have a true story to tell you. It happened in Coryal, a remote village in
East Trinidad, some years ago. Back in 1981, a 17-year-old woman called
Pamela, girlish and high-spirited, fell head over heels in love with a man
called Jordan, and he with her. He asked her to come and live with him,
and said he would love her forever.
told her childhood sweetheart Denny to forget about her and moved in with
Jordan. Soon after the sweet honeymoon period was over, they began to
quarrel. I canít exactly say what about, but it must have been the
things most couples argue about. Sometimes, little things like how the
food was tasting and sometimes bigger things like money, in-laws, men who
were interested in Pamela or the time Jordan was spending with the boys.
But now when they quarrelled, some rage that Jordan himself couldnít
understand would begin to burn him up. Every time he was vexed about
anything, or if anyone made him feel small - a man who gave him a sour
deal, a boss who would pick on him - he would take it out on Pamela,
because she couldnít fight back.
she, too, was irritating as all of us are, and annoyed him. Despite being
a girl and smaller and weaker than him, she would quarrel back. He
didnít like that at all. Wasnít he minding her, keeping her in his
home, and shouldnít she know now that she belonged to him? That was what
got him. She didnít listen to him all the time. He couldnít control
her with words but he found that when he beat her, brought her to her
knees, shouted louder than her, he felt powerful, and in control again.
we know that kind of thing often goes on between man and wife, and
especially in the country it is considered natural, even essential, since
it is meant to make the woman feel like she truly belongs to the man and
vice versa. Pamela got
pregnant, but the beating didnít stop. She was pregnant for most of the
time she lived with him (she had six children in ten years). So now he
continued to beat her in front of the children who would fearfully cower
behind her. Sometimes he would chase her out of the house. Then he would
drag her back, or she would creep back for the childrenís sake.
also beat the children. They were even smaller and more helpless than
Pamela was and he would feel powerful, like the real man of the house,
when he made them cry or silenced them at will. Sometimes he would starve
them for days or refuse to send them to school. This
hurt Pamela more than anything he ever did to her. She needed to talk to
someone; she needed help. She couldnít go to the police because most of
the officers in the area were Jordanís friends, and anyway in those days
there was no Domestic Violence Act and the police used to keep out of
husband and wife business.
she confided in her childhood sweetheart Denny about the way Jordan
treated her and the children. Denny would always tell her to leave. But
the few times Pamela left and went by a relative or friend, Jordan would
find her, bring her home, curse, and beat her and the children again. When
she couldnít take the battering anymore, Pamela secretly started seeing
Denny on the side and became pregnant for him. When Jordan found our he
beat Pamela up so badly that she took her two youngest children and went
to live in a house rented by Denny and his friend Haniff in Sangre Grande.
here Pamela received several messages that Jordan was looking for her to
kill her. Haniff, in whom Pamela had also confided, assured her that while
he was around no one would harm her. Eight days after Pamela left, Jordan
kicked down the door to Dennyís house, and began beating her with his
hand, cuffing her in her face, and bursting her lip till the blood gushed.
He smashed Dennyís guitar and told Pamela he had come to shed blood, and
not just hers. He then forced Pamela (whose clothes were covered in blood)
to get in his van where he showed her a piece of wood which he said was to
beat her. All the way home he kept slapping Pamela about the face.
inside their house, Jordan locked the door and began cursing and beating
Pamela with a piece of wood until she was knocked senseless. After she
revived and the children came home from school, he lined them all up, six
of them, against the wall, and asked them one by one "should I kill
your mother?" All the terrified children said no. He then ordered
Pamela to go and borrow a thousand dollars from her mother to get an
abortion. Pamelaís mother refused to give her the money and Pamela was
glad because she didnít want an abortion. Jordan then told Pamela that
if the child werenít his he would kill both her and the child.
evening, Pamela managed to send a written message to Denny to rescue her.
On the night of Tuesday, February 12, 1991, Denny and his friend Haniff
entered Jordanís house through a door that Pamela left open when she
went to the outhouse. Pamela was back in the bedroom when Haniff struck
the sleeping Jordan three or four times with piece of wood. Jordan became
motionless. Haniff and Denny wrapped Jordanís body in a sheet, placed it
in the tray of Jordanís van, and set it on fire. Pamela helped them. All
three returned to the home where Pamela made some tea for them, hugged her
eight-year-old daughter who witnessed it all, told her to clean up the
blood, and not say a word to the police, and then burnt the bloody cloth.
Haniff and Denny then took the shotgun belonging to Jordan and left.
next day the burnt van with Jordanís body was found by a passer-by and a
report was made to the police. Pamela, Denny and Haniff were sent to jail
without bail, as is the norm with all murder cases. A postmortem
established Jordanís death was as a result to injuries to the head.
Pamela Ramjattan, Haniff Hilaire and Denny Baptiste were charged,
convicted and sentenced to death for Jordanís murder in May Ď95.
death warrant has been read to Hilaire and Baptiste whose appeal to the
Privy Council was dismissed. Indrawani Ramjattan, aka Pamela, 34, mother
of six children, today sits in a state cell awaiting execution for the
murder of her common-law husband, Alexander Jordan.
the end of the story, or the beginning of a new one, depending on how you
look at it. Pamelaís story is important to all women, and men who
believe in justice. How each of you reading this story reacts to it will
depend on your views of women, friendship, our legal system, and sense of
justice. But before you decide, take into account the legal opinion of two
attorneys who have been involved in the case. For the sake of impartiality
I will not reveal their sexes or the role they have played so far in
defending or condemning Pamela, although this is probably obvious.
was the prime motivator in this crime. The jury took domestic violence
into account, but her battering did not justify in her getting two men to
kill her husband. She acted out of revenge, which is different from
protection. She instigated the two men to beat her husband, facilitated
them, and did nothing to stop them from killing him.Ē
is the only victim here. She was battered for a decade, jailed for the
last seven, separated from her children, lost her baby in prison due to
negligence (an inmate cut the cord) and is now condemned to death for a
murder she did not commit. This is not someone who should be executed by
the hands of the state.Ē
is not a battle of the sexes. It is a battle for basic human rights and
dignity. What is your verdict?
A British law firm, Slaughter and May, are voluntarily preparing to save
the life of Pamela Ramjattan, of a battered woman here who is sentenced to
hang. The firmís solicitor, Joanne Cross, was in Trinidad in October as
an amicus (friend of the court) to conduct a second interview with Pamela
in the Sate Prison before petitioning her case at the Privy Council. If
they are successful in their application, it will make legal history in
the case of battered women who live in former colonies where British law
for Pamela has poured in to Trinidad from human rights and womenís
organisations worldwide asking for her release. Last year 27 women were
murdered in domestic violence incidents, and there were 2,282 reports of
domestic violence. The real figures are higher. The Ministry of Social
Development here says battered women call every 20 minutes for help.
According to the Pan American Health Organisation, it is the number one
health risk to women in the Caribbean.