Tempers flare as two more homes burn down at Train Line

Kishore Mahabir speaks to Newsday in front of the remains of his burnt-down home in Train Line Village, St Augustine, on Monday. -
Kishore Mahabir speaks to Newsday in front of the remains of his burnt-down home in Train Line Village, St Augustine, on Monday. -

TENSION and tempers flared into a startling confrontation between groups of Train Line, St Augustine, residents after two homes were destroyed in a suspected arson attack on Sunday night. Some residents believe Sunday's fire was linked to two recent murders and another house fire.

Some of the residents are pointing fingers at each other and told Newsday there would be unrest until they got justice for the murders and arson attacks.

Others feared that the violence would only continue and escalate in the coming weeks.

They said their calls for a greater police presence and intervention in the area had fallen on deaf ears.

Sunday's fire left two residents – brothers Kishore and Vijay Mahabir – homeless when fire engulfed their homes just after 9.30 pm.

When Newsday visited on Monday, the brothers claimed they instantly knew the reason for the attack when they got word that their homes had gone up in flames.

The side-by-side makeshift one-bedroom wooden structures were burnt to the ground. Only pieces of galvanise and wood were left among the rubble.

The Mahabir brothers lost everything in the fire. Neither were home when the fire started.

Vijay said, despite efforts to maintain peace, he was still being targeted.

“When I got the phone call that my house was on fire, I walked up and see one big flame. I couldn’t do anything. All I could have done was just stand up and watch, because everything was already burning flat down to the ground.”

He said it was the second home he had lost to what he thought was arson.

“When I was living with my wife – a little (way) down the road in this same area – my house was among three houses that burned down. And now, I come and lose again.”

Vijay, who was chopped several times while in prison, said the situation was stressful but he remained thankful that he wasn’t in the house when it caught fire.

He said, “I know the police trying to keep the peace but s--- still happening.”

His brother, Kishore, claimed someone from the area was responsible.

“I talk to everybody in this Train Line. The only bacchanal we have is among neighbours and after two-three days everybody normal again.

"These things don’t happen here. Everybody fearing for their lives. The police not doing nothing.”

Train Line has seen a significant uptick in violence in recent months, including the murder of Aneesa Ramkissoon, 26, on March 3.

Police said Ramkissoon was at her Train Line Road home – which is just a stone’s throw away from his house – when two gunmen barged in and shot her as she knelt and begged them to spare her life.

Her attackers shot her several times and ran away.

Her one-month-old son, three-year-old daughter and six-year-old son were in the bedroom of the house when she was murdered.

Week’s before Ramkissoon’s murder, Kishore’s nephew was killed.

On January 24, Darshan Ramnauth, 16, was shot dead in front of the temple, days shy of his 17th birthday.

Police said gunmen in a grey Toyota Corolla drove to Freeman Street, St Augustine at around 2.20 pm and shot Geno Shah, killing him instantly and wounding two others, one of whom is a visually impaired man.

As the gunshots went off, Ramnauth ran out of his house to check on his grandmother Soorajie Mahabir, who lives nearby. The gunmen spotted Ramnauth and turned their weapons on him.

Days after her murder, Ramkissoon’s sister Seema Ramkissoon's house was torched. In the wake of her sister's murder, Seema said she had received threats and was staying with relatives elsewhere.

She had been upgrading her wooden home to a more sturdy concrete structure when her sister was killed and she said she started receiving threats and demands to pay "a tax" to criminals.

Up to last Friday, another resident who is a relative of Ramkissoon complained to Newsday that she had been receiving death threats.

On Monday, resident Anthony John was packing up his possession to move to a safer area while Newsday spoke with Mahabir.

Anthony claimed he was afraid that his house – a few feet from Mahabir and opposite Ramkissoon’s – would next.

John asked, “Why they burning down the houses for?”

He added, “I just have to make sure me and my wife safe.”

Even as Newsday left the area, a verbal confrontation between two groups of residents broke out.

Last week SWAHA Trinidad head pundit Hardeo Persad told Newsday the area had always been torn apart by drugs and other criminal activities. He said SWAHA’s Sukh Shanti Bhakti Mandali Hindu Temple at the heart of the community had done its best to maintain peace and order.

He said, however, that criminal influences had interfered with the temple’s operations over the years.

Calls and questions to Northern Division’s Supt Brian Ramphal have gone unanswered.


"Tempers flare as two more homes burn down at Train Line"

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