Tipping point, T&T

The brutal murder of Andrea Bharatt earlier this month in Trinidad and Tobago appears to have been a tipping point, the heinous crime that ended her young life so pivotal it galvanised tens of thousands of nationals, the majority being women, to take to the streets for protest marches and nightly vigils.

Bharatt’s untimely passing was not an isolated murder. Her killing was yet another in a pattern of atrocities that continues to indicate Trinidad and Tobago is in a downward spiral; that it is deep in the well of societal decay.

The statistics indicative of such societal decay are quite distressing. For a nation with a population of around 1.3 million, the numbers show between 2010-2021 that close to 5,000 persons were killed; also, there were two years when the annual total of murders saw over 500 dead.

As a comparison to New York City, which has a population of about 8.5 million, there were 289 murders in 2018; 318 in 2019, and 447 killed in 2020.

It is also apparent that Trinidad and Tobago’s downward spiral is notable in upticks in abuse and violence against women. More and more it appears this nation must awaken to the sober realisation that it is facing an epidemic of violations that continue to harm women. The scourge of domestic violence is quite compelling: there were 986 reports in 2019; also, between 2000-2019, there were 6,047 reported cases of rape.

Bharrat’s murder earlier this month, along with the ripples from the connective, historical sequencing of other recent and brutal killings, was the tipping point for women to angrily take to the streets with demands for protection.

Unfortunately, Trinidad and Tobago’s present PNM government always appears to be reactive. The call by Kamla Persad-Bissessar for a summit of leaders is a start to healing this wounded nation, and it should be heeded.

Balram Singh Rai

Baytoram Ramharack’s call is poignant and principled; it is an appeal to the Government of the Republic of Guyana to correct an egregious and historical omission, notably, the ongoing denial of a parliamentary pension to former legislator, Balram Singh Rai.

Rai served as a legislator in Guyana’s parliament from 1957 to 1964, as Minister of Community Development and Education (1959-1961), and as Minister of Home Affairs (1961-1962), in successive People’s Progressive Party administrations. He also played an historical role in the 1960 Constitutional Conference, which took place in London, England.

As Ramharack points out, for his commitment and duty to Guyana, Rai’s eminence is such that he retains iconic status in the homeland today. He was an attorney, and a devout member of the Arya Samaj Hindu faith. Also, as the august Clem Seecharan has noted, after Dr Cheddi Jagan, “Rai was certainly the most popular Indian leader in the colony”.

Ramharack argues persuasively that, among other provisions, Guyana’s Pensions (President, Parliamentary and Special Offices) Act, Chapter 27:03, which was enacted in January 1970, provides for a pension to legislators who served in 1953 or afterwards; it means, convincingly and unequivocally, that Rai qualifies for the life-long benefit, since he served as a legislator from 1957 to 1964.

Yet today he remains the only Guyanese minister being denied a well-deserved parliamentary pension. Ramharack’s call has since been taken up in Guyana, and in our diaspora, by other eminent personages, among them Swami Aksharananda; Ravi Dev; Tarron Khemraj; Yesu Persaud; Lalita Mahabir; Vishnu Bisram; and our very own Dhanpaul Narine, and Dhaman Kissoon.

On February 8, Rai celebrated his 100th birth anniversary at the hospice where he now resides in England. A kind gesture by President Irfaan Ali and his PPP/Civic government to address this historical omission, and release pension funds to this highly regarded and respectable son of Guyana, would be appropriate and just.