The Candle Light Movement has condemned statements made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley attributing the spike in COVID cases to vigils held in the aftermath of Andrea Bharatt’s murder. The following is the full press release from the Candle Light Movement:
The Candlelight Movement condemns in the strongest possible terms the following reprehensible, vile, callous statement made by the Honourable Prirne Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago on the 24″‘ May, 2021 with respect to the covid-19 pandemic:
“The only country, in the Caribbean, where in the middle of a pandemic, the Opposition organise gatherings of people called vigils. Thousands of people for a month trying to exploit the death of Andrea Bharatt and you asking me how we got here. “What other gatherings took place?”
The Candlelight Movement has stated unequivocally, from the outset that the Movement has no political affiliation and denies any allegation of an affiliation with the UNC and/or being paid for by the UNC. In fact throughout the history of the Movement, statements have been made criticizing both the Government and the Opposition for their respective failures to protect our citizens from crirne and calling upon Parliament, in its entirety to do better to protect our women and citizens.
It is unfortunate that the scapegoat selected by the PM is groups which sought, through peaceful vigils to highlight the outrage and desperation of citizens regarding the untenable situation of crirne and violence against women which are a direct result of the abject failure of his Government which has gone on for far too long and which continues unabated, to result in the rape, brutalization and murder of our innocent women. Vigils began following the brutalization and murder of another innocent young girl, 18 year old Ashanti Riley in December, 2020 and have continued not only for Ashanti Riley and Andrea Bharatt, but the countless victims of crirne in our country, many of whose names have long been forgotten. Despite the horrific situation of violence against women and crirne generally, the Government has refused to do the bare rninirnurn to address the situation regarding PH taxis which facilitate crirne or decriminalize pepper spray and on Sunday 24″‘ May, 2021, a 32 year old was reportedly abducted by a PH taxi but thankfully managed to escape with her life after wrestling with her abductors.
Further, it is appalling, but no surprise that the PM has sought to use the name of an innocent victim of murder callously, without care or any consideration for the damage of such statements to the family and loved ones of this victim who, he used as his scapegoat for his Government’s mishandling of the covid-19 pandemic.
To this end, we wish to remind the PM and anyone who continue to mindlessly parrot the PM’s highly flawed rhetoric, of the following facts which highlight his failure as Prirne Minister to properly deal with the covid-19 pandemic:
i. The blatant refusal of the Government to secure the borders of Trinidad and Tobago from illegal Venezuelan irnrnigrants which result in the arrival on a daily basis of illegal Venezuelans through our south-western border and which has resulted in the highly
contagious, deadly Brazilian variant corning into our country. To this end we wish to remind PM of the statement made by his Minister of Health, ]\fr. Terrance Deyalsingh in the Senate on the 27″‘ April, 2021, which is taken verbatim from the Hansard reports found at ht1;p://www.t1;parliament.org/hansards/hs20210427.pdf as follows:
” … Sen. Richards: Thank you, Madam President. Can the Minister indicate if the Venezuelan migrant population has been ruled out as a possible entry source?
Hon. T. Deyalsingh: No. we look at all possibilities. and I can say. and we have said it publicly. the first case of the Pl variant was found in a Venezuelan migrant.”
The last public vigil of the Candlelight Movement was held at Barakah Grounds, Chaguanas on the 12th March, 2021. Thereafter the Candlelight Movement acting responsibly, publicly advised by Media and Public Releases of the cancellation of any further public events and walks and the postponement of the service of the national petition on Parliament in April and May, due to the alarming number of positive cases and deaths and any event after the 12th March, 2021, was conducted by virtual meetings, streamed online with an online audience and no gatherings or crowds. On the 26th March, 2021, the Ministry of Health (MOH) update #675 advised of217 active cases.
On the 12″‘ March, 2021, the Honourable Attorney General Faris Al Rawi also attended a candlelight vigil held for murdered victim of domestic violence Adeina Alleyne in Embacadere, San Fernando.
Despite the concerns of the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roshan Parasram who was allegedly concerned about increasing cases of covid-19 positive cases in March, 2021, in blatant disregard for critical social distancing practices, the PM irresponsibly called upon citizens to flock to Tobago for the Easter weekend (2nd April- S”‘ April, 2021) and stated as follows:
“This is going to be an Easter where anyone who wants to go to Tobago can go and come back when you want. So you know what is happening right now. Tobago is almost full and overflowing. The place to be is in Tobago”.
Thereafter, countless videos and photos were widely circulated by social media of large crowds partying on beaches throughout Tobago for the Easter weekend, with no adherence to social distancing or basic wearing of masks. Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan confirmed that:
“Just over 50.000 people would have travelled during that week of the Easter. back and forth. We had in excess of 50.000 people moving back and forth and evecy:thing ran smoothly… “
- It is therefore evident that the PM conveniently forgot the gathering he himself organized in Tobago of 50,000 persons for the Easter weekend, the largest gathering during the covid-19 pandemic.
- On the S”‘ April, 2021, whilst in Tobago, it was announced that the PM, who had travelled from Trinidad to Tobago was covid-19 positive. It must be noted at this juncture that no member of the Candlelight Movement’s committee has tested positive for covid-19, nor were there reports of positive cases among any of volunteers who assisted with any events, to date.
Vll1. On the 1 April, 2021, the MOH update #681 recorded 309 active cases. 14 days after the Easter weekend however, on the 16″‘ April, 2021, the MOH update #696 recorded 712 active cases.
ix. On the 21 April, 2021, during a virtual press conference, Technical Director of the MOH’s Epidemiology Division, Dr Avery Hinds, attributed the surge in covid cases to congregations around the time of the Easter weekend.
“We’re now seeing the effects as this week’s figures roll out. We’re seeing that two-week gap between Easter and now being followed by that large surge… “
x. On the 10″‘ April, 2021, a wedding of the daughter of a well-known PNM financier took place in St. Clair attended by hundreds of guests including Government Ministers. On the 22nd April, 2021 the Government announced restrictions on the weddings limiting attendees to ten (10) guests.
xi. Despite the advice from the World Health Organization that equitable access to safe and effective vaccines is critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government, for reasons best known to it, has failed to procure adequate vaccines for the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Based on the foregoing, we call upon the PM to let good sense prevail, stop playing politics and to look at the failures of his Government in the execution of its functions, which is tasked with protecting its citizenry from both crime and covid-19.
Additionally, we have been asked by the grieving father of Andrea Bharatt, Mr. Randolph Bharatt, to advise the PM to cease and desist from politicizing and calling the name of his brutalized, murdered 23 year old daughter for his political gain.