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Although the current administration has continued to place much emphasis on the provision of education across all levels, senior government officials have said that it is simply impossible to continue the wholesale funding for the tertiary sector due to several pressing reasons.
Chief among the reasons was the current economic constraints which necessitated an urgent revision of the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme and the fact that that a comprehensive review had not been undertaken since its introduction in 2004.
GATE was a replacement for the UNC’s Dollar-for-Dollar Education Plan which started in 2001.
Blasting the People’s National Movement (PNM) for its part in what he dubbed an “erosion” of decades of progress of the education system, former Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim yesterday accused them of successively dismantling the system within the last two years.
However, in an immediate rebuttal - Education Minister Anthony Garcia responded that the PNM remained committed to providing an education for as they adhered to the mandate of the 2000 Dakar Commitment to Education for All.
Pointing out that tertiary education participation had increased from eight per cent in 2002 to an estimated 65.23 per cent in 2015, Garcia said the targeted tertiary participation rate of at least 60 per cent by 2015 has therefore, been exceeded.
He said, “The current level of tertiary participation compares favourably with the rate for developed countries.”
Karim argued that the incompetence and negligence of the PNM had brought T&T closer to a failed state as prior to GATE and Dollar-for-Dollar, many middle income and working-class families could not have afforded tertiary education.
This was immediately refuted by Garcia who said, “In 2016, the GATE Programme was reviewed in order to ensure sustainability of funding. The National Consultations on Education and a Task Force were instrumental in assisting the Government in its review.”
“It was noted that most of the recipients of the GATE Programme are from families which fall in the middle to high income groups of the society.”
Garcia said declining local and global energy prices had led to concerns over the sustainability of current expenditure levels via the GATE Programme.
He added: “Currently, the Government is experiencing significant reductions in revenues and foreign exchange earnings as a result of the falling prices of oil and gas.”
Garcia said when the GATE Programme was first introduced, oil prices ranged from US $40 to US$ 50 per barrel.
Garcia stressed: “Students whose monthly household income is less than $10,000 will be fully funded under the GATE Programme.”
“Where the household income is above $10,000 per month but less than $30,000, students will be eligible for 75 per cent of tuition fees. Students whose household income exceeds $30,000 per month will be required to pay 50 per cent of tuition fees”
He went on further that while means testing is optional; those not wishing to complete the application would be required to pay 50 per cent of their tuition fees.
Meanwhile, in order to assist students with tuition fees if required, the loan ceiling for the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) was increased from $25,000 to $35,000 for students studying locally.
The minister said only a small percentage of the student population, that being three per cent, had accessed loans in the past.
He said in this regard, Government was guided by current national economic challenges but had also agreed to consider a more holistic calculation of means testing by August 2018, taking into consideration other factors such as the size of student’s household and household assets.
From the inception of the GATE Programme in 2004 up to the 2015/2016 academic year, Government has spent over $6.3 billion covering programmes that range from Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) to PhD studies.
The Prisons Officers Association has called for the resignation of National Security Minister Edmund Dillon as they stepped up their demands for better conditions, particularly at the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) in Golden Grove, Arouca.
They also called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to intervene, saying they could no longer work under such adverse conditions including no alarm at the MSP resulting in their lives being at continuous risk.
At a press conference held outside the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca yesterday, association members were supported by heads of various trade unions including the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), Postal Workers Association, Fire Officers Association, Amalgamated Workers Union and the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union.
Addressing members of the media president of the Prisons Officers Association, Ceron Richards, accused Dillon of not caring about the safety of officers, saying the (MSP) had been functioning without an alarm system for the longest while.
Richards said there were about 3,800 inmates of which 1,700 comprised the remand population.
Describing prisons conditions Richards said, “All of our prisons are suffering from lack of infrastructural development. Our systems are old and we have a $6 billion budgetary allocation every year and we are still in this situation where the prisons cannot fulfil its mandate.
“Gates are malfunctioning. There is no alarm at MSP and we are continuing in an untenable situation. We wrote to the Prime Minister and we are asking for one thing....fire that minister of national security.”
Richards described Dillon as being “unresponsive” to the plight of “inmates, officers and the prison system.”
“He is very busy doing absolutely nothing for the Prisons Service. We want the Prime Minister to know you have a national issue on your hands,” Richards added.
He said while Rowley was “up and down the country talking about crime prevention” the heart of the matter lay with an efficient prison service.
But if such a service was non-existent then crime prevention would be crippled, Richards said.
President General of the OWTU Ancil Roget said safety of citizens was everybody’s business and restorative justice must also play a key role in shaping a healthy society.
He urged that priority must be given in establishing judicial court space to ensure justice would always be delivered on time.
“The Prime Minister was written to about the state of our nation’s prisons and we could be looking at a serious eruption in the prisons and when that happens then everybody would blame everybody else.
“If we do not fix our prisons people would go in and come out worse than when they went in. We are the ones incarcerated in our homes while the bandits roam free,” Roget said.
Yesterday also marked the two- year anniversary of the July 24, 2015 jail break when three prisoners—Allan ‘Scanny’ Martin, Hassan Atwell, and Christopher ‘Monster’ Selby shot their way out of the Port-of-Spain prison.
A disciplinary tribunal was appointed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to probe the conduct of three officers, Acting Superintendent of Prison Wilbert Lovell and Prison Officer Twos Lancelot Duntin and Mervyn Pierre.
