Kee’s comments immediately drew outrage. Critics, particularly women, accused him of sexism and victim blaming.
“What the heck is he talking about? He is an idiot! Let your imagination wonder?” one woman commented. “How about let the police do the job and find out what the heck happen[ed]. There is no excuse for murder.”
Within hours, a woman had launched an online petition calling for Kee’s resignation. By early Friday morning, it had gathered nearly 7,000 signatures. (That equates to roughly 10 percent of the population of Port of Spain.)
On Thursday, Prime Minister Keith Rowley, the head of Kee’s People’s National Movement party, said that his government does not support victim blaming and that Kee was sorry for his statements. Rowley rejected calls for Kee to resign, however.
Shortly afterward, Kee himself apologized, but in awkward, third-person and somewhat passive-aggressive statement.
“His Worship the Mayor of Port of Spain Alderman Raymond Tim Kee unequivocally apologizes 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,” it began, before then equivocating.
“Mayor Tim Kee says that his comments were completely misconstrued,” it continued. “He agrees that his comments could have been considered out of line, but despite the anger being expressed from many quarters including feminist groups and activists, he has also received calls of support from several women agreeing with him on the lack of modesty displayed by some women and girls on the streets during the Carnival Celebrations.”
“There is indeed a concern about the behaviour of both male and female mas players generally as they are now being emulated by children who believe that lewd behaviour and carnival go hand in hand.”
Critics then pounced on his sorry-not-sorry statement. The leader of the island’s political opposition demanded that Kee be fired.
“Mayor Tim Kee didn’t even offer condolences on the death of Ms. Nagakiya but proceeded to offer scandalous speculation in relation to the possible circumstances surrounding her death,” said Kamla Persad-Bissessar. “It is unbelievable that in a 21st century society, the mayor of the capital city can utter such outrageous and misogynistic statements about the death of a talented young woman, given that the facts are not yet known.”