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A police constable was seriously injured in an accident in Macoya yesterday.
According to reports, around 1 pm, PC Jasanie Davis was riding along the Priority Bus Route (PBR) when he collided with a maxi taxi near Constantine Park, Macoya. The impact caused the maxi taxi to capsize.
Davis, who is assigned to the Court and Process Branch, sustained injuries to his pelvis and legs as well as internal bleeding. He was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope where he remained warded in a critical condition up to late yesterday.
The driver of the maxi taxi suffered minor injuries and was interviewed by police on the scene and allowed to leave. Both the maxi taxi and the wrecked motorcycle were impounded by investigators.
Investigations are continuing.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday urged parents of children attending St Barb’s Government Primary School to get more involved in their children’s lives in a bid to mold them into becoming productive members of the nation.
Rowley stressed that parental involvement was an important component where change was also necessary as he committed Government’s involvement to ensure children from communities within the Morvant and Laventille districts received the same opportunities and chances for positive growth and development like so many others across the country.
Addressing a fraction of the school’s 124 student population during a symbolic T-shirt presentation ceremony at the school, Rowley said, “Even though we might not have all the money in the world, we have enough money to give you a good education.”
To the students present, he said, “That education can only be offered to you but you have to receive it when you pay attention in class, do home-work, obey your parents, be careful when you walk the streets and be respectful to the person sitting in the desk next to you.”
Singling out parents, Rowley urged the students to take home a message for him. “Tell them the Prime Minister is asking them to get involved in the Parent/Teacher Association at the school. It is not sufficient to send you to school. We prefer if they bring you to school and stay with the teachers as you are brought up in the school,” he said.
Health Minister Dr Terrence Deyalsingh said yesterday that parts to repair broken CT scanners at the three major hospitals were being sourced.
His comments came even as the sole functioning CT scanner at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex went down but had resumed operations hours later.
Deyalsingh gave the information in response to Opposition queries on measures being taken to immediately remedy the situation regarding non-functioning CT scanners at the nation’s three major hospitals.
On Monday, a memorandum issued by Dr Nalini Kokaram-Maharaj, head of radiology at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, stated that the CT scanners at Port-of-Spain, San Fernando and Sangre Grande hospitals were out of service and only emergency cases were being referred to Mt Hope.
Deyalsingh said yesterday the scanner at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital had an internal UPS—uninterrupted power supply—problem. A temporary fix resulted in the machine being up and running by yesterday.
The new UPS will be installed by today and it should be ready for use by tomorrow, the minister said.
Deyalsingh said the scanner at the San Fernando General Hospital needed a new tube. One was obtained but it was found that it wasn’t the correct fit for the machine’s base. A new tube will be sourced in the coming week, he said.
Deyalsingh said the scanner at the Sangre Grande District Hospital was down when the PNM entered office. It was brought back to service but he said it should have been replaced years ago. Deyalsingh assured a new scanner will be obtained for that facility.
Deyalsingh said the scanners at the Children’s Hospital in Couva could not be used at the other hospitals whose scanners were not working.
He said the equipment at the Children’s Hospital is under warranty and this could be affected if the machines were removed and used at other locations.
He also noted that using those scanners elsewhere could also affect the private sector partnership which Government is aiming to obtain to run the facility. Deyalsingh said on Monday the situation was not a “crisis” but a “bit of inconvenience.”
Responding the situation yesterday, former health minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh stated that lack of such a service was another indictment on the Government and Deyalsingh.
“The fact that the entire population is now being served by a single CT scanner dramatically highlights Mr Deyalsingh’s lack of management skills and accountability to the society. The breakdown of the CT machines has led to the denial of medical care for several patients, some of whom have paid up to $5,000 each to acquire the services at private hospitals,” Gopeesingh said.
Gopeesingh said while the Children’s Hospital is equipped with a modern CT machine, the Government has refused to utilise this facility.
Parents of students attending the Santa Rita RC School resumed protest action yesterday claiming that the troubled child who has been disrupting classess and threatening students had returned to school.
They are now considering legal action against the Ministry of Education.
The parents say before the child, even got to the school building, told other school children in a taxi that he was coming to school to “kill somebody.”
The group, led by the school’s interim Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) president Savitri Persad, burned tyres and blocked the two entrances to the school around 5.30 am yesterday, preventing teachers and students from accessing the building.
The smouldering debris remained on the roadway until 10 am, when a backhoe from the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation removed it.
Education Minster Anthony Garcia told Parliament last Friday the student has been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), a behaviour disorder.
Garcia said the ministry had assigned Student Support Services’ officers to the matter and they are talking with school authorities and parents to ensure “... this child, who is crying out for help, gets the attention.”
In an interview yesterday, parent Candice Sydney said although this is the third occasion they have protested, the parents are yet to get a direct answer from the Ministry of Education.