Last week at a press conference, also held by the association, attorney Farid Scoon who is representing Lovell and Duntin, said he wrote to the commission and was still waiting on “full disclosure” from the PSC as he was yet to receive documents and statements.
Efforts to contact Dillon were unsuccessful.
A third man has been charged with the murders of Haffiza Rose Mohammed 56, and 13-year-old school boy Videsh Subar.appeared before Magistrate Gloria Jasmath in the Arima court.
Devon Edwards appeared before Magistrate Gloria Jasmath yesterday charged with the crime. He is also charged with robbery with aggravation.
On July 17, Solomon Baksh, younger brother of murder victim Haffiza Rose Mohammed and his co-accused Wayne Liverpool of North Eastern Settlement, Ojoe Sangre Grande appeared before Magistrate Gloria Jasmath and were remanded in prison to make their next court appearance on August 14.
Edwards, who was dressed in blue jersey and blue jeans, kept turning his head smiling with a woman who was sat in the courtroom.
The charges were laid by PC Danny Moonsammy of Homicide Bureau Region 11, Arouca.
Mohammed, 56, and her neighbour Subar, were both found bound, with their throats slit at Mohammed’s, Ajim Baksh Trace, Malabar, Arima home on June 28. Mohammed was a caretaker of Subar since he was a baby
Edwards is also accused of robbing the victims of cellphones, power tools, a flatscreen television, TT$10,000, US$900 jewelry among other items. Edwards was not represented and he will join his other two accomplices when they will all return to court on August 14.
Shopping on High Street, San Fernando, came to a standstill yesterday morning as bandits shot a security guard who attempted to stop them from carrying out a daring daylight heist at a jewelry store.
Shoppers scampered as a shots rang out, shattering the mid morning peace.
Screams echoed from store attendants and shoppers alike, as Matthew Pierre, 41, fell to the ground with a bullet in his leg, as he made a brave attempt to stop the theft.
Up until yesterday evening, Pierre was warded in stable condition at the San Fernando General Hospital.
According to a police report, around 11.30 am, three men entered Jemtel Jewellery Store located in RRM Plaza on High Street.
One of them jumped over the glass counter and unpacked several trays which contained gold and diamond rings and chains.
As the men ran out the building with the loot, Pierre, the unarmed security guard, attempted to stop them. However, this act of bravery was rewarded with a bullet to his leg.
With the guard down, frightened shoppers and workers alike stepped aside giving the bandits free passage to run through Carlton Centre on the opposite side of High Street, and up to St James Street, where they disappeared.
Pierre, who began to suffer shock from heavy blood loss, was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Police swooped down on the scene and gave chase, but up until late evening, no one had been held in connection with the crime.
Insp Don Gajdhar, Insp Steve Persad, Sgt Dale Ramroop and Sgt Natasha Morrison responded and took statements from several witnesses.
CCTV footage from the plaza and surrounding businesses was also obtained. Sgt Ramroop is continuing investigations.
In an immediate response, San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello said while he did not have all of the facts, he was very concerned by the event.
He thanked God that Pierre was alive and did not have to pay the price for his bravery with his life.
Regrello said citizens had to be more aware of the risks and challenges as bandits became more desperate.
He said: “I know the police are working very hard to increase patrols in the dense areas where we have business.
“I will be in touch with the police in terms of how we increase surveillance and deter those who may have ill intentions in the future.
“In terms of people clamouring for the presence of soldiers, I would, of course, make a request to the Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon, as we get into the Divali and Christmas season.”
A 23-year-old car wash owner was killed on Saturday night and his girlfriend shot in the abdomen because they were in a “strange car” in a not too friendly neighbourhood, according to police and relatives.
Speaking with the media at the Forensic Science Centre, St James yesterday, relatives of Terry Alleyne said the last of five children was not involved in anything illegal. Police also confirmed that they had nothing on Alleyne.
Police said Alleyne, of Julien Terrace, Majuba Cross Road, Petit Valley, was at Cameron Hill, Petit Valley, around 10.30 pm when a yellow band maxi pulled in the path of the Nissan B14 he was in and opened fire.
He was shot four times and his girlfriend Shinelle Piango, was shot once. Both were taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital where Alleyne died while being treated. Piango is warded in a stable condition, police said.
Relatives said Alleyene went to the area to drop off two children who attended a birthday party and because of a shooting in the area recently involving police and they believed the unprovoked attack was as a result of men in the area wary of being targets. Police said they suspected that Alleyne was targeted because he was not from the area.
Cameron Hill, police said, is a known crime hot spot area in the Western Division.
The relatives said Alleyene was well liked by all and loved children but did not have any of his own.
His killing is recorded by the Homicide Bureau as murder 271, for the same period last year there were 256 murders.
Justice David Harris, sitting in the San Fernando High Court, will begin hearing an application for judicial review brought by former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar against the Judicial and Legal Service Commission and the President on Thursday (July 27).
In hearing what will be a landmark case, the judge, who has presided over criminal cases in the main, will become a household name.
So who exactly is Harris?
Harris was 52 years old when he took the oath as a Puisne judge from former President George Maxwell Richards on November 1, 2010. He was assigned to the San Fernando High Court.
