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Updated: 2 hours 37 min ago

Call for St Augustine teaching facility to shut down

9 hours 35 min ago

Students attending the University of the West Indies Open Campus are calling on the authorities to condemn the teaching facility at St John’s Road, St Augustine and transfer classes permanently to the head office at Gordon Street.

They have warned that failure to do so immediately will lead to an exodus of both teachers and students.

During a peaceful protest at the Gordon Street office last Thursday, students complained about the state of disrepair and the dilapidated conditions which they were subjected to daily—sometimes forced to hold their classes on a stairwell due to the lack of air-conditioning and fans.

Student Jeanette Callender said: “Our parents have spent a lot of money to send us to school here and yet when we come in daily with classes running from 8 am to 5 pm, there are so many problems we have to face just to continue with our education and it is affecting all of us.”

Revealing that quite a number of lecturers and students had already left the campus, Callender said the exodus would continue if nothing was done by the country manager to address the situation.

Among problems listed by the four-member student committee was the lack of properly-outfitted classrooms as many of the current rooms have termite-infested floors, windows and blackboards; leaking roof; lack of ventilation as only two classrooms have air-conditioners; lack of fans; only two washrooms to service between 150 and 200 students; broken chairs/desks; no Wi-Fi; a lack of water and amenities such as toilet paper and soap; and a proper cafeteria.

Granted permission to protest by principal Annette Griffith-Ackrill, Callender was joined by her classmates Denise Matthews, Carmen Racedo and Faizah Crichlow who all agreed that the student and teaching body could no longer continue to operate in those deplorable conditions.

The four claimed nothing had been done to rectify the matter for more than two years, despite numerous letters and requests to the relevant officials.

Standing inside the Gordon Street campus, Crichlow and Matthews told the large group of students gathered that numerous requests for classes to be transferred to the main campus had been rejected without reason. Matthews, Crichlow and Callender said lecturers at the main campus had confirmed there were available classrooms which could be used by the full-time students but they too, were unaware of why the students requests had been rejected.

Attempts to speak with lecturers proved futile as many declined to speak and directed questions to the country manager Karen Rosemin.

Students later met with Rosemin who reportedly told them she was aware of some of the conditions highlighted such as the leaking roof, the lack of air-conditioning and the rotting interior.

The students claimed Rosemin had promised repairs would be effected when school closed during next vacation period.

Callender asked: “If these issues were known to you, why was it not done seeing that a child already fell through the flooring last year?”

Disappointed with Rosemin’s explanation, Callender said they were told all classrooms had been booked and there was no available space. It is estimated that parents spent upwards of $10,000 to send students to school per year.

One student who did not wish to be identified added: “The conditions are so discouraging. Some classrooms are missing the glass panes so when rains, you have to move to a new class. The roof leaks onto the electrical wires and it is a fire hazard as some classes are completely closed with no windows. 

“The environmental and geography classrooms have no lights. The main door to the female bathroom does not lock and there are holes in the floor, so if one goes below the school, you can see right into the bathroom. 

The bathroom windows have no curtains or tint so when you are outside, you can see directly in as it is in eye’s view and we have a lot of men on the campus that do upkeep.”

Another said: “If you want to use the projector, we have to get creative and use garbage bags and tape to put on the windows. Uniforms are never readily available to the whole intake of students and we get in trouble for not wearing the correct uniform.”

Assuring that the temporary relocation of students while repairs were being carried out, remained a priority, UWI officials said the Open Campus was expecting to be able to offer first class quality with the construction of a Centre in Chaguanas.

UWI said the Open Campus Management Team was also exploring alternative accommodation for the students as all classrooms at Gordon Street were said to be in full use by both full-time and evening students.


Acknowledging ongoing maintenance issues at the pre-university (Sixth-Form) centre at St John’s Road, officials of UWI Open Campus offered an explanation: “While day-to-day repairs by in-house maintenance personnel continue at the Centre, the site is one of many Open Campus buildings inherited from the earlier entities such as the School of Continuing Studies and admittedly encompasses dated infrastructure, resulting in particular maintenance challenges.”

A release from the UWI Marketing and Communications Department confirmed a routine maintenance inspection was conducted before the beginning of the 2016/2017 semester to identify and rectify issues.

Conditions were said to have been documented and reported to the Open Campus’ Finance Division for approval to proceed with repairs. Officials said: “Mindful of its needs to manage cash flows to ensure continuity in operations, refurbishments have been scheduled to occur over the academic year, in phases.”

Family of missing Brazilian seeks answers

9 hours 39 min ago

Family members of 54-year-old Brazilian electrician, Odair Bezerra Lins, who went missing in June, are repeating calls for local law enforcement to give them information relating to his case.

Lins has been missing for more than 100 days, after last reporting for work at an OAS Construtora site in South Trinidad on June 8.

Shortly after Lins’ disappearance, the body of a man was found in a forest in South Trinidad and transferred to the Forensic Science Centre in St James.

In an interview, forensic pathologist Valery Alexandrov recalled that Lins’ wife was supposed to come to T&T to view the body but could not remember if she actually did.

“I remember it because there was a lot of interest but I can’t say if she came,” he said.

According to Brazilian news agency Globo, DNA samples had been sent by the family more than ten weeks ago but had not been processed locally.

Lins’ wife, Marcia Aparecida Martins Lopes, said she had no information on the progress of investigations into the case.

The Embassy of Brazil in Port-of-Spain has made requests to both the Forensic Science Centre and the T&T Police Service to identify the body.

According to Globo, Lins’ family learned of the case and sought the help of Civil Police Solteira (SP) on June 12. 

The next day, relatives reported the matter to the Federal Police in Jales. 

Lins had spent more than a year in Trinidad providing maintenance of heavy machinery in the construction of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension project.

He visited Brazil every four months. 

The family had no news of Lins for two days until June 10 when company representatives contacted his wife to say that the truck he used was found abandoned near a deserted beach with bloodstains. 

CWU: Don’t place burden on working class

9 hours 46 min ago

Budget week’s upon T&T and the last minute calls and concerns are beginning.

This, as Finance Minister Colm Imbert finalises fiscal measures and other policies this week ahead of delivery of the 2017 budget at 1.30 pm Friday in the Parliament.

Where internal preparation and content is concerned, the package estimated to be under $60billion within the $55billion range approximately, is expected to be a mixture of taxes and other fiscal measures, moderate subsidy cuts, borrowing and streamlining. 

So far hints from some quarters lean towards further phasing out of the fuel subsidy and possible gas increases which “may be unavoidable.”

Priority wise, emphasis will also be on health addressing drug issues, hospital construction including in Sangre Grande, national security and other areas, The T&T Guardian learned.

