EDITOR'S REPORT: 2006 Tour of Tobago

Your questions on medical and security issues
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Steve Wooler
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EDITOR'S REPORT: 2006 Tour of Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler » Sun Mar 19, 2006 4:42 pm

Hello All

Our 2006 tour of Tobago is rapidly coming to an end and I can’t believe that we shall be returning home in four days time. Where have the last two months gone?

This trip has been a see-saw of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, we have so many friends here that it almost feels like we’re coming home. On the other, everyone wants to talk to us about local issues; the most common and important of these being the security situation. Some play the situation down, afraid of the effect on tourism; others build it up in the hope that we’ll help apply pressure on the government. Six or seven weeks of talking about rising levels of crime can have a detrimental affect on your perspective of the problem. The average visitor is not normally exposed to this.

It has astonished me how dreadfully things can get distorted here. With all due respect to our many friends here, small-island gossip is a terrible thing. With each telling the details are exaggerated and minor incidents suddenly become major atrocities. I could fill this page with examples, but it would serve no purpose. However, with this in mind I must correct the information of one incident: I am informed by sources at the highest level that the lady in the ‘Italian Job’ incident at Englishman’s Bay was NOT raped, as reported, but ‘merely’ subjected to a “sexual assault”.

During recent days I have had a series of meetings with some of the most important and influential people on the island. I am greatly comforted by what I have heard. I regret that most of what I have been told cannot be discussed in public yet, but readers may rest assured that a lot IS being done.

I have also had the opportunity to view some confidential detailed crime figures. As many of us knew, the problem on Tobago has been the rising level of crime, rather than the actual number of incidents. When you consider the number of crimes per 1000 visitors, it is still very much safer to visit Tobago than many Caribbean destinations, such as Barbados and St.Lucia, to mention just two popular competing Caribbean islands in the immediate area.

During the past week the first of new task force of Trini soldiers has arrived on Tobago. They are now on duty, patrolling with the Tobagonian police. They will primarily be involved in surveillance and intelligence, focussing on crimes against tourists. The fact that they are all from Trinidad overcomes the major problem of local police being related to perpetrators. A number of foreign advisors are also here, helping the police. A major anti-crime sweep is going on; some 24 suspected/known ‘ring leaders’ have been arrested in the past week or two. Maybe the charges won’t stick, but the message is going out loud and clear – “We’ve had enough. Stop this nonsense!”

There is an awful lot more going on behind the scenes, and it's not just the usual Tobagonian 'talk'. I have seen and heard enough to know that the authorities here are taking things VERY seriously.

The recent British Foreign & Commonwealth Office Advisory update, which I announced on this forum, came as a big shock to many people, including myself. It was patently out of all proportion to the real situation on the ground. I am not party to FCO thinking, but it seems to me that that it was either another total FCO cock-up or an attempt to shock and scare the T&T government into action. If the latter, it certainly worked.

The FCO got it totally wrong over Bali, in particular, and received a pasting by the British press. Many people think that the FCO is now highly influenced by press comment. With this in mind, there is a third scenario regarding their recent negative advice about Tobago. It is known that a British national has been waging a press campaign against Tobago for more than a year, sending anonymous letters to the press – and possibly to the Foreign Office – giving details of crime on the island and incidents on Mount Irvine area in particular. It stands to reason that the press have probably contacted the FCO in exactly the same way that the press regularly contact me nowadays (which is how I first learned of this individual's activities). If this is the case, one can see how the FCO became ‘fixated’ about Mount Irvine. We’ve identified the person behind the campaign (and their local contacts, who were possibly not aware how the information they provided was being used). This person’s lawyer has already been in touch with me and I have far better things to do than waste time and money lining the pockets of parasites. There is more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak.

Taking all the factors mentioned in this update into account, we can only hope that the Foreign Office advice will be watered down in coming months.

So, we prepare to leave Tobago with lifted spirits. Yes, you have to take care. Yes, you must observe all normal common-sense precautions that you would at home. You don’t give lifts to strangers. You don’t walk dark and lonely streets at night or flash the cash and expensive jewellery. You should be cautious before visiting lonely and remote beaches and ideally only do so in groups. However, I can only tell our readers that we have not changed our habits in any way and have had a wonderful stay on Tobago.