“Yesterday this child showed up without an aide, without any supervision and we are saying that we want a special place for this child to be put in — the ministry has stated that they are contacting parents, up until now, we have heard nothing from them,” she said.
Sydney said the boy disrupted classes by playing steel pan and drums while other students were sitting exams.
“Over a 100 children are at risk because of this child, our next step is to remove our children or take legal action against the ministry and we are in the process of consulting a lawyer,” she said.
An Enterprise man was yesterday fearful that someone was trying to set him up to be killed.
The accusation was made by Sherlan Bailey, who contacted the media after it was reported he was one of the men who had been killed during the shooting spree in Enterprise.
Bailey contacted the media after photos of what appeared to be a man shot dead were circulated on social media with information captions which suggested he was the person.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian at his home yesterday afternoon, however, a very alive Bailey said he was shocked and in disbelief to see his photo and name appearing on various news sites.
The 42-year-old said he was now fearful for his life and wondering whether he may soon be killed.
“Whoever did this to me is very irresponsible and I am alive and well. In fact, I work very hard on the road. I take children to school and pick them up and take them to their respective homes. I am not involved in any questionable activity and wonder how it is that my picture and name could be spread all over saying I was killed. It makes no sense and it have my children crying all in school and thing,” Bailey said.
“I am in no gang thing. I am living for my family. In fact I am also a dedicated father and my daughter already has eight distinctions in CXC and aiming for more qualifications. This is frightening. So many people saw me today and say I am like a ghost walking. A dead man walking. It is worrying.”
Dillon Kerdal Grant, also known as Fox, 42, of Dass Trace, Enterprise, was forced by a gunman to run for his life yesterday morning.
He was eventually cornered in a resident’s yard at Joseph Lane, near Lamont Street, and shot in the head. He was taken to the Chaguanas Health Facility where he died while undergoing treatment.
The incident happened at about 11 am, just a stone’s throw away from where police officers are temporary posted at John Street.
There were two theories to Grant’s murder. The first one suggests he was a member of the Unruly Isis gang and was killed by a rival gang member. In fact, people were rumoured to have called him by the nickname Isis. This was yesterday confirmed by his common-law-wife Kimberly Jaikaran, 29, who noted that whilst he was nicknamed “Isis” by some of the young men in the Enterprise area, “he was never involved in any gun thing, shootings or gangs.”
“He used to always get lock up for selling weed and cocaine in Chaguanas with another female friend, but he was never in no gang thing. I knew him for 11 years and we only began to live together in a common-law relationship for the past 14 months,” Jaikaran, who is almost two months pregnant, said.
But Jaikaran had a second theory surrounding Grant’s murder. She claimed he was killed because he confronted a man in the area who harassed her almost on a daily basis, especially during the period when Grant was in prison since last October to about one month ago.
She said Grant left their house as 10 am saying he was going to his his mother’s house for bush to make medicine for his baby, who had a bad cold. She said she later heard gunshots.
By the time Government builds a police station in Enterprise, Chaguanas, there will be nobody left UNC Senator Gerald Ramdeen said yesterday.
He made the comment during his contribution in the Senate, after National Security Minister Edmund Dillon had earlier said Government’s intended to construct a station in the area in its drive to arrest the worsening crime and gang problem there.
Criticising the People’s National Movement Government for failing to understand the pain of those whose loved ones were killed, Ramdeen said, “By the time they build the police station in Enterprise there will be nobody left.
“Enterprise is like a war zone. On Friday night (last) you hearing bullets all over the place. The police and army posts are about 100 feet away from where five people were killed since Friday.”
He said over the last two and a half years the murder rate rapidly rose and other crimes also showed increases.
Saying the Government clearly had no plan to fight crime, Ramdeen also criticised Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for flying off on vacation at a time when the country faced mayhem.
“The Government needs to hold their head in collective shame. The buck stops with the PM. Almost 12 murders in one week and we have heard nothing from our PM. It makes you wonder whether we have a PM,” he said.
“When Enterprise is burning where is the PM? When Arima is burning where is the PM? The PM is jetting off to Huston.”
He said when one looked looked at the faces of the families of the warring gangs in Enterprise they saw hate, bitterness, acrimony and animosity, adding that the area was completely out of control.
Ramdeen also denounced this country’s slow judicial process. He said six years after four-year-old Amy Emily Annamunthodo was tortured and beaten to death, her stepfather Marlon King, who was convicted and sentenced to death, had not even had his sentence carried out as the notes of appeal were not yet prepared by the court.
Enterprise, Chaguanas resident Patrick Isles was killed because he saw the gunman who killed Sylvan Alexis in front of his home at Francois Street last Friday.
