Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday that the nation is hurting and that coming together to say “enough is enough” was the first step in the right direction.
He said he has, however, been forced to decline an invitation to attend today’s funeral, as he broke his silence on the murder of Andrea Bharatt, 23, at a People’s National Movement (PNM) meeting in Belmont last night.
He told his audience he was invited on the grounds that the Opposition leader was going to be there and decided that that was not a good reason to attend.
“That may be a reason for me not to go to the funeral because the population would easily and maybe correctly view my presence and the presence of my other colleagues from Parliament as attempting to politicise this unspeakable sorrow which Andrea’s family, her community, the nation is experiencing,” he said.
Rowley acknowledged that the nation was in pain and took time to specifically address Bharatt’s family.
“You are not alone but we cannot pretend to understand the grief that you are experiencing,” he said.
In the days since her kidnapping, Rowley made a call for her release and asked her abductors to be patriotic.
“Since the news came that her body was found, a kind of sadness has come over me because I am a father of two daughters and I cannot disconnect,” he said.
Rowley also acknowledged the demonstrations going on since Bharrat’s body was discovered last week.
“That coming together of our nation to say enough is enough maybe the first step in the right direction because we are a divided nation and some people make a career of dividing us,” he said.
“I don’t feel good. This nation is hurting. This nation is mourning. This nation is a place where we are experiencing life that many have not experienced it before,” he said.
He added, “Some people want to portray us in the political arena as brutish beasts but we are not,” he said.
He recalled the disappearance of a nine-year old from his constituency around Christmas in 1998 and said that too stayed with him all this time.
“We never found that child,” he said.
Rowley said that there as domestic abuse in his neighbourhood and he was aware of it since he was four years old and back then it was customary to turn a blind eye and ignore the screams of the women.
“But as we evolve, we come to a better place where we are saying we condemn all of that and we must be able to do better,” he said.
Rowley said he believed that the solution lay in respect.
“To be left alone unbothered because of what you are wearing and how you look. The real justice is to be left alone,” Rowley said.
He led the meeting in a moment’s silence over Andrea’s death as he concluded.