Externally, on public concerns, Communication Workers Union secretary general Joseph Remy , at a media briefing, yesterday said. “We need to make some adjustment but the (budget) burden must not be placed on the working class.”

On perceived energy sector “experimentation” Remy said T&T was now at dire straits. “And what’s going to happen is they will tax the pockets of ordinary citizens for the mistakes they made and that is something we wouldn’t want to see.

“If Government is serious about saving at this critical time, tax breaks for credit unions once existed we’re demanding this be returned. This will allow credit unions to play their pivotal role in economic development.”

Remy called for agriculture to be given its fair share to reduce the import bill and for deeper examination of the corporation tax to prevent further “starving the state of revenue.” 

Remy particularly called for the budget to state the future of the 49 per cent Cable and Wireless shareholding in Telecommunications Services of T&T (TSTT) , in the works for 18 months. 

He said CWU had written the Prime Minister, Telecommunication Authority and other entities but didn’t receive even acknowledgement. “We’d like Government to tell us it’s just a rumour, word we’ve heard that a foreign multinational will get the shareholding.”

Remy called for the shareholding be allocated among credit unions, TSTT employees, the Unit trust and NIB.

Opposition MP Suruj Rambachan, via statement, called for budget strategies which do not further impoverish the poor and middle class.

“The people of T&T are not known to not want to make sacrifices. However, people cannot make sacrifices in a vacuum. Sacrifices will be motivated if people can see light at the end of the tunnel. Already the middle class and the working poor have been placed under severe economic and financial pressures”

“We cannot build T&T nor emerge from recession unless T&T’s productivity increases, unless the economy gets a boost by targeting the construction sector in particular, unless there are targeted areas for diversification including boosting the tourism sector where the product has to redefined and repackaged in a way that differentiates it thereby giving potential visitors a reason to choose T&T.”

“We must avoid drastic currency devaluation and imposing hardship. Instead we must engage in product substitution and people must be encouraged to participate in this exercise. To achieve these goals there must be a leadership which inspires confidence of citizens in the future-but government has proven unable to meet the challenges.”

T&T Manufacturers’ head, Dr Rolph Balgobin, said while TTMA suggests the property tax be collected, the property value calculation for manufacturers should not include machinery and equipment at a property.

Among TTMA’s suggestions to ensure the institutional framework to support the manufacturing sector, he said TTMA believes there are many “things” in the state sector which Government should consider if it should be involved in or not.

He said E-Teck Industrial Park and Export TT for instance have, respectively, been run poorly and has great potential and should be private-sector operated.

Imbert: US response this week on FATCA extension

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 23:50

Government expects to get a response this week from US authorities regarding an extension on the Foreign Account Compliance Agreement (FATCA) which is necessary to maintain T&T/US financial arrangements, particularly banking sector work.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert confirmed this yesterday following last Friday’s failure in Parliament of the Tax Information Exchange legislation needed to facilitate the FATCA arrangement. The US FATCA agreement aims to prevent tax evasion by US taxpayers who use non-US financial institutions.

Deadline to pass T&T’s Tax information sharing bill was September 30. Government needed three Opposition votes in addition to its 23, to pass the “special majority” bill.

It was a priority matter on the agenda when the Second Session of Parliament began last Friday. But debate failed after debate broke down. The Opposition first, refused a one hour meeting with the Government on it , and later, all MPs, but Opposition MP Bhoe Tewarie left the Parliament in solidarity with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who was evicted. She was put out for alleged “gross disorder” after loudly refuting statements by the Attorney General.

Persad-Bissessar later accused Government of not wanting to pass the bill and that the State “knew” it would get an extension from the US on the matter.

Yesterday, Imbert said, “The Opposition Leader's assertions are incorrect.”

“ We’re waiting a response (from the US) which we expect to get this week. The person who we interact with in the US Treasury has been out of the jurisdiction and will be back in office (today) Monday September 26th, at which time we will follow up.”

He said he said he will say later on if the process might be long ,or if debate could get going around mid-October. Following last week’s failure. Imbert said Government would debate the bill after the 2017 budget . Debate on that is expected over the next two weeks.

Opposition MP Suruj Rambachan however said, “A bill was being prepared under the (PP’s) term - we were in the process of getting it done. Why didn’t the PNM follow through more speedily on it? Given that they had one year to bring the bill, they were negligent in their prioritisation of a matter which they now claim has such dire consequences for T&T”

“But they’d planned all along to blame the failure on the Opposition since they started to ‘push this head’ at their Champs Fleur meeting last Tuesday,”

He said the UNC had been “under attack” in the Parliament last Friday with three MPs evicted Roodal Moonilal, Persad- Bissessar and Barry Padarath.

Penal man still missing

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 23:49

Desperate to find missing Penal man Malcom Shastri Dookie, his relatives, on their way home yesterday, stopped off at what they believed to be a scene of a robbery hoping it was somehow linked to his disappearance.

However, they left empty handed. It turned out that the police had swooped down on a house in Rochard Road, Penal in connection with last Thursday’s abduction of Debe hair stylist Ria Sookdeo. The police seized a Nissan X-Trail and detained a suspended policeman and his female relative. Dookie, 28, left his home at Bhimull Trace, San Francique Road, Penal, in a white Hyundai H100 two Thursdays ago and never returned home. His vehicle is also missing.

His uncle Rajack Ramjohn and aunt Saberon Mano were on their way back home after visiting with a pundit at Cunjal Road, Barrackpore to “seek spiritual guidance” when they saw the police at the house.

“I saw a police I know who in Anti Kidnapping. I thought it was a robbery so I wanted to know if my nephew van use in the robbery or something.”

He said the family wants closure. “We living in suspense. We cannot sleep.” He said Dookie’s brother, Dave, met with Sookdeo’s husband Mark and they embraced each other and cried.

Ramjohn said the pundit could not tell them anything about Dookie’s disappearance. He said the police are working and he is praying that they find him soon. Investigations are continuing.

We’re looking day and night for her—relatives

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 23:43

A suspended policeman and his female relative were among three people detained after police impounded a Nissan X-Trail at a house in Penal as the search continues for abducted hairdresser Ria Sookdeo.

Although police are awaiting the results of forensic and fingerprint tests to determine whether the vehicle was in fact the X-Trail used in her kidnapping, Sookdeo’s relatives are praying that the police would get the information they needed to find her.

Based on information received Anti Kidnapping police went to the house shortly after 8 am located along Rochard Road, Penal, where they found the X-Trial at the back of the premises.

The suspended policeman, who was last attached to the Central Division, and his female relative who were at the house, were questioned by the police and detained.

