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Police yesterday arrested a suspect in the murder of maxi-taxi driver Kishore Ramdhin and shooting of his 59-year-old wife Taramatie Tambie, who remains warded at hospital in critical condition.
A senior police officer told T& T Guardian yesterday that the suspect, 35, was assisting them with their investigation. A second man wanted in connection with the incident was still on the run.
According to reports, Ramdhin was shot and his throat slit with a shovel by two masked gunmen at his Housing Village, Coryal home around 2.30 am Wednesday. The men attacked him as he went outside to start up the vehicle. When his wife heard the shots and came outside screaming, she too was shot in the stomach.
Investigations by a party of police officers under Supt Neville Sankar and officers from Cumuto police Station led to the suspect’s arrest yesterday.
Police told T&T Guardian they expect to make another arrest soon.
The 32 -year-old Santa Cruz man who threatened to kill a 17-year-old MIC Institute of Technology (MIC-IT) student during a stand-off with police on Monday has been charged with five offences arising out of the incident and is to be taken before an Arima magistrate today.
The charges include possession of a firearm to endanger life, possession of ammunition to endanger life, shooting with intent, false imprisonment and common assault.
The charges were laid by ASP Edwards and Cpl Ramdeen of the Arima CID.
Police reported that the Gasparillo Road, Santa Cruz suspect and a 20-year-old female trainee were dropped of at MIC’s O’ Meara, Arima campus by a taxi driver. After the 32-year-old man and the woman made their way into the campus, the taxi driver came out his vehicle and told security the duo was arguing in the vehicle and the man had threatened to kill her. Police were contacted and officers from Arima, Malabar CID and La Horquetta immediately responded. However, when they arrived the man began shooting at them. He then ran into the campus hall and grabbed the teenager, who at the time had on headphones and did not realise what was taking place. After 10 minutes the man eventually surrendered to police.
Investigating officers Edwards and Ramdeen got instructions from the DPP before laying the charges yesterday.
Member of Parliament for Couva South Rudranath Indarsingh is calling for a review of the security at all public institutions, following the murder of a 23-year-old Claxton Bay man outside the Couva Extended Care Centre yesterday.
In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian, Indarsingh said the National Security Minister was very silent while “criminals have taken over the country.” He added that no one and no where seems to be safe now.
According to police reports, Aaron Goorachan, who was an attendant at the health facility, was followed by his killers to his job and murdered.
Goorachan had just reported for duty around 7.30 am when he was shot. Police said they could not give a motive for his attack.
On Goorachan’s Facebook page, the young man shared pictures of his car and a few with him and a dog. The posts were mostly a year old at least. When approached at the Forensic Sciences Centre, St James, yesterday, relatives said they did not wish to speak with the media at this time.
Indarsingh said yesterday’s killing and the hostage situation at MIC on Monday were signs that the security at public institutions were failing.
On Monday, a 32-year-old Santa Cruz man threatened to kill a 17-year-old MIC Institute of Technology (MIC-IT) trainee during a stand-off with police.
“This is emerging to be a working issue and a health and safety issue because more people could have died at Couva Health Facility and at MIC if this hostage situation had gone wrong. Did the security at the compound (at MIC) have the resources and expertise to deal with that type of situation?” Indarsingh asked.
He added that following the incident on Monday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia was “flippant” in saying there was no need for a security review at educational facilities and hopes his colleague and Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh does not follow in the same vein.
“The Government led by Dr. Keith Rowley has lost the war on crime. You are no longer safe at home or at work,” Indarsingh said, adding he hopes that there will be greater police presence in his constituency.
A&V Oil and Gas owner Nazim Baksh was not the only person named in the Petrotrin audit who Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley called after hearing the news. Rowley also called Petrotrin employee Vidya Deokiesingh after word of the energy company’s alleged “fake oil” issue broke recently.
At yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Rowley confirmed calling Deokiesingh, whose name came up following Petrotrin’s August internal audit report on alleged volume discrepancies and under-supply and overpayment to a private contractor.
Rowley said he contacted Deokiesingh to find out what it was all about.
“I spoke to him and he gave me an explanation. He was a PNM general election candidate. I screened him at least once and he was also in a corporation,” Rowley said.
