Arima MP Penelope Beckles has come out in defence of the people of Heights of Aripo who were unfairly blamed for the murder of Andrea Bharatt.
Beckles was speaking at a healing ceremony at the Heights of Aripo Community Centre on Saturday, more than two weeks after Bharatt's body was found off a precipice in the district. The ceremony was held by the Santa Rosa First People’s Community.
Bharatt, 23, a clerk at the Arima Magistrates Court, was abducted on January 29 after she boarded what she believed to be a taxi at King Street, in Arima. Her body was found on February 4, after extensive searches in several parts of East Trinidad.
Beckles said she met with the residents shortly after Bharatt's body was found after villagers were being blamed.
“I want to say to people who are listening to this event, it’s very unfair to blame the people for the death. A friend of mine suggested to me that the people here (in Aripo) must know (of Bharatt’s death). How do you come to that conclusion? What is the evidence?”said Beckles.
The MP said with the community being in an isolated area, the residents had no control over the fact that the area’s characteristics may be enticing to those engaged in illegal activity.
One day after Bharatt’s body was discovered, the skeletal remains of a human and an animal were found near the same area.
Three days after, another set of skeletal remains were found during an expansive search by a joint team of national security officers.
“I defend my community of the Heights of Aripo. It is a place that is known for its watercress which is the best in TT. It’s a place where nature seekers, and environmentalists, come because the flora and fauna are unique.
“We won’t find a lot of the special trails, and the bat cave that is here, anywhere in TT,” said Beckles.
Beckles notes the recent events at the Heights of Aripo does not bode well for the image of the Arima constituency.
“When it (crimes) happens in any part of Arima, all of Arima is affected. They hear the word Arima and it affects the entire of Arima.
“I want the people of the Heights of Aripo to know that it is not just the Heights of Aripo but the entire of Arima is hurting,” said Beckles.
On the topic of addressing TT’s crime problem, she said people cannot always look towards legislation as the only solution.
She said it is time for people to start asking themselves what they can do in their community deal with the issue.
“The thing about this healing ceremony is that it also allows us to ask ourselves…what can we do to make a difference?” said Beckles.
She is calling on community members, throughout TT, to reflect on their shared values and how they live with each other and to commit to living peaceful lives.
Also speaking at the event was Arima Mayor Cagney Casimire who assured that a number of projects are currently in the works to improve transportation safety in Arima.
“I have pledged to work with our taxi associations, within the borough of Arima, to ensure that bona-fide taxis are easily identifiable and that taxi drives adhere to the code of the traffic regulations,” said Casimire.
Last Sunday, a woman got into a silver Nissan Tiida on Broadway Street, Arima, to go to Cumuto.
However, instead of driving towards Cumuto, the driver rerouted onto Aripo Road.
Alarmed after the driver ignored her requests to stop, the woman took out a knife and slashed the man across his face.
The woman was able to escape while the assailant fled the scene.