Lest we forget

Dinesh Rambally (Courtesy TT Parliament) -
Dinesh Rambally (Courtesy TT Parliament) -


IN AN article entitled Reaching across the divide: Confronting a culture of violence, (https://www.antillean.org/sunity-maharaj-asami-nagakiya-868/), the horror of violence against our women and children was succinctly put as follows:

“Asami, strangled in the Savannah. Marcia, stabbed and burnt in her bed. Pixie, raped and strangled with her school belt. Baby Amy, raped to death at home. Shanese, gunned down in Mt St George. Candace and Karen, raped and stabbed in front their children. Keyana, 6, raped, battered and stuffed in a barrel. Grandmother Norma, raped and beaten at home after church. Shakuntala, raped and strangled, her nude body striped green among the stalks of the canefield.”

Names unforgettable, rolling off the fingertips of easy recall. But still, only the tip of murder’s all-girl roll call.

Early in 2021 we were horrified with the news of Suzette Sylvester, a school teacher, beaten to death by a male relative, also of the brutal murder of Andrea Bharath. How many of us can recall the names of her killers?

Who remembers the names of the alleged killers of Ashanti Riley?

Who remembers how 96-year-old Utilda Joseph died?

Who remembers the name of the alleged killer of 15-month-old Sariah Williams or how this baby was killed?

For too long we have exclusively identified and commiserated with victims and their families.

But where is the rage that should erupt when we think about their killers, known or unknown? Where is the rage when their murders cannot be solved after years and years? Where is the rage when there are no clues, no answers, nor any closure? For how long must we be patient for justice to be served?

It took Sean Luke’s killers 15 years to be brought to justice. We cannot help but dream about what a fine young man he would have grown up to be, and sincerely wish that he had got his God-given chance at life. Yet I must ask, who can remember the names of his killers, even after a comprehensive explanation of the evidence and a most commendable verdict by Justice Ramsumair-Hinds?

Where is the rage when we think about the brutal and inhumane manner of the deaths of our fellow citizens, like burning, stabbing, choking, shooting, skull-cracking and burying?

And somewhere in all of this we are forced to ask, why do these things even happen here? We must squarely blame the incompetent national security apparatus in this country which seems unable to get a handle on crime.

We are not encouraged by the statistics to show a one per cent decrease here and a two per cent decrease there. This is not cause to celebrate. Far from. We need to revamp our approach to the culture of criminality.

I mean, regardless of the statistics, everyone is still looking over their shoulders when they walk the streets. “Night time” is a security risk, one that is as severe as walking with a bulging purse on the public pavement. Our womenfolk have to watch what jewellery they wear in public and consider how “snatchable” their handbag is. Fear consumes us in our day-to-day lives. Not surprisingly, if we were to do a survey of citizens’ confidence, national security would get a failing grade, yet again.

In 2016, the Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya visited this country for Carnival. She was found strangled in the Queen’s Park Savannah. Her suspected killer was shot in December 2016, in a police-involved shooting. This file is now closed.

Lyka Yvette Bernas has been missing since December last year. She is a Filipino woman who was residing in Belmont. The honorary consulate general of the Republic of the Phillipines, members of her family and friends have all appealed for assistance.

Her relatives are concerned that very little is being done locally to address their anguish: “It is so very slow, the actions of the police have been the same routine, coming to her place, interview the door maid and that’s all, nothing, same procedure every day...nothing” (Guardian, Jan 7).

I can only guess at the anguish that any parent would feel to lose a child in a foreign country, whose language and culture are different from their own.

The police continue to seek the public’s assistance with respect to Bernas. But I must ask, where is the public outcry and the marches? Is it not tragic that her family some 10,000 miles away does not have the wherewithal to appeal to and rouse the population to demand more? After all, that is what we seem to have to do before anything serious gets done by this government.

It is high time we start remembering the names of the aggressors, murderers, rapists and killers too. It’s time we hold those responsible to account. It’s time to change how we approach criminality.

Dinesh Rambally is the MP for Chaguanas West


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