Harris studied law at the Cave Hill, Barbados campus of the University of the West Indies and at the Norman Manley Law School in Kingston, Jamaica. He was a magistrate and served in the Port-of-Spain, Arima, San Fernando and Mayaro courts. His career, however, spanned service in several Caribbean islands. Harris was the acting chief magistrate in Dominica, Crown Counsel in the Attorney General’s office in the British Virgin Islands and in Dominica and was a prosecutor in the Magistrates Courts of Jamaica.
He is also a former lecturer of the Hugh Wooding Law School, where he taught Ethics, Legal Obligations and Status and Rights.
Harris resigned his post as a High Court Judge in the Antigua and Barbuda High Court in October 2010 and three weeks later, on November 1, he took the oath as a High Court judge in Trinidad.
In the recent past, Harris, sitting in San Fernando, sentenced a Mayaro father to 20 years in jail for committing five sex acts on his four daughters. In the Scarborough Court he also sentenced a man accused of fatally stabbing a secondary school student to 20 years imprisonment.
Attorneys, who spoke with the T&T Guardian on condition of anonymity, said they are not sure Harris is the man to hear the case involving Ayers-Caesar but noted the case fell into his docket because of the random computer selection process.
...Six affected matters may be ready for restart
Of the 20-plus cases that acting chief magistrate Maria Busby-Earle Caddle said she would have to re-start following the Marcia Ayers-Caesar fiasco, six may be ready to start afresh after the transcripts to them were made available yesterday.
Early last month, Busby-Earle Caddle said she had been tasked with restarting the matters as Ayers-Caesar’s was no longer a magistrate. Many accused and their attorneys objected, however, saying she had no legal authority to do so. But the lawyers and their clients still requested the transcripts of the court proceedings despite their objection. The transcripts will be used once the matters restart and will be re-read into the record as official evidence to prevent each witness from having to testify and be cross-examined a second time, ultimately delaying the already drawn out cases.
Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC was absent from court yesterday. He too requested the transcripts of the cases now in limbo, but was not of the view they had to be restarted in the absence of any official documentation from the Judiciary saying Ayers-Caesar had resigned. Gaspard can avoid a restart of the preliminary enquiries and indict the accused (sending the matters to the High Court) or set them free. He added that without any paper trail proof that Ayers-Caesar was no longer part of the magistracy his hands were essentially tied.
Angry shouts echoed outside the Siparia Magistrates’ Court yesterday, as Yucklan Sancaro confronted Anthony Sinanan, the man charged with murdering her son David Sancaro.
As Sinanan, 37, of South Oropouche, was being led out of the court and into a police vehicle after his appearance, a stern-faced Yucklan stood at the side shouting at him.
The father of two had earlier appeared before Siparia First Court Magistrate Margaret Alert, charged with murdering Sancaro, 17, of Belle View, South Oropouche, along the Southern Main Road, Otaheite, on July 16.
Following the advice of deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Joan Honore-Paul last Friday, Sgt Adesh Gokool laid the charge against Sinanan, who worked as a driller at Well Services Ltd.
Alert explained that the charge was laid indictably, so Sinanan was not called upon to plead nor could he access bail. She adjourned the matter to August 21.
Sinanan’s attorney, Dane Halls, requested disclosure from the station diary in connection with the report Sinanan made at the Oropouche Police Station following the incident, after he allegedly knocked him down with his Ford Ranger pick-up. He also asked the court to take note of the media reports that were published before and after Sinanan was charged, saying that some of the details were erroneous. He asked Alert to warn the media against publishing material that had the potential to prejudice the right of the accused to a fair trial and which has the potential to prejudice the State’s case. Halls said now that Sinanan had been charged, the matter was now sub judice. However, Alert said she was certain that the Halls’ airing of his concerns would suffice and that she believed the media understood sub judice.
Speaking to the media following the matter, Halls said he voiced his concerns with the court as a pre-trial issue because he believed the publicity of the incident was negative. He said if the matter advances to the High Court, Sinanan would be judged by his peers, who could have been prejudiced by media reports. He said he also planned to write to the Commissioner of Prisons Sterling Stewart, as he feared that Sinanan would not be safe, given the threats he has seen on social media. He said Sinanan has already reported the threats to the police and he was not sure why it was not investigated.
“What I recognised the media has done over the past week… even up to yesterday, they carried a negative report, which suggests that my client rolled over the victim in the matter and reversed again on top of him. That is not the police’s case, that has not been my instructions and that was never put to the accused in the interview I had with the police and my client. That clearly is misinformation that only served to get the public to the certain level of outrage,” Halls said.
“My client has been receiving threats as a result of that and we have now this untamed social media where people believe that they can make all sorts of negative comments and not be mindful of the fact that a matter has to go through due process. My client is before the court, he has been charged and all we are asking is that the media are mindful.”
He added, “I understand that the certain section of the population is outraged and the only reason I can possibly explain the outrage is because of the misinformation that they may have.”
Attorneys for Chief Justice Ivor Archie are expected to move for an adjournment to give them time to review and file affidavits in the landmark case of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar versus the Judicial and Legal Service Commission and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
The T&T Guardian has been reliably informed that the CJ’s team will include Senior Counsel Deborah Peake, Russell Martineau and Reginald Armour when the matter is called before Justice David Harris on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Registrar of the High Court yesterday confirmed to Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC that there is no gag order on the matter. Maharaj had written to the Registrar on the issue last week, after reading media reports which suggested the documents in the case had been sealed although he made no such request.