However, he brushed off Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s claim that his call to Baksh about the Petrotrin issue constituted misconduct in office.
“What nonsense is that? I wasn’t being judge and jury. I was in California and this came up on my phone.” Rowley said.
“I know the man very well, I know his business and what he’s involved in. Is it abnormal that I called to find out what this was all about?”
Rowley, who maintained Baksh is his friend, said he is “standing by that ... I don’t know how, by making a phone call, that constitutes misconduct.”
He added that Petrotrin is still looking at the matter and a probe is ongoing. Asked if he was satisfied with Baksh’s apology following last week’s attack on T&T Guardian photographer Kristian de Silva, Rowley said it wasn’t for him to be satisfied.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young have been accused of contempt of Parliament following their attack yesterday on Wade Mark, who sat as a member of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) into the controversial inter-island ferry service.
The accusation was levelled during a press conference by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who accused both men of launching a scathing attack on Mark at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing.
In the law, Persad-Bissessar said it was clear that what Young and the PM did was “contempt of the Parliament.” She said such abuse tends to obstruct the Houses in the performance of their functions by diminishing respect due to them.
“Today, I am of the respectful view that both the Prime Minister and Minister Young are guilty of a contempt of the Parliament by their scandalous, libellous attacks on a Joint Select Committee member in the proceedings yesterday.”
She said with Parliament being prorogued at midday last night, this would pre-empt “any motion of privilege being brought to the Parliament under the Standing Orders for their actions.”
But Young defended his position last night in a text message, stating, “The evidence and documents speak for themselves and show clearly that Mark, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, misled the Parliament and citizens of T&T by putting forward a false email address and attempting to attribute same to the honourable Prime Minister. Did she explain the fabrication of a false email address by Mark?”
Persad-Bissessar also raised the issue that Young breached his oath of office by appearing as the PM’s private counsel at Monday’s JSC.
“I asked today if Minister Young has breached his oath of office in appearing (in the JSC) as private counsel for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who spoke as a witness.”
She said Young sat as Rowley’s private attorney and kept whispering in the PM’s ear.
“At one point he tried to speak, which I think you cannot do in a Joint Select Committee. He has violated his oath of office.”
The job of Young, Persad-Bissessar said, is to uphold public office for transparency and accountability.
In response, Young said: “This indicates that there is a complete lack of appreciation and understanding of the role by Persad-Bissessar. I am an MP, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and accordingly accompanied the PM in that capacity.”
On another issue, Persad-Bissessar queried if Rowley had reported to the police that a known People’s National Movement (PNM) activist had offered an inducement to Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan to get the contract for the passenger and cargo vessels. This was revealed by Rowley in his testimony before the JSC, she said.
“This would amount to an attempted criminal offence, where a person is saying…in the possible nature of a bribe. And then, when the minister heard it, did he report it to the police or anyone else? This could amount to misbehaviour in public office. If it was not reported, why?”
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has proposed that this country open its doors and waive immigration restrictions so that Dominicans left homeless in the wake of Hurricane Maria can find shelter in T&T.
Speaking during yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Rowley said while T&T was not in a position to contribute financially to the reconstruction of Dominica, accommodation was one of the things we could offer.
“Certainly in situations like these, whatever we have available to us, we the people of T&T have always been a generous people and would want to share,” Rowley, adding Dominican government officials have said there were tens of thousands without shelter or means of sustenance due to the devastation caused by Maria earlier this week.
“If they (Dominicans) could make their way to T&T and find a household to accept them we will waive restrictions to their entry for a period of six-months.”
The restriction waiver means affected Dominica citizens can make their way to T&T once it is established they have family or friends to house them. T&T citizens who have the means and are willing to volunteer space in their homes were also encouraged to approach the Government to offer assistance. Rowley said details for citizens willing to assist would be provided over the next two days.
“If you do have accommodations and you have the means and inclination to support a Dominican, arrangements will be made to identify yourself and for the next six months T&T will open our doors, homes, pots and I dare say our schools to citizens of the Commonwealth of Dominica,” the PM said.
Asked about a screening process for Dominican nationals, Rowley said no one who would not have been able to enter the country under normal circumstances would be able to enter as part of Government’s generosity.
