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Race and

Form of terrorism
Posted: Friday, January 24, 2003

Editorial Newsday/TT

THERE IS no denying the gravity of the crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago. The incidence of murder, armed robbery and kidnappings has reached a degree that disturbs us all.

But the recent attempts by outsiders to brand our country as a land prone to terrorism is a gratuitous calumny that we must firmly refute. How can the UK government dare to warn their nationals about visiting TT because of the danger of terrorists? As far as this threat is concerned, is their country not worse, much much worse than TT?

Britons have lived with the danger of bombings from the decades-old war with the Irish Republican Army. Violence on the London underground system is well known. And did the Police not recently raid a north London residence and find it to be the home of a terrorist cell? Did they not round up a whole lot of people who had in their possession chemicals used to make "weapons of mass destruction", to quote a now popular phrase?

In the UK today their own intelligence has indicated the existence of many "sleeper cells" of terrorists who are just waiting for the US and UK to invade Iraq to launch their own war on the British public in their own land. Why is the UK government not warning visitors about the dangers these threats represent?

Are UK nationals coming to TT in any greater danger than what they face every day in their own country? One could understand the UK High Commissioner Peter Harborne advising his government about the crime wave which is similar to what happens on a regular scale in Britain today. Remember the man who stormed a school not so long ago and wiped out almost a whole class of young children and their teacher?

Yes we have too much crime in our country. Yes we must put an end to the killings and kidnappings and robberies. Nevertheless, we must strongly resent the UK government's attempt to make us (and several other Caribbean countries incidentally) appear worse than they are.

In any case, using terrorist threats as an excuse for stopping cruise liners from calling at Port-of-Spain is nothing but a huge joke. The truth lies in the fact that American tourists now prefer shorter cruises that leave from Miami. They do not want to do any flying, to Puerto Rico for example, to link up with cruise ships coming our way.

Their fear of flying, which has seriously affected tourism in the Caribbean, stems from the September 11 attack and has now been intensified by the impending war on Iraq and its anticipated repercussions. The two cruise ships that recently cancelled their TT visits are British owned but they cater largely to American tourists who are now demanding shorter cruises, which is why they are calling on places closer to the US, for example the Bahamas, less than 200 miles from Miami compared to TT which is 1600 miles away.

More cruises are going to the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Belize and Jamaica, in spite of the massive street crimes, a high murder rate and drug and gang related violence in those places. Still, it is good to see that British Airways is not bothered by these false alarms about terrorist threats as the airline has recently increased its flights to Tobago.

Violence in TT stems largely from criminal activity in which the vast majority of our people are not involved. The country is still a friendly place where visitors can feel safe as long as they take the usual precautions that visitors take all over the world.

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