#TurksandCaicos, March 17, 2022 – The Commissioner of Police has made a detailed statement today outlining the events of the last five days. The headline is five shootings and three murders. Two of these murders were entirely innocent victims – one it seems targeted because it was known he would be in possession of a significant amount of money, and was in an isolated place, the other randomly abducted off the street, taken to an ATM, and – having offered no resistance – killed. It’s hard to find the appropriate words to express ones heart-felt sympathy to those they leave behind nor utter words of sufficient condemnation to those who took their lives.
One of the victims – shot in Mary Jane Lane – and we await formal identification – is believed to have been one of the most wanted men in TCI, himself wanted for a catalogue of the most violent crimes. There had been a series of pre-planned policing operations closing in on him that included, for example, the operation that involved a helicopter over Blue Hills in the New Year. He was considered extremely dangerous and Police Officers from our Tactical Unit were prepared to execute warrants, going through doors at night in search of him, believing they would be fired on by him. It seems though he was gunned down by like-minded individuals – by those he had either threatened, intimidated or double crossed – his chosen way of life catching up with him.
Alongside his murder two other youths were shot, although not killed, on Saturday and Sunday. Both were targeted attacks, no other crime involved, and the Police believe both were attacked as an act of revenge. It’s in the nature of these things that – without intervention – we can expect further retributive killings and so the cycle continues. A very small number of our young men – but a number that has disproportionate impact on all our lives – are choosing a life that in the end sees themselves becoming a victim, just as they once caused others to be victims. Given they spend their lives evading the Police, the Police by definition won’t be there when their past catches up with them. The Police though will be there to secure the crime scene where they fell.
This cannot be the future we want for our young men, who were once young boys with all the hope that childhood brings. Those involved now in gang violence are someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s friend and it is this group – who knows them best – who has to either keep them away from this future, or if they find they are involved, speak out early to literally save them from themselves and certainly to protect the innocent and community whose lives they will blight.
Two years ago the public would have had low confidence that the perpetrators of these murders would face justice. I now have significant confidence that those who committed these murders will be identified and arrested. The Police’s record of being able to identify and charge those involved in serious crime changed in the early part of last year. The drop in murder rate in 2021 was directly attributable to this. It seems those in HMP Grand Turk have now been replaced, and the Police will now do exactly as they did in early 2021, and seek, arrest and charge those who do so much harm.
This change is linked to a set of reforms presently ongoing – laid out in the Police’s strategic plan – and that change is underpinned by strong moral and financial support from this Government, and the last Government, who are delivering year-on-year growth in funding to the Force which allows them to build and also from the UK who are delivering significant training and uplifts in capability which allows them to modernise. The National Security Council allows the Premier, Commissioner and Governor to work as one and increasingly bring in other Ministries to start to tackle underpinning causes of crime.
As well as an overall growth in Police numbers, with all recruits receiving six months overseas residential training, there’s been significant recent growth in terms of leadership, expertise and numbers in the Criminal Investigation Department; the team with responsibility for collecting and preparing the evidence that leads to conviction. There is also now more targeted and better use of forensics.
The skill of the Tactical Unit has been much enhanced – their courage is boundless- and every night they are engaged in high risk armed operations led by intelligence. On that the development, training and growth of an intelligence unit – with considerable UK support – is already paying dividends. There’s further growth to follow in numbers and technical capability.
The Police are also getting back to basics in terms of the roll out of Community Policing. For example the local member for the House of Assembly’s early and constructive engagement with the Police, over the last five days, a class act in terms of the Police and community representatives seeking to work together. Last Sunday I was in Church with the Superintendent with overall responsibility for Community Policing, alongside a different locally elected representative, starting a program – that was suggested by citizens – of active collaboration between the Pastors and the Police in terms of community outreach.
