People at the Candlelight Movement event in Port-of-Spain on March 5, 2021
By Prior Beharry
THERE was no written plan from the Candlelight Movement indicating that it would have been following Covid-19 protocols last Friday.
This was one of the reasons given by Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez as to why the movement was not allowed to have its function at Woodford Square in Port-of-Spain Friday.
He was speaking to AZPNews.com on Monday on the claim made by member of the Candlelight Movement Phillip Alexander that the refusal, to use Woodford Square to have a function to launch the signing of a petition to have the Government put in place measures to protect women, was politically motivated.
The Candlelight Movement held the function at the corner of Knox and Pembroke Streets outside the northern entrance of the square after receiving permission to assemble there from the police.
Speaking to AZPNews.com, Martinez stressed that the country was in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic and while the Port-of-Spain City Corporation was the custodian of the square, it still had to get permission from the Ministry of Health to have gatherings.
He said, “Anybody in excess of ten people gathering in a space together will be against the protocol rules and we are the custodians of the square.”
Martinez said on two previous occasions on February 9 and 12 the same group was granted permission to use the square and therefore no politics is involved in the decision-making process.
The Candlelight Movement was formed after candlelight vigils were held across the country following the death of court clerk Andrea Bharatt who was kidnapped and murdered and her body dumped in the Heights of Aripo in February.
Martinez said while requests to use the square were usually sent to his office, the Candlelight Movement made the request to the chief executive officer of the corporation which meant that it had to go through a process that would have ended with a physical meeting.
He said also that the council of the corporation would have to meet to give approval.
Martinez said when applications were made to him and there were no council meetings being held before the event, he would use a round-robin method where he would send a WhatsApp message to members of the council to seek approval.
He said a call was made to a councillor of the corporation last Wednesday by the Candlelight Movement while he was in the statutory meeting and he therefore could not take the call.
Martinez said no letter requesting use of the square was presented at any of the committee meetings on Wednesday.
The mayor said the letter reached a councillor on Thursday.
Told that the Candlelight Movement stated that it had requested permission three weeks ago, he said the letter requesting permission was dated February 24 and did not reach the council in time to be processed.
The mayor said permission was usually granted for such events and there was not politics involved as being claimed by Alexander.
Martinez said he was not directly involved in this process and was contacted by the chief medical officer of the POS City Corporation on Friday afternoon to get in contact with the Ministry of Health CMO Dr Roshan Parasram.
He said he did not have a number for Dr Parasram and messaged Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh who was in Parliament and therefore did not respond.
Martinez said after 3pm on Friday, Dr Parasram stated that he had no objections pending written correspondence from the Candlelight Movement that they will adhere to Covid-19 protocols during the event.
The mayor said the corporation sought to get this in writing from the Candlelight Movement “but no letter presented itself indicating of the guidelines.”
He said he could not have given the City Police permission to open the square since he had no written approval to do so.
Member of the Candlelight Movement Felicia Holder who was making the arrangements said she was told to send a letter about the Covid-19 protocols at 4.09 pm.
She said she sent correspondence on a letterhead, as requested, stating that they would allow only ten people in the square at a time to sign the petition and that they would be temperature checked and social distancing would be maintained.
Holder said she sent that letter at 6.09 pm which was 51 minutes before the event was scheduled to start.
She said by that time they were told to leave the square and she has not received any written correspondence blanking them from using the square up to now.
Holder said that she was told by Southern Port-of-Spain councillor Dennis Bristol that they were not give approval to use Woodford Square.
Contacted on Monday evening, Bristol told AZPNews.com that Holder sent a statement and not an action plan that was requested and therefore permission was not granted use Woodford Square.
He said, “We had to get how they were executing their plan the 250 odd people they mentioned they were coming with.”
Bristol added, “What Ms Holder said was a statement that ‘I was going to do something,’ not necessarily ‘how I am going to do something.’”
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