This was the belief of Isles’ relatives yesterday. A close female relative, who did not want to be identified, said after Alexis was killed, he (Isles) told her he would not live past yesterday because he had a gut feeling gunmen would come after him because they knew he could identify Alexis’ killer.
Isles was attending Alexis’ wake on Monday night when a gunman walked up to him and opened fire around 10.15 pm. Isles attempted to run after he was shot but slumped onto the roadway at the corner of Palm Drive and Francois Street where he died. Two others who were standing nearby – Selwyn Warner and Roy Browne, were wounded in the attack.
Warner and Browne were taken to the Chaguanas Health Facility where they were treated. Warner remained hospitalised yesterday while Browne was discharged.
A relative of one of the wounded men, who wished not to be identified, said he could not handle the situation.
“I could have been killed here tonight (Monday night) and my brother could have been killed, but nobody not taking us on here, nobody going all out to protect us out here. This is too much, too much to bear.”
Another resident, who seemed intoxicated, on spotting a police vehicle, began shouting at the police that he would get a weapon and shoot everyone he thought was responsible for the murders and shootings.
“All yuh police is stupidy. All yuh not protecting we at all. We have to get up and do for we self.”
The man’s relative was also shot and wounded on Monday night, the T&T Guardian was told.
The man was eventually held by the police and placed in the vehicle. One officer said he would have been left to cool down and released without any charge as they understood the emotional state the man was in.
Isles was the second murder victim after Alexis, who was the brother of reputed gang leader Selwyn “Robocop” Alexis, who was himself killed last year on July 17 while at his business place at Freedom Street in Enterprise.
On Sunday, Marvin Allan was gunned down as he came out his vehicle at John Street, Enterprise.
Investigating officers believe all three murders were related although it was said that Alexis’ murder was the a result of a robbery gone sour.
However, residents in the area strongly believe all murders and shootings are gang related and added that they suspect the rival gang in the Crown Trace area – the Unruly Isis – are responsible for the escalating gang warfare in the area.
“It is a known fact that when Robocop was killed that the Unruly’s were responsible and they said that his entire family would be wiped out and all who were close to Robocop, that they all will be killed. So all these killings are really no surprise to us because it was said that it will happen. It is now that we have to worry about who is next,” one resident said.
Another resident, who has lived in the area for the past 45 years, called for the immediate intervention of soldiers and for a special unit police to be posted on every street and every corner of Enterprise.
“All these shootings and murders getting too ridiculous and it has to stop now and the only way that could happen is if these young men who carry guns see that the police and soldiers not making any joke and they would not be allowed to escape,” the elderly resident said.
On Monday night after Isles’ murder, police were seen stationed at John Street and Francois Street. However, the officers said they were not sure how long they would be stationed there.
Yesterday there were several reports of gunfire throughout the day and police officers on patrol confirmed they received those reports but found this to be people were shooting up in the air in different areas in Enterprise.
Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan says he is extremely worried about the situation in Enterprise, and yesterday begged the area’s young men to put down their guns.
“I am calling for a ceasefire. Please bring back God in your lives,” Boodhan said.
He said the Chaguanas Inter-Religious Association is now having meetings to find a way to restore some semblance of peace in Enterprise.
The mayor said he spent yesterday morning in the community and said people were very fearful for their lives.
“People are not coming out of their homes. Small businesses and even the Greater Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce is concerned. This is wrong. This is a national disgrace.”
Boodhan said he felt Government could do more to help Enterprise. He said Central Division head, Snr Supt Kenny McIntyre, has been working to protect residents of all of Central and in talks with him it was revealed there were plans in place for Enterprise. However, Boodhan said he could not divulge the plans.
Contacted yesterday and asked what the People’s National Movement was doing for the area in light of the violence, PNM Councillor for Enterprise, Ronald Heerah, replied, “What the PNM have to do with that?”
Reminded the PNM was in Government and he was an elected councillor, Heerah said, “Right now I am planning an Easter bonnet parade. Call me back in half an hour.”
When the T&T Guardian called back, someone answered Heerah’s cellphone and said he was still in the meeting and to call back in another hour.
Lisa Holder, another PNM Enterprise councillor, said she did not want to comment.
Chaguanas MP Fazal Karim said the temporary police/army base set up at Lion’s Gate was not as effective as it should be because it’s not located on the main thoroughfare.
Karim said he had written to National Security Minister Edmund Dillon asking for a meeting to discuss establishing a permanent police station in Enterprise.
“A police station would be open 24 hours and would have access to all the resources of the protective services, like vehicles,” Karim said.
Karim said he had filed a question to Dillon in Parliament on this. He said Dillon told the House he had consulted with the acting Commissioner of Police and information was there was no need for a police station in Enterprise.
But the MP said he will continue to press for it, adding he is also asking for a heavier army/presence and the installation of CCTV cameras in Enterprise.
