Chaguaramas is once again in the news and this time for all the wrong reasons.
Within a few heart-stopping seconds on Sunday night, the serenity of its boardwalk was ripped apart by bullets, shattering the innocence of this preserve of families and friends drawn to this relaxing public space which carries no entry fee.
Until it happened, it might have seemed unthinkable that gang war would brazenly ram its way through this sanctuary cradled between the calming blue of the Gulf and the green of the Northern Range. But it did. And now three are dead and three lie wounded, including an eight year-old child.
The encroachment of open gunfire is a terrible setback to ongoing efforts of the Chaguaramas Development Authority to transform the western peninsula into a premier destination for leisure, entertainment, eco-tourism and a yacht hub. The timing could not have been worse, coming as it did at the start of the school vacation period when thousands of families make their way to what is the most accessible beach in North Trinidad, especially for those using public transport.
Sunday’s massacre in tranquil Chaguaramas underscores the point that no place and no one is safe from the killing machines among us that have zero concern for the innocent when hunting their human prey. With deadly gangs well-ensconced in areas of Diego Martin just outside Chaguaramas, it was only a matter of time that their tentacles would reach into the area.
Once upon a time, when Chaguaramas was occupied territory as a United States military base, entry to non-military personnel was limited to a few who were required to present their passes of authorisation at a checkpoint near where the boardwalk now stands. Today, such a security checkpoint would be completely impractical given the heavy traffic in and out of the area. On an average day, traffic jams could stretch all the way from Chaguaramas to Glencoe while special events routinely produce gridlocks that could take hours to clear.
Apart from routine maintenance, there has been no serious road development since the military base was closed and the area opened up to the public. Vehicular traffic is still limited to one way in and one way out. Just before the 2015 general election, the People’s Partnership government announced major plans for the construction of a causeway which, even in that time of high energy income, was hugely expensive. Whatever the solution, it makes no sense pursuing the development of Chaguaramas for mass use without an effective transportation plan. Perhaps a partnership with the private sector ought to be considered to bring the causeway to fruition.
None of this, however, is pertinent to the immediate challenge of keeping citizens safe from the wanton bloodshed to which the country is being subjected by gangs.
In his despair, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley once again put the onus on members of the public who know the killers to pass the information to the police. That would be reasonable except that those who know may be the most vulnerable of all. The right place to put the responsibility is on the Police Service. It is the TTPS’ job to strengthen the networks of trust upon which an effective intelligence system is built.