With the latest murder in Tobago taking the tally up to ten for the year to date, it behooves us as a nation to take a long, hard look at what we are doing or not doing to our once pristine paradise island of Tobago.
Whether we want to admit it or not, Tobago is changing and changing rapidly. Trinidadians and other visitors to the island have always revelled in the past in the fact that Tobago was one of the safest places on earth. Everybody knew everyone else and they were all, by and large, one big happy family where each looked out for the other, and the most prevalent crime might be the stealing of a goat or a sheep.
This is no longer so! It may be as a result of the influx of unskilled labour from Trinidad and other neighbouring territories such as St Vincent and Guyana, or it may be the fact that there are just too many idle young men on every street corner in Tobago, but there is a serious problem brewing here.
The incidence of firearm-related offences in Tobago is also increasing at an alarming rate. Tobago used to be a place where you could feel relatively safe from the scourge of illegal guns which has so afflicted Trinidad. However, there has been a gradual creeping into the Tobago context of a growing number of illegal firearms on the streets and in the hands of miscreants.
In respect of the illegal firearms, it would seem that the major trans-shipment means must be aboard the Government ferry, which does not have the security screening procedures as occurs at the airport, so as ironic as it seems, the Government ferry is unwittingly a part of the cause of the influx of illegal firearms into Tobago.
There have also been quite a few rapes and robberies, which have been occurring especially in the Mt. Irvine and Buccoo areas, many of which are unreported in the press, so the problem never gets the public attention it deserves.
Many foreigners against whom crimes have been committed in Tobago, also may just quietly pack up and vow never to return and may not even stick around for the prosecution of the matter in the event that someone is actually arrested and charged with the offence. So once again the issue gets swept under the carpet.
Now, one does not wish to be alarmist or unnecessarily anxious but it seems that we need at this point to become more vigilant so as to ensure that Tobago does not suffer the same fate as Trinidad, in terms of spiralling and runaway crime. It is for lack of this vigilance that we seem to have all but lost the war against crime in Trinidad and heaven help us if we become complacent and allow the same thing to happen to our sweet sister isle of Tobago.
Tobago is quite dependent on the tourism industry and it is an internationally accepted fact that one of the things which can quickly destroy a tourism economy is burgeoning crime, especially crime against visitors. It is imperative that visitors and citizens alike should be made to feel a sense of safety and security in Tobago.
The Tobago House of Assembly has recognised this problem and the Chief Secretary Orville London has spoken out on it before, but it is becoming more and more apparent that talk alone is not enough and that swift, decisive action is desperately needed. If we cannot feel safe in Tobago, then where else is left for us to seek refuge?
What then is to become of those homeowners with their multi-million-dollar homes at the Tobago Plantation and Golf Club or the new five-star development of the Estates of Golden Grove?
What also is to happen to ordinary citizens, who just want to run away to Tobago for a weekend? Are they to start feeling those twinges of fear and insecurity which are attendant upon daily life in Trinidad? If so, then what is the point of a nice little Tobago weekend getaway?
This is not an issue we can continue to pretend doesn’t exist and keep silent about for much longer. We need to be proactive about it and not let Tobago descend into chaos and anarchy of runaway crime.
Tobago is ours, our little piece of paradise where we can go and rest, relax and unwind in peace and tranquility. A place where its citizens could once have left their homes open and gone out in the knowledge and comfort that their homes and possessions would not be tampered with. But this is changing and we need to act quickly to save the island from becoming a place of tarnished tranquility.
Martin A. George- Attorney-at-Law
Published by the Trinidad Guardian- October 30th 2005