“Residents are extremely intimidated and scared and afraid to speak to anyone for fear of reprisal. It’s a very tense situation in Enterprise.”
In the Senate yesterday, Dillon announced the Government will establish a police station in Enterprise in the shortest possible time.
It’s “war” on unruly or other negative elements in Enterprise, Chaguanas.
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon signalled this stand while speaking in the Senate yesterday on the situation in Enterprise, now racked by heightened gang warfare and murders.
Speaking on an Opposition motion calling on Government to take immediate action on T&T’s unacceptable crime levels, Dillon announced that the National Security Council had decided to construct a police station in the middle of Enterprise in “the shortest possible time.”
This will involve police as well as T&T Defence Force personnel, who will deal with the gang warfare killings which have torn Enterprise apart in recent weeks and months, he added.
Four people have been killed since last Friday, including Sylvan Alexis, brother of reputed gang leader Selwyn “Robocop” Alexis, who was killed in July 2016. On Sunday, Marvin Allan was gunned down as he came out his vehicle at John Street.
On Monday night, Patrick Isles was shot to death outside Sylvan Alexis’ wake and two others were wounded. Yesterday, Dillon Grant was killed by a gunman who chased him down before killing him in a neighbour’s yard at Lamont Street. (See Page A5)
Last year, after similar violence flared after “Robocop” was killed - and with Opposition MPs calling for a police post - Dillon, in the 2017 Budget debate, promised an army base in Enterprise. It was set up at Lion’s Gate earlier this year.
Yesterday, however, facing similar Opposition pressure, Dillon declared heightened action in the wake of the latest onslaughts in Enterprise.
Dillon said, “there is a principle of war called ‘concentration of force at the right time and the right place.’”
“Government believes the time is now, the place is Enterprise,” Dillon said.
“We’ll now have a permanent police station in Enterprise and we’ll take the fight to those who consider themselves unruly or whatever ... I guarantee you ... the concentration of force will deal with those issues.”
He said the force to be used will involve all national security agencies coming in to deal with the issue in that area.
Dillon said a temporary army post had been established previously at Lion’s Gate. But based on the present scenario, he said “a more direct, specific approach is required.”
He said the National Security Council believed a permanent police station will also pay the appropriate attention to what has been going on in the area.
Dillon noted there had been reduction of crime in Soogrim Trace, Laventille, where an army/police post was established
But during debate, Independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir said the other story of Enterprise needed to be told, beyond “blood and gore”.
He said, “Tonight on the media, you’re going to hear of some action, something undesirable, but I want to invite the media: for every youth killed, can you tell me a story of someone living in that neighbourhood? We’ve gotten the view that everyone there is up to no good, that it’s seething with distrust, disharmony and disrespect for law and order - and it’s not so.
“We continue to tell the story of the man with the gun and the boy who’s dead. But it’s important for the media, when they go to Crown Trace, Railway Road et cetera: talk to the mechanics, plumbing businesses, pluck shops ... people who went to school with me, outstanding engineers, a high-ranking military officer.”
He added: “There are regular people there. But the problem in T&T is its sensationalism, to talk about a body on the street or this group fighting another. We never see the decent hard working people.”
Mahabir frowned on the tendency to call the people with guns, “... community leaders.” He said gang members needed to be shown the other side of gang life. He suggested people who’ve served long jail sentences be used to educate youths “... to show them gang life isn’t all the glitz and glamour of the gun, we need our youths who are so enamoured of force to hear from those who failed to make it, from someone who has rank in their world.”
Mahabir also suggested Government formulate a commando-style search and rescue squad to deal with missing persons cases immediately. He said that is the second highest priority area after murders. He also recommended that police be promoted based on ability to detect crime rather than on seniority.
Hardly anyone knows the unassuming small, neatly dressed man, 91 going on 92, who taxis frequently from his home in San Juan to Xtra Foods in Chaguanas to attend motivational lectures is a World War 11 veteran who was born in 1925.
Andrew Richardson was a Morse code radio operator for the Allied Forces and even worked as an undercover operative in France for a time.
“He started attending our lectures and I sort of adopted him as my grandfather,” company director, Sat Sukdeo, said.
World War 11 lasted from 1939 to 1945, during which time Britain, Canada and the Allied Forces fought against Hitler and his army.
Richardson’s work as a radio operator helped provide information that destroyed Hitler’s submarines and end the war. It also saved Allied ships.
“By early warning, through Morse code, the Allied Forces were able to rescue ships hit by torpedoes,” he said.
Morse code is a method for encoding text into a series of dashes and dots, that can be transmitted by means of sound, light or radio waves and can be decoded be a skilled listener without special equipment.