Roll on 2007 and our return (which will also be the 50th anniversary of my first visit to the island).
Last edited by Steve Wooler on Mon Apr 10, 2006 7:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Y Rolston

Post by Y Rolston » Sun Mar 19, 2006 7:35 pm

Thank you for your unbiased report. Holiday makers need to let common sense prevail and exercise the same safety precautions that they would in their own home towns.
It's great news to hear that the "powers that be" are seriously addressing the crime issue on the island.

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A Question of Balance

Post by Bob White » Sun Mar 19, 2006 8:42 pm

Many thanks Steve for your considered and balanced perspective.

Just had friends return this week from our house and their views confirmed the overall current picture. I'm pleased to hear that the authorities are looking closely at the security situation but the most important advice is to exercise common sense.

Have a great last few days on de island.

Best wishes,

Bob.

Bryn

Post by Bryn » Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:49 am

Thanks for the report Steve. This will be my third trip but the first with our 7 month old daughter, so I have been somewhat concerned about our safety. More so than if it were just the two of us. Your post has alieviated some of those concerns.

Enjoy your last few days!

Cheers!
Bryn

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Post by David Watkins » Mon Mar 20, 2006 11:40 am

Steve,I did enjoy our albeit brief meeting in Castara,shame I had to return before you.Thanks very much for the comprehensive report and up date on the security situation.(Copy to FCO perhaps? :wink: )
Cheers David(255 days to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Y Rolston

Post by Y Rolston » Wed Mar 22, 2006 9:00 pm

There is a news item in the Trinidad Express on the recruitment of 39 police officers from the UK to assist in solving serious crime in T & T. The interesting thing is that in today's Daily Mail newspaper it is reported that due to the acute shortage of police officers in the UK only certain types of crime will be investigated. How can Scotland Yard afford to send 39 officers to T & T, when they are so obviously grossly understaffed?

I do welcome the news that the issue of crime in T & T is being taken seriously and something is being done about it, but I do worry that when the news of the 39 officers being sent to T & T gets to the UK newspapers it will be met with great criticism and resentment from the british public. I can imagine the headline " British Officers having fun in the sun".

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Post by Gisela Grell » Sun Mar 26, 2006 5:29 pm

Hi Steve,

thank you very much for this interesting and very informing post. I hopefully go back in May for two or three weeks and will feel save like before.

Seems like you enjoyed your stay even if it sounds like hard work. Hope you can go on with your work and site for Tobago.

By the way, nobody mentioned the donation any more. I hope it is still running and think you should make more advertisement about it .

Cheers and thank you for keeping this site alive
Cheers
Gisela
a.k.a. Shorty
see some pics on http://www.gisela-grell.de

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Post by Mandy H » Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:02 pm

Hi Steve,

On our recent (and first) trip to Tobago we had no trouble at all. At no time did we feel threatened or unsafe. We visited the majority of beaches on the island (just me and my boyfriend) as we do when we hire a jeep and drive around Barbados, and we always felt safe - it may help that my boyfriend is 6 foot 4!

Mandy

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Steve Wooler
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Post by Steve Wooler » Sat Apr 08, 2006 3:41 pm

Hi Folks

This is just a quick note to tell you that the authorities on Tobago ARE listening to your comments.

During a debate in the Tobago House of Assembly yesterday afternoon, Secretary for Tourism, the Hon.Neil Wilson, referred to my recent meeting with him and the concerns expressed on this site, which he described as “the most influential website about Tobago”. This is not the first time that the site has been referred to in the Assembly and I mention it here simply to reassure readers that your views are important. Of course there is a lot of difference between talk and action, but I am hopeful that the authorities do now mean business.