During the six-month period, Rowley said Dominicans who enter T&T would not do so under a refugee status and children may be able to attend school here for that period. At the end of six months, regular arrangements for citizens of Caricom would apply, he said.
According to Minister in the Office of the Attorney General Stuart Young, the Government sent immediate assistance to Dominica on Tuesday. A T&T Coast Guard vessel took members of the Defence Force, first responders and supplies to Dominica, but up until around 2 pm yesterday had been unable to dock due to the state of the port there.
A National Helicopter Services Limited helicopter also landed in St Lucia on Tuesday and has made multiple trips to Dominica to take relief and transport technical experts there with the goal of re-establishing some communications infrastructure. Another T&T Coast Guard vessel is expected to take additional supplies.
Yesterday, the Ministry of National Security also announced that it had collaborated with the Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Lives (FEEL) to establish collection points for citizens who were interested in donating to relief efforts to drop off items.
T&T is still offering relief assistance to Antigua and Barbuda after those islands were devastated by Hurricane Irma just over one week ago. See Page A5
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, who agreed to the Port Authority of T&T’s recommendation to cancel the contract for the Ocean Flower 2 with Bridgemans Services Group, is now saying the new process “was a public tender advertisement in the newspaper and anyone was free to tender.”
He made the comment after the T&T Guardian reported exclusively yesterday that Bridgemans had tendered the same vessel in the latest tender process offered by the PATT for a passenger vessel.
Bridgemans is one of six company’s which put in tenders for the sea bridge service.
Gateway Cruises tendered three vessels - CNV Super Ferry, Super Ferry 2 and the Super Runner.
Ocean Star Shipping Limited submitted one - FB Bridge.
Bridgemans offered one - Ocean Flower 2.
Fortune Maritime LLC tendered 1 - M.V Kiara
Sea Jets Maritime tendered five - MV Terra Jet, HSC Blue Power, HSC Champ Jet 2, HSC Mega Jet and the HSC Paros Jet.
Paragon Protection Construction Limited meanwhile submitted a letter declining the tender.
Sinanan said the valuation process had not started, “but once the evaluation is finished” a submission will be made to him as minister.
PATT officials told the T&T Guardian they are now awaiting word from the Government on the evaluation committee.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Monday that “when we put the evaluation team in place we will want Tobago to have an involvement in the evaluation,” because it was felt that it was at the evaluation stage something went wrong with respect to the the Super Fast Galicia.
Rowley told the JSC that “the Minister will consult the THA and the private sector in Tobago, to add maybe two more persons to the evaluation team.”
Sinanan said yesterday his ministry is in the “process of putting the evaluation team together” and assured that within the next day or so contact will be made with the Tobago stakeholders. He said the Ministry of the Attorney General is assisting with the process.
The Ocean Flower 2 arrived in the country on Wednesday and Bridgemans Services Group vice president Andrew Purdey said it was here for dry docking and the installation of T Foils which he said will “improve ship ride performance and speed.” The installation and complete routine maintenance will take about a week, he said.
Despite conspiracy theories on the sudden appearance of the controversial Ocean Flower 2 vessel, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says if the boat’s owner wanted to come to T&T it wasn’t a Port Authority of T&T or Government issue.
Rowley spoke about the matter during yesterday’s post-Cabinet briefing as he fielded queries on the vessel’s sudden presence on Wednesday, even as owners Bridgemans Services LP made a second tender to PATT for the ferry service.
Rowley, noting the vessel’s arrival yesterday, said, “We understand how it looks.”
He added principals for the vessel may feel being in T&T is a good place at this point in time.
“We certainly want a boat, I’m anxious to have the Port select a vessel. If the Ocean Flower 2 was in Panama and wanted to come to T&T - so be it. But I don’t know that’s a Port or Government issue,” he said.
“I see they’ve said they put in a bid. But there are 12 vessels tendering - a lot more than last time and if there are 12 now there’s a good chance one will meet meet our needs.”
Rowley said anybody can sail into T&T, but he noted the OF2’s first contract had been terminated for reasons and the PATT had clearly said what the situation was.
“Subsequent to that, the Port went out to another tender and anybody with a boat is free to subscribe to the tender and the Port will evaluate what’s been subscribed to,” the PM said.
On a specific short term proposal by the Ocean Flower 2, Rowley said the PATT board had made it very clear about dealing with this particular vessel.
