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Guardian Media Ltd in major structural shake-up

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:45

Guardian Media Limited’s Managing Director, Lucio Mesquita, announced a number of structural changes to the business today. 

In an address to all staff from the floor of the Guardian newsroom, an address that linked staff in Chaguanas, San Fernando, Port-of-Spain, Tobago and the group’s radio station in Guyana, Mesquita said the new structure is designed to make the most of the digital revolution sweeping the media sector by moving towards a “digital first” strategy and away from traditional platform-based divisions.

From now on, Guardian Media will have Content, News, Sales and Production departments instead of its previous Radio, Television and Print divisions. 

General Manager for Television, Nicholas Sabga, becomes the new Head of Content, responsible for all content across the business, including an emerging new digital operation. 

A new multimedia Sales department will be headed by current Radio GM, Steve Dipnarine, and a new Production department, bringing together engineering and print operations, will be managed by Anthony Seegobin, the company’s current Chief Technology Officer.

A reconfigured News department will bring together all Guardian Media’s news and current affairs, under the leadership of TV Head of Content and journalist Shelly Dass. She will have ultimate responsibility for the editorial content of the Guardian and Tobago Today newspapers, CNC3 News, radio news and the company’s growing digital news presence.

Orin Gordon, appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian newspaper in February last year decided to leave Guardian Media at the end of this month. Gordon said he is leaving journalism after 25 years in the business, to pursue other professional interests. GM Print Cyntra Achong has opted for a new role in the ANSA McAl group.

Mesquita said that the changes were needed to make sure Guardian Media had a strong future at times of considerable challenges to the media industry as the digital revolution disrupts traditional revenue models. Globally, newspapers in particular have been suffering with a steep fall in advertising revenue with ad dollars also migrating away from radio and television to digital platforms. 

He promised a “digital first” approach to Guardian Media with more multimedia content to users and advertisers.

Guardian Media owns the Guardian and Tobago Today newspapers, six radio stations in T&T under the TBC network banner, a station in Guyana and CNC3 television. It is also rolling out a number of electronic advertising billboards under the Big Board Company.

In the first six months of the year, Guardian Media Ltd saw a drop in revenue due to a reduction in advertising, with a significant fall in profit as a result. The changes announced will also reduce overall senior management costs as part of the company’s drive to increase efficiencies and control costs.

Cancer patient charged with urinating in public

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:39

A cancer-stricken pensioner charged with eight offences, including indecent exposure, after he was allegedly caught urinating in public has been granted $60,000 bail. 

The 69-year-old Woodland resident, Binath Danrajh, was arrested on Sunday, spent the night in the San Fernando Police Station and on Monday was remanded to Remand Yard prison after he appeared in the San Fernando Traffic Court.

The charges stemmed from an incident at La Fortune Road, Woodland, on Sunday where it is alleged that Danrajh parked his van in the road obstructing the flow of traffic and came out to urinate.

He was subsequently arrested and charged by PC Sujeet Ramcharan with eight offences, including five traffic-related crimes.

He first appeared on Monday before Traffic Court Magistrate Taramatie Ramdass and pleaded not guilty to five charges, including causing unnecessary obstruction with his van, failing to produce his driver’s permit, failing to produce his insurance, failing to provide a specimen of his breath for testing and dangerous driving. 

However, Danrajh had refused to give his fingerprint to the police so a trace could not be done to determine if he had a criminal record.

Explaining her client suffered with cancer, diabetes and had other medical complications, attorney Annalee Girwar said he has to be on a special diet and take certain medication.

He was eventually granted $50,000 bail with his relative as surety but he was not released because he had the three other charges to answer which the magistrate said had to be dealt by another magistrate.

Instead Danrajh was taken to prison and reappeared yesterday before Senior Magistrate Nanette Forde John on the other three charges.

He also pleaded not guilty to those charges, which included escaping lawful custody, wilfully and obscenely exposed his person and obscene language.

Explaining his medical condition to the magistrate, Girwar said he was unable to eat since Sunday and as a result was feeling weak. She said he had no previous convictions or pending matters.

The magistrate granted him $10,000 bail and a cash bail alternative of $5,000. He has to appear on September 19 in the Traffic Court and September 20 in the First Court.

Suspect still taunts family

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:38

A little over four months ago, Keino Jacob’s life changed forever when his Palo Seco home burnt to the ground. 

Jacob’s two young children—Keimel, four, and Kylah, nine-months-old—were asleep in the house at the time and both died from burns in the weeks that followed.

Now Jacob says he has a hole in his heart which his children’s love and laughter had once filled and he is crying out for closure. 

In an interview with the T&T Guardian at his parents’ Palo Seco home, where he and his wife, Malicha Thomas, have been staying since the fire, Jacob said he wanted an intervention by the Commissioner of Police in the investigation. 

“We are still waiting for the police to tell us what has been going on. Will someone be charged for this?” he asked. 

“I made my statements. I told the police who I saw running from my house that day. They have not been telling us anything.

“We waiting here everyday. When will we know? We need someone in high authority to look at this case and tell us what is happening. My children can’t die and go just so,” he said.

Clutching framed photos of his children, Jacob said while he had been trying to rebuild a home for him and Thomas, the lack of closure was holding him back.

“This is all I have now... all. A few months ago I had every happiness a man could want and look at me. From when I wake up to when I go to sleep, my children on my mind,” he said.

His mother, Annmarie Jacob, said: “I woke up someday last week and came downstairs to find him asleep with the pictures next to him, I wanted to move it but I didn’t have the heart.”

To compound his grief, Jacob said his problems with the person he believed burnt his home to ground continued to intensify.

“He is not leaving me alone. He told me if I build back any house, he will wait till I finish and burn it down again. 

“Sometimes I feel like he take everything from me and now he pushing me to throw the rest away,” he added.

He complained that although he had been making reports against the person at the Santa Flora Police Station, he felt as though his reports were not being taken seriously.

