Following the discovery of the body of Japanese pannist, Asami Nagakiya’s body of the 10th February 2015, the then Mayor of Port of Spain, Raymond Tim Kee, remarked that the ‘lewd’ conduct of women during the Carnival period exposes them to certain ‘abuses.’ At the time of his statement there was no concluded coroner’s report regarding the cause of the death. The statement of the Mayor was an assumption that a woman is ultimately responsible if sexual violence is perpetrated against her. It echoed one of the tents of ‘rape culture’ that deems that a woman’s conduct in terms of dress and deportment provokes rape.
The public immediately responded, largely via social media, letters to the editor and articles published online. Various interest groups also denounced the statements of the Mayor, outlining his political responsibility as a representative of the people and how his words damages the perception of the office of Mayor and damages the society by promoting the ‘culture of rape.’ Further the statement was shown to restimulate the distress of victims of sexual violence.
The Mayor offered an apology but the effect of it was blunted by his reaffirmation in the same apology of the statement previously made, thereby nullifying any redemptive effect the apology may have had. Public outcry escalated; including reports in international media.
On Friday 12th February 2015 supporters of the protest gathered outside Woodford Square in Port of Spain. The aim of the protest was to affect the resignation of the Mayor by: vocalising responses to his statement and by delivering to his office at City Hall, a formal letter calling for his resignation. These were done. Over one hundred people participated in the protest. Local and international media were present. There was also a large police presence. A similar protest for the same purpose was conducted on the morning on the same day in London.
On Saturday 13th February 2015 the Office of the Mayor issued a statement to the media expressing his regret about the stament, acknowledging the damage it caused and signalling his intent to resign the following Monday during a scheduled media conference. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, supported the move, saying openly that the resignation was the right thing for the Mayor to do.
On Monday February 15th 2015, the date on which the media conference was scheduled, the Mayor recanted and instead declared that he would remain in office.
This propelled even further agitation from interest groups. In addition to his statements following the death of the pannist, the Office of Mayor was further compromised by his reneging on the promise to resign, thereby bringing his integrity into question.
An intense National debate continued around the protest. Questions raised by the public included:
1. While the statement of the Mayor was unfortunate did a warrant a penalty as severe as a call for his resignation?
2. Why did the interests groups select this issue for agitation after apparently neglecting so many other matters of national concern?
3. Who are the members of the interest groups and what were their agendas?
Responses came from interest groups as well as independent citizens. On Tuesday February 16th 2016. Raymond Tim Kee formally resigned as Mayor of Port of Spain.