Next week I will be in the UK twinning our Force with the second largest UK Police Force that will bring us not only extra practical support, but also a continuity of support. On this the Commissioner and I had already commissioned an outside Team to come and review the RTCIPF approach to Serious Crime to ensure the investments that have, and are being made, are being used not only to good effect, but seeking to replicate very best practice.
There is a Force Executive Team who are leading by example – the Commissioner was personally at the crime scene last night and a set of promotions that rewarded those who are actively engaging in this change program have been announced and will have an impact in terms of leadership throughout the Force.
I increasingly witness, first-hand, the motivation and commitment our Police bring – as individuals who live in the community that this violent crime threatens. Over a similar period a few weeks ago the Police were, for example, involved in a full range of arrests from pre-planned special policing operations, through to off-duty officers apprehending an individual who had discharged a weapon, through to the interception of a vehicle with the occupants caught red handed with stolen goods and weapons.
Over the last two years I’ve also witnessed a shift in the public’s approach. We know more than we once did – some through formal intelligence work and some through tip-offs from active engaged citizens. The Police now receive more information than they once did and that information – not evidence admissible in Court – is proving invaluable. The Police can now manage this information securely – hence the arrests that have been achieved – without any blow-back on those who have played their part.
The arrest of a 17 year old with a gun some weeks ago is though emblematic of the problem. However much we invest in the Police this is a problem that simply risks replicating. Keeping our young men beyond the influence of a small number of very bad men – bad men who must be identified, arrested and put before the courts – is something we can all take responsibility for.
But in this particular moment – if you have any information – however small – however irrelevant or unimportant you believe it is – please call +1 800 8477 and anonymously tell the Crime Stopper Team in Miami Dade what you know. They’ll make sure a secure unit in our Police get to know the facts, but not your identity, because they will not know it and cannot discover it. Since 1981 – and remembering they cover a significant geographic area in Florida and the Caribbean – ‘Crime Stoppers’ have received over 78,000 tips, that have resulted in over 11,000 arrests without a single compromise. If these figures don’t reassure and if you prefer, tell me, tell a Police Officer you trust, tell your Pastor, tell your teacher or someone you know has the integrity to do the right thing. But the key point is – if you have information – tell someone; you will be saving a life.
Barbados to Host 41st Caribbean Travel Marketplace this Spring
By Sherrica Thompson
#Barbados, February 2, 2023 – Barbados has been selected to host the 41st edition of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace. The event will be held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in Bridgetown from May 9 -11, and it is expected to build on the success of the 40th staging held in Puerto Rico last fall.
CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig, who made the announcement recently, said it’s the first time in the organization’s history that the association’s largest annual event, which brings together buyers and sellers of the region’s tourism products and services, will be staged in Barbados.
“CHTA has a very strong relationship with both public and private sector stakeholders in Barbados, and as we position the region’s top earner for robust growth this year, we are delighted to lock arms with our Bajan partners to drive business to the Caribbean,” she stated.
Noting that: “This year’s Marketplace will also provide unique access to the Eastern Caribbean for buyers and tour operators as the region places a strong focus on the revival of multi-destination travel.”
Minister of Tourism and International Transport of Barbados Ian Gooding-Edghill, said the Barbados tourism industry was undergoing a major renaissance in the post-COVID environment, and the timing could not be better to welcome Caribbean Travel Marketplace to local soil.
“We are honoured to host such a preeminent gathering of tourism stakeholders from around the world,” Minister Gooding-Edghill said, noting that the meeting aligns with Barbados’ value offerings, which appeal, among others, to the very important MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions] market.
The launch of the first Caribbean Travel Forum & Awards, a highlight of the Puerto Rico meeting, will return for a second edition and will be held in Barbados on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, ahead of the official opening ceremony of Caribbean Travel Marketplace.
The Forum will also focus on the business of tourism, and business appointments will be conducted on Wednesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 11.
Over 150 delegates, including Ministers of Tourism and key private sector leaders, engaged in the Caribbean Travel Forum last year.