“The people are trying to get business. The Port chairman said they have terminated and gave reasons why.
They said they had arrangements with these people to bring their boat from Korea to Panama to be inspected in Panama before coming to T&T,” he said.
“But the boat didn’t pass muster. They had a period of time to bring it and were allowed an extension, but it didn’t come and the Port exercised the right to terminate.
“The Port went to a second tender which closed (Wednesday) and Ocean Flower 2 offered their boat - so be it. If they wanted to sail to T&T, let them sail, they’re free to tender.
It’s for the Port to now do an evaluation and determine what they do there.”
Rowley said some felt the issues that developed with the ferries arose within the Government, but he said the facts didn’t bear that out.
“We’ll tell T&T what the facts are and let the chips fall where they may,” he said.
OPM Minister Stuart Young said the Ocean Flower 2 had gone for dry docking and repairs at Chaguaramas. He said Government’s legal position is the vessel’s contract had been cancelled and terminated in accordance with the contract and a new tender was issued.
“Anyone is allowed to put in (a tender) and be evaluated. We’re not being premature with the evaluation articulated by the Port,” Young said. See Pages A7 & A8
FORENSIC AUDIT OF PATT DOCUMENTS—YOUNG
Government has begun a forensic audit on documents concerning the Port Authority of T&T’s ferry service after “people” were suspended and phone, computer records and a computer server were seized, OPM Minister Stuart Young said yesterday.
Young confirmed this as he accused Joint Select Committee member Wade Mark of deliberately trying to mislead the public on actions which occurred at Wednesday’s JSC meeting on the ferry service where the Prime Minister appeared.
Young said Mark referred to a document the PM spoke about - an email from the Cabo Star’s first owner in Mexico to now suspended Port manager Leon Grant.
This was at an email address “patnt.com.”
Young said Mark attempted to suggest the PM referred to an email with the Port’s address - and that the PM’s evidence was questionable - and asked Grant leading questions on it. But Young noted the forensic audit being done on Port documents
Rowley slammed Mark, saying he acted deliberately.
“A former Speaker of the House...yet he misrepresented key facts to cast doubt on my presentation, presenting opportunity for a public officer - who has serious questions to answer - to give him a loophole to say it wasn’t his email. It’s reprehensible!”
Rowley said if the Second Session of Parliament - due to have ended at midnight last night - was still ongoing, Government would have Mark investigated by Parliament’s Privileges Committee.
He said the Third session of Parliament begins next Friday.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit broke down in tears yesterday as he spoke of the devastation done to his island by Hurricane Maria.
He said hospitals have all been completely destroyed and are without power and there is an urgent need to airlift all critical patients to other countries for medical treatment.
“The hospital (referring to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Roseau) is running worst than a war zone…nurses there are working 96 hours round the clock…we need to get out the critical patients, right now, we are looking to have some of them airlifted to Martinique,” Skerrit said.
He highlighted the particular plight of one cancer patient who, in his desperation, walked 21 miles from Portsmouth to the capital Roseau for dialysis on Wednesday.
Skerrit was speaking during his first official live interview since the “merciless and monstrous” hurricane ravaged the island on Monday. The interview was done out of Antigua with Garfield Burford, director of news at government-owned broadcaster ABS TV in Antigua and Barbuda. Skerrit was shuttled to Antigua in a helicopter for the broadcast at about midday.
The very emotional PM said the logistics of getting supplies to the battered communities throughout the island was very “critical.”He said there had been 15 burials so far of people who died when houses collapsed on them or were swept away by rivers. He added that 70 others remain unaccounted for so far.
“Every part of the island has been affected in the worst way…either 95 or 99 or 85 per cent of homes destroyed…every community received a serious beating, if not by wind, by river or siltation submerging homes. The upper class, the middle class suffered…there were no classes as far as where Maria was concerned,” Skerrit said.
He said east Dominica was severely battered, “in the extreme south a community has been cut off and communities in the rainforest have been declared a disaster zone.”
“We have to take critical decisions in relocating many villages and homes will have to be built for the people,” Skerrit said.
Skerrit made a humble appeal international help, saying, “We need all the help that the world can offer, as small as it is…we need tarpaulins, drinking water, food, baby formula and lumber among many other items.”