The T&T Guardian was told that a third man was subsequently detained.

Police officers on the scene cautioned members of the media that the investigation was at a sensitive stage and they could not confirmed that the vehicle or anyone on the premises were linked to Sookdeo’s abduction.

However, as word spread about the incident rumours began that Sookdeo was found which led to scores of curious onlookers gathering at the scene and people stopping their cars to find out if she had really been found.

Among the people gathered were Sookdeo’s relatives who were praying that the police had made a breakthrough in the case.

Her cousin, Asha Dass said: “We looking day and night for her. The family splitting up and searching in places we never even went before. All three and four o’clock in the morning we all inside the forest looking. We went Cedros,Mayaro and Moruga forests already. Another relative said no one could sleep as they were so worried and scared.

Sookdeo, 34, of Raghoo Village, Debe, was snatched after she dropped off her two children, Elana, nine and Tores, five, at their school in Picton.

As she drove up to Picton Estate Drive, near the Jaya Shri Rama Ashram, to turn her red Nissan XTrail SUV around, a black X-Trail pulled up behind, blocking her path.

Two men, allegedly wearing tactical gear, forced her out the SUV and into theirs, and drove off. Police said the abductor's SUV had a false registration number.

Police have a sketch of a man, wearing a cap with police written, which they say is a person of interest. Relatives confirmed that sketch was shown to them by investigators.

Relatives are fearful that Sookdeo may have been a victim of human trafficking, especially since no ransom demand has been made.

Sookdeo’s husband Mark Sookdeo and her father Frankie Rajkumar continue to appeal to her abductors to release her.

Relatives who have been on the streets distributing and posting missing person flyers throughout the country continue to appeal to anyone who may help them find Sookdeo to come forward.

Anyone with information can contact Insp Don Gajadhar, Sgt Natasha Morrison or Cpl Barry Bacchus at the San Fernando CID at 652-2564 or Crime Stoppers at 800-TIPS.

Two die after van overturns

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 23:34

A Guyanese national and his co-worker were killed when the van they were in struck another van and flipped several times along the highway near Chase Village Flyover on Saturday night.

Rajendra Persad, 34, a Guyanese employed with Victoria Medical Laboratories in San Fernando died on the way to the hospital while his front seat passenger, Daniel Alexander, of Maraval died on the scene.

The driver of the other vehicle, a 49-year-old contractor of Gasparillo was arrested and charged after he failed a breathalyser test.

Police reports stated around 11.45 pm Persad was heading along the north bound lane of the Solomon Hochoy Highway in a white Nissan Frontier when he came in contact with the right rear of the contractor’s Black Toyota Hilux.

Persad lost control of his vehicle which flipped several times and ended up in the median of the highway in a southernly direction. 

Persad and his passenger were trapped in the vehicle. Fire Service officers had to use the jaws of life to free them.

Alexander, however, died while Persad was taken to the Chaguanas Emergency Department where he was transferred to Mt Hope Hospital. Persad died before he reached the hospital.

Visiting the scene were Highway Patrol and Freeport Police Station officers including Sgt John, PC Chapdeosingh, Cpl Nelson and PC Basdeo.

Cpl Nelson is investigating.

Taxi driver on 11 fraud charges

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 23:33

A taxi driver who allegedly stole over $25,000 from people by pretending to be foreign used car dealer was granted $50,000 approval bail after he appeared in court on 11 fraud charges.

Haimraj Narine, 39, of Macaulay Village, Claxton Bay, was also granted a cash bail alternative of $15,000 by San Fernando magistrate Nanette Forde-John. 

It is alleged that during the period July and August he took sums of money from people to provide them with vehicles which he did not deliver.

The charges included four counts of larceny by trick, three counts of forgery of valuable security and four charges of uttering a forged valuable security.

Narine, who gave himself up to Fraud Squad officer Insp Abbot at the San Fernando office last week Monday, was charged following investigations headed by Senior Supt Dookee and ASP Kent Ghiysawan. 

Narine was charged by WPC Plante and PC Legendre and first appeared in court last Wednesday, but he was remanded into custody for his fingerprints to be traced to determine if he had any other matters in court.

The matter was adjourned to October 20.

Pregnant teen girls will commit suicide

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 23:32

President of the T&T Chapter of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Karan Nancoo says suicide may be the only option for some teenage girls if the Hindu Marriage Act is repealed.

He made the comment yesterday while delivering the opening address at a symposium titled Awareness of the Pros & Cons of Child Marriage. The event, hosted by GOPIO, was held at Extra Foods building, Eleanor Street, Chaguanas,

Nancoo said very often some teenage girls find themselves pregnant with no alternative but marriage. 

He said the Hindu Marriage Act offers the young women option of marrying and raising a family. He told the gathering that many may agree to raise the age of marriage to 18. 

“I have heard a number of negatives why should you force a child to marry. Today according to the Hindu Marriage Act a young lady between the age 14 and 16 can legally get married with parental consent over the age of 16 she can get married on her own. The thing is we must respect people, we must respect children, we must respect everybody’s rights. There are many people who say, why must a child get married? that is time for school. But I will ask a different question, why must a 15-year-old girl become pregnant and nobody so far has found the solution to it?”

He said under the Act a young male can only get married at the age of 18. 

Nancoo said: “In an unfortunate circumstance where a girl child becomes pregnant she has the opportunity to get married if she so wishes, if the father of that child so wishes and if the parents allow it and that is a solution.” 

He said: “If law is to be passed to outlaw marriages under the age of 18 when a young lady becomes pregnant at the age of 15 what will take place? And trust me you will get massive suicides. Is that what we want for our young children or do we want in common terminology to patch it up and get her married. And if it is she commits suicide, the father of that child would have also committed an offence of statutory rape, he will be going to jail.” 

Nancoo said the Hindu Marriage Act does not force marriage on anyone.

Matt: Carmona wrong to use Republic message to deflect questions

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 23:29

The Media Association of T&T says President Anthony Carmona was wrong to use his Republic Day message to “deflect legitimate questions raised in the media about the use of public funds by President’s House.”

During his address, Carmona launched an attack on journalists who raised the issue involving the use of public funds by President’s House.

The association said yesterday “rather than demonstrating his commitment to transparency and accountability,” Carmona “regretfully chose to smear the work of journalists seeking to hold public officials to account.”

It said citizens of T&T have a constitutional right to freedom of expression, adding that social media commentators were not excluded from that right. 

The association: “No public official is spared valid, persistent questions and commentary. The era of not questioning high office holders has ended. 

“The association said it was responsible journalism that motivated reporters to try unsuccessfully and in different ways to get responses to public issues from Carmona. 

