Chief Secretary: Not reporting crimes is anti-Tobagonian

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine –

Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says not reporting friends and relatives who are involved in criminal activities on the island to the police is “anti-Tobagonian” and “a betrayal.”

He made the comment in a media conference in which he revealed the THA’s plans to deal with crime on the island.

Augustine announced a raft of ideas, many of which revolved around the importance of the community working together – and with the police – to lower crime levels.

Augustine noted the murder in Tobago on Wednesday was the ninth for the year and the second in Plymouth in seven days.

He said everyone, including himself and his family, had been affected by the violence on the island.

“There was a series of shootings in my home village of Speyside with some of this shooting activity happening in the vicinity of my father’s house in Lucyville. I even had my cousin that I grew up with in Speyside and who lives on the same parcel of land as my father picking up a bullet wound by just liming on a Friday night in Speyside.”

He said the first step is Tobagonians being mentally prepared to quietly give law enforcement information on anyone who they knew had an illegal firearm.

“Auntie, granny, nenen, mummy, daddy, whoever you may be, now it is time to maco with a purpose. Pick up the phones and quietly, confidentially report those in our communities who are exhibiting antisocial behaviours.

“Our collective public safety and security dictates that we discharge the social control mandate without giving consideration to who the offender is.”

Augustine acknowledged how hard it might be for some people but said it was important to protect the island from the lethal threat of gun violence.

“I know that it will be extremely difficult and challenging for some of us to take action against our own children, husbands, relatives and friends. But our safety and that of our entire island depends on us doing the right thing and requires us to make righteousness a much greater priority than relationships.”

“To do otherwise means that you are prepared to normalise gun violence and murders in Tobago, which we cannot allow to happen, and to knowingly live in the presence of real and moving lethal threats to the lives of every Tobagonian, including yours and that of your loved ones.”

He said the sustainable safety of the island can only be built on a “strong foundation of collective social action against criminals and criminal conduct where we know they exist.”

“Knowingly not taking action against those who are among us with illegal firearms and ammunition, and who are using these illicit items to murder and maim our brothers and sisters, constitute a betrayal of the ideas that define us as Tobagonians.

“To do otherwise is to be anti-Tobagonian, perhaps even pseudo-Tobagonian. And if you’re anti Tobagonian or pseudo Tobagonian, look for elsewhere to live.

“But once you’re living in Tobago, we have to take action now. Action is required now and is required by all of us.”

Augustine said the social character of Tobago was under threat.

“It is our peaceful, caring and loving character that has promoted and sustained our annual community harvest festivals across every village where Tobagonians and visitors alike go from house to house and are entertained with food and beverages without even being asked our names.”

He called on Tobagonians to come together in homes, villages, communities, workplaces, social spaces and places of worship to “collectively defeat this invading evil of gun violence and murders.”

Augustine said he was prepared to lead by example.

“A week ago, I had an informal conversation with the minority leader and we agreed that we will meet together with other stakeholders and at a time appropriate. We will address you, too, because Tobago’s approach and response to increasing levels of criminality must be exemplary and markedly different from what we see happening with our neighbours in Trinidad. Inaction is no longer an option available to any Tobagonian anywhere.”

Les Coteaux community activist Carion Job disagreed with Augustine’s characterisation of anyone refusing to give the police information as anti-Tobagonian.

She said there were bigger issues to be addressed before Tobagonians could feel comfortable enough to go to the police with information.

“Whilst the citizens are taking action, what are the police officers doing?

“When we give the police officers information, aren’t we putting ourselves at risk? We don’t know who to trust. You think the police officers don’t know who has the guns and who the bad boys are?

“We are anti-Tobagonian because we don’t want to give up information because we want to stay alive. Tobago is getting just as Trinidad, the police officers have to do their job instead of sitting down in the police station and getting fat.”

She said police seemed to be more focused on enforcing traffic laws rather than apprehending those responsible for the burgeoning crime problem.

“They want to charge you for smooth tires and tint and every single thing but not doing what’s important. Nine murders in less than six months in Tobago. That’s unheard of!”

Augustine also announced the launch of an unemployment registration programme.

“We will look at registering all unemployed persons in communities with the aim to ascertaining their core skills and capabilities and training options needs.”

He also announced the reinstatement of the Tobago Community Safety Programme with the tagline “When you are safe, I am safe.

Augustine said this will take place alongside the establishing of community services support secretariats in all community centres and multi-purpose facilities to provide administrative and technical support to community members.

Job praised these initiatives, particularly the unemployment database saying it is needed on the island.

“Sometimes they think the young people don’t want to work but it’s because they don’t have no work. So that is a really good idea.”