“The police telling us if it’s us again making reports, like we shouldn’t take this man threatening us seriously,” he said.

IACHR report on historic Belize judgment: Worsening conditions for gays in T&T

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:33

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) says it welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of Belize “that declared unconstitutional the criminalisation of consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex.”

“With this historic decision, Belize becomes the second country in the English-speaking Caribbean to repeal laws that criminalise consensual sex between adults of the same sex that originate in the region’s colonial past,” a release issued on Monday stated.

A recent report on violence against members of the LGBTI community in the Americas has, however, noted a gradual worsening of legislative conditions for them in T&T and the Commonwealth Caribbean.

The English version of a report on “Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons in the Americas” released last week was researched by the IACHR and initially published in Spanish last November.

The report notes that T&T “maintains legislation criminalising adult same-sex intimacy” and that “the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation remains a matter of concern.”

The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) has proposed an amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act to include coverage of “sexual orientation” as the basis for action in the event of discrimination in the provision of education, employment, accommodation and goods and services.

In a press release on the matter, the EOC said it was nevertheless “very encouraged to note that the Honourable Prime Minister promised to revisit any laws that undermine the constitutional right of equality of treatment.”

Executive director of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), Colin Robinson, told T&T Guardian: “The report helps expose the Caribbean myth that our sodomy laws are colonial.”

He, however, added it did not take note of a provision of the Children Act of 2012 “which last year began criminalising uncoerced sexual touching between young people” and carries a penalty of life imprisonment.

Robinson also lamented the fact that the law subjects parents to jail terms and fines for not reporting “their children’s same-sex sexual exploration to the police.”

Highlighted in the IACHR report is an incident in 2007 involving several men who sought male sexual partners on the Internet but fell prey to kidnap, torture and rape. They were then threatened with blackmail if they reported the crimes.

There is also reference to a December 2014 report in which six “trans women sex workers” from Guyana and T&T were subjected to “inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical and verbal abuse related to their gender identity and gender expression” by the police in Suriname following a “passport check.”

It is noted that during work on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for T&T in 2011, it had been suggested by country representatives that “effecting change (in) personal attitudes and community values (is) no easy task.” The UPR is a United Nations mechanism for monitoring human rights conditions in its member states.

The report notes that over the years, penalties for same-sex legal violations have actually increased with longer prison sentences for buggery and introduction of the crime of “serious indecency” carrying a sentence of five years; up from the two-year penalty for what was, prior to 1986, known as “gross indecency” in the law.

After 1986 it was replaced by the crime of serious indecency defined as an act other than sexual intercourse by a person involving the use of the genital organs to arouse or gratify sexual desire” and the punishment for “serious indecency for consenting adults increased to five years.”

There is also concern that the defence of “provocation” is increasingly being employed in homicide cases throughout the Commonwealth Caribbean. 

These include instances in which defendants have either claimed that a female partner had been involved in a sexual relationship with another woman or instances in which a defendant has claimed that he was the subject of a “homosexual advance.”

T&T is also cited in references to the “same-sex sexual advance defence” which is used either as “a partial defence resulting in a conviction for a lesser offence, for example, reducing a crime from murder to manslaughter, or as a full defence leading to acquittal, for example, cases in which homicide was deemed ‘justified’.”

A 2013 study of such cases conducted by UK academic Dr Se-shauna Wheatle, which is cited in the IACHR report, calls for the “abolition of the defence of justifiable homicide and for reform of the defence of provocation to exclude the availability of the defence of provocation where the homicide occurred in response to a non-violent sexual advance.”

The study recommends “the inclusion of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in judicial codes and in guidelines for judicial conduct, given that such codes derive from a judicial responsibility to observe standards of equality and fairness.”

“The key pattern we have observed in the law, of which the Children Act is emblematic, is legislators’ consistent withholding of social protection provided to heterosexuals from homosexuals,” Robinson said.

He said there was “a misguided rationale that the colonial criminalisation provisions create a barrier to doing so, while they do nothing to remove the original provisions, which the constitutional savings clauses prevents the victims of these laws from using their very constitutional rights to challenge.”

Inspectors sent home, review for contracts

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:26

Employees of the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), who are charged with safeguarding the lives of workers across the public and private sector, are now appealing for answers from the relevant authorities as to their continued employment at the State agency after more than ten inspectors were sent home pending contract renewal.

According to some of the aggrieved workers whose contracts ended on August 18, there have been no communication from management on the issue. One inspector with nine years service said he and his colleagues were left in abeyance after their contracts ended and were now uncertain as to their continued employment.

There were 13 inspectors employed by the agency, each of whom has nine years service.

Of this number, two of them have post-graduate degrees while the remainder possess multiple under-graduate and post-graduate degrees.

The employees have accused Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus of neglecting their cries for help. 

He said they were sent home and told to await word on whether or not their three-year contracts would be renewed.

Last Friday, the workers were prevented from entering the agency’s office on St James Street, San Fernando, while simultaneously at the Port-of-Spain office on Duke Street, two employees were seen completing a report for the acting executive director Carolyn Sancho.

The aggrieved inspectors questioned how that had been allowed as those inspectors also belonged to the cycle of affected officers whose contracts had ended on August 18.

Baptiste-Primus confirmed, via text message, that the renewal of the contracts was engaging her attention and she had “requested the performance appraisals for the officers which should have been submitted along with the contract reviews.”

Regarding the outstanding gratuity payments, Baptiste-Primus added: “That will be addressed in due course. We are very mindful of the officers anxiety. The process would be completed in a short while.” 

She said the agency had a very high staff turnover. The inspectors estimated that the current workforce comprised one person in San Fernando, three in Port-of-Spain and two in Tobago to service the entire country.

Regarding the occupation of the OSHA office at Alexandra Street, St Clair, which was said to be overcrowded as fire officials had only approved 17 people to be on the premises but the workforce had close to 30 people working there daily, Baptiste-Primus directed that such answers be obtained from OSHA officials.

