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Protection order taken against Winston Peters.

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

[email protected]

A Rio Claro woman is now speaking out about her alleged physical abuse at the hands of a People’s National Movement (PNM) candidate for the upcoming August 20 General Election, saying she fears for her life if the allegations remain private.

Currline Cooper told Guardian Media she was in a two-year relationship with Moruga/Tableland candidate Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters, which began when she was 29 years.

Cooper, who is now 32, alleged that the relationship began while she was dealing with the deaths of close family members and a close friend in March 2018. It ended in March 2020.

On July 2, Cooper was granted an interim protection order against Peters, preventing him from being within 200 metres of her or contacting her – among other stipulations. The interim order was granted in Peters’ absence, as Cooper said police officers said they were not able to serve Peters a summons to attend court for the hearing.

That order will expire on July 23, when Cooper and Peters are expected to appear in court for a determination on the matter.

Cooper documented the relationship and alleged abuse in a letter to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on May 20. Cooper said after she received no response to her initial email, she sent the email again on June 17.

Cooper sent a photo of the order and a copy of the emailed letter, including photo evidence she provided to support her claims of abuse during the relationship, to Guardian Media.

Cooper also provided a letter from a Port-of-Spain medical centre which stated she had been treated for emotional distress and had “evidence of physical trauma secondary to an abusive relationship.” That report was dated February 20, 2020.

Cooper said she spoke to officers in the Gender-Based Violence Unit of the T&T Police Service in February and asked the officers warn Peters not to make any contact her. She said she asked that Peters not be charged with an offence as she hoped he would have abided by the police warning and the matter would go away quietly. However, Cooper alleges Peters did not follow the police warning.

Cooper said she also had a conversation with Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds expressing her concerns about the relationship in February as well. She said Hinds told her “No one is above the law” and advised her to write to Rowley with her concerns.

Cooper said she sent the email to Rowley on May 20, 2020, after learning that Peters was being considered as the candidate for Moruga/Tableland. Four days later, on May 25, Peters, a former United National Congress MP for Mayaro and a Minister of Culture under the People’s Partnership government, was selected by the PNM.

In an interview with Guardian Media, Cooper said she felt she now had to tell her story.

“I basically decided to speak out because of fear for my life. I shared my story so in case anything, God forbid, happens to me,” Cooper said.

She said cases of women murdered in domestic violence cases in recent times has left her concerned.

“It’s damn if I do, damn if I don’t … Yes, it’s before the court and they are seeing about but I’m still scared. So at least and I hope I don’t become a statistic, the public will be aware of my story,” Cooper said.

Cooper said up until March she lived in an apartment in Mt Lambert but has moved back to her parents’ house in Rio Claro.

She said she was employed at the National Carnival Commission (NCC) but after she filed for the protection order she was told her six-month contract would not be renewed.

Cooper denied there was political motivation or in her speaking out weeks before the General Election.

“It has nothing to do with politics. If I wanted to be political I could have gone to the UNC with my story.”

Guardian Media reached out to Peters for a comment on the allegations by Cooper.

During a telephone conversation, Peters was told Guardian Media had a copy of the interim protection order filed by Cooper and he immediately responded, “I am not going to talk about that.”

He then ended the call.

Guardian Media also reached out to Laventille West MP Hinds seeking to confirm whether Cooper had spoken to him about the matter.

Hinds interjected during the questioning to say he has spoken to many constituents as an MP and he found it ‘unethical’ that he would be contacted about a conversation with one of his constituents. Hinds then ended the call.

Calls to Prime Minister Rowley’s cellphone went unanswered and messages sent via Whatsapp were marked as ‘Read’ but up until press time there was no response to the questions.