THE TT CHAMBER of Commerce and Industry says while citizens ought to take collective responsibility for issues surrounding gender-based violence, they are owed no less than strong legislation, victim support structures, and forensics capable of solving crimes.
The chamber released a statement on Monday in the wake of the kidnapping and death of Andrea Bharatt, and other sexual assaults and murders, particularly of women, which prompted widespread vigils and marches countrywide.
"The high incidence of persons who have disappeared without a trace and unsolved kidnappings, disappearances and murders is cause for alarm."
It also called on all political parties to put their differences aside and work together in the best interest of the country, and says it is ready, willing and able to continue its contribution in the fight against crime by collaborating with stakeholders.
"Through our Crime and Justice Committee we have worked with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence to develop and publish a Domestic Violence in the Workplace Policy, which we have encouraged corporate entities to adopt or adapt," the chamber said.
It said the fear stalking people, particularly women, was not to be ignored, and the calls for reform must not be allowed to fizzle out.
It listed measures it felt were needed: strengthening the legislative framework; ensuring structures to provide support and counselling to victims of abuse areproperly resourced; and strengthening forensic science capabilities to aid in solving crimes.
"Our citizens are owed no less."
It pointed out that the Constitution guarantees first and foremost the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person, and also to freedom of movement.
The chamber said Trinidad and Tobago will not accept the status quo, noting "the actions taken by the population, by closing businesses and demonstrating, "are indicative of a wind of change that is blowing in our country...
"There are many layers to what is currently unfolding. The (chamber) recognises that as citizens we also have to accept responsibility and work towards changing societal and cultural norms towards gender-based violence.
"However, the underlying issues that have eroded the population's confidence in the authorities' ability to keep citizens safe and secure are far from new."
Over the years, the chamber added, it has consistently flagged many issues in relation to inefficiencies in the justice system and a need for reform.
"It is a well-known fact that our courts are overburdened and work with outdated infrastructure.
"Accused persons are sent to remand, which can extend for years before their case is heard. Cases are often stood down or dismissed because parties are not present to give evidence.
"And many laws – like those for getting a vehicle licence plate – are hopelessly outdated."
The chamber added that incidents such as the death of two suspects in Bharatt's case in police custody would prompt far-reaching investigations in other countries, and said it looks forward to a "full and transparent investigation."