Attempts to reach the acting executive director on Monday and yesterday proved futile, while HR manager, Cory Harrison, declined to comment.

Tobago family loses everything in blaze

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:23

Fire destroyed a house and variety shop in Plymouth, Tobago, on Monday night leaving a mother and her three children homeless.

According to reports, Mourice Glod, 32, who operates a variety store out of her home at Long Street, locked up her business around 9.45 pm. 

Around 11 pm she received a call and was alerted that her house was on fire.

Neighbours formed a bucket brigade before the Fire Services arrived on the scene but they were unable to control the blaze.

The house was totally gutted. Damage have been estimated at $465,000. 

The fire also spread to a nearby property owned by businessman Fitzroy “Stumpy” Phillips but fire officials were able to extinguish the blaze before extensive damage occurred. Damage is estimated at $20,000. No one was injured. The cause of the blaze is yet to be ascertained.

Glod told T&T Guardian it would be difficult to recover from the incident as everything she owned went up in the blaze.

She also said school supplies, books and uniforms for her three children — aged between 12, 10, and five years old — for the new school term were also lost in the fire.

Investigations are continuing

Anyone willing to assist the family can contact them at 747-0310 or 356-8613

Man in love triangle lured to his death

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:21

Police are working on the theory that a 30-year-old Chaguanas man was killed yesterday morning because of a relationship he had with a married woman.

According to police reports, Larry Mohammed, of Kolahal Road, Charlieville, was found in his black Toyota Altis along Cemetery Street, Charlieville, around 1.30 am. 

Police said his car was found idling and Mohammed slumped in the driver’s seat with gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Nothing of value was missing from the deceased, prompting police to believe that robbery was not a motive for his death.

Homicide detectives told the T&T Guardian that Mohammed, a father of two, was in a relationship with a married woman from south Trinidad and they are working on the theory that the woman’s husband may be responsible for his killing. 

The officers added that Mohammed was supposedly in company with the woman moments before he died.

Speaking with the media at the Forensic Science Centre, St James, yesterday, Mohammed’s father, John, said the eldest of his four children was “a family man” who was a professional fabricator. 

“I don’t live with him, I live Maracas, St Joseph, but I hear he was home and then someone called him and he went out. I never know him as a bad fella or in drugs or anything. He had his smoke, a little drink, normal thing,” he said.

Asked about what the police were suggesting as a motive, the senior Mohammed said he had heard about the rumours of his son’s alleged infidelity in the past and when his son was confronted, he denied it. 

He said he could not say for certain if his son had an extra-marital affair, adding that such a lifestyle was not how his son was raised.

“I ain’t get chance to really let it soak in or process it so I really don’t know what to say about it,” Mohammed said when asked about his views on his son’s death.

The latest killing took the murder toll for the year to 296, as compared to 264 at the same period last year.

Dad and son shot

In an unrelated incident, police are investigating the shooting of a father and son in La Horquetta on Monday night. 

Police reports state that Jamal Hosten, 28, was outside his home at Aldwyn Roberts Crescent, Phase 3, La Horquetta, around 7.30 pm when a gunman on a bicycle stopped and opened fire on him. Hosten ran through his home with the gunman in pursuit. The gunman then fled the house. 

Police said Hosten was not shot but injured by bullet fragments. He also later found that his son, Azrial Farrell, 12, had been similarly injured by bullet fragments. Both were taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries and discharged. Police did not give a motive for the shooting.

Time for safety policy from gangs

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:19

Three criminologists yesterday expressed shock over a disturbing video of gang leaders displaying sophisticated guns as they called on the Government and Opposition to hold a high-level emergency meeting to work out a national policy on the public safety threats from gangs, murders and terrorism.

The call was made by Prof Ramesh Deosaran, Darius Figueira and Ian Ramdhanie hours after the T&T Guardian published a front page article, titled “Exposed.” The video, shared on WhatsApp, identified Rasta City gang leaders from Beetham Gardens, Sea Lots, Maloney, Port-of-Spain, Maracas, Point Fortin and Caroni, among other areas, displaying a variety of weapons, including Mac 10s, Uzis, Tec-9s, Ak47s and AR15 rifles.

A soundtrack accompanying the video describes methods of murder, including the dumping of bodies in Caroni. It also shows a decapitated corpse with what appears to be bullet wounds to the chest area.

The video is now being probed by the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit (CGIU) and Strategic Services Agency, as they gather information on suspected criminals.

Yesterday, Figueira said what caught his attention was the arsenal the gang leaders had in their possession, in particular the US-manufactured AR15 rifle.

“That is not a common weapon. You cannot access it as easy as AK 47,” he said, adding T&T now has the highest seizures of AR15 rifles in the gang chain after Puerto Rico.

“The question that arises is that we have a new network that is smuggling these sophisticated assault rifles from the US into the Caribbean. This is not good news for us. We are under threat from this gun smuggling ring. It’s frightening.”

Noting that the AR15 rifle had been used in the killing of gang leader Selwyn “Robocop” Alexis, Figueira said that weapon was the preferred choice of the Mexican cartel.

“When you can become linked to this network that is moving weaponry and ammunition from the US to the Caribbean and you are hooked into it, where you can display pictures of yourself and powerful guns, the impunity that you are enjoying in jail is like a vacation.”

He said the video sent a strong message to the Government that that was the level the gang members were willing to go.

“In the underworld the video is calling out the Government,” he added.

Figueira appealed to the Government and Opposition to join hands to fight the criminal elements, saying that while they were bickering, citizens were caught in the middle of the crossfire.

Deosaran repeated his appeal to the authorities to examine how and why so many black youths persistently drifted from the secondary education system into serious crimes and gang warfare.

He added: “The regrettable delays and denials over this criminogenic phenomenon are creating havoc with public safety, as well as costly losses within our young generation. 