Through Sukdeo’s influence, Richardson was honoured at the recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of the abolition of Indian indentureship in Chaguanas.
He said Richardson’s father was an Afghan who migrated to India and from there came to T&T as an indentured immigrant. He was bound to an estate in Brother’s Road, Tabaquite where he settled after the end of indentureship, got married and fathered Richardson.
At the age of 16, in 1941, Richardson enlisted in the British army and served five years until the end of World War 11. T&T was under British colonial rule at the time.
He spoke to the T&T Guardian in Sukdeo’s office upstairs Xtra Foods after he received his award from the Indian Diaspora Council two Mondays ago.
Richardson, who has all his mental faculties intact, said almost immediately after he joined the army, he was sent to train as a Morse Code radio operator.
“They attached me to the wireless department right away and trained me for six weeks as a shortwave Morse code radio operator,” he said.
After his training, he was put in charge of a network of 30 other wireless operators throughout the Eastern Caribbean.
Sukdeo said Richardson was one of the unsung heroes of World War 11 who fought for the freedom of T&T and other countries from the grasp of Hitler.
Richardson recalled the days in Trinidad during the war when food was hard to come by.
“A man and his wife who had no children would be given half a pound of flour and a family with children one pound,” he said.
Richardson himself does not ask for accolades, attributing all he had to God.
Asked the secret of his long life, he replied: “You have to ask God that. Who else is there.”
It was prayer, he said, that kept him going.
A group of teachers led by T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Lynsley Doodhai protested outside the Education Ministry on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday over Education Minister Anthony Garcia’s handling of the Ste Madeleine Secondary School matter.
The teachers also demanded a meeting with Garcia, who had threatened disciplinary action against teachers at the school who took part in a recent lunchtime protest to highlight their dissatisfaction with the principal’s running of the school.
During the March 6 protest the teachers were pelted with plastic water bottles by students.
Doodhai said Garcia’s actions had caused low morale among teaching staff at the school.
“TTUTA has been very vocal in calling for a senior official at the Ste Madeleine Secondary School to be removed to facilitate a proper investigation into concerns that many of our members have with governance and leadership at the school,” he said.
Doodhai denied that he was vociferous in his calls because his sister-in-law is a teacher at the school. He said yesterday’s protest was “not a one-man call” but a decision taken by TTUTA’s general council.
He said: “The general council is referred as the war council and they would dictate any picket action. My sister-in-law is a teacher at the school but that does not take away from the fact that at least 15 teachers were affected.”
Expressing disappointment in Garcia, the TTUTA president said: “It seems the Education Ministry is unwilling to act in the matter as some people are seemingly untouchable.
“Within one week the minister was threatening disciplinary be taken against the teachers but we have an issue that is five years old at that school. Teachers feel victimised and intimidated and the environment is toxic.”
He said the general council of the union will decide on the next step to be taken in the matter.
The teachers were supported yesterday by members of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM). JTUM secretary Ozzi Warwick said teachers have a right to hold a peaceful picket demonstration.
Dr Lovell Francis, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, who was present during the protest, said Garcia was at a Cabinet meeting. He said the ministry is not responsible for disciplining teachers as that is up to the Teaching Service Commission.
Francis said an investigation into the incident is ongoing and no reports have yet been submitted.
He said while he agreed teachers have a right to protest, the March 6 protest may have not been the “wisest action.” He said the ministry had a good relationship with TTUTA and is always willing Bakrto work with the union.
Ste Madeleine Secondary School principal Joy Arjoon-Singh has filed a defamation claim against TTUTA and Doodhai and is seeking a public apology from Doodhai, an injunction prohibiting him from making further disparaging remarks against her and an unspecified sum in damages.
The legal action followed comments made by Doodhai about alleged financial mismanagement at the school.
ECCE teachers also protested
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) teachers also staged a protest yesterday. They claim the ministry is ignoring their concerns.
President of the Early Childhood Teachers’ Trade Union Jamiele Sydney, who led that demonstration, denied claims that his union has no bargaining power. He said the union is recognised and has submitted its documents to obtain a certificate.
Syndey said among their concerns is that the ministry is refusing to meet with the union and that EECE teachers had not been paid gratuity spanning some 12 years.
In response, Francis said on many occasions calls were made to Sydney to meet with ministry officials but he refused each time. He said whether or not the union is fully accredited, they represent teachers.
Three police officers are scheduled to go on trial on May 2 for two unrelated crimes.
Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar set trial dates yesterday for Inspectors Michael Seales, Roger Alexander and PC Sheldon Mires before her in the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistrates Court.
Seales, president of the Police Social and Welfare Association, is charged with sedition, while Alexander and Mires are accused of assaulting a Santa Cruz man last year.