“Instead of a measured response to accumulating queries, the President opted to attack a noble profession,” the organisation added. 

The association said Carmona’s holding up of selected distinguished former journalists “to launch personal attacks” was “an affront.”

Matt said those distinguished former journalists “will vehemently oppose the President’s expansive effort to shoot the messenger, while ignoring legitimate public interest questions.”

No disciplinary action over WASA shutdown

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 04:49

Process Plant Operators (PPO) at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) will not be facing any disciplinary action and all working arrangements are to be normalised with immediate effect.

This was the agreement reached during continued crisis talks by the State-owned company and the representing union, the Public Services Association (PSA), on Thursday night. 

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was also signed by five representatives of each of the two parties, including WASA’s chief executive officer Alan Poon-King and PSA's president Watson Duke. The document promises that 14 issues will be addressed soon, including the procurement of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) kits within eight weeks.

An agreement was also reached for all fit testing/training for PPOs in the north, south and Tobago to be conducted within two weeks from September 22. Also, a crew of trained and fit-tested personnel is to be established to conduct chlorine operations pending the completion of fit testing/training for PPOs.

Every chlorine room is to be reviewed to ensure that it is consistent with industry standards within three months and based on the outcomes of the review, redesign will commence. 

Chlorine detection alarms and extractor fans are also to be installed at these installations within three weeks.

An audit, effective September 22, of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is expected to be completed within a week. PPE will be replaced/provided where required. The PPE comprises form-fitting gloves, full-face respirators, long-sleeved coveralls, steel-tipped boots and helmets.

With respect to security issues, it was agreed that a complete risk assessment of all plants, wells and intakes be conducted by the Security Department for the purpose of determining estate constable staffing requirements at various plants and a report will be provided within one week.

According to the MOU, the needs identified by this risk assessment will be implemented one week after September 29, that is, October 6. In the interim, Mobile Response Units attached to satellite centres shall be established to provide immediate security needs for the PPOs as well as “off” site facilities.

With respect to communication issues, telephone lines at the Las Lomas and Hollis Water Treatment Plant will be reinstated immediately. A radio will also be installed at the Matura Station to provide communication. At the Matura, Clarke Road and La Fortune installations, where a container exists, offices shall be built to accommodate the PPOs at these areas within four months.

On Wednesday night at about 9.30 pm, 75 per cent of WASA’s treatment plants and wells were shut down. WASA workers then made their way to WASA’s Public Education Centre building at Farm Road, St Joseph, where they met with Duke to discuss health and safety issues. They were later given a hearing by WASA’s chairman Romney Thomas, chief executive officer Alan Poon-King, and other executives, including members of the Board of Directors.

Talks resumed during the day on Thursday, ending at 9.45 pm.

Bracing for higher food prices

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 04:46

For Sarah Perez, who is the head of her household, it is a constant struggle to keep up with rising food prices.

Perez lives in Chaguanas with her daughter and two grandchildren.

Often, meals prepared are shared between the members of her household and her ex-husband who visits frequently.

“Things are very expensive. Everything gone up,” Perez said as she shopped for groceries at a Chaguanas supermarket.

Fast food, though sometimes cheaper than a home-cooked meal, is not a regular option for her family.

Yet, as prices increase, she cooks less.

“When I cook on Sunday, I cook enough so that it lasts until Wednesday. We don’t eat something different every day.”

Still, changes in lifestyle, though helpful to her pocket, does not ease the full effect of ever-increasing food prices.

“When I go to the grocery today I will pay $20 for something, by next week that same item is $30.”

She buys basic items such as oil, flour, rice and sugar in bulk, and budgets separately for this.

Even the items she buys in bulk are increasing in prices.

“I used to pay $95 for a sack of potatoes up to last year. Now it is $165. 

“I bought two chickens the other day and it cost me $140. Long time I could get three chickens for $100 but that doesn’t happen anymore.”

Her typical daily meal is rice, peas and a meat.

On Sundays, macaroni pie and callaloo is added to the mix.

Using cost saving measures like buying in bulk or double checking that soft drink is closed tightly after one use at home so it lasts longer are tactics Perez uses to ensure money is not wasted and she gets the most out of her purchases.

Food prices 

increasing steadily

Between August 2015 and August 2016, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) recorded an increase in food inflation by 7.6 per cent.

The rate of food inflation, according to the CSO’s Index of Retail Prices, has been rising steady over the one-year period.

While food inflation is not an indication of overall (headline) inflation, it does contribute to the figure.

More importantly to citizens, it reflects the change in prices, spending and household budgets and impacts the financial decisions they make daily.

The CSO’s figure for food inflation seems tame compared to the complaints of shoppers at local supermarkets, who unanimously felt that prices were increasing at ridiculous rates and in unpredictable manners.

Food inflation is naturally volatile as it depends on a number of variables. 

Comparing 2015 and 2016 prices

In 2015, one week before the national budget, the Business Guardian published prices for a list of items.

Last week, the Sunday Guardian got prices for 26 of these items and compared the totals, which showed a 22.3 per cent increase in this specific food basket over the course of one year.

A tin of crix moved from $110 in October 2015 to $140.69 in September 2016, although the 12.5 per cent VAT added to the item showed an increase to $123.75.

While a 10kg all purpose flour kept its 2015 price of $59.99, items like split peas increased from $16.95 for five lbs in 2015 to $19.85 in 2016.

Toilet paper moved from $87 for a 48 roll package, to $106.

The Guardian survey undertook a completely different methodology to the CSO. Where the Guardian used prices from one grocery in one specific part of the country, the CSO uses different types of data to arrive at an index.

Economist: Lower income groups more largely affected

Economist Dr Ronald Ramkissoon, in an interview with the Sunday Guardian on Friday, said the CSO index was not a change in the price, but a value computed which reflects the increase in prices.

“It takes into account that the expenditure of different people would be different.

“You might spend one per cent of budget and another person would spend ten per cent and that is taken into consideration.

“It is not taking the cost of items.”

He said the increase in food prices would impact different socio-economic groups in different ways.

“If I spend ten per cent of my salary on food and prices increase by nine per cent, that means something different to me, compared to someone where food is 40 per cent and 50 per cent of their income,” said Ramkissoon.

He said for lower income groups, food was a larger proportion in their basket of expenditure so it would matter more.

“There is that, but there are several issues around food prices, it is what people spend, whether they are spending because items are more nutritious or is more convenient.

“A lot of the expenditure on food is in fact hurting us rather than helping us across the board. You spend a lot on food but very little on nutrition.”

He said the cost of food and spending on food had a spinoff effect on how much the country spent on health and even on demands placed on Government and private sector companies for wage increases.