“I can do no more now than to encourage the authorities not only to enforce the law but to stop this tragic haemorrhage in our education system.” 

He said it was time for the country’s political directorate to address seriously the areas of serious crimes, terrorism and education particularly.

“In the present circumstances, a public interest imperative now is for the Government and Opposition to hold a high-level emergency meeting to work out a national policy consensus over the public safety threats from gangs, murders, terrorism and the required institutional responses required,” he added.

Saying the country could not continue along this path, Deosaran said the last time the former prime minister Patrick Manning-led government and the Basdeo Panday-led Opposition met on crime and law enforcement the results did not work well.

“Let’s hope there is now a higher wisdom from that experience, especially since the public safety challenges have grown more seriously.

“Looking for quick magic or overnight solutions will not work. I well know the constitutional role of the Government and the Opposition but with the country bleeding as it is now, there is still room for statesmanship.

The reputed video and its contents are just another symptom of things yet to come,” Deosaran warned.

Bottomless pit 

Principal of the Caribbean Institute for Security and Public Safety, Ian Ramdhanie, said the number of guns circulating in the country was unprecedented and worrying. 

He added: “Yes, the police have been making raids and recovering firearms and ammunition but it seems that there is a bottomless pit from which these guns are coming. The video is just a snippet, a minuscule idea of what really exists out there. 

“We need answers as to how come these high-powered weapons are so easily available, who pays for the guns and with what currency? Where does the money go? Which institutions are involved?” 

He appealed to the Government and Opposition to work in tandem to win the war on crime.

“But given our adversarial nature of opposition politics, I will not be surprised if this doesn’t happen. The pressure must then come from civil society and voters from all sides who want decisive action to deal with crime. 

“We also need badly the provision of referendum that can get national consensus on what may be termed controversial crime-fighting strategies like the death penalty,” he added.

President of the T&T Police Social and Welfare Association, Michael Seales, admitted that while the police have been seizing a number of guns, not many people were arrested and charged. He said holders of these illegal guns have tremendous difficulty in acquiring ammunition but the gun trade was just as thriving as the drug trade.

“No longer are firearms being retained for the protection of the drugs itself... but it now has a firearm trade that is taking place in the country,” he said.

Seales said videos of gang members that have gone viral have helped the CGUI.

“It gives you enough information to obtain a search warrant. I can say that the CGUI and Cyber Crime Unit have seen some measure of success when a video goes viral, you almost after a time see some measure of results,” he said.

Arsenal in gang video stuns Dillon

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:14

National Security Minister Edmund Dillon said yesterday that he was awaiting a report from acting Commissioner of Police Harold Phillip on the latest video showing gang members posing with high-powered weapons.

He said so yesterday following an exclusive T&T Guardian report yesterday which highlighted the contents of the recently made video, which features members of the Rasta City gang from various parts of the country showing off their arsenal of high-powered weapons.

The video, which the T&T Guardian understands was made less than a month ago, is being used to show the gang’s reach across the country and as a recruiting tool for new members.

Phillip has ordered the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit to do an investigation into the vide, which shows members of the Rasta City gang displaying high-tech guns, including Mac 10, Uzi, Tec-9, AK 47 and AR15 rifles. Some of the men featured in the video are currently in prison.

Speaking after attending a community outreach drive hosted by the Public Utilities Ministry at the Open Bible Cathedral, Cap-de-ville, Point Fortin, Dillon said:

“The Police Commissioner is addressing that right now. He has launched his own investigation and I await the report.”

Asked whether he was alarmed by the type of weaponry on display, Dillon responded: “I am alarmed at anything that tells me illegal activities are going on. That video suggests that there are some illegal activities there. 

“I am not aware of anyone with a firearm licence who is allowed to carry those types of weapons anyway. There must be some illegality and the CoP has launched his investigation and I await the report.”

Dillon also said the Commissioner of Prisons, Sterling Stewart, would continue to monitor activities at the nation’s prisons where an underground network feeding contraband items to prisoners exists and gangs continue to have an influence on activities both inside and outside the prison.

“We will continue to have a shake-up. The Commissioner of Prisons has said quite clearly that no longer will prisons officers be sheltered. If they fail to follow the law, they will go to prison openly like any other prisoner. 

“We have put scanners and jammers into the prison system and we have instituted different measures to deter the officers from being corrupt,” Dillon said. 

He denied claims the scanners and jammers were being sabotaged, insisting everything was in good working order.

“There are people who continue to beat the system but we will re-strategise as we go along. We will set the example of anyone who breaks the law. All will be held accountable,” Dillon said.

He also said he was not satisfied with the influx of guns and ammunition coming through T&T’s porous borders.

“The only time I will be satisfied is when there are no more guns coming into T&T. I can tell you, between the Defence Force, the Air Guard and the Coast Guard, we have instituted joint patrols along coastal borders.”

He also said that “police have seized the highest amount of arms and ammunition in the history of this country for the year so far and the year is not yet complete,” adding the various arms of law enforcement will continue to go behind the illegal movement of guns and ammunition within the society.

“Our police are working hard but we cannot stick to a 40-hour work week. We will pay you for working the extra hours because we need the manpower and resources on the ground to treat with criminality,” Dillon said.

Talk crime at home first

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:13

Two business communities are calling National Security Minister Edmund Dillon to fix crime in T&T first before sitting with ministers from across the region to deal with the matter.

The call came on the heels of Dillon’s announcement Monday that T&T would be hosting the XII Conference of Defence Ministers of the Americas (CDMA) in October.

President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce, Richie Sookhai, called on the Government to talk crime first with all local stakeholders from communities before sitting in on the upcoming $9 million conference.

“Another multi-million dollar talk shop will yield no results if citizens are faced with deaf ears,” Sookhai said in a release.

With the number of murders at 290 and counting, he said the country needed to find out why crime-fighting initiatives had failed.

