-makers must continue to look after the interest of the people and country. We must take T&T back from the criminals and the only way to do it is by working together.