‘It’s expensive to eat healthy’

Perez admitted that she sometimes did not make the most efficient choices.

“Soft drinks are cheaper than juice,” she explains.

“It’s expensive to eat healthy.”

Still, she said she attempts to include proteins and starches and other nutritious items on her plate.

“I don’t use salads though. Lettuce is expensive.”

SATT: We anticipated 17-21 per cent rise

Supermarket Association President Dr Yunus Ibrahim said they had anticipated immediately following the budget that prices would increase by 17 to 21 per cent within the year.

“Some of it would be due to the VAT, and additional issues like access to US dollar but the prices are still trending upwards.

“The prices have been increasing slowly but surely. There was the US component, the increase in fuel so increased transportation costs, shipping and the removal of many of the food items from the zero-rated list.”

He said direct taxation had affected the cost of food.

“It has nothing to do with supply of the product, drought or scarcity. It’s a combination of things which have driven the prices up.”

He said while Government must be commended for not letting the dollar float too high, businesses wanted the value of the US to decrease further.

“Praise the Lord, they must be commended for not getting the dollar to float too high. We would like it to come down.”

‘Little trooper’ receives kidney from dad

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 04:43

While the gifts given two Christmases ago to other children her age may already have been tossed away and long forgotten, six-year-old Aaliyah Henry still cherishes the one given to her by her father.

In December 2014, Ancil Henry gave his youngest daughter Aaliyah a kidney and, in effect, the gift of life.

Aaliyah had just turned five years old when she underwent her kidney transplant surgery in Argentina.

It was a medical journey that began when Aaliyah was only one month old.

Last month, Guardian Media Ltd launched the Gift of Life, a campaign to promote public awareness about organ donations and transplants with the aim of encouraging citizens to augment this country’s donor pool.

This week we take a look at Aaliyah the “little trooper.”

Aaliyah was born on November 9, 2009, via caesarean section because she was a breech baby, her mother Laureen Thomas-Henry said. At just one month old Aaliyah began to cough continually.

“It was not a normal cough. You were hearing a gurgle like she was choking. I was panicked,” Thomas-Henry said.

Thomas-Henry said the family had a “terrible” Christmas that year because both of her daughters, Aaliyah and Ashley, were very ill.

Over a period of time, Aaliyah’s continual coughing was misdiagnosed by doctors as first whooping cough, crepitation, asthma and even acid reflux.

In June 2010 while Thomas-Henry was out of the country, Aaliyah was taken to the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital in Mt Hope after her eyes had swollen shut. Protein was discovered in Aaliyah’s urine.

The doctors prescribed some medicine to see if they could reduce the damage to Aaliyah’s kidney.

Thomas-Henry “started to send letters all over” seeking help for Aaliyah.

The Miami Children’s Hospital eventually got in contact with Thomas-Henry.

Following a biopsy, Aaliyah was diagnosed with Congenital Nephrotic Syndrome which occurs predominantly in families of Finnish origin.

Thomas-Henry was provided with a letter to give to local doctors saying that all the medication Aaliyah was given before did not really help and most likely made her kidneys worse.

A ticking time bomb

In 2012 Thomas-Henry received a backpay and took the family on vacation with the aim of Aaliyah getting a check-up at the Miami Children’s Hospital.

As Aaliyah landed in Miami she began to cough again. She was immediately warded and tests were done. 

“By that time her cholesterol was off the charts. Other things had started to fail also because Trinidad was just dealing with blood pressure and protein in urine, but when the doctors in Miami did their battery of tests her cholesterol was high and her other body functions were affected by her kidneys starting to decline so they literally said she was a ticking time bomb,” Thomas-Henry said.

In 2014 Republic Bank brought the United Kingdom-based Transplant Links Community to this country. Some more tests were done on Aaliyah.

“The verdict was that they needed to remove both kidneys, put her on dialysis because there was so much protein in her blood and do the transplant,” Thomas-Henry said.

This could not be done in this country, Thomas-Henry said.

Eventually a doctor from Argentina came here. Within a week Aaliyah was accepted as a patient at the Privado Hospital in Argentina.

The Children’s Life Fund paid for the surgery. Thomas-Henry and Ancil took a loan to take their other children, Adel and Ashley, with them. Aaliyah was placed on dialysis and eventually got her transplant on December 3, 2014.

Two days after Christmas, Aaliyah was discharged from the hospital. The entire family spent over three months in Argentina.

Thomas-Henry said her employer, National Insurance Property Development Company Limited, gave her the time to spend with her family. Work colleagues also helped financially. 

Rowley on his dismissal from Manning Cabinet: SHOCKED AND LET DOWN

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 00:17

Rosemarie Sant

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley dedicated a chapter in his book, From Mason Hall to Whitehall, to his dismissal from the Cabinet of the late prime minister Patrick Manning.

In a chapter titled NAPA and My Dismissal from the Cabinet, he recounts a standing joke which he shared with one of Mr Manning’s closest friends, Dr Lenny Saith, who often acted as Prime Minister in Manning’s absence. 

Rowley said he would often ask: “Saith, what have you done today boy to bring the Government down?” 

Saith would laughingly reply: “Boy you could blame everything on me. I could take it. I am not so sure you could deal with it.”

Those words would ring true when the issue of the hotel at Napa was put on the table and Rowley opposed it. It is now history that he was dismissed. Rowley admitted to being “shocked and let down” by his colleagues.

Dr Rowley recalled: “I would sit by myself in the Parliament tea room. The one person who would come and talk to me was Kelvin Ramnath. Donna Cox would come by sometimes and Junia Regrello was a bit more forthright but Kelvin Ramnath was my closest friend at work as it were.

He wrote: “Patrick Manning did some very good work, he was a hard worker, had high standards and the scandalous things that occurred under the People’s Partnership Government would never have happened under him.” 

Rowley said it appeared that Manning’s admiration for Calder Hart “made some ministers secondary in the thrust to get things done.” He felt Hart’s use of a small contractor to build the Brian Lara Promenade propelled him “into Patrick’s vision and he became his go-to man and the man in charge of getting his projects done.” 

Reflecting on the issue which got him fired, Rowley said at some point a hotel was inserted into construction plans for Napa and a minister brought a note to Cabinet on April 7, 2008. He believed the minister who brought the note to the Finance and General Purpose Committee (F&GP) “knew nothing about what was contained in that note.” He described her as a messenger.

Rowley said he objected to the hotel because “the PNM could not face another allegation of corruption or mishandling of public affairs.” The note was withdrawn and when Manning, who was out of the country at the time, returned he learnt that the note had not been passed. 

“A Rubicon had been crossed. Something had to give,” he wrote.