Ayers-Caesar has alleged in sworn affidavits obtained by the T&T Guardian, among other things, that she was forced by the CJ and the JLSC to either resign or be removed. Legal sources told the T&T Guardian that had she chosen not to resign, the JLSC would have invoked section 137 of the Constitution, which speaks to how a judge is removed. Given the JLSC’s public pronouncement that Ayers-Caesar had been less than truthful about the part heard matters which were before her at the time of her elevation to the Supreme Court, the JLSC would have started proceedings against her for misbehaviour in public office.
But one former judge said while Ayers-Caesar’s affidavits are sworn statements that she was forced to sign a resignation letter, they are not enough to trigger section 137 against the Chief Justice. The former judge acknowledged, however, that the affidavits establish that the CJ “used force, and undue pressure, that is not the way for a Chief Justice to behave and could be viewed as misconduct.”
An important component of the case, according to the former judge, is the evidence of the two former judges who were members of the JLSC at the time, Justices Roger Hamel-Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer. Both men have since resigned, but the T&T Guardian was told they will have to submit affidavits and if called to give evidence will have to do so.
Israel Khan SC yesterday agreed Stollmeyer and Hamel-Smith “are the most important witnesses in this matter.”
He said, “They cannot abdicate their responsibility because they were sitting members of the JLSC when the matter arose.”
Khan, however, did not share the view of Martin Daly SC that the CJ and head of the Public Service Commission Maureen Manchouk should resign, since he said they are “automatic members of the JLSC by virtue of the offices which they hold.”
Khan said the contents of the affidavits have now cemented his call for the police to investigate the matter. He said while there are calls for the Prime Minister to use his authority under the Constitution to initiate a tribunal “the Prime Minister cannot set up an inquiry without evidence that the CJ did something radically wrong. That requires a police investigation.”
Khan said he found it instructive that “Maharaj has signalled that the worse that could happen is that Ayers-Caesar could lose in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. It is an indication that he feels she may not get a fair trial locally, but he is sure he will win at the Privy Council.”
Former High Court Judge Herbert Volney is also of the view that the Commissioner of Police must act based on the information contained in the affidavits which are now in the public domain. Speaking on the CNC3’s Morning Brew yesterday, Volney said the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard also “cannot continue to say and do nothing about it because he has taken an oath to defend the law and the Constitution.”
Volney is also of the view that things have “ripened,” since the meeting of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. While he said the Prime Minister cannot rush in to set up a tribunal, he said Rowley must guard against the public losing further confidence in the judicial process. He said Rowley should “call in the Attorney General and the AG must speak to the DPP to get the considered opinion of the Commissioner of Police.”
A Chaguanas man was killed by a security guard yesterday afternoon, after he and another man attempted to rob a casino.
According to police reports, around 3 pm Vishnu Dowlath, of Enterprise, Chaguanas, went to the Lucky Phoenix along Tobago Road, Enterprise and attempted to rob the casino. However, one of the guards confronted him, there was an exchange of gunfire and Dowlath was hit. Dowlath died at the scene but the other man escaped, police said.
In an unrelated incident, Jelani Martins, a high profile member of the Unruly Isis gang, was shot three times, including once in the face his autopsy found yesterday. Martins was shot once in the nose, chest and abdomen, with each bullet exiting the back, pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov explained. Alexandrov said he also took swabs of Martins’ hand for gun powder residue.
Police officers assigned to the Central Division said they were on patrol along the Caroni Savannah Road, near Sheldon’s Auto, at about 3.30 pm last Friday when they were allegedly shot at by a man who was standing with another man on the pavement. Police said they returned fire and later found Martins, 25, lying on the ground with gunshot wounds about his body. Martins was taken to the Chaguanas Health Facility where he later died.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Islamic Front head Umar Abdullah said the father of one was the victim of an extra-judicial killing and all the evidence they have will be handed over to the Police Complaints Authority today. He said the evidence includes eyewitness statements and video footage of the shooting. Martins was buried yesterday.
Valencia residents were left in shock yesterday, after a senior citizen was found dead on her bed, naked and with her hands tied behind her back and her throat slit.
Elizabeth Susan Lewis, 60, of Old Valencia Road, Valencia, was found around 6 pm by her son-in-law Steve Miguel and daughter Christine, who had gone to drop food for her and clean the surroundings of the her wooden house. On their arrival at the house, her son-in-law and daughter found the front door partially opened.
When they went inside they found Lewis dead on her bed and called the Sangre Grande police.
Lewis was reportedly living by herself in the wooden house, which has no electricity or pipe-borne water. She was the mother of three, two boys and one girl.
Police who arrived on the scene cordoned off the crime scene to prevent villagers and other relatives, who had gathered after news of the killing spread, from interfering with their investigation. However, Homicide officers gave up their search for clues because of the darkness and are expected to return today.
Lewis eldest son, Mario, who lives in west Trinidad, told T&T Guardian he had tried several times to get his mother to move in with him but failed to convince her.
“My mom was a decent, quiet and loving lady, she will always advise us to stay away from trouble and live a life where we will be loved,” he said.
“My mother never wanted to leave Valencia because of her roots in Valencia. If my mother was murdered I want swift justice. My mom does not deserve to die in this cruel manner.”
