Chief sec on 10 murders in 5 months: 'Tobago in a social war'

Undertakers remove the body of Samuel
Undertakers remove the body of Samuel "Indian" Maharaj's after he was murdered in Mt Grace, Tobago on Saturday, 2024. - Visual styles

WHETHER Tobagonians accept it or not, the island is in a state of "social war," Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said.

This was his response to the "unacceptable" levels of serious crime on the island which has seen ten murders committed so far this year – just three shy of Tobago's record for most murders in a year – which was set in 2023.

On Saturday, the island recorded its tenth murder when 32-year-old Samuel "Indian" Maharaj of Mt Zion in Whim was gunned down in Mt Grace.

Questioned on the situation as he addressed the Tobago Channel 5 morning show on Monday, Augustine said: “Ten murders in five months is unacceptable. In fact, every single murder we have is one more than we should have.”

He said what is being witnessed was “a sort of social war,” which all of Tobago is engaged in.

“Whether we want to be engaged or not, we are all engaged, and we are all affected by it,” Augustine said.

He said the levels of violent crimes especially gun crimes and murders are "extremely concerning to me" and to the island's administration which he leads. Augustine said gunplay is now happening across the street and in some instances – it seemed – the gunmen were acting without impunity.

“We have to arrest this situation. The solution to the situation is multi pronged and it is a war that Tobago has to fight with essentially one of its hands tied behind its back. But we have to put up a good fight. Why do I say that? Yes, there may be some legal limitations in what we can and cannot do.

"We do all have the legal remit when it comes to treating with crime as a social issue – in terms of community development, in terms of our work with social institutions,” Augustine said.

His conversations on the Tobago Channel 5 morning show, came after his press conference on Friday May 17, when he announced the establishment of a THA police unit which would be part of a broader Department of Public Safety which would be working out of the Office of the Chief Secretary.

He also announced the revival and re-establishment of the Tobago Community Safety Programme which will be one of several strategies implemented to bridge the gap between communities, the police and the assembly in the fight against crime.

Augustine was scheduled to meet with ACP (Tobago) Collis Hazel on Monday, but up to press time it was not known if this meeting took place as efforts to reach both men proved futile.

Tobago Murders 2024

• January 1 (New Year’s Day)

Sanitation worker Wanya Kareem Small is shot dead at Patience Hill. Jamal Samuel, 20, of Signal Hill Main Road, was later arrested and and charged with this murder.

• January 12

The body of Akinde Bissoon is found at Old Grange Road around 8 am. Bissoon’s body bore marks of violence. No arrests in this case.

• January 25

Nigel Julien, 44, also known as Tall Man, of Signal Hill/Lambeau Road, Signal Hill, is killed in a drive-by shooting.

• February 15

Vernon Thomas, 66, of Mt Grace, becomes Tobago’s fourth murder when at around 9 pm, gunshots are heard by people liming in the Dutch Fort area. They later saw a man running away from the scene while Thomas lay motionless on the roadway with gunshot wounds about his body.

• March 2

Jafari Fraser crashes his car into a shop near the Pembroke Bay Road Bridge at around 4 am. When police check, they find him dead and slumped over the car's steering wheel. He had been shot multiple times.

• March 26

Deborah Gopaul is found burnt inside a car along the Claude Noel Highway in Lowlands.

• May 4

The body of Mt Marie, Scarborough resident Shellon Walters-Joseph, 32, is found down a precipice in Mt St George. There are clear signs of violence about the body.

• May 9

Nikesha Sandy, 29, also known as "Stoonkie,” of Jaegers Hall Trace in Plymouth, is shot dead along Jaegers Hall Trace.

• May 15

Anthony "Seeba" Maynard, 42, was liming with friends at Chatham Street when a white station-wagon pulls up. Two gunmen got out and began shooting at the limers. They then got back into the car which sped off. Maynard who was shot multiple times, dies not too long after. Three other men are also shot and wounded but survived.

• May 18

Samuel "Indian" Maharaj, 32, is found dead in some bushes near the Mt Grace Open Bible Church. He was shot multiple times.

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