Approximately 500 businesses across Trinidad and Tobago closed their doors on Friday, part of a nationwide protest against violence against women, as murder victim Andrea Bharatt was laid to rest.
Bharatt, a 22-year-old court clerk, was kidnapped on January 29 and her decomposing body found on February 4. The murder sparked outrage across the twin-island republic where several protests and candlelight vigils have been held, and citizens have demanded justice for murdered and missing women.
Supermarkets, food outlets, legal firms, hardware stores, and automotive parts stores were among the hundreds of mostly small and medium-sized businesses that did not open.
Speaking at a meeting of his People’s National Movement (PNM) on Thursday night, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said this was a “season of great sadness”.
“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.
However, he acknowledged the outpouring of support for Bharatt’s family and the actions being taken by residents to show their solidarity with victims of crime.
Rowley said this “coming together of our nation to say ‘enough is enough’ may be the first step in the right direction”.
“I am very sorry that it took another life for all of us to rise up like this… I am saying if we are rising up like this it means that when you know something about a criminal in this country, that same attitude will take you to tell the police whether it’s your neighbour or your family,” the Prime Minister added.
“Don’t tell me after you have this vigil and after you express this anger and you make those demands, that you will know where a gun is … a gun which the next time it barks would be another life and another news and another Andrea [and not speak up].”
As the funeral procession for Bharatt made its way to the Faith Assembly Church in Arima on Friday, hundreds of citizens lined the streets.
The young woman was remembered in music, word and via a video presentation of her life, during a funeral service that was streamed online.
On the same day Bharatt was laid to rest, a 24-year-old man charged with her murder appeared in court.
Negus George was denied bail when he appeared in court, along his common-law wife Giselle Hobson, who was charged with receiving stolen items.
Two other suspects in the case previously died in police custody.
Andrea Bharatt was last seen alive on January 29, when she and a friend got into a car with ‘H’ licence plates. Bharatt’s friend disembarked at her stop but Bharatt never made it home.
An autopsy done at the Forensic Science Centre on Monday was inconclusive but one privately done, subsequently, showed that Bharatt died as a result of blunt force trauma and internal haemorrhaging.