Miguel described his mother-in-law as a humble and jovial woman. He said he and his wife visited her every evening to take food for her.
“She never seemed to be lonely and always in good frame of mind. I will deeply missed her,” he said.
Her daughter was too distraught to speak with the media.
District Medical Officer Fogarola viewed the body and ordered its removal to the Forensic Science Center for a post mortem today.
Visiting the scene were Snr Supt Garth Nelson, ASP Mario Robain, Insp Ken Lutchman Sgt Harper and officers from Homicide Region II Arouca.
Homicide officers are continuing the investigation.
The man accused of using his pick-up van to run over a teenager after the teen intervened in a domestic fight appeared before a Siparia Magistrate Margaret Alert today charged with murder.
Anthony Sinanan, 37, a machine operator, of Sudama Trace, South Oropouche is accused of murdering 17-year-old David Sancarro on July 16 at Red Brick Trace, South Oropouche.
Sancarro, of Belle View was killed after he was knocked down and rolled over.
Sinanan was charged by Sgt Adesh Gookool after getting advice from Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Joan Honore-Paul last Friday.
The accused who was remanded into prison custody is scheduled to return to court August 21.
Just over a month after the Chance family had to be rescued from rising flood waters at their Sunrees Road, Penal, home, they awoke yesterday morning to murky brown flood waters at their doorstep. Sameer Ali, his common-law wife Ramrajie Chance, who is five months pregnant and their five young children are back in the tiny squatter’s shack located on the edge of a lagoon because they are yet to receive the help promised by the Housing Development Corporation.
On June 20, during the passage of Tropical Storm Bret, flood waters entered the small wooden house and the floorboards and walls were saturated, leaving the house uninhabitable and many of the family’s meagre possessions destroyed.
The family was temporarily housed in the La Costena Activity Centre for seven days before they moved back into their home.
On June 25, the HDC sent a team to visit the family and promised to get back to them after doing an assessment. However, Ali said they have heard no word from HDC since.
Yesterday Ali said he contacted the Disaster Management Unit of the Penal/Debe Corporation and was told to seek shelter with friends and family. He said he also contacted Councillor Shanty Boodram who sent T&T Fire Service officers to the house.
“The last time we were removed from the house and put in the community centre, the very next day we start to feel like we was a burden to them. Every day was some new problem.”
“We staying here for now, the water is not inside the house yet but it rising slowly, hopefully it don’t reach inside.”
Pregnant Ramrajie had to carefully walk through the flood waters balancing on the wooden steps of the house, carrying a small plastic basin to fill with water to wash dishes. The eldest of her daughters, who is ten, volunteered to do the washing up instead and stood on plastic crates to reach a makeshift sink in the yard.
“If we had friends and relatives to turn to, we would have never gone to the shelter in the first place,” Chance said. “We are begging them again, please help us to get somewhere better to live.”
With the help of private citizens, Ali was able to replace the old wooden walls of the house with new sheets of plyboard a week after the storm. However, they still don’t have access to running water or electricity and their outhouse was under flood water yesterday with faeces overflowing into the yard.
“We were happy to get the help to fix up the house but the rainy season only now start and it look like we going to get plenty more flood. We can’t stay here with these children like this,” Chance said.
Ali said the flooding is caused by a river behind the house which has not been cleaned in years.
“A few years ago they used to always be cleaning the river. We used to get a little water in the yard but not this kinda flood. They need to do something about the river too,” he said.
HDC chairman Newman George told the T&T Guardian an assessment had been done a report was sent to line Minister Randall Mitchell for review. However, he did not have any further information on the case.
When contacted, Mitchell said he recalled the case but did not have any details on hand to share. He referred questions to HDC managing director Brent Lyons.
Lyons said the assessment on the family revealed much more than a need for housing and recommendations were made for other agencies and ministries to intervene.
“When we had that incident, Tropical Storm Bret, we did an intervention and our intervention revealed much more than a story of housing. This is a story where they needed a lot of social intervention which we made recommendations for all of those to be dealt with.
“For instance the issue of the children not attending school, the issue of income and unemployment. There are some other issues that I don’t want to share that require intervention by different state agencies which we made recommendations for,” he said.
Lyons said at the time of the intervention, the family asked for assistance to rebuild their home.
“As it relates to housing, what they had asked for was to be assisted with material to rebuild. We didn’t provide that but my understanding is that material was provided by some other good Samaritans and so that is pretty much where it’s at,” he said.
“When we went to do the intervention, what they said is that if they get housing, they will be happy but their request was for material to rebuild where they were. If now the request is specific to housing,we will have to take a look at that.”
Lyons said another intervention will be initiated in the coming week to assess the family for a home.
Contractors from the Drainage and Highways Divisions of the Ministry of Works were at Perseverance Road and Haleland Park, Maraval, yesterday to assist residents with cleaning up following floods which affected those communities on Saturday. The relief provided included washing and clearing debris off roadways in the area.
In the aftermath of torrential downpours across the country over the weekend, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan and Local Government, Minister Kazim Hosein, accompanied by a technical team from the Ministry of Works, visited Maraval, Santa Cruz and Maracas to do preliminary assessments and clean up.
Sinanan also visited Santa Cruz and Maracas where equipment was deployed to clear landslips and roadways to return affected areas to a state of normalcy. Maracas Road is now accessible to vehicular traffic as the ministry’s team worked overnight to remove rubble.