“We are calling on the Government and the Commissioner of Police to begin immediately conversations with the communities and all stakeholders on how the cancer of crime can be curbed.

“We believe that it is only through communication that a comprehensive, multi-faceted, innovative and workable crime plan can be initiated that will address the multiple needs of the country when it comes to addressing security issues,” Sookhai said

He added it was evident the crime plans of T&T’s law enforcement bodies were not yielding desired results.

Highlighting last Friday’s murder of nine-year-old Cyon Paul of La Romaine, Sookhai said: “The murder of nine-year old Cyon Paul, who died from a single bullet to the heart while he and his family were on their way to buy food, is testimony of the darkness that has befallen this nation.

“National Security Minister Edmund Dillon has said the crime epidemic is ‘intolerable’ but expressions of dismay are not enough. We need to see concrete initiatives and plans being enacted so that our citizens can begin to feel a sense of security while going about their business in this country.”

Sookhai also expressed disappointment that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in his capacity as the head of the National Security Council, was not more vocal in at least providing comfort through his own assurances to the people.

“But we are cognizant of the fact that the Prime Minister has been dealing with his own health issues and are pleased that he has been given a clean bill of health by his doctors. 

“We are hopeful that now that his personal health issues have been dealt with that he and the Government will be better ready and able to address the fears of the national community,” he added.

Couva Chamber of Commerce president Liaquat Ali also said he was concerned with the escalating crime and believed the relevant authorities should get their act together and deal with the situation.

Ali, however, shared mixed views on the upcoming conference.

He said: “Whilst it is good for the Government to deal with crime firstly, it is also good for the Government to know what other countries are doing to help curb the crime situation in their respective countries so that, at the same time, we can try and do the same in the fight against crime. 

“We must understand that criminal elements in society, especially guns and drugs, are not related to T&T. So where is it coming from? So we need this international intervention to discuss this to tackle the crime situation.” 

However, he said he hoped Dillon would get meaningful contributions to crime-fighting measures that T&T could take and modify.

President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association, Gregory Aboud, said the questions arising in relation to the conference and its cost seemed to be related to the rapidly diminishing credibility of the national security agencies in T&T.

He said: “We are going through a process of inconsistent comments that have been the usual pronouncement of ministers who were given the responsibility of protecting the citizens. 

“On the one hand we are being told that criminals will be made uncomfortable and will feel the full brunt of the law while on the other hand children are being murdered and criminals are posting themselves on social media with high-powered weapons and ammunition.

“This, in our opinion, is at the heart of the questions that are being raised about this conference and this is going to continue until we start solving the savage murders and the gruesome killings which are occurring every single day.”

The conference, which will run from october 11-12, will feature countries and will foster mutual knowledge, analysis, debate and exchange of ideas and experiences on defence and security, Dillon said during Monday’s launch. 

It is being hosted at a time when the Caricom region and the rest of the hemisphere face common threats to national security which require collaboration and co-operation among hemispheric partners. 

Education Minister admits: $800m debt slows school repairs

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:09

Education Minister Anthony Garcia says the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) is owing contractors some $800 million for construction and refurbishment works in schools.

Responding to questions about the construction of the Dr Roodal Moonilal Ramai Trace SDMS School during a tour of the New Grant Anglican Primary School yesterday, Garcia said claims that the contractor was not being paid were true. 

Asked if the construction of the Ramai Trace school was going at a slow pace because of non-payment to the contractor, Garcia said: “That is correct. What is happening is because of the downturn in our economy we are unable to pay all the contractors all the money owed to them.

“In fact the EFCL has said that contractors are owed in the vicinity of $800 million and we are trying to see how best we can facilitate early payments, at least part payments for contractors.”

Asked if this lack of funds would affect payment for the construction of the New Grant Anglican School, Garcia said: “We have identified funds so the contractor will have no problem with the payment of money for work that is being done here...funds have been identified and there will be no problem.”

When asked about the cost of the New Grant Anglican School, Garcia said: “Those fine points... I don’t have all that information on my fingertips. I am unable to say the exact cost.”

He gave the assurance that all schools, both at the primary and secondary level, would be reopened on September 5. 

“I have been saying repeatedly that every school will be reopened for our students when school reopens on September 5, every school, both secondary and primary schools, all those schools will be reopened.”

Garcia said the New Grant Anglican School was being prefabricated and the project was expected to be completed by next Friday, in time for the new school term.

“The contractor has been appointed and he is working very diligently. I’ve been told by the persons in charge that every effort will be made and he has given me the assurance that when school reopens on September 5, all the students who are assigned to this school will find a place.

“In other words, no child will find themselves out of school at this school when school reopens in September.

“I have been assured that the workers are working assiduously. They are working night and day to ensure that the project is completed and all our children will be housed come September 5,” he said.

Second time drunk driver fined $15,000

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:43

A second time drunk driver who got caught up in a police roadblock, scoring more than four times the legal alcohol limit, was fined $15,000 yesterday and banned from driving for two years.

Suraj Borilal, 28, a labourer, appeared in the San Fernando Traffic Court for the second time in a year charged with driving under the influence.

He, however, claimed he did not deliberately set off to drive under the influence of alcohol but the designated driver was ill.

Borilal, who was arrested by PC Sujeet Ramcharan on Sunday, pleaded guilty before Magistrate Taramatie Ramdass. 

Prosecutor Sgt Anil Manick said Borilal was stopped by the police around 1.15 am at La Plaisance Road, La Romaine, and the officer detected a strong scent of alcohol on his breath.

When asked by Ramcharan if he was drinking, Borilal said: “I had two beers to drink.”

However, the field sobriety test recorded a reading of 166 microgrammes and two further tests recorded readings of 148 and 146 microgrammes. The legal limit is 35 microgrammes.

Borilal admitted that in February last year he was charged with driving under the influence and paid a fine.

