Augustine: THA security unit gets legal clearance

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police on patrol along the Claude Noel Highway, Shirvan, Tobago. File photo –

TOBAGO House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said on June 24 the THA was closely monitoring crime and he proposed a new unit in his office to co-ordinate efforts to secure the island. He vowed to do “whatever is necessary” to stem crime. He proposed remedies in his THA budget request for fiscal 2025 titled Unlocking Tobago’s Developmental Potential, which sought $3.956 billion from central government.

“My island government places the public safety and security of Tobagonians at the top of its priorities because every good thing done will be unsustainable and unproductive in an unsafe, unsecured Tobago.

“Therefore, we are intensely monitoring the disturbingly increasing trend of gun violence and murders in the island and stand prepared to do whatever is necessary to stop this trend.” He supported a socially enabling environment for Tobagonians to take collective actions against those who possess illegal firearms.

Augustine said the Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport would restart the Tobago Community Safety Programme, with the objective of better management of community safety, building trust with the law-enforcement agencies, holding safety rallies/events and deploying smart-city technologies like facial recognition.

He said, “In the medium-to-long term, the THA will establish a Department of Public Safety and Security in the Office of the Chief Secretary.

“This department will amalgamate all the units, agencies, and departments of the THA that have a core public safety function.”

Augustine also gave the all-clear to establish a much-touted THA police service.

“I am happy to note here that the legal review for the establishment of the THA police has been completed and the path is clear for its implementation.

“We are now preparing to do a public-safety audit, the findings and discoveries of which will inform the institutional design and operation of the department.”

He said he was unconditionally committed to working with law-enforcement agencies to improve their operational effectiveness and efficiency in Tobago.

“In this regard, I will continue the ongoing collaborative works with the Office of the Commissioner of Police towards ensuring the continued operational presence of some of the key specialised units in the island.”

Noting the transformative impact of a highly educated and technically skilled and savvy population, he promised Tobagonians a high-quality education, both formal and informal.

“In fiscal 2025, we propose to incrementally and strategically infuse selected aspects of Tobago’s history, culture, heritage, and geopolitics as part of our Tobago-centric curriculum roll-out. Our aim is to develop a strong sense of self identity anchored in the value identity of Tobagonians in the island’s school population.”

Regarding community empowerment, he announced a $38 million initiative called the Spark, Step-up, Take Charge, Innovate, Restore – Monitor and Evaluate (SSTIR-ME) plan.

This included parenting and family management training with expanded support services in communities, aimed at 20 per cent of Tobago’s families in phase one of the programme.

He advocated expanding the Community-Based Vocational Skill training programme, as a feeder into the TVET Academy. An internship and apprenticeship programme were also proposed, to benefit about 270 youths next year.

He proposed, “Execute an extensive capacity building programme to assist our community, youth, and sporting organisations to take charge of their organisations and communities in a managed and co-ordinated response to crime and violence, and to promote the sustainable development of our people.”

Aiming for faster receipt of social grants including digital delivery by early 2025, he proposed a Kinship Support Programme of assistance to relatives taking care of children whose parents are absent. People with disabilities would benefit from a Home Modification Grant plus the creation of a Disability and Inclusion Unit in the Department of Social Protection.

Augustine said several measures to boost the provision of healthcare (including acquisition of new diagnostic equipment); education (such as upgrading schools); and shelter (such as building 54 housing units at the Riseland Housing Development, 47 at Shirvan Housing Development and 140 at Adventure Housing Development Phase II). He proposed to create a special-purpose company, the Tobago Urban and Rural Housing Corporation.