It is alleged that Seales made a seditious statement on June 24, 2015, during a live interview on the TV6 Morning Edition programme. He had claimed there was then an alleged plot by the People’s Partnership government to frustrate the Police Service to react in such a way that there would be a need for a state of emergency, thereby stalling that year’s general election.
His comment was made in the midst of wage negotiations with the Chief Personnel Officer.
Seales was charged a year after making the statement and was suspended from the T&T Police Service (TTPS) but still holds his post in the association. Yesterday he was accompanied to court by several members of the association, including former president and current secretary Inspector Anand Ramesar.
If convicted, Seales faces a $3,000 fine and up to two years in prison.
Alexander and Mires are accused of assaulting Christopher Charles with intent to cause him actual bodily harm. Mires is also facing an additional charge for committing common assault against Charles. All three officers have been suspended from active police duties.
Alexander was also removed as the host of the Beyond the Tape programme on TV6. Mires was also assigned to the television production and guest starred in the show’s crime prevention segment as a character who repeatedly got caught committing crimes.
The charges arose out of an incident near Charles’ home at Santa Cruz Old Road last July.
Charles reported the incident to the police and in January he filed private criminal charges which will be prosecuted by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Both have been suspended pending the outcome of the case.
Seales is being represented by Pamela Elder, SC, while Nigel Pilgrim is prosecuting. Alexander is being represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC, and Mires by Lee Merry. While a date for their trial was set yesterday, a State prosecutor is yet to be appointed in the case.
A man who spent 11 years in jail on a murder charge walked free yesterday because the State could not find three witnesses —including it’s main witness — to testify in the matter.
Without the evidence of those witnesses the State could not link Treville Phillips to the murder forcing Justice David Harris to direct the jury in the San Fernando Second Assizes to find Phillips not guilty.
Phillips went on trial almost three weeks ago charged with murdering Jason Marine on June 6, 2006, at a place called “The Greens” in Mayaro. Marine was shot dead and a witness alleged he saw Phillips with a gun over his body.
Phillips first went on trial for this murder in 2011, but the jury could not agree and a verdict on a retrial was ordered.
Yesterday when the matter resumed, the names of the three witnesses, Learie Stuart, Diamond Henry and Nigel Baptiste, were called, but there was no response.
State attorney Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal said the State made an application for the witnesses to be subpoenaed and for warrants to be issued for their arrest without success.
She said without those witnesses the State could not proceed any further in the matter. Explaining to the jury that without those witnesses, the State could not link Phillips to the murder and prove its case, the judge said the matter could not go on because there was insufficient evidence.
Phillips, who was represented by attorneys Ken Wright and Marissa Bubb, was embraced by his girlfriend, Melissa Mohammed, as he walked out of the court.
He said he was happy it was over but expressed his disgust with the conditions in prison and the length of time it took for a matter to go to trial.
Phillips said he just wanted to go home and relax. Mohammed, who was pregnant with his daughter when he was charged with the murder, said her daughter has never met her father and she was happy that he was finally freed.
Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj says the Government has been given the plan on how to implement the death penalty and all that is required now to get the job done was will power.
Speaking at a press conference at his San Fernando law chambers yesterday, Maharaj SC said: “It comes to the will power of a government to deal with the problem and the government depends upon its ministers. A plan is only as good as its implementation…I believe it can be implemented. I believe if the government wants to continue with the death penalty it can be implemented.”
Maharaj who has passed on a dossier detailing how he was successful in hanging Dole Chadee and his eight accomplices during his tenure as attorney general to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, reiterated that he charged no fee.
He said the Government has the option of retaining the services of Peter Pursglove SC, who is presently on vacation here, as a consultant to assist them in carrying out the death penalty. Pursglove had been retained by Maharaj to assist in fast-tracking murder cases.
Addressing the issue of the abolition of preliminary inquires, Maharaj said that move will put additional strain on the High Court which already had hundreds of people awaiting trial.
He endorsed the comments of Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard who described the move as short-sighted during a parliamentary committee meeting last Friday given the lack of resources in the DPP’s Office and other inefficiencies in the criminal justice system. Maharaj said the government must withdraw the bill pending further study.
Similarly, he said the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone)Bill should have gone through a process of proper and adequate consultation with the legal profession and the public.
He said the law will not make any dent in the delays of the criminal justice system and it would have no impact on increasing the detection rate for murders and serious crimes.
Maharaj added that the time has come for the population to see and to feel the government is declaring war against the criminal elements. Maharaj called on the Government and the police to take immediate action to halt the spiralling rate of criminal activities and bring the criminals to justice.
He said it was unacceptable that 85 per cent of the people who committed murders and serious crimes are walking free and called for an immediate action plan to increase the detection of crimes
Maharaj said this must include:
* An overhaul and purge of the existing investigative units of the Police Service
* An overhaul for the forensic laboratory with immediate steps to have the necessary staff and forensic technology to detect murders and serious crimes
* Immediate changes to the Witness Protection Unit so witnesses will be encouraged and induced to come forward to testify
* Government must take steps to implement the DNA Act and establish a DNA bank.