During the course of this week, ministry personnel will visit areas adversely affected by torrential rains to provide infrastructural relief.
Affected persons can visit the ministry’s website at www.mowt.gov.tt to report infrastructural issues and upload photographs and this information will be routed to the respective districts for action.
Saidah Long was 19 and pregnant with her first child when she applied to the then National Housing Authority (NHA) for a home. Her son is now 17 and Long is still renting and awaiting a response from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).
She was among scores of citizens who showed up on Friday at the Port-of-Spain City Hall for a public meeting hosted by Country FirsTT to highlight how the housing crisis has affected citizens.
Country FirsTT was founded by Daren Mc Leod, a former UNC councillor who resigned after just one year in the position.
Many of the people at the meeting expressed dissatisfaction over the length of time they have been waiting to be allocated HDC housing. Some said they have been waiting for more than 35 years.
Economist Professor Patrick Watson, who spoke at the event, said housing is a right, no less than health or education.
“I want to stress that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights No 25 recognises adequate housing as a human right,” he said, adding that governments are expected to provide affordable housing, which they do in advanced countries.
“We are not a poor country by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, we go through periods of difficulties . . . no fault of ours,” Watson said.
“Over the last 30 years or so, billions of dollars have passed through this country and houses have been built. Some are falling apart, they are rotting, they are being vandalised and it is time we put a stop to that.”
Public servant Nathifa Melville said she applied in 2002 and in 2015 she was called for an interview and told she qualified for a mortgage.
“They told me the places I qualified for,” she said.
However, two years later, she still has not been allocated a house.
“I have exhausted all avenues and I am quite tired,” she said.
Mc Leod urged HDC applicants to come up with plans, mobilise and multiply for the next meeting.
Chairman of the Clico Policyholders Group (CPG) Peter Permell wants to know who stands to benefit from the forced liquidation of CL Financial.
The head of the Clico Policyholders Group said he would prefer to leave that question for the taxpayers of T&T to figure out but said it is not likely to benefit taxpayers, policyholders, employees and shareholders.
“What I also know is that from as far back as 2009, forced liquidation, or the nuclear option as it is referred to in the literature, was always a potential strategy on the table but was never used because the devastating effect and untended consequences that will inevitably flow from such a decision,” he said.
Permell’s comments follow Government’s decision to appeal the ruling of a High Court judge who rejected its application for the appointment of two provisional liquidators for CL Financial. He said a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report last year and a report from Pannell Kerr Foster in 2013 had warned against forced liquidation.
The Pannell Kerr Forster report said if action were taken to force CLF into liquidation at that time, certain events would ensue—Home Construction Limited’s (HCL) loans with First Citizens Bank (FCB) totalling $1.1 billion would be put in jeopardy and the bank might have been forced to put HCL into receivership.
“The HCL loan with PMCL/UTC in the amount of $360 million will be put in further jeopardy and PMCL/UTC may have to follow FCB in the receivership course of action. An HCL receivership will cause serious disruption in that sector of the economy,” the report said
It further stated that “by the time liquidator ends his/her assignment, FCIS/CMMB stood to lose 69 per cent of its $700 million loan with CLF— $483 million—and the State would not recover any shortfall resulting from the inability of Clico. CIB and BAT being unable to satisfy their respective obligations under the MOU. This amount has been optimistically calculated to be $2.8 billion.
“When the above figures are totalled they amount to an exposure of $3.3 billion at the end of, at best, 30 months from the date that the liquidator is appointed.”
The PwC report said the nuclear option could result in a loss of $7.3 billion in value and a delay in recovery of funds by Government of more than three to five years subject to court decisions and appeals.
Permell said former Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams had acknowledged the contagion risks that financial difficulties in an institution as vast as the CL Financial Group could have on T&T’s entire financial system and the entire Caribbean region.
At the time Williams said: “The group’s financial interests cover several industry sectors, including banking and financial services, energy, real estate and manufacturing and distribution.
The four largest financial institutions in the group manage assets of over $38 billion, over 25 per cent of the country’s GDP. In addition to Clico, among the group’s holdings is the British American Insurance Company Limited, which is one of the main insurance companies in the Eastern Caribbean.”
After her “forced resignation” as a High Court judge, Marcia Ayers-Caesar did not eat, sleep or leave the house for days, her husband Rickie Matthew Caesar said in an affidavit filed in support of her lawsuit against President Anthony Carmona and the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) chaired by Chief Justice Ivor Archie. He said one of their daughters had to keep an eye on Ayers-Caesar.
Caesar, who has been married to Marcia Ayers-Caesar for more than 28 years, said when she called him on the day she was going to resign as a judge, he did not recognise her voice. He said the call reminded him of when his mother called him to tell him of his father’s death.
Recounting the events of April 27, Caesar, a marine pilot, said he was at his office on Kings Wharf Extension in Port-of-Spain after 4 pm preparing to board a ship when his cellphone rang.
“When my mobile phone rang I saw my wife’s photograph on the screen. My wife’s photograph is saved on my phone so when she calls, her photograph is displayed on the phone,” he said in his affidavit.
“When I answered the phone, however, I did not recognise my wife’s voice at all and I became very concerned. Marcia was crying uncontrollably and her voice sounded completely different.