Two days after the note was rejected, Manning told Rowley he had reports “of me misconducting myself at F&GP.” He said he told him in no uncertain terms that “whoever told him that was not being truthful” and challenged Manning to bring the people who made the allegations against him into the room.

“I would have told them to their faces that they were lying,” he said.

An hour later, having canvassed the opinions of four ministers, Manning told Rowley his behaviour was described by one as “wajang.” Rowley defended himself, saying it was “a grotesque lie,” but Manning told him the President would be asked to revoke his ministerial appointment with immediate effect.

Rowley’s response was: “Well you know what to do. You have the authority to determine who sits in your Cabinet.”

He said he extended his hand to Manning and thanked him for the opportunity to serve but admitted he felt let down by his colleagues.

On April 23, Manning announced Rowley’s dismissal and told the country he had been “fired for conduct unbecoming of a minister.” 

Rowley said he took umbrage. 

“I was proud of my work as a minister and asked myself what was conduct unbecoming of a minister? How will my children wear this?” 

He was also concerned about his constituents in Diego Martin West.

Rowley said he went on the defensive, telling the media his dismissal had to do with “Udecott and lack of Cabinet oversight.”

Rowley writes that he never had an ambition to be political leader of the PNM but felt the party was going down the wrong road and the membership was powerless to intervene. In his view, “the membership must assert itself in the party.” 

Rowley said he was not “office crazy” and is happy with his life, his accomplishments, “what I look like and who I am.”

He views the leadership of the PNM as an “assignment, a responsibility.” 

While he is willing to forgive, he admits: “When forgiveness is finally exhausted I conceive of a pen filled with indelible ink and draw a line through the name of the person whom I think is no longer salvageable, is destructive and dangerous. I write you off!

“I give people every opportunity to redeem themselves; I don’t bear malice.”

Crime...a major budget concern

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 00:13

What Imbert said:

Crime: “Our first priority is to establish an optimal security apparatus, the broad elements of which the previous PNM administration had put in place to bolster the nation’s external and internal defences. A review of the systems, equipment and processes in place is now underway.”

As the fiscal year comes to an end on Friday, the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government, led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, is expected to deliver its second National Budget in the Parliament. The Sunday Guardian looks at the Ministries of National Security and Health and the plans that were announced in the last fiscal year and how successful they were in the delivery of those plans. The Ministry of National Security was given the largest allocation of $10.81 billion while the Health Ministry received the third highest of $6.088 billion. 

The budget presentation will be delivered by Finance Minister Colm Imbert. As the economic climate remains stagnant for the PNM adminstration, the population eagerly awaits government’s plans to increase revenue and to learn how monies will be expended on critical areas such as crime, health, education and investments. The fiscal package allocates money to run the affairs of the economy from October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017.

Efforts to contact Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon all of last week, via calls to his mobile, proved futile. 

Police Welfare Association:

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Insp Micheal Seales, said a priority for the association is to see the appointment of a Commissioner of Police. 

He said in the last year, there were discussions about the establishment of the Police Management Authority, the Police Inspectorate and the local constabulary.

“To date, the association is a bit concerned that those talks would have progressed to some measure but we are a bit bewildered as to when most of these ideas will flesh out,” he said.

He said the plans were to be done in conjuction with a manpower audit of the Police Service. 

Seales said, “The association is very concerned about the performance of the TTPS and more importantly the management of performance. We have held the view that these things are instrumental in turning the Police Service around and driving it to successful performance.

In the next fiscal year, the association is hoping to see the following:

1. Appointment of a CoP and his deputies;

2. Manpower performance audit of TTPS;

3. Settlement of outstanding arrears for officers; and

4. Introduction of the $1 million for families of officers slain in the line of duty. 

Former PSC head:

Former head of the Police Service Commission, Professor Ramesh Deosaran, said it was well known that the last three governments in particular had not done well in reducing crime in sustainable ways. 

He said, “Spikes up and down, here and there, are not the answer. We now look forward not only to expenditure quantities but to strategic systems, more professionally than politically driven, and well designed operational targets with fuller accountability. 

“The lump sum monies given to both National Security and Education should be more precisely targeted for such accountability.”

He said education and crime were intrinsically connected with up or down movements and it was high time that people recognised money was not all, but it was how it was used and accounted for. 

“This is ever more urgent given the financial challenges all around.”

National Security $10.81b

1. Establish Joint Border Patrol Agency to manage the security and integrity of our open and vulnerable borders. 

2. Establish a Police Management Agency with a mandate to develop the necessary leadership expertise, skills and professionalism. 

3. Introduce early legislation to amend the present procedures for the appointment of a Police Commissioner and his deputies. 

4. Partnership with regional corporations and Police Service to combat crime.

5. Establish Police Service Inspectorate.

6. Strengthen prison management. 

7. Re-engineer justice system.

Imbert: Govt to deal with FATCA after budget

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 00:06

Finance Minister Colm Imbert says the Government will proceed with the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill, 2016, in Parliament once the 2017 Budget is wrapped up.

Debate on the bill that would see this country complete measures in alignment with the United States FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) came to a standstill Friday when Opposition members walked out of Parliament.

FATCA is a US legislation which aims to prevent tax evasion by US taxpayers who use non-US financial institutions.

The act demands banks, investment funds and other financial firms outside the US to report the details of any accounts they hold for US taxpayers.

In August, 210,057 financial institutions in more than 200 countries had registered as FATCA compliant, with 87 of those institutions located in T&T.

However, Government needs to pass legislation to bring the intergovernmental agreement into effect. The deadline to pass the legislation is September 30.

Speaking to reporters yesterday following a Day of Prayer event at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Imbert said he was hopeful he would get a response from US authorities soon regarding his request for an extension.

“Our counterpart that we deal with is returning to office on Monday. We expect a response by next week,” Imbert said.

Asked about the next step, Imbert said the Government would wait on a response from the US.

Ghany: JSC needed, legislation needs 

to ber passed

In an interview yesterday, political analyst Hamid Ghany said a Joint Select Committee (JSC) would have been the ideal measure for the Government and Opposition to discuss the legislation.

“I think that the issue of a Joint Select Committee that had been promised by the Minister of Finance seems to have been overruled internally and is no longer an option that is being pursued,” said Ghany.

He said, however, a JSC would have accommodated all of the views in one setting and if Government had stuck to Imbert’s announcement of a JSC on September 12, there would have been ample time for a JSC to have met on several occasions before next week.

“A JSC is the ideal option. All entities deserve to be included in such a discussion and civil society groups can be interviewed by the JSC.”

Ghany said it was a mystery why the option to have a JSC had been withdrawn. 

“I think that the legislation needs to be passed. 

