Tensions ran high yesterday, as human rights activists and concerned citizens converged on Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain, to publicly demonstrate their support for the call to remove Port-of-Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee over his comment on the death of Japanese musician Asami Nagakiya.
However, they were forced to acknowledge the presence of activists Juliet Davies and Melba Boxill, who ensured their voices were also heard, as they accused the media of misrepresenting Tim Kee's comments.
The lunchtime protest, which was first announced via social media, attracted a wide range of people from across society, including former justice minister Christlyn Moore, national award recipient Du-Marouis Horsley, attorneys, business owners, civil servants, visiting Japanese media and representatives of other foreign news agencies.
Although women were urged to don their Carnival costumes and attend the peaceful protest, only a handful of them heeded this call from the group led by Angelique Nixon and Atilah Springer.
Observing a minute of silence prior to addressing the crowd gathered at the bandstand, a teary-eyed Springer stressed that the event had been organised on behalf of not just Nagakiya but all the victims who had lost their lives through an act of violence.
The call for Tim Kee’s removal followed a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, when he made statements alluding to the dress and conduct of women at Carnival time as he spoke about the death of Nagakiya, whose lifeless body was found clad in a costume and buried under some leaves under a tree at the Queen's Park Savannah on Wednesday morning.
Referring to Tim Kee’s comments as “victim shaming”, Springer said there was an immediate need for local and regional authorities to work together to erase the culture of insensitivity that continues to pervade all levels of society. She said the time had come for gender sensitivity training to be introduced into the education system, police and public service.
Springer said everyone, especially women, needed to learn “that licks is not acceptable.” She said this was a remnant left over from the days of slavery and indentureship, and it was time to ensure that men and boys were taught not to rape or abuse women. Similar sentiments were expressed by Angelique Nixon, who urged the Government to listen to the people and act on their request to remove Tim Kee from office.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley weighed in on the matter on Thursday, when he announced that the mayor’s controversial comments did not warrant his dismissal.
But Nixon invited those present to “resist the way in which the mayor of Port-of-Spain has chosen to deal with this issue”.Minutes after a four-paragraph letter condemning the practice of victim shaming and demanding Tim Kee's removal was read out to the gathering, a handful of senior police officials escorted Springer, Nixon and several other people to the mayor’s City Hall office where it was handed over to the mayor’s secretary.
Under the watchful eyes of the dozens of police officers who were posted throughout the square and at the front of City Hall, the protesters were allowed to walk along the pavement whilst holding aloft the placards and signs conveying their disgust and dissatisfaction over Tim Kee's statements. Over in the United Kingdom, Trinidadian nationals held a similar protest outside the T&T High Commission in Britain.
They too delivered a letter in which they knocked Tim Kee over his statement and called for his removal. Also present yesterday in a figure-hugging white dress was former justice minister Christlyn Moore, who also condemned the mayor’s comments as she said, “It is not the job of any man and certainly not the mayor to police women's bodies. That is totally unacceptable.”
Saying that she had carefully selected her outfit so as to ensure it would not end with her being abused or raped, Moore described Tim Kee as a “frightening man.” She went further to say that it could be construed from his statements that alcohol and music were a dangerous mix for women only—and in that instance, he, being a public official elected to serve the people, had neglected to say how he would protect women from such risks.
Asked if she thought the reintroduction of a ministry of gender could assist in eradicating any such future incidents that drew the public's ire, Moore agreed it was a “fantastic idea.”
However, she added, “The entire Government needs a gender policy.” Several of the Japanese media present yesterday revealed that they had only arrived in the country on Thursday night, as they sought to piece together the last hours of Nagakiya’s life.
One cameraman said: “Her death has been a kind of a big impact because she loved here (Trinidad).” He explained that in her home town of Sapporo, which is on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Nagakiya’s death was “a very sad thing.”