National Food Policy to be created in the Bahamas
By Shanieka Smith
#TheBahamas, February 2, 2023 – A new initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs in the Bahamas will see the creation of a National Food Policy geared towards ensuring food security on the island.
“This agricultural policy would encompass a holistic approach and incorporate regulations, legislation, and other aspects to assist the farmers who have not really gotten the attention they deserve for a long time,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting.
Other initiatives within the agriculture sector will also be implemented, such as the digitalization of applications and forms, which will make farming more efficient.
Clay said, “we have already digitalized for the most part the Department of Marine Resources and soon we will unveil new services such as dog licences, import permits, and other services needed for a successful agricultural sector.”
The construction of the Cultivation Centres (TCC) in Eleuthera and New Providence with produce exchange, food processing kitchens and farm stores will continue.
Sweeting said he hopes these initiatives will help to decrease the country’s yearly $1 billion food import bill.
The Incredible Story of David Avido of Kenya, 24 Year old designing for the Grass Roots to the Stars
By Dana Malcolm
#Africa, February 2, 2023 – One Kenyan designer began a sewing business out of the slums where he was born; now he dresses some of the Caribbean and Africa’s most famous faces.
Born the oldest son of a single mother and from Kibera Nairobi, David Avido Ochieng did not have an easy start. In Kibera, the largest urban slum in East Africa opportunities for international success are hard to come by and yet Avido can now say he has dressed the likes of former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Beyoncé, Chronixx, Romain Virgo, Tarrus Riley, Chris Martin, Ty Dolla Sign, Koffee and many more.
As explained on his website, David dropped out of school to work and support his family quite young. In just first form he was working on a construction site but he knew he wanted more from life. After quitting his job he danced and saved what he could and tried his best to complete his education.
He told Vogue magazine: “When I started dancing I used to save money in order to go back to high school, with the little that I could get from dancing and my mom’s money from doing work as a house help, we were able to raise 15,000 shillings and with that, I joined an adult school and skipped forms two, three and four.”
David picked up a sewing machine to make costumes and realized his talent. By 2015, his brand LookslikeAvido was born. He completed a fashion & design diploma at Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts and began to sew incredible pieces right at home in Kibera. Even as his brand is globally recognized, Kibera is where his workshop remains; David says, his homeland is his great inspiration.
“There is no barrier if you believe in your talent and take the next step. I want to encourage and create beauty, where people don’t expect.”
Talented and thoughtful Avido is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding him, his home and the black community globally.
“We know about injustice and violence, prejudice, racial and social discrimination – we experience it within Kenya and we experience it globally, as people look at us as the poor, the uneducated, the needy,” he said.
Featured in Vogue, CNN and other international publications, Avido remains connected to his origins in a tangible way and as his success grows his roots just go deeper. Twenty per cent of all sales of his jackets and other clothing items go directly back to Kibera; his website explains that all the tailoring, product photoshoots and collaborations ‘is all done here in Kibra.’
There is no fabric waste from his garments, instead, scraps are repurposed into masks and shopping bags for residents, all his tailors are local residents, a portion of profits are used to pay school fees and Avido and his team put in extra time to make school uniforms as well.
On his website, is a photo of him sitting around a sewing machine, his worktable resting on hard-packed earth with presumably a group of family and friends surrounding him, a source of pride. The introspective photograph could have been taken in Nairobi, Trinidad or Barbados, so nostalgic is the picture, the bench and the story of community success that it represents.
In a video posted to his YouTube, David sits at his new work desk, and beside him hangs a rack of clothes in the cramped space that serves as his kitchen as well.
“I’m the firstborn of Kibera,” He explains, “Every kid in Kibera is looking up to me— my main dream is to open up a place where I can inspire people to work.”
David has a dozen employees and is listed in Beyonce’s directory of black businesses; with an uncommon wisdom, the designer knows that his successes so far are not parking spaces but rather stepping stones as he faces his future announcing that the journey, for him, continues.
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