Reactions to US advisory after spate of murders – George: It’s very ironic

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Tobago Business Chamber president Martin George. – Photo by Roger Jacob

TOBAGO Chamber president Martin George is describing the United States Embassy’s warning to Americans about the potential for increased crime, especially in St Augustine, as “ironic.”

On Friday, the embassy issued an alert to its citizens warning of the potential for increased crime, specifically in St Augustine and its environs. It came in the wake of an ambush near Spring Village, Valsayn, on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway on Wednesday which claimed the lives of four people, including an innocent bystander. On Saturday, two more murders were committed in the St Augustine area.

George told Newsday the embassy is rightly concerned over the safety of their citizens while in TT. However, he added, it was ironic given the US’ world infamy for the prevalence of gun violence and mass shootings.

“It’s quite right that they would be concerned and of course, they would issue advisories and precautions, one cannot help but wonder also at the irony of a country, which almost every day has a mass shooting somewhere across its land. If it’s not at a Walmart, or Target, or in a church or some public space such as a school…one wonders the irony of that country issuing warnings about other areas being unsafe when it appears they lack the ability to protect and secure their own citizens on their own home soil from their own citizens who attack with guns,” George said.

The attorney added, “It is not to say we are white-washing or that we are ignoring the reality of the crime situation in TT. We of course acknowledge that it is way out of control and that it has spiralled beyond anything that is acceptable. But we have to balance the scales and be fair when pointing fingers such as is being done by these travel advisories. Because when you point one finger, you must remember there are three others pointing back at you.”

According to statistics, the murder rate in the US is roughly 6.3 per 100,000 of its population while TT’s is around 39.4 (as of 2022).Also commenting on the embassy’s advisory, TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Kiran Maharaj told Newsday the embassy’s advice is one that many locals are already employing.

“It is no secret that crime situation in our country is spiralling out of control and affecting everyone. We are all taking precautions. Every citizen is at risk. It is also an issue which has no immediate solution. There are several aspects to dealing with crime and the strategies are a combination of short, medium and long term mechanisms. The chamber has been in several discussions with various stakeholders and have offered recommendations,” Maharaj said.

The US Embassy, she continued, is within its right and was acting responsibly to issue an advisory to Exercise Caution (due to) Potential for Increased Crime and it stipulates the actions to take. “It is evident embassy understands the challenges we are facing and they in fact have been working with our government, civil society and private sector to lend support to our efforts. The advisory was responsibly worded and reflects the actions many of us are already employing.”

President of the Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce Kiran Singh told Newsday the embassy’s alert does not bode well for the psyche of citizens, especially given America’s ties with TT.

“It certainly creates a very negative impact on the psyche of the entire country. We have extremely close ties with the US who are our largest trading partner. And when they make a statement everyone listens and this is certainly not the type of message we want coming out of this country, especially given our economic challenges,” he said.

For the Opposition’s shadow national security minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, the advisory was an indicator that TT has imploded under the current administration.

“The country is today unpoliced and unpatrolled. Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds has incapacitated the police service. He continues to bump his gum and seek to pull wool over the eyes of the population,” he said in a media statement.

The embassy’s advisory said criminal activity often occurs in crowded public locations such as markets, shopping malls, airports, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, transportation hubs, schools, and other areas.

“Due to recent increased gang activity in St Augustine, it said, US citizens are advised to exercise extreme caution in the St. Augustine areas of Trincity Mall, Trincity, Grand Bazaar, and Valsayn areas into the new year,” the advisory said.

It asked Americans to exercise vigilance or avoid areas with heightened criminal activity, review their personal security plans, be aware of their surroundings and monitor local media for updates.

The embassy’s last advisory was a worldwide alert to citizens issued on October 20.

It said: “Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests, the Department of State advises US citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”

Earlier this month, the England cricket team was sequestered to their Hyatt Regency Hotel by its cricket board after a 47-year-old man was gunned down in his vehicle near the hotel.

President of the Greater San Fernando Chamber of Commerce Kiran Singh. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

TT Chamber president Kiran Majaraj. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Oropouche East MP and the UNC’s shadow national security minister Dr Roodal Moonilal. –