The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) is rubbishing claims by the Energy Chamber and American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AmCham) that the Industrial Court is anti-employer and pro-trade union.
Responding to a Sunday Guardian article which revealed that the court had ordered 11 companies to pay their workers almost $11 million in compensation, mainly for wrongful dismissal suits, JTUM said yesterday that this showed employers need to assess their industrial relation practices.
The payouts were for cases concluded during January and February, in which 26 employees benefited.
In addressing the issue, Energy Chamber CEO Dr Thackwray Driver said the data from the Industrial Court showed the vast majority of cases decided by the court were in favour of trade unions. Driver said member companies were concerned that the court’s interpretations and rationale for decision-making were unclear and inconsistent.
AmCham CEO Nirad Tewarie meanwhile said it was a confirmation of what business people had been saying, that it appeared there was a disparity in the judgements. Tewarie said employers were uncomfortable with the industrial relations climate and did not feel they could seriously discuss productivity and engage with their employees.
However, JTUM general secretary Ozzi Warwick yesterday said the problem for employers was their culture of arbitrary dismissal of workers. He said this was made worse by the support employers got from their associations and chambers.
“These various chambers and the employer-class seem to want to take us back to the colonial period, where workers were arbitrarily dismissed and where you had employers not recognising the rights of workers. Today, workers’ rights are enshrined in international law, national law and good industrial relations principles and practices. What has been happening is that employers think that in this period of economic difficulty that they can dismiss workers and violate their rights with impunity,” Warwick said.
Stressing that wrongful dismissal was a serious offence, he said when a worker loses their source of income it disrupts their personal and family life, which can lead to stress and other health and social complications.
Both Warwick and president general of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union, Vincent Cabrera, said they believed the statements by Driver and Tewarie were a continuation of an attack on the court by the business sector. They were referring to the circumstances surrounding a T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) forum on November 30, 2016.
During the forum, businessman Frank Mouttet said the Industrial Court was to be blamed for decreased levels of productivity in the country and had made it difficult for employers to fire workers. He also reportedly suggested that the court was harsh and oppressive towards employers, while favouring workers and their representative unions. Subsequently, Moutett, TTCIC’s chief executive officer Gabriel Faria and attorney Derek Ali were summoned to court on contempt charges.
Environmental Management Authority (EMA) managing director Hayden Romano says the authority has not granted a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to undertake a multi-million dollar Carnival City development on the site of De Nu Pub, Sweet Lime Restaurant and Ma Pau Casino, which were gutted by fire on Sunday.
Romano was commenting on an undated letter addressed to the EMA, which showed a notification of intended development of a Carnival City at the site had been proposed and an application for a CEC was submitted to the EMA for approval.
The letter, headlined “Notification of Intended Development - Carnival City,” was plastered on Facebook yesterday, hours after fire-fighters extinguished a million-dollar blaze which destroyed the three popular businesses.
Signed by directors Amory Ward and Asha Mungal, the letter stated that a Carnival City was proposed for development on the site.
“It is proposed that the buildings (three businesses) will be demolished and replaced by a building that will rise seven storeys above ground,” the letter explained.
Two illustrations of the building showing a spa, gym, cafe, hotel, restaurant and a parkade for 200 vehicles were outlined.
It also stated that construction will be conducted in accordance with the CEC and the EMA’s Noise Pollution Control Rules of 2001. Stakeholders were asked to submit written responses to the EMA.
Yesterday, Romano described the post as fake.
“The EMA does not have a CEC application before us for any Carnival City development in Woodbrook. The information is not true. The posts are fake. That is what I can verify,” Romano said.
Roderick Ward, license holder of De Nu Pub, admitted the first time he heard about the development was yesterday.
“I heard about it from my daughter who saw it on Facebook. This was news to me,” Ward said.
Owner and manager of Sweet Lime, Christopher Hosam, meanwhile said talks have been circulating about renovating the building since about a year ago.
“I only know that a hotel and casino might be coming. That is all I know.”
Hosam said he was cooking in his establishment on Sunday when he smelt smoke coming from De Nu Pub which was closed.
“I have keys to Mas Camp so I opened the building and saw the bar on fire.”
Hosam said he tried to put the blaze out, but the fire was already out of control.
With ten of his employees out of jobs, Hosam, whose business was uninsured, said he would now have to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.
Apart from seeing his business go up in flames, Hosam said he was robbed of $1,500 from his cash register, an IPad valued at $1,000 and 25 bottles of premium drinks valued at $6,000.
