Sadly, I must strongly advise visitors against visiting the Courland Monument, Fort James or the Mystery Tombstone in Plymouth.
These three historical features are situated in the same general area, at the northern end of Plymouth. For many years the only road to the monuments has been the stamping ground of a disturbed individual who watches out for, and harasses tourists, demanding hand-outs. He is variously described by local contacts as a drug addict, alcoholic or 'village idiot'. Whatever the reasons, all I can say is that his behaviour is becoming increasingly belligerent and aggressive.
While checking out changes in the town earlier today, I drove past the Mystery Tombstone. Sure enough, this guy raced out in front of the car to stop me. I just yelled “not today, thanks” and drove on. He raced after me but soon gave up. He knows the town better than me and although I looped round the block, he was waiting for me at the next junction. He again ran in front of the car and stopped me, then made his way round to the driver’s side. I said nothing and his shouts were incoherent. As he cleared the front of the car I drove off. He threw two punches at my arm, which was resting on the open window. His punches made contact, but caused no injury.
This sort of incident is very disturbing. Even though I was expecting trouble, it is still upsetting. I am hugely angered by the incident because it is just the sort of thing that could put visitors off this island for ever – and the sort of negative story that they would repeat to many, many people.
It is just so hugely frustrating because this has been going on for years. The authorities are fully aware of it, but do nothing. I specifically mentioned this problem to Neil Wilson, the previous Secretary of Tourism, about four years ago during a discussion in which I also cited the increasingly aggressive activities of the tour guides at Argyle Waterfall and the Gilpin Trail. Fortunately the situation at the Gilpin Trail and, to a lesser degree, Argyle, seems to have improved – but why has nobody done anything about the guy in Plymouth?
I was in two minds as to whether I should report the incident. However, the nearest police station is 15 minutes’ drive away and after the rude and surly treatment I received there the last time I called (simply to ask for directions to a villa in that area) I frankly have no confidence that it would be worth the journey. Reporting it to the Tourism Department would be totally pointless: apart from anything else, they are probably too busy deciding which luxury hotel to stay at during their forthcoming trip to the ITB travel show in Berlin.
The worst thing is that the offices of the Plymouth and area local government representatives are just two hundred metres down the road from this man's 'hang out'. It is a very quiet suburban street that probably sees less than a dozen cars an hour. There is no way that they cannot be aware of this man's behaviour. Yet they do nothing.
This so sadly says it all about law and politics in Tobago.
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