Port-of-Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee has prompted global outrage for responding to the brutal death of a 30-year-old Carnival attendee by saying "the woman has the responsibility to ensure that [she is] not abused.”
On Wednesday, a man named Geoff Adams discovered the body of Asami Nagakiya, a Japanese musician who had come to Trinidad and Tobago to celebrate Carnival regularly. Adams told the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian that it looked liked Nagakiya had been killed violently. “She had a laceration on her elbow and black and blue marks on her waist," he said, speculating, "it look like a rape/murder to me." Nagakiya was dressed in her masquerade outfit when she was discovered.
As police investigated into the cause of death (an autopsy later revealed she was strangled) Mayor Kee had some theories of his own. Local news outlet Loop reported that on Wednesday, Kee offered comments on the incident and Carnival more generally:
You know before Carnival I did make a comment about vulgarity and lewdness in the conduct and you know… I spoke of the things that I see some women do, assisted by men of course. But the woman has the responsibility to ensure that they are not abused.
My argument was you could enjoy Carnival without going through that routine. They do all sorts of things, I mean, things. And I throw back the question: During the day of prancing and partying, how many times do they go through those routines? Is it the majority of times or fewer times than the majority? So I ask when the other times they are not doing it, are they enjoying themselves? Then why you can’t continue with that and maintain some kind of dignity?
When I heard that news this morning (yesterday), I know you would have tourists that would come here who are strangers here and may not be aware of all the risks of doing certain things. In the Savannah over there – it’s somewhere by the Savannah, right? So then you have to let your imagination roll a bit and figure out was there any evidence of resistance or did alcohol control?… It’s a matter of, if she was still in her costume – I think that’s what I heard- let your imagination roll.
And finally stopped:
My comment is that is rather embarrassing for us, the City, it is embarrassing for Carnival and I think much more advisories should go out to the public, especially to those who don’t understand a lot of the culture. Our culture is not just playing mas. There are a lot of other subcultures people engage in all year, and therefore they have to be very alert and very careful about whom they associating with when they go out.
There's a lot going on here, but it seems what Kee was saying, generally, was that Nagakiya should have known better.
Kee's comments sparked outrage and calls for his resignation, including an online petition signed by 7,500 people. His office soon offered an apology, stating that Kee "unequivocally apologises to women and the national population who were offended by remarks attributed to him following the death of Carnival visitor and mas player Asami Nagakiya." He added that his initial comments were misunderstood.
But many found his apology to be lacking. One critic wrote in an op-ed for the Trinidad Daily Express that "The Mayor remains responsible for the sensation created by his own words. The apology is undermined by the approach of shooting the (media) messenger, painting critics as 'feminist groups and activists,' and justifying his prejuducial expression by referring to 'several women agreeing with him.'"
Meanwhile, Nagakiya's friends and family are left to mourn their loss. She often played with the PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars Steel Orchestra when she came to Carnival, and the group commemorated her in a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday:
The post reads, "we are truly heartbroken to have lost a member of our PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars family, one of our bright stars, and a loving friend," and continues, "Asami Nagakiya was a truly beautiful, and gentle soul."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.