“The argument that is being made from the Opposition is that there are clauses in the bill that overreach the powers that should be there, that would confine it to US citizens only, and whether T&T citizens should have a minister being able to go into their bank account,” Ghany said.

Family distressed by ‘reckless tips’

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 00:03

As the search for Debe hairstylist Ria Sookdeo continued yesterday, her husband, Mark Sookdeo, made a teary-eyed and desperate appeal to her abductors to return her to their family.

“I’m here today pleading to those who have abducted my wife to please return her home to her family. Please, I am begging, I am pleading to those people to give in, please return Ria Sookdeo home to her family,” Mark said at his Raghoo Village home.

Eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep, his body frail from not eating, Mark said no one could describe the pain his family was feeling. His innocent five-year-old son, Torres, pranced around the yard as relatives cleaned, but nine-year-old Elana has been crying since learning of her mother’s abduction.

Around 8.30 am Thursday, Sookdeo dropped off the children at the Picton Presbyterian Primary School and drove her red Nissan X-Trail SUV to Picton Estate Drive to turn. That was when a black Nissan X-Trail pulled up behind, blocking her path. Two gunmen wearing tactical clothing bundled her into their SUV and drove off.

At his Philippine home yesterday, her father, Frankie Rajkumar, wept. 

“I never thought this would have reached home to me, I am devastated. I really don’t know, I just want my daughter back home with me,” Rajkumar said.

Police upset 

On Friday night, relatives got a tip-off that someone saw her tied up in an abandoned building in Cedros. 

When they checked, she was not there. Officers said a lot of people were giving false information, which has distressed the family. 

Police said while they continue to seek the public’s assistance in finding Sookdeo, people should be responsible with the information they share. On Friday, Sookdeo’s photograph was shared on Facebook with the poster saying that she was found dead in New Grant. 

However, police said that was not true. Searches were made in Princes Town, Cedros, Palo Seco, Chatham, Barrackpore, Moruga and Penal.

Spiritual people have been pointing relatives to southeast and southwest Trinidad, saying that their visions showed sea and a foreign country. An investigator told the T&T Guardian yesterday that they were focusing on intelligence gathering. 

“We are getting one to two tips that people saw her on the beach or walking here and there which has been reckless. We are asking people to be professional and be honest about what they are saying and seeing because they are allowing law enforcement agencies to waste resources,” the investigator said.

They said it was unlikely that she would be a victim of human trafficking and smuggled into Venezuela, where there is a severe economic depression. They added that Venezuela’s coast guard, La Guardia Nacional, patrols the water frequently and it would cost between $10,000 and $20,000 to ship someone across.

Anyone with information is asked to contact these numbers: 652–2858, 679-3165, 800-8477.

Health ...more expenditure needed

Sat, 09/24/2016 - 23:53

What Imbert said:

Health: “Our public health facilities, with deteriorating infrastructure, are not patient-friendly and with acute shortages of medical personnel the patient experience leaves much to be desired. We will review the existing hospital strategy through a scientific evidence-driven Hospital Construction and Refurbishment Plan and, where necessary, we will refurbish and modernise our existing ageing plant and will construct new heath facilities where they are required.”


A 29-year-old pregnant mother from Point Fortin called on the Government to bring the Point Fortin Hospital up to standards

The mother of two, Ashley, said the hospital was “unacceptable” in these modern times. She rated the hospital, its facilties and services, four out of ten. She said at any given time, the hospital would have about 40 pregnant women while the Sangre Grande Hospital, where she delivered her two children, had about 150.

She said Point Fortin has two available doctors while Sangre Grande had nine. 

“Now that I am in Point Fortin, I get to the clinic around 6.30 am and start triage and then I wait until 9 am for the first doctor to show up and we sit and wait for a really long time,” she said.

Ashley’s platelet count also drops from time to time so she does regular blood tests. She described herself as a “complicated patient.”

“They do not have basic, required stuff. The cesspit stinks up the clinic. The staff tries its best though with limited resources. The place is hot, there’s no air-condition. It’s a hospital in the 80’s.”

In May 2015, former health minister Dr Fuad Khan turned the sod to begin construction of the $1.2 billion Point Fortin Hospital in Egypt Village.

Ashley hopes to see the following:

*More doctors;

*More efficient service;

*Modern facilities; and 

*Better lighting and ventilation in maternity ward.

Nursing Association:

President of the T&T Registered Nurses Association, Gwendolyn Loobie-Snaggs, said the year gone by in health was “most challenging.”

She said there were too many incidents of “ill-health issues” which were unfavourable for the public, healthcare professionals and moreso nurses.

“I would like to see for this upcoming Budget a little more towards health because it is crucial at this time when we are experiencing new diseases and viruses. If, as the minister indicated, that diabetes is the second highest cause of death, then it means that we have to have a new approach in terms of how we deal with chronic diseases,” she said.

The population is ageing, life expectancy is longer, and as a result, she said, healthcare should be better planned.

Loobie-Snaggs said hospitals and other health institutions should be looked after properly in terms of their management, changes and structures so that healthcare could be delivered efficiently and effectively. 

She said the Finance Minister should take a “stringent approach” when allocating to health. However, she said, while she understood the country’s economic challenges, “we cannot afford to be cutting, cutting, cutting in crucial areas.”

She added that unhealthy people cannot lead to a healthy nation. 

The association’s expectations are as follows:

*Equality in service;

*Reduction in waiting time;

*Up-to-date technology to meet the needs of the population;

*Allocation of ten per cent more.

DOMA president:

Giving an overview of his expectations, Downtown Owners & Merchants Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud said T&T finds itself in a very difficult position and the association was concerned that this difficult condition should not become more difficult by failure to take in the early term the necessary action to stave off a possible economic calamity.

He said the fact was that the Government had grown accustomed to “heavy, excessive spending” and the population also, so the need at this time was for the Government to curtail spending money which it could not raise.

“It’s also for the country to increase its productive output and for us to learn to live with less than we have lived with in the last ten or 15 years,” he said.

Aboud said the association was hopeful that whatever strategies the Minister of Finance employed would not send a negative message to those who were waiting on the sidelines, trying to decide if to pursue investments or not. 

He said, “We clearly need a combination of sensible expenditure by the Government and strategies to encourage productive output, especially the improvement in productivity.”

Ministry of health $6.09b

1. Address the shortage of medical personnel immediately.

2. To establish universal health coverage for the national community.

3. To expedite surgeries and expand and improve the CDAP

4. To review and audit the Children’s Life Fund

Carmona attacks media

Sat, 09/24/2016 - 23:47

President Anthony Carmona took traditional and social media to task yesterday as he slammed newspapers for becoming “garbage dumps” and lamented the rise of “armchair journalism.”