May I also appeal to those with concerns about Tobago to express their feelings to the proper authorities on Tobago rather than conducting press campaigns against the island with the foreign press. The actions of the individual mentioned at the top of the thread may have serious implications for overseas residents who own rental property on Tobago. This is not something that can be discussed publicly in the forum.
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Post by Gisela Grell » Sun Apr 09, 2006 10:15 am

Dear Steve,

how good to have another prove that the authorities of Tobago take this site seriously. As you wrote, there is a difference between talking and action but I'm sure that the authorities know how important tourism is for Tobago and that they will not let it spoil from some individuums who only think about the moment and not about the future.

My local friends in Tobago told me to talk about tourists not as tourists but as guests. That shows they treat them good and make them feel welcome to come back. Most of them know how important this is.

I had one "friend" I recommend to some German friends who went to Tobago the first time. They will never go there again because he took much to much money from them and gave them the feeling that they are only welcome because of the money. (and the hotel they went in was a deaster, unfortunately they booked before watching this site and without asking me).
When I went back the next time I tried to talk to this guy but he was only laughing about me. Then I told all my other friends and all people in the village what he did and now he is definitely under observation and had a lot of trouble. Only one out of all the others who welcome the guests and make them feel home.

I love Tobago and I will always come back because of its beauty and the good vibes of the people.

Thank you for all the work you do for Tobago and this great site!

Cheers

Giselle (back on 29th April)
a.k.a. Shorty

Andrew Poole

Post by Andrew Poole » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:33 pm

I have not visited this site for quite along time and am only doing so,to check the security situation as i am considering returning later this year and possibly using it as a base for the Cricket world cup.

I am not put off by the reports or the types of crimes being perpetrared and as many posters state, it is safer than most other places around the world. I will take sensible precautions as i would anywhere and would think this more than adequate.

However, i must take serious issue with this statement from Steve Wooler
I am informed by sources at the highest level that the lady in the ‘Italian Job’ incident at Englishman’s Bay was NOT raped, as reported, but ‘merely’ subjected to a “sexual assault”.
To use the words "merely" and "sexual assault" in the same sentance is really very, very crass. I think i understand the context from which this is taken but it still comes accross as " whats all the fuss about he only grabbed her tits"..sorry for the slang!

I take it you have never felt the fear of being merely "sexually assaulted?

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Post by Steve Wooler » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:50 pm

Andrew

The word was put in quotation marks for very clear reasons - or at least I would have hoped that my meaning was clear. I'm sorry that you didn't read it the way it was intended; in other words that it was less serious than rape. That does NOT however mean that I view it any less seriously. Frankly, I would have the guys castrated. There was certainly no intention to give a sense of diminishing the offence. In fact, I was only persuaded to make the post at the urging of a British Magistrate who I had dinner with whilst in Tobago and, who hearing about the true facts of the case, persuaded me that the onus was on me to correct the misrepresentation.

Never the less, welcome back to the site.
Steve Wooler
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Andrew Poole

Post by Andrew Poole » Tue Jun 06, 2006 10:13 pm

As i said Steve...i think i understood the context in which it as meant but felt it was a bit like putting a wink after a comment that you mean but could be taken either way! What actually constitutes sexual assault rather than rape in english law is really quite horrific and would probably surprise many people in how far an attacker can go before rape is commited.

Thank you for the welcome back...i have browsed but have not been logged in!
Security eh? If i may be permitted i'd like to relate a story of mine from my one trip to this glorious island in 2004. Its not something that is mentioned on here..at all but i'm sure i'm not the only one doing this!

I arrived on a saturday afternoon and by sunday morning, needed to buy cigarettes. From the Tropikist i walked to the Columbus bar, on a crossroads to buy cigarettes, i duly did and on the way out the guy on the opposite corner tried to hire me a push bike! I said i didn't need a bike as much as i wanted some Ganja! Naive granted!!. Sorted out the price to weight and he flagged down the first passing car..you know how busy sunday mornings are :shock: So i got in, was driven around to 2 properties untill they got what i wanted and was dropped back at my hotel with change from my $200tt!!

Try doing that anywhere else in the world!!!

And if you feel this needs deleting or moving..i understand!!

Nikos

Post by Nikos » Wed Jun 07, 2006 1:07 pm

Thank you Steve for putting things into perspective. Your reports and actions make Tobago a better place for everyone concerned.

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