“This reminded me of the time when my mother called me to tell me that my father had passed. I did not recognise my mother’s voice either at the time because it sounded so different.”
Caesar said he asked his wife to calm down and explain what was happening.
“She then told me that she was being forced to resign otherwise they would get rid of her. I told her not to resign and she told me that I did not understand because she did not have a choice. She said they were forcing her to resign. She then put the phone down,” he said.
Caesar said after hearing how his wife sounded he too began to cry.
“As a big man I could not help myself. I cried for her. I was thinking that I had to be strong for when we get home to handle this,” he said.
He said he attempted to continue his work but could not.
“The van then arrived to take me to the ship. I went on the van and as the driver drove off I cried again and the van pulled aside to give me time to pull myself together.
“I went aboard the ship; the Captain realised something was wrong and after taking the ship off the berth he said that if I wanted to leave I could. I said thank you and called for the pilot boat to take me back onshore.”
Caesar said when he returned onshore Ayers-Caesar called him and told him she was going to the Office of the President to tender her resignation.
“I immediately agreed to meet her and I got in my car and I went to President’s House and arrived there a few minutes before her. While I was parking she arrived. She was in tears and visibly distraught,” he said.
According to the affidavit, Caesar said he tried to console his wife and supported her during the process of tendering her resignation to Carmona.
“Over the next few days Marcia was very withdrawn and I was concerned about her. She did not eat, sleep or go out and my daughter and I kept an eye on her. She didn’t want to answer any telephone calls or face the neighbours,” he said.
The couple have two daughters.
Caesar said on May 3 he accompanied his wife to a meeting with Archie at the Hall of Justice. He said the CJ was “in great spirits and greeted us very warmly as if nothing had happened.”
He said in the affidavit: “This made me very surprised given how Marcia had been feeling since the events started. I asked the Chief Justice if he genuinely believed that Marcia had lied or misled him. His attitude changed when I asked this question and he became angry.”
Caesar said Archie left the meeting and his administrative secretary Sherlanne Pierre told him the CJ “wanted tempers to be controlled and told me if I went back into the meeting, I should not say anything”.
Caesar said his wife has not been herself since she was forced to resign and he fears she will never be the same again.
“Since April 2017, Marcia has been the subject of numerous media speculation and reports and comments in social media on a daily basis. The majority of those comments are negative,” he said.
“Marcia has not been herself since she was forced to resign by the Chief Justice. She still avoids going out and avoids people. I have lived with my wife since 1989 and having regard to what I have seen in her since this incident and comparing it with what happened in the past in our married life, I do not think she would be the same again.”
‘I tried to be strong for my wife’ Caesar: Archie acted like nothing happened
Education Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday denied that hundreds of contract workers are being dismissed from his ministry.
Although he admitted the ministry is experiencing financial difficulties, Garcia said: “There is absolutely no truth to the allegations that we are sending home approximately 250 workers at the Ministry of Education.”
He said no more than 75 people will be affected by the usual delays that occur during the time it takes for a note to be sent from the ministry to the Public Management Consulting Division (PMCD) of the Ministry of Public Administration before being forwarded to Cabinet.
Commenting what he described as public mischief, Garcia explained: “There are some of our employees who hold fixed-term contacts and in some of these cases, the period of their contacts has come to an end.
“Many of them were on contract to perform specific tasks and when those tasks were completed, their contacts would also have been completed. However, there are others whose contacts have also been completed but there is still a need for their services. We have placed them on month-to-month contracts so that they will not suffer any financial losses.”
The minister said it is up to Cabinet to decide on termination of a contractual period for these workers.
“There is a process we must follow before we take any note to Cabinet requesting new contacts,” he said.
On Friday, several of the affected workers claimed close to 250 of them were being sent home, including technical workers, school social workers and personnel from the Student Support Services Division.
Garcia said after the request from the ministry is received by the PMCD, they have a process to follow before submitting the note to Cabinet for new contracts.
“We will do nothing to cause distress to the employees who work hard. We recognise the value and worth of their contributions and we will always do everything possible to ensure their comfort,” he said.
Coaches going home too
Meanwhile, more than 20 coaches employed by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs on contract are also uncertain about whether they will be recalled in time for the new school term in September.
Last September, seven specialist coaches were let go after their contracts ended and other coaches have been terminated since then.
The coaches were invited to meetings with various heads from the ministry in recent months and were advised to look out for advertisements in June about available vacancies but to date nothing has been posted.
“We are all on a limb and trying to figure out what is going on but nobody is giving us any answers. The new school term will begin on September 4 and we have to make provisions,” a spokesman for the coaches said.
Former Law Association president Martin Daly yesterday renewed his call for members of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC), including its chairman Chief Justice Ivor Archie, to resign over their handling of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar’s appointment as a judge in April.
His latest call comes just days after lawyers for Ayers-Caesar initiated legal action against Archie and President Anthony Carmona.
Ayers-Caesar resigned shortly after being elevated to the bench because of a public uproar over 53 part heard matters she left incomplete. Since then, there have been several calls for CJ Archie to resign over the issue but he has refused. He said the JLSC was not made aware of the part heard cases before Ayers-Caesar was appointed.
“From the outset this was a very serious matter which required very stringent principles of accountability to apply,” Daly said. “The blunder was so serious that it called for the resignation of the members of the JLSC. With each passing week, the blunders are getting more and more and I am becoming more and more concerned.”