Plans for a massive commercial development at the site of Sunday’s million dollar fire in Woodbrook surfaced yesterday, even as fire-fighters sifted through the still smouldering debris to determine the cause of the fire while affected workers looked on tearfully.
Hours after the blaze that razed the site which housed De Nu Pub (formerly known as the Mas Camp Pub), Sweet Lime Restaurant and Ma Pau Casino at the corner of Ariapita Avenue and French Street, Woodbrook, a two-page document began circulating via social media detailing plans for a Carnival City at the location.
Although fire officers returned to the site as early as 7 am yesterday, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Northern Division, Marlon Smith, reported that “nothing conclusive” had been discovered up to 3 pm.
With tears in their eyes yesterday, workers from the three establishments also gathered at the site, talking amongst themselves about the future, comforting each other and offering words of support.
While Ma Pau workers have been assured of continued employment, workers from De Nu Pub and Sweet Lime Restaurant are uncertain about their own livelihoods.
De Nu Pub owner Roderick Ward visited the scene yesterday but left to attend to other personal matters. He confirmed the 20 workers attached to De Nu Pub had been told not to report for work until further notice.
But Ward (R) later returned in an attempt to speak with relatives regarding the proposed project to be constructed at the site. Confirming that a “notice” had been placed in his mailbox yesterday morning detailing plans for the Carnival City, Ward said while he had sight of it he wanted to read and digest it before commenting.
Titled “Notification of Intended Development,” the two-page document revealed that Ward Hotel Ltd—which owns the property—had applied to the Environmental Management Authority for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to undertake a development at the French Street and Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook site.
With the new development set to encompass the affected site as well as the Ma Pau Car Park on French Street, the document proposed to demolish the current premises and erect a seven-storey structure, which would include a 200-vehicle parking facility and provide a base for the Wyndham Hotel, the internationally acclaimed Hard Rock Cafe, a hotel restaurant, gym, spa and retail shops. According to the notice, the commencement date of work is May 1. The project outlined employment for at least 400 people upon completion.
The second page of the document featured a sketch of the parking structure, along with a coloured photo of the completed hotel.
Calls to Mc Donald Ward and Ma Pau owner John Wallace’s cell phones went unanswered yesterday.
But Ma Pau director Sherry Persad confirmed plans for the project, saying it was to a be a Ward/Wallace project. Persad said a neighbourhood advisory exercise was completed last week, where nearby residents and business owners/operators were informed of the impending project.
Persad confirmed it would be a “phased long-term project” and none of the businesses would have had to close their doors during construction, as it was to be a “shift and build” type of arrangement.
Standing with workers yesterday and greeting long-time clients who stopped to lend support, Persad said they were anxious to get back into the casino to begin clean-up operations.
Officials at the Port-of-Spain City Corporation confirmed the project had crossed the monthly Statutory Meeting floor some time ago, as permission would have had to be sought from them as Woodbrook falls within their purview.
The United National Congress, through attorney and Senator Wayne Sturge, has written to Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier General Rodney Smart asking for a copy of the report of the Board of Inquiry convened after the publication of photos of children linked to a senior government official handling high-powered weapons belonging to army.
In his letter to Smart, Sturge said he was exercising his right under section 11 of the Freedom of Information Act Chapter 22:02 and his right “and legitimate interest in upholding the Constitution and the law.” He said there is a public perception that there was an attempt at “a cover up by the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force” and “disclosure of the report” would boost public confidence in the Defence Force.
The pictures of the teens were posted on social media during the budget contribution of Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal in October last year. Moonilal said the teens bore a “striking resemblance to a senior Cabinet Minister.”
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who spoke to the media shortly after Moonilal’s statement in Parliament, accused the UNC of “a new moral low.” But he said “I do not propose to disclose any aspects of security arrangements surrounding my family.”
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in a statement in Parliament, said the officer who took the picture “would have breached a level of security and has created a threat for the children of the Attorney General.” He described as “irresponsible” the officer who took the photo.
In his letter to Smart, Sturge told Smart the matter is serious because of “the individuals involved,” and the public perception that the children of the Attorney General were being treated differently from ordinary citizens “who would be the subject of criminal sanctions were they found to be in possession of such weapons.”
The Board of Inquiry set up by the CDF shortly after the photos were made public investigated the facts and circumstances surrounding how the children came into possession of the weapons at dates and places unknown and how the pictures of the children were taken on an army base. The inquiry looked at whether processes and procedures were breached and if so who was responsible.
While the contents of the report have not been made public, well placed sources told the T&T Guardian that the officer or officers who were found to have contravened military law by allowing minors to handle weapons could be charged with an infraction of military law. But the penalty, which ranges from reprimand, fine, demotion or dismissal, is up to the CDF. The board of inquiry also took a stern view of the use of cameras and cellphones on the shooting range.