At the People’s National Movement (PNM) meeting in Belmont on Thursday night, the Prime Minister led those gathered in observing a minute of silence to mourn murder victim Andrea Bharatt.
“As we bury our dead, may Almighty God have mercy on her soul and mercy on all of us in Trinidad and Tobago,” Dr Rowley said as he wound up his 50-minute address.
Departing from wearing a red top like his colleagues, Dr Rowley said he wore a dark-coloured shirt with stars to identify with the many Andreas, Ashanti Rileys, Shannon Banfields and so many other women who have fallen victims to crime.
This is the first time since Bharatt’s body was found – six days after she went missing on January 29 – that Rowley has spoken on the issue.
He said, “I must tell you I don’t feel good. I usually come to this platform and I could talk to you and about you and with you for long time.
“Not tonight. This nation is hurting. This nation is mourning. This nation is a place where we experiencing life in a way that many have not experienced it before. Or even if you have experienced it before, it has made today such a sad day for us – pretty much a season.”
He said he had been invited to Bharatt’s funeral on Friday and would love to have gone, but is unable to do so.
“The reason I was invited to attend the funeral is because the Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, will be speaking there.”
Perhaps, he said, this may be a reason not to attend, because the population might view his presence, and that of his Cabinet colleagues, “as attempting to politicise this unspeakable sorrow which Andrea’s family and her community and the nation is experiencing.”
Instead, he said, “Tonight, I want to say to Andrea’s family that you are not alone. But we can’t pretend to understand the grief that you are experiencing.”
He said when he spoke publicly a few days before her body was found and appealed to those with information to come forward, he was hoping she would be recovered unharmed.
“Since the news came that her body was found, a kind of sadness has come over me, because I am a father of two daughters.”
He said for the last few days he has been thinking how would he receive news like that if it had been one of his children.
“And to think that other people have to receive news like that.”
Rowley said he could not disconnect in the present environment, “especially seeing how this nation has come up to respond to this occasion – not for the first time.
“But that coming together of our nation to say that enough is enough might be the first step in the right direction to say that we are a united nation.”
Rowley said he was happy to see so many people coming out, using their physical presence and their expression of anger and disappointment, in this instance, but he was sorry it took another life for citizens to rise up like this.
“I am saying if we are rising up like this it means that when you know something about a criminal in this country , that same attitude will take you to tell the police, whether it is your neighbour or family.”
He said after the vigils, expressions of anger and making of demands for better laws, “that you know where a gun is – a gun which the next time it barks would be another life, and another news, and another Andrea, you might as well out your candle and go.”