Carmona has now called on all law-abiding citizens to take a stand as he declared that “enough is enough.”

Over the past week Carmona has been called upon to answer questions about the purchase of Italian wine bottled with the embossed label “Presidential House Sparkling Wine, Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago” and bearing the country’s coat of arms as well as his decision to have a meeting with National Security Minister Edmund Dillon without reference to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Carmona, who has signalled his intention to address the queries tomorrow, yesterday warned those in the Mercy Village at the Jean Pierre Complex, Port-of-Spain, of the “slings and arrows” they will face in life.

Carmona’s address at Mercy Village was his first jab at the media.

The Mercy Village which was launched yesterday was organised in the name of the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain as part of the church’s celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. 

The Mercy Village is aimed at encouraging the nation's youth to take a more active role in the country's development.

“We must ensure that we in fact become creatures of empathy, compassion, selflessness. And service to humanity must be our philosophy because ladies and gentlemen we will in fact suffer the slings and arrows of those who are holding on to the Devil’s tail and there are many in our society who would not countenance good when they see it, who will condemn good when it comes knocking on their door, who will in fact pervert the descriptions of what is in fact being done for the good of Trinidad and Tobago and this happens throughout the world,” Carmona said.

“That is why ladies and gentlemen, young men and women we have to evangelise on a different level, we have to tell the newspapers and social media and all of them that enough is enough. We have to tell the CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) and the managing directors and the editors of newspapers that in fact your newspaper is not a garbage dump because I remember, I remember ladies and gentlemen when in fact I saw an article where they referred that there are in this world two St Thomas ‘Aquinasses’ and my religion was mocked, my Christianity was mocked and I felt in the circumstances that will not deter me from invoking the power of God in public places and we must not be afraid of our religion, we must not in fact concede to those who are non-believers to those who are agnostics, to those who are doubting Thomases because you know what ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we believe in the power of God, we believe that in fact there is a God that will bring miracles to this land of ours,” he said.

In his Republic Day address to the nation Carmona continued his criticism of the media as he slammed those who engage in “armchair journalism.”

Carmona said “moral authority” is diminishing in this country.

“On this Republic Day, I ask you citizens to remember some of the great journalists and television personalities of the past. To name a few, George John, John Babb, Therese Mills, Hazel Ward, Holly Betaudier and Owen Baptiste. They continue to be my standard and I feel they must become our standard. Their stewardship was marked by civility, probity, comity, simple good manners and decency. There is simply too much journalistic overreach going on today,” Carmona said.

“There are some journalists, and I repeat some, who denigrate without evidential basis engaged in armchair journalism who hear something by the way and it becomes reliable news. There are persons in reality media, who are bad examples for our children and the youth of this nation,” he said.

“Decent, law-abiding citizens must take a stance because it appears that offensive is in and decency is out. Theirs has become the language of obscenity and racial slurs—yes, that small circle that is leading the national dialogue, you are not the voice of the people because you have unfettered and unfair access to the press and media, because you have created vlogs and videos that rely for viewership and followers, not on proper and responsible research and wisdom, but on distortions and sensationalism. Fairness, respect and international knowledge are still very much in and will always be the standard and foundation of a progressive society,” Carmona said.

Gumbs seeks legal advice on Rowley’s book

Sat, 09/24/2016 - 23:42

Rosemarie Sant 

A former journalist who has been immortalised in a book written by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley titled From Mason Hall to Whitehall is seeking legal advice on the contents in a chapter of the book in which political allegations have been made about her. 

Eight paragraphs of the chapter “Institutional Failure and Political Nastiness” have been dedicated to former journalist Anika Gumbs and detail a visit to Rowley’s Diego Martin home for an interview. 

Gumbs told the Sunday Guardian she had “informed her attorney Nizam Mohammed about the matter” and referred all questions to him. 

Mohammed confirmed he had “a phone conversation with Ms Gumbs” whom he is also representing in a matter between Gumbs and the Sunshine newspaper over similar allegations. He gave no further information, only adding that he has a heavy workload at this time. 

In August last year, Gumbs, through her attorney, initiated legal action against the Sunshine newspaper for what she described as malicious attacks designed to deliberately defame her character. 

The pre-action protocol letter to the newspaper demanded an apology, a sum in “exemplary” damages for injury to her reputation, and legal costs of $15,000. Mohammed confirmed there has been no case management hearing in this matter. 

In his book, launched on September 17, Rowley made claims about contracts, a mansion and a luxury vehicle. He also goes into detail about a visit by Gumbs to his home in April 2015 at her request to discuss a story she was working on. 

He said he asked his trusted assistant Cleveland Howell who was at home with him to let her into the family room when she arrived. He said, “She fidgeted and nattered without engaging me in any serious conversation. She asked me a couple of nondescript questions about nothing that I found particularly interesting.” 

Rowley said he found it curious that “nothing that was being said was so sensitive that it could not have been raised over the phone,” but he said he thought nothing sinister about it at the time. 

That is until the Express carried a story in which Gumbs reported to her editor-in-chief that she had been to his house in pursuit of her job and he had made comments to her that were “so inappropriate and that so traumatised her that she had to enter a counselling programme.” 

Rowley said she indicated that “when she arrived at my house I greeted her bareback at the gate and upon hearing that she was being stalked I offered to guard her bedroom.” 

He said, “According to her I was also interested in knowing about some tattoo she had on some exposed part of her body. She also alleged that I praised her sucrose or saccharin levels when a bee inadvertently landed on her.” 

According to him, “This was too much.” 

He alleged that the incident was linked to the NO ROWLEY campaign launched by the then PP government. 

He said he felt she came to his home “with a plan to accuse me of something very serious which would have seen me possibly being arrested and certainly scandalised for some sexual assault and in which case I most certainly would have been out of the election race.” 

But he said the “unexpected presence of Cleveland caused her to concoct an unbelievable tale." 

In her resignation letter to Express Editor-in-Chief Omatie Lyder in early August 2015, Gumbs detailed three meetings with Rowley—one at the office of the then Opposition Leader in January, and two other meetings at his private home on April 9 and April 21. 

She alleged that at the April 9 meeting he touched her on the back while asking about her tattoo and on April 21 Rowley asked about being a bodyguard outside her bedroom. She also said he was bareback during their meeting. (See Page A8)

Rowley responds: 

Tell her to read Nike ad

When told last evening via text message that Gumbs was contemplating legal action with regard to comments he made in his book about her, Rowley’s response was, “Contemplate? Tell her to read the Nike advertisement! I would welcome her return from under whichever stone she has crawled out from under.”

(With reporting by Kalifa Clyne)