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Trinidad & Tobago still open for business despite " Limited State of Emergency" & Curfew in Trinidad - Update

By Sue Richards last modified Sep 05, 2011 07:56 PM

Published: 2011-09-05 19:56:31
Countries: Trinidad & Tobago

Update Monday September 5th: As expected the SOE was extended by Parliament yesterday for a further three months. The curfew hours in some areas of Trinidad have been changed to 11pm-4am. Tobago is still under NO curfew.

Press Release provided by Store Bay Marine Services and Boaters Enterprise.

On the 21st of August 2011, the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago was placed under a "limited State of Emergency" (SOE) by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The SOE was implemented by the government in order to deal with the prevalent gang and drug culture in some areas of Trinidad. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has publicly stated that the SOE will be extended. Parliament is currently debating the situation and a vote is expected shortly.

Trinidad

In Trinidad, the SOE has had no real impact on visiting yachts in Chaguaramas, except that a curfew is in place from 9pm to 5am (which is likely to be shortened soon). David Bovell of Boaters' Enterprise Limited says the measures by the Government are being greeted with "wide support and a sense of relief by business and cruisers". Several cruisers have had to go to the airport during curfew hours and have reported easily available curfew permits to get to and fro without incident. The reality is that crime, in all forms, has seen a drastic reduction since the implementation of the SOE. Authorities in Chaguaramas report no negative effects on cruisers or on the peninsula.

Dave Cooper of Dockyard Electrics in Chaguaramas states that "a limited State of Emergency is a brave decision for a government to take and it can only help to make Trinidad and Tobago an even safer place to visit. They have made huge inroads into curtailing the criminal element by arresting over 1,000 people both criminals and gang leaders.” He also pointed out that “crime as it is, is generally confined to gangs and has little effect on the general public. As with any country there are places to avoid.”

Markus Grundmann of Yacht Picante, reports that “although some businesses and restaurants are closing early in Chaguaramas and business is slightly quieter than normal, things are calm. There is no mass exodus of boats and everyone who is here seems happy to remain here.”

Tobago

In Tobago, with no curfews in place, the effect of the SOE has been negligible with no noticeable increase in police presence.

Leon James of Yacht Iza says, "We have been anchored in Store Bay, Tobago for almost four weeks now and have not been affected in any way by the State of Emergency in Trinidad. All services on the island including transport, fuel stations, supermarkets and restaurants have been operating as normal. Our experience in Tobago is that it is a very peaceful island with friendly locals and at no time have we felt threatened."

Sharon Nash-Jones of Yacht Ocean Spice adds that she "arrived in Store Bay over one month ago from Brazil. We just can't seem to leave as there are so many facilities here and all the chores we need to do we can get done here. We have in no way been affected by the Trinidad State of Emergency, actually if we had not heard it on the local radio station we would not have realized it had even been implemented. The shops have adequate fresh produce, the locals are friendly and we don't feel threatened at all. We are loving our stay here in this safe, sheltered anchorage."

Customs, Immigration and the Coastguard in Tobago have all confirmed that they have received no special instructions with regards their dealings with yachts and the SOE. The local business community, whilst supporting the crackdown, fear that yet again Tobago's reputation is being adversely effected by the high levels of crime in Trinidad. John Stickland of Store Bay Marine Services, in Tobago says, “This situation proves again that the islands of Trinidad and Tobago are separated by more than just the 23 miles of the Galleons Passage.” “Tobago is open for business as usual. We are under no curfew, and cruisers to the island can enjoy their visit as normal. The movement of residents and cruisers on Tobago is not restricted in any way because of the State of Emergency. Moves by the Government to tackle crime are welcomed and will ultimately enhance the cruiser experience.”

In the past other Caribbean islands have also considered imposing a State of Emergency to tackle crime. Last week, Saint Lucia's National Security Minister Guy Mayers stated that earlier this year the island's Government had considered granting an SOE because of increasing criminal gang activity in St Lucia, resulting in fifteen murders in the first three months of 2011. The move was ultimately rejected because of fears about the impact on the economy and tourism. Opposition leaders in St Kitts are also calling on their Government to grant an SOE because of five murders in August 2011. So far the St Kitts-Nevis Government has failed to answer the calls.

For further up-to-date information, please contact either John Stickland of Store Bay Marine Services (e-mail: john@sbms.co.tt or phone +1 868 390 5408) or David Bovell of Boaters' Enterprise (e-mail: david.bovell@boatersenterprise.com or phone +1 868 620 0978).

For more information on the limited state of emergency, see BBC News article here

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