“The only reason I drove the car was because my friend who was suppose to drive... she was vomiting and feeling sick. There was no one else to drive so I took the responsibility (to drive).”

However, the magistrate told him he should have called someone to pick them up, called a wrecker and the ambulance.

Borilal claimed he drank “a good bit” of light beer.

Advising him the second offence carries a penalty of $22,500 fine and/or jail up to five years and a disqualification from driving, she said: 

“You tell me why I should not send you to jail for five years because this is no joke reading.”

He replied: “I know the first time I said I not going to do it again but this time I was not suppose to be drinking.”

Admonishing him for his alcohol intake, she asked him whether he wanted to end up with organ damage. Borilal claimed he went to a fete. 

If he fails to pay the fine in two months, he will serve three years in jail. 

As she disqualified him from holding or obtaining a permit for two years, she warned him he could be jailed if he was charged with a third breathalyser offence.

Olympic joy lands driver in court

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:43

While some people were unappreciative of Keshorn Walcott’s bronze medal at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a labourer had celebratory drinks with his friends.

So much so that Shane Ramcharan, 46, found himself before San Fernando Traffic Court Magistrate Taramatie Ramdass who slapped him with a $6,000 fine for drunk driving.

Ramcharan, 46, a labourer admitted that he had been drinking with his friends.

He was arrested on Sunday around midnight during an exercise by officers of the Highway Patrol, Debe, including Cpl Ramroop, PCs Roopchan, Davis, Paul and Noel.

While speaking with him, prosecutor Sgt Kassiram Lutchman said, the officers detected a strong scent of alcohol and administrated the breathalyser tests on him which he failed. He was over the 35 microgramme legal limit by 44 microgrammes.

When asked for an explanation for his actions, Ramcharan told the magistrate: “We were celebrating Keshorn Walcott’s javelin throw.”

The magistrate said she had no problem with him celebrating with his friends but he ought to have known drinking and driving were illegal.

Ramcharan said he was aware of that but he was unaware that he was above the legal limit since “I was feeling normal.”

“Next time you want to celebrate stay home and do that,” said the magistrate as she fined him. 

She allowed him two months to pay the fine but warned him if he failed to pay the money he would be arrested and automatically sent to prison to serve his one-year term.

She advised Ramcharan to borrow the money from someone if he was unable to pay it in the stipulated time.

Include disabled candidates in local govt polls

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:38

As political parties move ahead with screening of candidates for local government elections scheduled for October, a call is being made for disabled people to be included on their slates.

The call came from manager of the Blind Welfare Association Deonarine Ragoo, who served as a councillor for Reform/Manahambre in the Princes Town Regional Corporation in 2010.

Ragoo, who is visually impaired, said too often disabled people are bypassed for political consideration.

He urged both the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC) to be more inclusive. Ragoo said more than 100,000 people in T&T are disabled so there was a need to have this group included in the political line-up.

“We are citizens too and we have a Constitution which guarantees fundamental human rights to be involved in politics. We should have equal opportunity to be part of the politics in T&T,” Ragoo said.

He said that if the major parties become more inclusive of the disabled on their political slates, then this would signal to the society that the parties are serious about inclusion. 

“This will go a long way in demonstrating the commitment of parties to ensuring that the rights of all citizens and the political rights of persons with disabilities are acknowledged,” Ragoo said.

Ragoo also called on the political parties to ensure that every regional corporation be equipped with proper facilities for disabled people.

“I am also calling on the Ministry of Local Government to ensure that all the corporation offices are accessible to accommodate persons with disabilities who may be serving as councillors or aldermen,” Ragoo said. 

“Staff should also be sensitised to work with people who are disabled to ensure that the person can function effectively.”

Ragoo also called on members of the public to learn sign language to assist disabled people, adding, “if political parties make a greater effort to afford opportunities to the disabled, then more disabled people will enter politics.”

Man accused of rape, attempted murder on $85,000 bail

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:28

A Claxton Bay security officer accused of kidnapping, raping, robbing and attempting to murder a 16-year-old girl has been granted $85,000 bail.

As a condition of his bail, Jesse Kangoo, 27, was ordered to report to the police station in his neighbourhood twice a week.

Kangoo was remanded into custody last week for tracing when he first appeared in the San Fernando Magistrates Court to answer the charges.

When he returned to court yesterday Senior Magistrate Nanette Forde-John was informed by the prosecutor that Kangoo had no previous convictions or pending matters. He was represented by attorney Shaun Teekasingh.

The charges alleged that he kidnapped the girl along Southern Main Road, Marabella, last Monday, beat and robbed her of $25 and a $1,500 cellphone.

It is further alleged that he took her to the Caratal Road, Gasparillo, where he raped her and also attempted to murder her. He is expected to reappear on September 19.

Dog pound shut down after graphic video

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:24

A video of malnourished stray dogs being euthanised at the San Fernando pound through lethal injections, has prompted San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein to close the pound temporally.

Although the facility remained locked yesterday, three whimpering stray dogs were seen lying inside the steel cages. 

Hosein’s decision to postpone all killings at the pound took place after footage of the dogs being euthanised were circulated on Facebook. 

In the video the stray dog handlers were seen hurling a bucket filled with puppies into a net. 

It also showed a fully grown dog was then placed stretched out on a table where they were administered the lethal injection. 

As one of the dogs crawled on the ground dying, three pups were seen licking her face. The dying dogs were then tossed on a pile one on top the other in a heap.

Contacted yesterday president of the T&T Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA), Sita Kuruvilla, said she supported the permanent closure and relocation of the dog pound. Under past mayor Dr Navi Muradali, Kuruvilla said her group had a joint venture approach to manage the stray dog population with the city corporation.

“We worked with the city engineer and our plans were to rebuild a new shelter in another location. A MOU was drawn up to cover the management of that facility,” Kuruvilla said.

Saying too many animals were being abandoned, she said there was a need to have proper animal welfare legislation.

