Mayor in Trinidad to resign over controversial comments about women

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Port of Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee says he will resign. (Photo: socawarriors.net)

 

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Sunday February 14, 2016 – A mayor who sparked outrage at home and abroad for comments he made about women’s behaviour at Carnival, following the death of a Japanese woman who travelled to Trinidad to play mas, appears to be buckling under the pressure of the widespread criticism and calls for him to go.

Mayor of Port of Spain, Raymond Tim Kee, announced in a statement to the media yesterday that he plans to call it quits.

“I intend to call an emergency meeting of [the City] Council, and tender my resignation as Mayor,” he said.

“It is hoped that with this decision, the Office of the Mayor is now protected, my unreserved apology accepted by my fellow citizens, and that the focus can now be placed fully on solving the murder of a visitor to our shores.”

Tim Kee has been under fire ever since Wednesday when he said that women had a responsibility to ensure they were not abused and needed to maintain a level of dignity during Carnival festivities, in response to reporters’ questions about the discovery of the body of a woman, still dressed in a Carnival costume, in Queen’s Park Savannah that day.

The deceased was identified later that day as Asami Nagakiya, a Japanese pannist who often visited the twin-island republic for Carnival and was well known in the local pan community.

Asami Nagakiya

Asami Nagakiya (Photo: CNC3)

An autopsy subsequently indicated that she had been strangled.

Women’s rights groups, civil society groups, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other citizens, as well as other people living outside of Trinidad and Tobago, gave Tim Kee a tongue lashing, reprimanding him for his “insensitive” and “offensive” comments. His statements were also carried in the international media.

The mayor issued a statement on Thursday in which he apologized but also insisted that his statements were taken out of context.

But the apology was not enough. An online petition was launched which collected over 10,000 signatures, and there were protests in the capital, led by civil action group Womantra Trinidad and Tobago, and by a group of Trinidadians living in the United Kingdom, outside the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission in London, all calling for him to quit or be fired.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said he had no plans to sack Tim Kee, saying that the mayor was a “decent man” who had perhaps not expressed himself in the right way. He contended that the remarks, though unfortunate, did not warrant his dismissal.

But Tim Kee, who is Treasurer of the ruling People’s National Movement, said in his statement yesterday that the continued outrage and hurt over his comments have been “sufficient to cause damage to the Office of the Mayor of Port of Spain, which any holder of this office should be concerned to protect at all costs”.

The mayor apologized once again and insisted that as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, and as a man and father, he had unreserved respect for women and all other people, regardless of their race, gender or religion.

His intended resignation has been enthusiastically welcomed by his critics.

The Trinidad Express quoted Womantra founder Stephanie Leitch as saying that it is “an amazing victory for all the women of Trinidad and Tobago”.

“It is an unprecedented event which shows that the people do have power to make our politicians and our leaders accountable to us,” she told the newspaper.

Persad-Bissessar also described the development as “a true victory of the people”.

“I heartily commend the principled men and women who took up this struggle and spoke out against Mr Tim Kee’s vile sentiments, for their courage, perseverance and commitment,” she said in a media release.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi commended Tim Kee for his decision, in the circumstances, although avoiding taking sides in the matter.

“I think that Mayor Tim Kee is a man who knows very well what public sentiment looks like. It is a very unfortunate incident . . . I am not saying what he ought to do or ought not to do, but what I can tell you is that public sentiment is real and I give Mayor Tim Kee a serious public commendation for acting as quickly as he had in this manner,” he told reporters yesterday.

Meantime, police have released a man who they had been questioning since Thursday in relation to Nagakiya’s death.

However, they stressed that he was not a suspect and they just wanted to get information from him that could perhaps help them in their investigations, according to the Trinidad Guardian.

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