From yesterday, relief items were being “air” dropped to communities via helicopters as there are no places for them to land, while via boat, the seas are still too rough and that aspect of relief to communities has been put on hold.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown and his Cabinet, despite the fact that they too are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Irma, greed to donate US$300,000 to Dominica.
Skerrit said he plans to seek help from the United Nations (UN) and will go to address the UN’s General Assembly in person.
“It is going to be a very long and difficult journey…It took Irma and Maria to let the world understand we are very vulnerable and exposed to climate change. We have to build more resilient communities and it is very difficult to raise the money,” Skerrit said.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia says spaces will be made available in the nation's schools for students of hurricane ravaged countries such as Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda providing they meet Immigration's requirements.
At a press conference at the Ministry of Education's Port-of-Spain office yesterday, moments after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said they would allow Dominicans seeking shelter into the country for a six-month period, Garcia said this initiative was also done in 2004 when Grenadian students also attended schools here after being affected by Hurricane Ivan.
"There was a similar disaster that affected Grenada and I was a principal at that time. The Ministry of Education at that time had students from Grenada and we will make spaces available but with consultation with the Ministry of National Security, which is responsible for the Immigration Department," he said.
Garcia said the students and parents must work in accordance with National Security.
"There are parameters that we must work within."
He said stakeholders and Security Minister Edmund Dillon will be engaged in discussions about the issue.
Garcia said he did not know how many students from would be able to come to T&T or the number of spaces they would be able to make available.
At the conference, he also urged students to participate and give items to those families in the hurricane affected islands.
"The devastation in some of those Caribbean islands and parts of North America, we decided as a ministry and we as a people that has been spared the wrath and that it is our responsibility to assist those affected. We want to thank God," he said.
Garcia said many families need assistance and it is possible to lend a helping hand.
"We thank the Almighty for sparing us and as a means of showing our appreciation and thanks to God for whatever little, even if it hurts let us give," he said.
Chief education officer Harrilal Seecharan said the items will be collected by next week Thursday or Friday. He said the programme will be raising awareness and the ministry will be following the guidelines issued by the Office of Preparedness Disaster Management.
An indefinite stay has been placed on a US$50 million lawsuit filed against CL Financial (CLF) by one of its subsidiaries.
High Court Judge James Aboud yesterday continued the stay against a claim made by British American Insurance Company Limited (BAICO) in 2011 over a loan given to its parent company in 1998.
Presenting submissions on behalf of BAICO, which has been under Central Bank control since the bail-out, Senior Counsel Deborah Peake said the stay of the case, which was originally granted in 2014, should be continued due to the ongoing liquidation of CLF.
BAICO, Clico and Clico Investment Bank (CIB) were the three CLF subsidiaries, which were subject to Government’s bail-out in 2009.
The stay means BAICO haa to prove CLF’s debt to the company’s liquidators Hugh Dickson and Marcus Wide of international accounting firm Grant Thornton.
If successful, the debt will be added to $4.5 billion in loans already owed to other CLF subsidiaries and the $15.6 billion owed to Government for the bail-out.
In its lawsuit BAICO is contending that CLF failed to honour a promissory note dated December 31, 1998, which required it to repay a US$39.575 million loan with US$10.75 million in interest in 2010. BAICO had initially sought summary judgement against CLF but agreed to stay the lawsuit in October 2014.
A Maloney man was killed and his neighbour and accomplice injured yesterday morning, after they attempted to rob a maxi-taxi driver who is also a police officer.
According to police, around 12.30 am Constable Bissessar was driving his red band maxi-taxi east along the Priority Bus Route when he was stopped by the two men at the Maloney traffic lights.
Minutes after boarding the maxi, one of the two men pulled out a gun and began demanding cash and valuables from those in the maxi.
However, Bissessar pulled out his service weapon and opened fire on the men. Both men ran out the vehicle and collapsed at the side of the road.
After dropping his passengers off at the Maloney Police Station, the officer returned to the scene where one of the two men, identified only as “Mexican” and “Elisha,” had already died. His accomplice was later taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, where he is was warded in serious condition.
Yesterday marked the second consecutive day police had killed a robbery suspect moments after they committed an illegal act.
