Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith. (Image: NICOLE DRAYTON)

Port-of-Spain-based gang leaders are seeking to assure the public that there’s no need to worry about a war breaking out in the streets of the capital city. They claim they have bigger, more positive plans in mind.

In a press release sent to Guardian Media yesterday, the group calling themselves “All Bosses” labelled recent viral Whatsapp messages shared over the weekend, which warned of impending upheaval in the city because an existing truce had fallen apart, propaganda. They said a peace deal between gangs, signed in July 2020, is still in effect and remains firm.

“The truce will hold irrespective of any propaganda, any institutional attempts to use us as scapegoats or attempts to divide and conquer the streets. We come to the community in peace; we are only a threat to those that seek to prevent our legal development,” the group said via an attorney.

The gang leaders said transitioning from war to peace is challenging but they are trying to ensure that: young people find alternative pathways from participating in illegal activity, that violence is reduced through influential mediators and that females are not victimised or abused.

The intent, they said, is to remain united in an effort to resolve economic hardship in deprived areas.

They lamented that housing conditions in these communities are stark, while employment is non-existent.

“It is our young people that are exposed to poverty and oppression, deliberately in some cases. At some point, we must look to our own skills to keep our streets safe. In the realisation, we still need assistance and these requests to policymakers receive a minimal response,” the release said.

The group extended an invitation to any individual willing to bring employment and resources to impoverished areas.

Meanwhile, according to activist and director of the Black Agenda Project Dr David Muhammad, misinformation is being deliberately spread to undermine the peace deal.

“We condemn that and we call on the public to be a lot more responsible in circulating unverified, unconfirmed reports, especially like these – that can or have the potential to create conflict where there is none,” Muhammad said.

Muhammad said it’s no secret that these kinds of strategies were used to achieve certain objectives in East Port-of-Spain communities previously. The attempt is to destabilise the community and provoke confrontation between the gangs, the author and university lecturer added.

“(In the last six months) the East Port-of-Spain, Laventille, Morvant community has been free of the kind of spate of gang killings that have been present over the last decade and a half … Sometimes, it takes something as simple as propaganda to, once again, reignite the conflict that many have worked so hard to end,” he warned.

Named in the viral Whatsapp messages, Trinibad artist Tarryl “Prince Swanny” Swan also denied any connection to the alleged plot. Saying he is an advocate for peace, the musician said his focus remains solely on music and uplifting the nation’s youth.

Seeking further comment, Guardian Media was told by Prince Swanny’s manager that he had nothing further to say. She added that the matter is now being dealt with by her client’s attorneys.