While Government and Opposition continue debating the Evidence (Amendment) Bill on Friday, some groups will today continue demonstrations calling for more legislation to halt violence against women and citizens generally.
A demonstration against violence towards women will be held at the Queen’s Park Savannah from 3.30 pm. A spokesperson for the organisers Demitri Chote said it will be a peaceful protest and rally, not a political event. It is being staged by a group of young people formerly from Hillview College (Class of 2017).
Speakers have not yet been finalised.
“We’re calling for women to be allowed to use non-lethal weapons—tasers, pepper spray, etc—to protect themselves. We also would like to have the Sex Offenders Registry made available to the public and to be properly implemented,”
Last Thursday, Attorney GeneralAl Rawi said complaints from civil society about the Registry—that Government was going too far too fast—had halted that process.
Joining the rally later today will be a group who are staging a motorcade in memory of Bharatt and other victims of violence.
A notice about the motorcade stated it is to protest the “politicisation of citizens’ safety.” That group also stated that the motorcade isn’t affiliated with any political party or NGO and is “simply a group of concerned citizens.”
“Our demand is that bail be denied for rape charges and those charged with multiple offences and that bail not be granted to rapists and career criminals.”
Participants will meet at the Barakah Grounds in Chaguanas this morning and head for the Queen’s Park Savannah.
Also expected to attend the Queen’s Park Savannah rally are members of the Willow Foundation and a child rights advocate.
A source said Phillip Alexander of Citizens’ Union, who in December said he was throwing his weight behind UNC and joining the opposition party, may attend but won’t be among the speakers.
The Evidence (Amendment) Bill seeks to allow electronic forms of evidence, including CCTV cameras recordings, to be admitted as evidence in court and seeks to protect witnesses. Provisions include allowing for victims and witnesses who may be afraid to face alleged perpetrators to give evidence on electronic recordings.
Debate on the bill generated intense heat in Parliament last Friday, coming on the heels of the discovery of the body of court clerk Andrea Bharatt. The 23-year-old Arima woman was kidnapped on January 29 after she entered a taxi with false “H” license plate in Arima. Her body was found last Thursday down a precipice in the Aripo Heights.
The murder generated an outpouring of national grief, including demonstrations in Barrackpore, outside the Red House and other parts of the country. One display shared on social media was an effigy hung with a noose firmly from a Point Fortin overpass. It bore a sign: “Pass the law—Hang them!”
Government and Opposition referenced Bharatt’s death during last Friday’s debate. Government MPs called on the Opposition to allow the bill to improve the ability to use evidence in the anti-crime and criminal justice fight against “monsters” committing crimes in T&T. They noted that aspects of the bill which the UNC objected to had actually been approved by the People’s Partnership Government in 2013.
UNC MPs cited deficiencies with the bill and said it wouldn’t protect women. They said the Opposition would support bills where rights are upheld.
Debate on the bill was suspended until Friday.
Attorney General Faris Al Rawi explained: “We paused debate because the Opposition didn’t come up with anything that made sense. I’d like to give them an opportunity to make sense. This pause is to give them a little space to do their work.
“This law is designed to stop monsters and my question to (UNC leader Kamla) Persad-Bissessar is why she will not stop monsters in Trinidad and Tobago.”
On its Facebook page, the UNC accused Government of incompetence and of coming “unprepared to finish their own Bill. An abrupt adjournment halted debate where the Opposition highlighted that this legislation is not the solution and the Government came with nothing but propaganda.
“We’ll continue to call for targeted solutions to issues affecting the people as we’ve always done and not seek political mileage in everything as is what the Government attempted. Government must come prepared as they have a responsibility to the entire nation to bring good law that will stand up against judicial scrutiny and serve everyone justly.”
The party is expected to speak more on the issue today.