PORT OF SPAIN — In what must count as one of the most curious responses to a murder, the Mayor of the Trinidad capital of Port-of-Spain has said that women have a responsibility to avoid being attacked.
Mayor Raymond Tim Kee’s comments came after the slashed and bruised body of Japanese national, Asami Nagakiya, was found in Queen’s Park Savannah on Ash Wednesday morning — a day after carnival festivities concluded. Autopsy results would later confirm that Nagakiya was strangled to death in a homicidal attack.
Saying that women had a duty to ensure that they were not abused during the Carnival season, Tim Kee went on record to admonish them for their “vulgarity” and “lewdness”, adding that women could enjoy Carnival without going through such routines.
The Mayor is not on our record as making any such edict on the behaviour of males, neither has the media been apprised of the motive behind Nagakiya’s killing.
“Let your imagination flow”— Tim Kee pronounced even before the murder victim’s autopsy — “was there any evidence of resistance? was it alcohol-controlled and therefore involuntary actions engaged in? I could well imagine what will be said by the country from which she came, about one of their people coming here to participate in our Carnival and end up dead… It is not [that she was hit by a truck], it is a matter that she was jumping up in a costume.”
Tim Kee’s comments came after grim and dehumanizing images of Nagakiya’s corpse were circulated on social media. The woman remained undiscovered among bushes, and unidentified for several hours before the Japanese Embassy in Port of Spain was able to give the Homicide Bureau of Investigation her name.
We have since learned that she was a regular visitor to Trinidad’s Carnival, and that she and other Japanese nationals played in the Silver Stars Orchestra band. Her final Facebook posts paint a picture of a woman who loved Trinidad and Tobago, and who loved Carnival. But Tim Kee’s comments muted her story, and placed her death squarely at her feet.
As her story went viral, and calls for Tim Kee’s removal from office mounted, Prime Minister Keith Rowley broke his silence; only to dismiss Tim Kee’s comments as “tongue in cheek”, and not worthy of his dismissal from Mayoral office.
Further defending Tim Kee, Rowley said that the Mayor “misspoke” – but reduced the conversation on Nagakiya’s death to it being a “blemish” on Trinidad & Tobago’s image.[tw-divider][/tw-divider]
It was the second time that the Government would frame the death as mark against the twin-island state’s tourism sector: Tim Kee earlier said the murder was “not only an embarrassment to Carnival, but to the city of Port of Spain.”
The mayor’s problematic comments on women’s respectability serves only to absolve, in the public eye, the actions of her attacker, and to lift the responsibility of the state in providing adequate mechanisms through which violence against women is deterred. It is also patently fallacious — given the number of otherwise-respectable women who have met their deaths or been abused, simply by avoiding “lewd” advances.
After a firestorm of criticism, Tim Kee issued a loose apology which, for the first time, expressed sympathy for the victim of the crime. His apology, for statements which he said “could have been considered out of line”, nonetheless emphasized that he had also received calls of support for his stance.
Caribbean feminist group WOMANTRA has launched a petition seeking the Mayor’s removal, and remains undeterred by Tim Kee’s apology and Prime Minister Rowley’s steadfast defence of the Mayor. A march on City Hall is also planned for tomorrow.
In the midst of this ongoing homicide investigation, Tim Kee’s opinion on the murder has, even in death, dealt another brutal injustice to Asami Nagakiya.
This story has been updated throughout to include the most recent developments related to autopsy results, remarks by Raymond Tim Kee, and further remarks by Prime Minister Keith Rowley.