Daly, a former independent senator, also expressed concern about the alleged disappearance of legal papers filed by Ayers-Caesar’s lawyers.
“Judicial proceedings must be open to all and they must be open to be reported on by the media,” he said.
“This is a public law matter to which none of the limited exceptions could apply. This is not a matrimonial case, not a national security matter and therefore, as far as I am concerned, any attempt to make these papers disappear is action that is consistent with a totalitarian state.”
Daly said the matter is “just getting worse” and T&T is at the crossroads.
“We are just going backwards and these JLSC people have to go. They have made a huge administrative mistake,” he said.
He said he was happy to see the contents of affidavits in the Ayers-Caesar lawsuit being released, adding: “I hope we are going to see more, in which case it will make the disappearance of the papers academic but still serious but from a practical perspective and it will dissolve some of the secrecy.”
Daly said Government has moral suasion and “must make its views known but it has to be careful because anything it says it will be accused of breaching the separation of powers .”
He added: “Civil society must come to understand how very important it is not to have a discredited administration of justice, so civil society has to take it up. They (the JLSC) must resign. When you drop the ball like this you must resign and public pressure must make you have to resign.”
He said as far as he is concerned Ayers-Caesar is neither a judge nor a magistrate.
“When she was sworn in as a High Court judge, in my view that removed her appointment as a magistrate and then she resigned as a judge and therefore lost that position as well. The resignation is effective.”
He said only the court can determine otherwise.
“Some apologists are trying to say that we are making her a martyr but it is nothing of the kind. If she did not disclose the full extent of her part heard cases she was wrong and she has paid a heavy price but if she was subject to some kind of manipulation—and we don’t know if it is so—but if she was, that can’t be right. That is punishing her twice.”
Daly said a legislative intervention in the matter involving the part heard cases would be unconstitutional and is proposing three measures to resolve the issue:
• Anyone who is not on bail and has spent a length of time in prison that is close to the heaviest sentence possible should have their matters quashed.
• People who are in jail but not for an inordinate length of time and without bail should have their bail conditions softened.
• Murder cases should be retried but put on a fast track.
Members of the Congress of the People (COP) will go to the polls on August 20 to elect a new political leader. This was the decision was taken by a majority vote at yesterday’s general membership meeting at the party’s offices in Charlieville, Chaguanas. The leadership elections had originally been scheduled for July 9.
A release signed by outgoing political leader Dr Anirudh Mahabir said the issue of a pre-action protocol letter was addressed and resolved. It was issued by lawyers threatening legal action for the removal of one of the candidates for the post, former COP chairman Nicole Dyer-Griffith. Mahabir said that issue was resolved yesterday.
“After an full and exhaustive discussion and debate which included the three candidates and the member who issued the legal challenge, the COP members decided that the polling day in the 2017 political leader election will now be Sunday 20 August, 2017.”
Mahabir said the meeting decided “by a margin of two to one, that the election will proceed with all three candidates—Dr. Sharon Gopaul-McNicol, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and Nicole Dyer-Griffith—as contenders for the top post of leader of Congress of the People.”
He said members acknowledged the importance of the election for the rebuilding process and future of the COP as a political party representing an alternative to the entrenched traditional parties.
Contacted for comment at Piarco International Airport yesterday, Dyer-Griffith said she was pleased about the outcome of the meeting and that the threat to prevent her from contesting the polls is “now behind us.”
She said as soon as she returns home next week she intends to begin campaigning. She said there was a lot of work to do but many members are excited about the upcoming election.
Dyer-Griffith said the COP must begin to focus on national issues and a national agenda as it is a government in waiting. She said the COP must propose solutions to national issues and the party must shift focus to deal with those issues.
Seepersad-Bachan and Gopaul McNicol could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Former COP leaders Winston Dookeran and Prakash Ramadhar were ministers in the last PP Government led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar from 2010 to 2015.
Citizens should exercise restraint before declaring former Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar guilty of perjury. They should wait until Thursday’s hearing at the San Fernando High Court when Ayers-Caesar’s application for judicial review against the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) and the President will be heard, her attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC said yesterday.
He told reporters Ayers-Caesar had documented all the relevant facts surrounding her resignation and the grounds on which they are claiming it was not voluntary. She is claiming that the action to remove her from office was illegal and unconstitutional.
“Very important in that evidence, is that while she was going to the President’s House, based on the arrangement made for her to go, having got her resignation signed to be delivered to the President, that appointment was not made by her,” he said.
“That appointment was made by the Judiciary and on her way, she sent three text messages, one to a priest, one to a magistrate and one to a top person in this country whom she has not disclosed. Those text messages are exhibited as part of the proceedings and will show there was no question of that resignation being a voluntary one.”
Maharaj said there is contemporaneous documentary evidence to support the fact that the resignation was not voluntary.
“The worst case outcome is that Ayers-Caesar would lose in the High Court and Court of Appeal but I am very confident—and based on discussions in London—this case would win with flying colours in the Privy Council,” he said.
Maharaj said Ayers-Caesar’s family has been suffering an intense public backlash as a result of the ongoing fiasco and they can no longer move around freely in public. However, he is confident her deep seated spirituality will keep her grounded and on the right course.
“A lot of public good can come out of it,” he said.