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Tim Kee caves in

By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, February 14 2016

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Bowing to mounting pressure, both at home and abroad, over his recent controversial statements about the death of Japanese national, Asami Nagakiya, Raymond Tim Kee yesterday signalled his intention to resign as Mayor of Portof- Spain.

Tim Kee did not officially say when he would demit office, but Sunday Newsday understands that the mayor is expected to formally tender his resignation tomorrow during an emergency session of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation.

After more than two years in office, Tim Kee gave notice of his decision to resign in a four paragraph statement, which was issued to media houses around 4.30 pm yesterday.

In the statement, the mayor said he noted the “continued outrage and hurt” over statements attributed to him in relation to Nagakiya’s death.

“I deeply regret the consequences of these statements, and I apologise unreservedly to those who have been affected,” Tim Kee said.

“I consider the reaction has 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.” Tim Kee said he intended to call an emergency meeting of the council “and tender my resignation as Mayor and as an alderman.” Tim Kee, in the statement, also sought to reinforce his earlier stance that he had the utmost respect for women.

He said: “It is important for me to point out as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, a man and a father, that I reiterate my unreserved respect for women, and in fact for all people, regardless of their race, gender or religion.” Tim Kee expressed hope that with his decision to resign, “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.” The embattled Mayor became the target of strong condemnation from some politicians and civil society and religious organisations within the local and international community, last week, when he appeared to link the death of Nagakiya, whose body was found on the western end of the Queen’s Park Savannah on Ash Wednesday, to the lewdness and vulgarity often associated with Carnival.

This reached a head on Friday when vociferous members of several women’s rights bodies and other stakeholders - some wearing costumes - converged at City Hall, Port-of-Spain, calling for Tim Kee’s immediate removal as Mayor.

Tim Kee, who subsequently issued an apology on Thursday, had consistently maintained that his statement was misconstrued.

An autopsy performed on Nagakiya, revealed that she had been manually strangled. Several persons are currently assisting the police with their enquiries.

Police are yet to make a breakthrough in the investigation.

Nagakiya, 30, was a regular visitor to TT and a pan player with the Tragarete Road-based Silver Stars Steel Orchestra. The young woman played mas with large band, Legacy.

Following her death, the Japanese Embassy issued a warning for all Japanese nationals planning to visit this country.

The Embassy advised its nationals: “As the rate of violent crimes has increased over the last few years, to avoid encountering any unexpected threats to personal safety and please minimise any unnecessary nighttime outings.” The Mayor’s decision to resign yesterday contrasted sharply with an earlier position taken by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who told reporters that although Tim Kee’s comments were unfortunate, it did not warrant his dismissal.

Even Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie, speaking to reporters during a walkabout in the La Horquetta constituency, yesterday, said as far as he knew, the Prime Minister’s original position on the issue had not changed.

Sunday Newsday understands, though, that People’s National Movement (PNM) chairman and Minister of Rural Development, Franklin Khan, as the Minister who oversees local government bodies, had prompted the Mayor to tender his resignation following talks with the party’s hierarchy about the simmering issue.

Several PNM’s stalwarts, Sunday Newsday was told, felt that Tim Kee’s statements about Nagakiya’s death had brought the office of Mayor into disrepute and that it was best, under the circumstances, that he demit office.

Khan could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Commenting briefly on Tim Kee’s media statement, former justice minister and political leader of the Tobago Forwards Christlyn Moore said: “This is the first genuine apology I have heard from the Mayor since this debacle has begun and I want to see what Monday will bring.” Deputy Port-of-Spain Mayor Keron Valentine, meanwhile, said he was “kind of taken aback” by Tim Kee’s decision to resign.

Valentine said he had spoken briefly to Tim Kee, who told him about an emergency meeting of the council at 10 am tomorrow.

Tim Kee, a former president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and businessman, was sworn in as Mayor of Port-of-Spain following the November 2013, Local Government Election.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, meanwhile, described Tim Kee’s decision to resign 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 statement.

She said Tim Kee’s decision also “serves as a lesson to Dr.

Keith Rowley and his Government, that they cannot callously dismiss the voice of the people, since true power lies in the collective will of the citizens of this great nation.” Persad-Bissessar commended the stance adopted by civil society groups and associated individuals “who, after days of activism, compelled Mr Raymond Tim Kee to offer, albeit belatedly, an unequivocal apology for his reckless and offensive comments following the tragic death of Asami Nagakiya, as well as to declare his intention to resign as Mayor.”

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