‘Don’t leave Tobago out of crime-fighting initiatives’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Innovative Democratic Alliance leader Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus. – File photo

POLITICAL LEADER of the Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA) Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus says Tobago must be represented at the highest levels of national security decision making.

She was addressing the current crime situation on the island during a press conference, on July 10, at the IDA’s headquarters in Scarborough.

Tsoiafatt-Angus described the situation as a “heart-breaking reality” for both families and communities across the island.

To date, the island has recorded 16 murders.

She said as a mother, it has been an emotional roller coaster as she imagines the pain of other mothers. She said the IDA has been at the forefront of advocating for significant challenges to curb the escalating crisis.

“Our position has always been clear – Tobago must be represented at the highest levels of national security decision making. While we are heartened that finally Tobago was invited to a meeting with the National Security Council, we say it has been ten lives too late.”

She said the IDA views the recent meeting as a step in the right direction, as she hastened to add that “it came at an unnecessarily high cost.”

She said it was deeply disappointing to hear the Prime Minister referring to Tobago as a municipality. She described the statement as out of touch and unacceptable, noting that if the leader of the country considers Tobago to be a municipality, “then crapaud smoke we pipe.”

“This mindset is part of what has led Tobago to being left behind. Tobago is not a municipality of Trinidad; it is half our nation. The IDA is calling upon leaders and the people to move beyond lip service and give reality to our nation anthem’s words – side by side, islands of the blue Caribbean sea. It is this said mindset that has Tobago and the relationship with Trinidad continue to be misunderstood, with Tobago being left behind.”

The time has come, she said to activate the true essence of those statements as Tobago is half the country of Trinidad and Tobago. She said the legislation needed for Tobago cannot be looked at through the lens of being a municipality. It has to be viewed on a more holistic sense of what is really required.

“Sending additional police without examining the porosity of all our borders taking into consideration the water between us won’t be enough. Chief Secretary Farley Augustine’s recent budget statement included several measures aimed at improving public safety in Tobago. While these intentions are commendable, they lack the necessary legislative authority and support to be effective. The proposals to reinstate the Tobago Community Safety Programme establishes community support secretariats and implements smart city technologies are well intentioned but are toothless bulldog without the necessary legislative backings for a Tobago policing service.”

She said having Tobago represented at the security council consistently will accelerate the process of obtaining the necessary legislative authority. July 9’s meeting, she said must be a start of conversations between the prime minister and the chief secretary with Tobago’s active representation, “ensuring our unique security needs are met.”

Crime, she said is a symptom of a deeper societal disease and this must be recognised. She said addressing this issue requires understanding and tackling the underlying causes.

“The Tobago House of Assembly should focus on implementing youth intervention programmes targeting youth at risk to provide alternative pathways to success and breaking the cycle of violence. The education system has to be reformed.”