On Tuesday afternoon, former Special Reserve Police officer Leon Johnson, of Felicity, was killed after robbing and murdering business owner Hanipha “Lucky” Bedassie at her mini mart at the corner of Huggins Street and the Chaguanas Main Road.
Yesterday, social media users praised police for their “good work.”
The 32-year-old Santa Cruz man who threatened to kill a 17-year-old MIC Institute of Technology (MIC-IT) trainee during a stand off with police on Monday, is now facing some 10 charges arising out of the incident.
The man, from Gasparillo Road, Santa Cruz, was initially expected to be charged last night. However, he will be placed on further identification parades today before charges are laid.
The charges include shooting at two police officers, possession of a gun and ammunition, possession of the gun and ammunition to endanger life and assault. The man is expected to be charged by two officers, a corporal and an assist superintendent (ASP), who have been investigating the crimes he is alleged to have committed.
Up to late last night investigators were going over statements and seeking advice from senior officers in relation to the best way forward with the case, as such incidents were in relatively uncharted legal territory.
Senior police sources told the T&T Guardian that the man is expected to be charged under the Taking of Hostages Act, which carries a life sentence.
According to reports, the suspect arrived at the O’Meara campus in a taxi with a 20-year-old female trainee. The taxi driver then got out the vehicle and went to campus security indicating the passengers had been arguing and the man had threatened to kill the woman.
Police were contacted but when they arrived the suspect engaged in a shoot-out with them. The suspect then ran into the school hall and grabbed the teenager, who had on headphones and did not realise the commotion going on around him. The suspect held a gun to the teen’s head for 10 minutes before police convinced him to give up after he asked to speak with his sister and a pastor.
A primary school teacher, described as Santa Claus in his Petunia Avenue, Coconut Drive, Morvant community, was one of two men gunned down on Tuesday night.
According to police reports, 47-year-old Hasley “Teach” Mack had gone to buy bread at a neighbourhood parlour when he was shot along with James Julien and Jamali Haywood.
Police said around 7.30 pm a car passed and one man opened fire on those standing near the parlour along Lady Young Avenue, Morvant. The scene of the shooting is less than a stone’s throw away from the Morvant Police Station.
Police said yesterday they suspect the killers merely wanted to create a diversion as they sought their real targets in the community, since none of the men shot were involved in anything illegal.
Julien, 24, also from Morvant, died at hospital along with Mack, while Haywood is now warded in a serious condition at hospital.
Mack, a Standard Three teacher at the Escallier Anglican Primary School, Gonzales, was described by his neighbours as selfless. They gave countless stories of him going beyond neighbourly love to assist them.
“A lot of children will cry, you will see a lot of children crying because that man was a sweetheart,” one neighbour said as others recalled him giving extra lessons for free at his home.
Mack, they said, loved his cup of coffee, a memory which brought laughter to those gathered in his yard.
He was also fond of English Premier League side Chelsea, but teaching was the first love of the father of four, they added.
Relatives of Julien, who spoke at the Forensic Science Centre, St James, said his love for smoking marijuana got him killed, since he had gone to get a smoke when he was shot. Julien has a six-week-old son. A relative, who said she raised him as her own, said he was a troublesome young man who worked several odd jobs and had a pending matter for marijuana possession.
Both men were among four people killed between Tuesday night and yesterday, taking the murder tally to 356 for the year.
The most recent of the killings was that of 49-year-old Anthony Thomas, who was found slumped behind the wheel of his white Nissan AD wagon at Spring Ville, off Trou Macaque Road, Laventille, around 12.45 pm yesterday.
Police said residents heard gunshots during a downpour and later found Thomas dead in his car. Police said the killing was not robbery related as cash and other valuables were left behind and no one from the area claimed to know who he was. Thomas, according to his driver’s permit, lived at Thomas Street, Sunshine Avenue, San Juan.
Tourism traffic coming to T&T following repeated hurricane devastation up the islands in recent weeks may help Tobago through the upcoming winter period, says Chris James, president of the Tobago Hoteliers and Tourism Association.
“But what happens after those islands rebuild to a better standard than ours?” he asked Parliament’s Joint Select Committee yesterday.
James and other THTA officials spoke about hoteliers’ predicament, especially following ferry service failures, as the JSC continued examining the seabridge.
