“[…] When Sally Sooman emerged as the [Andrea Bharatt] family spokesperson, I felt a familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I pushed it aside because I sincerely hoped that Ms Sooman would not allow her personal politics to arise. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
“It was on Facebook on 19 April 2019 that she accused Dr Keith Rowley and all Tobagonian men of being rapists…”
The following Letter to the Editor, which addresses Sally Sooman’s public criticism of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in relation to the funeral of Andrea Bharatt, was submitted by Lisa Morris-Julian, MP for the constituency of D’abadie-O’Meara:
As a former mayor of Arima, I am well acquainted with Sally Sooman. So when I saw her name in the Sunday Guardian’s headlines as a spokesperson for the bereaved family of Andrea Bharatt I was taken aback.
When I read the story, I vacillated between remaining silent and penning a letter to the editor. As a politician, more so as a woman in this arena, very often I must choose which battles are worth the fight.
The PNM’s lady vice-chairman would often remind me that even though politics is not a tea party, it is also not an arena where wrong impressions should be left unchallenged. With this uppermost in my mind, I must speak up in this scenario.
Like the rest of the country, I felt emotionally invested in the Andrea Bharatt situation. She worked with a dear friend’s daughter, her father is friends with my uncle, she took her taxis from the same taxi stand my family uses, and she was only a few years older than my eldest daughter.
On hearing and following Andrea’s harrowing story, the rawness I felt for Ashanti Riley came back in full force. I also knew I was not alone. The honourable prime minister, my family, my colleagues, my friends and constituents every day hoped against hope that all would be well.
The honourable prime minister publicly implored any person who knew anything about her disappearance to come forward. Via Facebook posts, I like many others asked people to speak up and speak out.
I remember the rage, profound sadness and devastation we all felt when we heard the news. News like other crimes—particularly crimes against women—do not or should not have a political colour.
Which brings me to the individual called Sally Sooman. When Sally Sooman emerged as the family spokesperson, I felt a familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I pushed it aside because I sincerely hoped that Ms Sooman would not allow her personal politics to arise. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
It was on Facebook on 19 April 2019 that she accused Dr Keith Rowley and all Tobagonian men of being rapists. I was shocked and immediately challenged her. She quickly blocked me, but I was able to get a few screenshots of her vile utterances.
Ms Sooman then proceeded to attack me personally.
I am not totally surprised at Ms Sooman inserting herself in tragic circumstances. Around May 2019, one of my cousins in the USA lost her daughter in a tragic car accident. On that occasion Ms Sooman claimed to be my cousin’s best friend and self-appointed liaison for my family, who barely remembered her—as my cousin had been a US citizen for several decades.
I say all of this to let the nation know that I am very much aware of the type of person Ms Sooman is and I am also aware of what political party she supports. I had hoped that party politics, petty agendas, wretched obsessions would be set aside for the greater good.
However, it is clear to me now that Ms Sooman cannot put aside her political agenda.
Ironically, I have never met Ms Sooman, however several persons who had encounters with her and know her are very willing to go on record with their own stories of their encounters with Ms Sooman.
For these women as well as myself, she could never be a standard bearer for women’s issues.
Despite all that happened previously I had still sincerely wished that she would channel her energies into meaningful change. Yet I was not surprised when she lashed out at Dr Rowley. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised.
I have no doubt she assisted the bereaved family through a difficult time. I applaud her for that. I am now imploring her to put aside her politics. To not taint Andrea’s impact with cheap political shots.
Meaningful change is occurring. For the first time in six years, the Opposition has cooperated with the government. I voted ‘aye’ with my colleagues and when the Opposition Leader spoke, she said ‘I will vote yes this time, but that will not help you’.
I felt the same way when I saw the Sunday Guardian’s headline and Sally Sooman’s post. Disappointed but not surprised.
As a woman, a mother, daughter, sister, I consider it an honour to serve under a leader such as our Prime Minister Dr Rowley. A man who consistently puts women and our issues on the front burner. So, I would defend him vehemently when he is wrongfully accused.
A friend stated recently we cannot legislate the hearts of men. We cannot but you can press on your 41 elected representatives to put aside differences to fix what is broken in the system.
We must each be able to say we will put the people first. I know that we are willing, I also know I serve under a leader who is more than able.
But I must ask: is the Opposition truly willing or able?
Editor’s Note: Wired868 has offered Sally Sooman the opportunity to respond to Lisa Morris-Julian’s assertion, via requests to her multiple Facebook pages.