“We have a very old Dogs Act and it focuses on picking up stray dogs. We have a Dog Control Act which gives little consideration to animal welfare. The time has come to look at legislation, embark on public awareness programmes which support low cost spaying and neutering for the animals,” Kuruvilla said.

Meanwhile, vice-president of Animals Alive. Jowelle de Souza, said she was appalled by the video.

“For years I have been begging the corporation to work with us to rescue these animals. They are often left there with no food or water. I used to go every weekend to feed them but they threatened to lock me up if they see me anywhere near the pound,” De Souza said. 

She said instead of euthanising the dogs, it should become a criminal offence for pet owners to abandon the animals.

De Souza also said owners should be mandated by law to spay and neuter their pets. 

She also revealed that the Animals Alive shelter at Ralph Narine Trace, South Oropouche, had over 600 dogs and each week new pets were being adopted. 

Find a more humane way—Hosein

In an interview Mayor Kazim Hosein said yesterday he did not know that the animals were being starved and euthanised. Agreeing that it was better to have the dogs placed in a shelter, Hosein said he planned to embark on a proper upgrade of the pound.

“I really did not know what was going on in there. One of the first things I did when I became mayor was to hold meetings for the relocation of the pound but they said we have no money for that. This year the Ministry of Local Government allocated some money to upgrade the pound,” Hosein said.

He said he was also liaising with veterinary surgeon, Dr Kriyaan Singh, a former Independent Senator, who has offered his services free of charge. Hosein also said he planned to hold a meeting tomorrow at the corporation to discuss the issue.

Singh in an interview said he was willing to go to the corporation once weekly to euthanise the dogs humanely.

“Although I do not support the inhumane slaughter of animals I do support humane euthanasia as a form of animal control and humane cessation of pain and suffering,” Singh said. 

Admitting that not enough is being done to rehome the strays, Singh said every dog that was picked up by the corporation could be published on social media so its owner or a new owner could be found. Euthanasia, he said, should be the last resort. 

He said the management of the pound should be adjusted so citizens could easily go and adopt an animal at the pound without any hassle. 

Security ministers for terrorism talks

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:20

The upcoming 12th Conference of Defence Ministers of the Americas, which will be held in T&T in October, will be used to discuss terrorism and terrorist threats related to Isis, the trafficking of arms and ammunition, drugs and human trafficking.

All discussions will, however, take place in “side bar meetings,” T&T’s National Security Minister Edmund Dillon said yesterday during the media briefing about the three-day conference.

The budget for the conference, where an unprecedented number of Ministers of Defence and delegates from the 34 nation states representing the Americas will be attending, is estimated to be at $9 million, but the majority of costs will be covered by corporate sponsors.

He said they will be holding meetings on the issue of terrorism and terrorists within “our security landscape” and they will be looking at sharing information and intelligence gathering.

“The sidebar meetings will also deal with how do we treat with the inflow of arms ammunition, drugs and human trafficking. The conference allows us to do that type of networking. Also, the trading of experiences and best practices,” Dillon said.

He said there are three topics the meeting will be addressing: Security and Defence of the Americas in a Changing International Environment: The Evolving Role of the armed Forces, Environmental Protection and Resilience; and Hemispheric Security and Defense Cooperation Policy: Beginning with Strengthened Humanitarian Emergency Assistance.

Cop asked to do overtime

Questioned by the media about claims that the Central Division was understaffed and under-resourced at the same press conference, acting Police Commissioner, Harold Phillip, said he had full confidence in the operational activities of the Defence Force and police.

“I am not aware that the police in Central is understaffed and/or underresourced. We have added resources to the Central Division, in particular in the Enterprise area, over the last period and there has been a reduction in terms of criminal incidents,” Phillip said.

He said a request was also made for police officers to give extra hours of work and promised that they will be paid overtime.

Dillon, in weighing in on the topic, gave the assurance that right now they were treating with the issues of crime and criminality and areas are still safe and secure.

“The agencies of the State will continue to be outside there on the streets doing their investigations and operations and again we present a secure environment for T&T citizens,” Dillon said.

Another oil spill off Trinmar’s platform

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:20

More crude oil has spilled into the already polluted Gulf of Paria after a Petrotrin discharge line from an oil to shore pump of Trinmar’s Platform 17 developed a leak.

It is uncertain how much crude oil spilled into the sea. A source said the oil spill occurred between Thursday night and Friday morning and was cleaned up within hours by Petrotrin personnel before it came to shore. 

The State-owned company did not issue an immediate public notice about the spill and it was only yesterday that the company acknowledged the leak when asked by the media.

The source said the discharge line which pumps crude from Platform 17 to Trinmar’s Tank Farm is located about four miles from shore. It is uncertain what caused the line to leak but speculation is rife that the offshore infrastructure was in dire need of upgrade.

Already two leaks have been plugged close to Trinmar’s S-20 platform by Petrotrin personnel which caused a shutdown of fishing operations along the villages of Bamboo, Bonasse, St Marie, Bois Bourg, Granville, Icacos and Fullerton. 

More than 1,200 fishermen and their dependents are relying on Petrotrin to provide compensation. Some of the fishermen said they lost more than two weeks of work because of the spills. Weeks before the oil spill became public, hundreds of dead fish began washing ashore on the western coastlines.

Contacted yesterday, president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union Ancel Roget said he did not have details of the oil spill but will investigate. President of the Icacos Fishing Association Esook Ali said the entire fishing industry was closed down because many people have stopped buying fish. He said although the oil spill was minor, hundreds of fishermen were facing hardship.

In response, Petrotrin’s communications manager Gillian Friday acknowledged that there was a leak. 

“On Friday, August 19th while conducting routine field checks, a leak was observed on one of our platforms in our marine operations. Corrective actions were taken by operations personnel and the situation has been normalised. The Environment Management Agency and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries were informed. Shoreline checks revealed that there was no oil sighted along the beaches. Ongoing monitoring will continue.”

