As the Budget debate wound down yesterday evening, an anti-domestic violence demonstration formed outside the Red House.
Led by social media activist group Trio.tt’s United for Change Chairman David Welch and vice-chairman Vicky Rampersad gathered a group of people outside Woodford Square facing the Parliament who chanted at Ministers and members of parliament as they left the chamber following the debate.
They hoisted placards calling on Attorney General Faris Al Rawi and Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith to do more to curb instances of domestic violence, drawing direct reference to last Tuesday’s grisly murder of Reshma Kanchan.
The 25-year-old mother of two was brutally chopped to death by her former lover.
Relatives claimed she had sought a protection order from the police, however in a release last week, the Commissioner denied that any such request had been made to the police.
After enough chants, the group got the attention of United National Congress parliamentarians, with St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen and Opposition Senator Wade Mark verbally engaging them about their concerns.
They responded by calling for the ankle bracelet system to be enforced as well as increased penalties for offenders.
“We also want the attorney general Faris Al Rawi to implement stiffer penalties for those that would come and breach a protection ordinance again and go before the court and come out again on just a fine or bail and continue to do the same thing,” said Welch.
“One time is a mistake, the second time is a mistake. The third time is death. We don’t want it to it to lead to death,” said Welch who also questioned the police’s claim that there had only been one report made to them by Kanchan.
Ameen commended the group for the advocacy despite their relatively small gathering.
“Even though it is a few members, it is important to speak out,” said Ameen, while Wade Mark gave the group his word that they would put pressure on the government for those changes to be made.
Shortly after the UNC members spoke with the group, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi emerged from the Parliament addressed some of the concerns they had raised.
“Last week was nothing short of a tragedy of epic proportions which continues to happen in our society. What I can tell you is reactionary groups like this are welcome. However, let’s focus upon the larger solution. The gender violence unit is up and running. We amended the domestic violence law. The last time was amended was 1999,” Al Rawi told the media outside the Red House.
“We have operationalized and proclaimed the electronic monitoring law, so now have the ankle bracelets, we put in the system, we have the digital aspects. We’re running these things in terms of trials and appearances right out of the police station. We have sex offenders registry etc. So we’ve done a lot of work to make sure this gets dramatically better.”
He added, “Of course any life lost is one too many, particularly when there is the human tragedy of children and family members that are left behind. Advocacy groups are welcomed they form an important part of reminding our society that we have to do more. If you know something say something. Speak up. A lot of this is about prevention.”