“Don’t lose hope.”
That was the heartfelt plea of Lopinot/Bon Air West MP Marvin Gonzales yesterday, as he urged the nation not to despair as the T&T Police Service continued another day of search for kidnap victim Andrea Bharatt.
Gonzales, Arima MP Pennelope Beckles-Robinson along with officials of the Tunapuna Piarco Regional Corporation paid Randolph Bharatt, Andrea’s father, a visit at their Arima Old Road, Arima, home to comfort him but he was too distraught to speak.
The MPs spoke to Andrea’s cousin Sally Soonam instead.
The Bharatts live in Gonzales’ constituency.
Andrea was kidnapped on Friday after she went into a Nissan Versa taxi with a co-worker.
Her co-worker dropped off at Cleaver Heights, Arima.
However, Bharatt, 22, never made it home.
Beckles-Robinson said Andrea’s kidnapping was distressing to the entire nation.
“The family is extremely distraught. We continue to pray,” the Housing and Urban Development Minister said.
While women have been expressing concern over the abduction, she said what worries her is that “we tend to forget,” after matters like these die down.
“It requires what you call sustainable and a multi-faceted approach.”
While she would continue to advocate for the safety of women, Beckles-Robinson said we need to be our brother’s keeper.
She said the Arima Mayor has been working with the taxi associations in the borough “in order to register taxis so they can actually have that particular brand.”
Beckles-Robinson said the drivers have agreed on specific identification “depending on what stand you work in….and that taxis should have that particular label so you can know that they are bonafide.”
On the flip side, Beckles-Robinson said there is also a “demand and supply” of taxis during peaks hours.
“Sometimes the temptation to go into these unregistered vehicles and the PH cars are there. Therefore it requires a kind of approach where we are addressing the multiplicity of issues that cause these situations.”
Beckles-Robinson said our women need to feel safer.
“But at the same time, we need to accept we all have a responsibility for a society for women to feel safe. “
Gonzales said the entire nation has been in pains by the kidnapping.
“I feel as though it is a family member…someone who I have responsibility for. I wish I could just do more to help them.”
The Public Utilities Minister offered the Bharatt’s counselling to help them overcome their pain and anguish.
“They are very much receptive to what we have offered them.”
Gonzales said while MPs were elected to pass laws for the betterment of citizens, the Opposition has been uncooperative.
“These are the things we have to do to put the legislative infrastructure in place to ensure that the police can effectively investigate and prosecute criminals who terrorise good law-abiding citizens.”
Gonzales said the Government has to continue to assess, examine and improve our laws some of which have loopholes.
“We attempted to pass the Bail Bill recently to ensure we put criminal behind bars and unfortunately we did not have the support of the Opposition.”
He said the PNM supported this bill when they were Opposition.
“On that particular occasion, yes, we attempted to plug a loophole and it failed because we did not have the support of the Opposition,” Gonzales said.”
He said, unfortunately, there is only some much 22 Government MPs can do.
“Hopefully, (if) we can get an Opposition with good sense to understand that there are some things you just don’t play politics with.”
As the entire nation sinks in pain over the incident, Gonzales pleaded with citizens not to lose hope.
“We have to continue the fight…we have to continue the battle. This country has gone through many difficult periods and we have demonstrated our capacity to overcome these difficulties and we have done well so far.”
Gonzales said the Government needed all hands on deck to solve this problem.
“This is not a PNM problem…this is a societal problem that requires a social response.”