In an earlier statement, Petrotrin said it was continuing to maintain constant vigilance and surveillance of all its land and marine installations. The company denied that chemicals were used in the cleanup, saying that primarily the use of absorbent materials achieved restoration of the affected areas.

It also said it will continue to hold discussions with the fishermen and will work with them to resolve their issues.

Mother of nine-year-old murder victim: No drug link in my son’s killing

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:17

“My son was not a drug dealer.”

These were the words of Safiya Williams yesterday as she spoke out about the death of her nine-year-old son, Cyon Paul.

Cyon was shot and killed while walking along the Southern Main Road, La Romaine, on Friday night.

He had left his Byron Street home minutes before to buy hotdogs at a nearby food truck. His cousin, Kenika Smalls, was with him at the time but was not hurt. 

At her home yesterday, Williams denied rumours her son’s death was linked to an ongoing drug war in the area. Police had said on Sunday the child’s death seemed to be a hit and said then he was shot several times.

An autopsy yesterday by forensic pathologist, Dr Valery Alexandrov, showed he was shot once, the bullet entering and exiting his left arm before re-entering the right side of his chest.

Alexandrov said the bullet pierced the boy’s lung and heart before exiting through the right side. 

Given the circumstances of the shooting and the angle he was shot at, he said that differed from an execution-style shooting. Whether medical assistance came sooner, Alexandrov said his injuries were non-survival as he lost a lot of blood which flooded his chest cavity quickly.

“My son never sell no drugs. He never had anything to do with drugs. He was just a baby, he used to give me half of anything he was eating. even if it was one chewing gum, he would share it in half and give me.

“You see running and playing? That’s what Cyon was into. He would play until dark and still ask to play more,” Williams said.

She admitted to having shortcomings as a single parent but said: “I may not be the best mother but I always try to make my children happy. I never turned my back on them or leave them. My child didn’t do nothing to deserve this.”

Williams, who also has a seven-year-old daughter, Tyra, wept as she recalled her fond memories of her son. She said Cyon would have turned ten on September 25. 

“He would say ‘Mommy, eight more years and I will be 18. What you think I should be?’ He used to tell me he wanted to be a policeman or a lawyer but we will never know,” she added.

She said her son’s death was senseless and made a plea for justice for him.

“I just want some kind of justice. My child didn’t deserve this. He was the sweetest child, like an angel, he never disrespect anyone,” she said.

She said Cyon’s death was also taking a toll on Tyra.

“She can’t sleep at night. She doesn’t really understand that he gone but when she asks I tell her Cyon in heaven. I don’t know how we going to handle this,” she added.

Tentative arrangements are being made for a funeral service on Thursday. 

Plan for Japan must start now

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 23:12

National Association of Athletic Administrations (NAAA) president Ephraim Serrette believes better systems must be put in place for local athletes to make a mark on the world stage.

He made the comment yesterday as he said he was disappointed with the result of the performances of the majority of Team T&T at the just concluded Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Despite having the largest contingent of Olympic athletes ever, many of whom were from the track and field discipline, only javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott got on the podium with a bronze performance.

The overall team’s effort has been much maligned by some quarters of society, with many taking to social media to vent their frustration at the other athletes’ inability to bring home more medals.

Yesterday, Serrette admitted much was expected of the team.

“Expectations were high when you compare how much medals T&T won in Beijing and back in 2012 in London,” he said. 

“Track and field gets most of the pressure because it is the one sport that has been bringing medals, so it is expected that people were hoping for more success. But proper systems need to be implemented if we are to compete against world class athletes.”

After winning one gold, one silver and a bronze medal in London, there was hope of more success in Rio in athletics. This time around though the highly favoured sprinters Richard Thompson and Keston Bledman, both former Olympic medallists, and Rondel Sorrillo failed to advance out of the individual semifinal heats in the men’s 100 metres event. They were joined by Emmanuel Callender for the 4x100m relay but the team was disqualified.

“People seem to have forgotten that the 4x100m men finished fourth in London, but won a bronze because a team (Canada) was disqualified and then the American doping issue saw them upgraded to silver,” Serrette said. 

The men’s 4x400m relay team of Jarrin Solomon, Lalonde Gordon, Deon Lendore and Machel Cedenio suffered a similar fate, as they were disqualified in their semifinal heat after finishing third. It was later learned that it was due to a lane violation.

Cedenio did well in making it to the final, clocking 44.01 to break the previous national record held by Ian Morris for the past 24 years, but placed fourth. Sprinter Michelle-Lee Ahye took some of the spotlight by reaching both the women’s 100m and 200m finals.

“Let’s put things into context, both Ahye and Cedenio have done much better than last year in their times. Ahye made two finals, placing sixth, and Cedenio broke the national record, finishing behind season competitors who have all ran 43 seconds.”

If T&T wants success, preparation for the Tokyo Olympics must start now, he added. 

“The development of T&T athletes must begin now for Tokyo 2020, not in 2019,” said Serrette. 

“Japan is hosting and they are making sure that their athletes are at their best when that time comes around. A combination of things need to happen, which include the athletes and coaches for us to be at a better stage at the next Olympics.” 

He said local fans must also not compare T&T to Jamaica, since that country has a far better programme which feeds its teams. 

“People like to compare us to Jamaica, but Jamaica has a great programme, as well as the British system. Look at GC Foster College in Jamaica that has home-grown, home-trained Jamaican athletes that can compete with the world’s best. 

“Our junior system is not transitioning well to senior level. We have basically the same group of relay runners from 2008, so clearly some of them cannot follow through and make a successful transition.”

From here on out, Serrette said, performances at the Games should be analysed and moving forward the association is calling on everyone to get involved.

“I’m speaking overall now. All sporting organisations, the Government and TTOC (T&T Olympic Committee), we need to develop a system to chart a path to 2020.

“To be podium ready, we need to form a track and field national programme.”