AFTER almost a year in office, Tobago Chamber of Industry & Commerce president Diane Hadad claims the Progressive Democratic Patriots-led THA has not yet presented “a clear direction” for addressing the island’s crime situation.
Hadad was referring to the island’s ten murders for the year so far, the last of which involved a special reserve policeman who was gunned down in Les Coteaux on November 12.
On November 8, the US Department of State issued a travel advisory, urging its citizens to reconsider travel to TT because of “crime, terrorism and kidnapping.”
Six days later, on November 14, US travel guide, Travel Lemming, offered a different perspective. It placed Trinidad – omitting Tobago – at spot 43 on its 50 Best Places to Travel in 2023 list.
Travel Lemming described Trinidad as a "lesser-travelled island" with a "vibrant landscape and lifestyle...swathed in the tropical jungle" and home to a variety of unique flora and fauna, hidden waterfalls, wild rivers and diverse wetlands.”
Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds have since met with the US Embassy's chargé d’affaires Shanté Moore to discuss the advisory.
On Tuesday, Hadad said while advisories from the UK and US advising its citizens to avoid coming to TT was nothing new, it has affected Tobago’s tourism-based economy over the years.
“That has been a factor years ago when the UK used to put out travel advisories and it did affect us. Once more the effects have found its way into Tobago and so there is no getting away. But I also have to say that as an island we have not seen any clear direction from our THA administration island in dealing with crime,” she said.
Hadad said what was important was "trying to fix what we have as a people, because all other countries have crime, some of them very crazy.
“But we are too small a place to be experiencing the levels that we are experiencing. So we really don’t know what direction they (THA) are heading, how they see crime and what they see as crime.”
She believes the crime situation is a reflection of the breakdown in the social fabric of the country.
“It is a reflection of the hardships that are being felt by the people at the lower levels and it also has to do with all of the corruption taking place. People have found ways to create what I will deem to be called an easier life because they feel justified in all that they are doing."
She claimed the social fabric has "been totally torn apart.”
Hadad observed crimes of passion were also increasing.
“We have not matured as a people as to how we treat with falling out of love, and relationships that are deteriorating.”
She believes financial stress also contributes to the deterioration of relationships.
“So you are coming back to the same problems – the ability for people to earn and the ability for people to enjoy a fair chance at life and so we are in a very bad place.”
Hadad added, “Even from the children, we are seeing that that too has broken down because of the environment and how they perceive life.”
She believes everybody must take personal responsibility for minimising crime “with proper leadership, which we seem to be not too privileged to have within the last couple of years.”
At a news conference on Friday, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine announced several measures, which the THA hopes will reduce crime on the island.
He said apart from the THA’s department of safety and security, which is set to come on stream in the not-too-distant future, the assembly is also examining the legalities of creating its own localised security service similar to what exists in Trinidad with the municipal police.
Augustine said the THA is also looking at the possibility of bringing back the community comfort patrols.