Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First murder at a hotel in Antigua ever - Cocos

The horrible murder at Cocos this past weekend has had so many ramifications and cans or worms have been opened at every corner. I would just like to give my view on why we have arrived at this stage. These are my views after going to school, living and working here.
With the massive influx of immigrants from all over the Caribbean and from many other areas around the world changes for the better and for the worse have taken place in Antigua.
With very fast development here our work force had to be supplemented with people from abroad. While this was happening many Antiguans who had ways and means were moving to the UK, Canada and the USA in large numbers. While construction of hotels and all sorts of developments were taking place labour was always in huge demand, but when the economy slowed down and immigrant workers finished their jobs they didn't leave. Our population has increased dramatically contrary to the terribly defective census that was last done. My guess would be that we have somewhere around 140 thousand people here in Antigua instead of the 62k that that crazy census came up with. It was done at a peak time of immigration here and also before the Millennium Act was passed which gave citizenship to many of them before the last election. Anyway, our police force and all public departments (including the tax department) are working on the idea that we have 62 thousand people here on the island. This supposed drop in population happened while new villages were formed all over the island and every village was growing exponentially. There was just no way the population could drop and the only reason it dropped on the census was because all the immigrants were fearful of their status on the island. There are thousands and thousands of foreign immigrants here now who were brought in to help with the development of Antigua and mostly to do with the construction projects that have now finished. They have to work to stay alive and have entered every aspect of the Antigua and Barbuda workforce. There isn't a department or category of employment without them and this goes for jobs at the very bottom to jobs at the very top. You even see immigrants selling CDs on the side of the roads. So what? Well while all of this is happening the strain on the school system as well as every other government system has been stretched. Education and health has suffered. There are hundreds and possibly thousands of young Antiguan youth without any jobs or direction and many have fallen to the lure of drugs and then more serious crime. The average age of people arriving before magistrates on criminal charges has dropped considerably over the past 10 years. Kids are being found with drugs and weapons on a regular basis. Our entire country has big changes that need to be made and the problem is being analyzed by everyone concerned.
The horrible shooting of the honeymooners at Cocos this past weekend was the first time a deadly shooting has taken place in a hotel in Antigua. I think it was the first time a tourist was murdered in their room. I know of one other murder where husband killed his wife while on holiday years and years ago, but this Cocos thing was totally out of the ordinary and the county is in a state of shock. Many people calling in to the radio stations are calling for a swift capture of the culprits and a quick execution. I have heard many offer their services as executioner. That's how dramatic people are taking this thing. You don't attack and kill people and least of all tourists. That's the general feeling. Of course, there are some who stress that this is not a tourism issue and that it's more to do with the general public safety of all within the country. This is a smart way to think, but there is no doubt that the ramifications of violence to tourists hurt the mainstay of the economy and as a result it is perceived as being more serious. I remember while i was at Florida Tech back in 1990 there was a spate of tourist related murders and Tourism was hit very hard there. Orlando was very badly effected. Laws and procedures were quickly changed and as a result the escalation in tourist crime was hit on the head.
Here in Antigua things have gotten out of control and changes in our country's makeup have had a negative impact on crime. When i was a kid there was one murder a year and that was a big deal. Although there are many other Caribbean islands with worse murder rates than we have our increased rate is totally unacceptable and we all know this. Before this murder at Cocos the country's leaders knew things were getting out of hand and made major changes within the police force. A foreigner was employed as Chief of police for the first time since our country became independent and he and his team have been totally changing the methods and structure of the force. The changes needed are happening as i write this and I am very confident that a drop in crime will happen here shortly and that we will all be safer as a result. That being said, it will take more than just action from a better trained police force. The hotels are being stricter with their security measures and have done things over the past year to beef up their security.
I dunno guys, this killing and the others that have taken place recently in the country have had a major impact within the island and many people are terribly worried about the situation and it's ramifications. Although i think that crime is gonna be hit hard over the next few months and years, i think the effects on our daily lives and the economy will be dealt a big blow.