Days after murder in QP Savannah…GUARDS FOR CARNIVAL WORKERS

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

BACK TO WORK: Workmen construct a Carnival vendors’ booth at the Queen’s Park Savannah on Thursday. Construction only resumed after security was beefed-up in the wake of the murder a week ago of a Carnival worker in the Savannah. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

AN INCREASE in private security and police presence was observed at the Queen’s Park Savannah on Thursday, as work resumed on the vendors’ booths near the Grand Stand, ahead of next month’s Carnival celebrations.

Labourers and a supervisor were attending to a booth while three armed private security guards stood attentively nearby.

The increased security measures come less than a week after the murder of Akeil Archer, a labourer working for one of several private contractors charged with erecting the vendors’ booths.

A worker told Newsday work was suspended in the wake of Archer’s murder, since workers refused to work under dangerous conditions.

He said they downed their tools for four days before returning to work after being promised security, which they are now satisfied with.

The increased security presence is connected to the high-level stakeholder discussions surrounding crime which took place on Monday, after Archer’s killing last Sunday.

The Ministry of National Security issued a media release on Wednesday saying line minister Fitzgerald Hinds and Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell hosted the anti-crime pre-Carnival discussion involving Port of Spain mayor Chinua Alleyne, the National Carnival Commission (NCC), the Trinidad and Tobago Promoters Association (TTPA) and the police.

The annual pre-Carnival security meeting was expedited this year after the killing of Alleyne in the Savannah.

ACP Kelvern Thompson said police had new initiatives, along with existing ones, to address concerns of stakeholders, including tourists and locals. He said the police are working with the NCC and others for “more targeted measures.”

The release noted that stakeholders, some included in Monday’s closed-door meeting, will gather weekly, starting next week until Carnival, to discuss and implement anti-crime measures.

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO CARNIVAL AMONG SAFEST

TTPA president Jerome “Rome” Precilla, who was present on Monday, said he was satisfied with the commitment shown by all stakeholders present to ensure a secure Carnival for revellers, vendors and all who are involved in the public festivities. In fact, he believes, this year will be mostly incident-free right up the two-day reign of the Merry Monarch.

ON GUARD: Two SWAT Security Services guards on duty at the Queen’s Park Savannah on Thursday while nearby, workers were busy constructing Carnival vendors’ booths. Security has been increased in the wake of the murder of a Carnival worker in the Savannah last weekend. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Precilla said while serious crimes remain a national scourge, he believes public fears of a particularly bloody Carnival may be overstated, owing to a lack of data pointing to an increase in murders or violent crimes during the Carnival season.

“We’ll be working closely with the police to ensure that this Carnival is a safe one, as all Carnivals are,” Precilla told Newsday on Thursday.

“What we’d like to see and they said would happen is that we would have detailed roll-out plans on a weekly basis as we monitor what takes place.”

Precilla, a multimedia host, performer and promoter, is serving his second term as the association’s president.

Asked if he felt Carnival’s potential growth as a national tourism product was being stymied by escalating crime, Precilla responded, “I wouldn’t (say that). I would say it’s definitely a concern.”

He suggested while the perception of a linkage between crime and Carnival might be skewed, it was nevertheless damaging to this country’s image.

“When crime is at the forefront of the news and media, people on social media take note of that, and when that message is spread across the world – and negativity spreads quicker than positivity – it would definitely affect people’s choices in terms of which Carnival they want to attend.

“Right now we need to ensure a message is sent that TT has a safe Carnival. Otherwise, in years to come, it will affect the tourism product of which Carnival is a part of.”

Carnival, Precilla said, remains a safe product and one the country should be proud of.

“If you look at the statistics, TT Carnival has always been a relatively safe one.”

Some activists and members of the public in recent years have called for the cancellation of Carnival activities, either state-sponsored or the entire season and everything included.

“We’ve had these (calls) in the past,” Precilla said, “but I don’t think that’s something we’ll be considering right now, based on what is taking place.”