Tue | Nov 30, 2021

Time for action, not just talks

Published:Tuesday | April 27, 2021 | 12:08 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

It is with a deep sense of disappointment that I watched the last sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 20. As a woman, I was disheartened by the approach taken by the Government regarding allegations in the public domain that a man seen in a viral video violently beating a woman with a stool is a parliamentarian.

I listened keenly to the prime minister (PM), who spoke for almost an hour. I was heartened by his appropriate expression of outrage at the violence displayed in the video, and I waited to hear him condemn the member in question, in clear and concrete terms. I waited for our PM to state that he had met with the embroiled member and requested his resignation, but my wait was in vain. I was disappointed by the position articulated by the honourable prime minister that he was “bound by process and procedure” and could only go as far as the law allowed.

The law is not a shackle and should not be used as an excuse for failure to act. In any event, we all know that political will can go where the law cannot go. This was seen in March 2019, when the PM issued a statement informing the nation that he had met with then Minister Ruel Reid regarding allegations in the public domain and had requested and received his resignation. The PM did not seek to hide behind the law or processes and procedures then. Why now?

GAPING WOUND

Violence against women is not just a stain on our society. It is a gaping wound that must be treated and healed. Insufficient action, or action that does not go far enough, only serves to enable and embolden abusers. It sends the wrong message when an alleged perpetrator of violence is permitted to report to the police at his convenience and gets to impose his own punishment by simply taking leave from the Parliament. It is time for strong action.

We don’t need hollow joint statements from female parliamentarians. We don’t need platitudes or another sermon on the mount. What we need is clear and strong action that sends the message that it is not business as usual. The embattled parliamentarian must be called upon to do the right thing and submit his resignation post-haste – nothing else will do. The alarm bell is still ringing. Will the Government continue to hit ‘snooze’?

ZULEIKA JESS

Attorney-at-Law