He said following Hurricane Irma the THTA offered tour operators Tobago’s help to handle displaced tourist traffic. THTA also attempted to counteract the Caribbean’s image as an at-risk hurricane-prone area.
James confirmed that when Grenada was previously affected by hurricane, Tobago’s tourism season was better the following year.
THTA’s Carol Birchwood-James, who pointed out that Tobago has the safest harbour in the Caribbean, added that recent hurricanes could provide opportunities for Tobago to promote the yachting sector once it obtains marina facilities.
“Trinidad and Tobago once had a booming yacht sector. This could bring us foreign exchange. We can’t depend on Trinidad for everything,” she said.
THTA officials emphasised that their ailing sector needs financial assistance to rebuild. Since the last JSC meeting in Tobago three weeks ago, James said, while there have been continued staff hour cutbacks, no further businesses have closed since business people will be meeting with the Bankers’ Association soon.
“But the situation will start biting ahead. We need talks with the Bankers’ Association as soon as possible to prevent more closures,” he said.
THTA officials said a $250m loan facility needs to be revisited with low—three to five per cent—interest rates rather than high commercial rates.
THTA’s Kaye Trotman said: “We need this tourism fund to be revisited. It can’t be negotiated with the Bankers’ Association. It needs the Finance and Tourism Minister’s input.”
Members want a fund such as the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association got when their businesses were destroyed in the 1990 failed coup.
THTA members urged Government to market Tobago.
Following a marathon journey from Korea and six other stops, the controversial Ocean Flower 2 vessel is now in Chaguaramas for dry docking services.
The reason was given in a letter from Ken Shipping and Marine (KSM) company to Immigration authorities, Joint Select Committee member Wade Mark revealed yesterday. KSM is local agent for the Canadian firm Bridgemans Services, which owns and operates the vessel.
However, former public service head Reginald Dumas says whether there are other reasons for the vessel’s presence here should be clarified by Works Minister Rohan Sinanan or the vessel’s shippers.
After issues with the Ocean Flower II in recent months, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan said the contract was cancelled. But at the JSC session two weeks ago, Bridgemans Services vice president Andrew Purdey said the firm was still hoping to work with the Port Authority and Ministry for a”co-operative outcome.”
Yesterday JSC member Rushton Paray announced, “As we speak, the OF2 is in Chaguaramas.”
Mark then read a September 8 letter from KSM, signed by Lester Kenny, notifying Immigration that the Ocean Flower 2 was expected in T&T on September 12 at 9.30 for dry docking. It said the vessel has a 13-member crew and its last port of call was Curacao.
Dumas, appearing before the JSC yesterday, also said he’d heard the vessel was in Chaguaramas. He said he’d traced the vessel’s journey from Korea to Japan to several places in Alaska, then Mexico, Panama and Curacao, on shipping sites.
“The poor boat tired - it probably needs dry docking and other things,” Dumas added.
Questioning if it would be placed on the ferry service eventually, Dumas said explanations from Kenny or Sinanan were needed. He reiterated calls for Sinanan and the Port board to resign over the ferry crisis. He said he didn’t need a report to tell him there were severe defects where due diligence on the issue was concerned, plus there was a callous approach to people’s welfare, especially Tobagonians.
Dumas said he, like Tobagonians, accepted the Prime Minister’s apology on the service, but the PM’s complaint about people publicising pictures of empty Tobago shelves didn’t sit well with many Tobagonians.
Concerns are being raised in some quarters of the legal fraternity about the appointment of Appeal Court Judge Charmaine Pemberton to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), the body which among other things makes appointments to the Supreme Court and hears complaints against judicial officers.
Senior Counsel Israel Khan said the appointment is “perfectly legal” and in keeping with the Constitution which makes provision for the selection of a member of the Commission after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
“I take it for granted there was no objection from either the Prime Minister or the leader of the Opposition, so it seems the appointment was legally perfect,” he said.
This is the first time a sitting Judge has been appointed to the JLSC and the move has caused concern in the profession, with some saying they did not think it was prudent.
Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan said on literal interpretation of Section 110-(3a) of the Constitution, a sitting judge can be appointed, “so there is no legal or constitutional impropriety in the appointment of Madame Justice of Appeal Pemberton.”
But he said it might well be that the framers of the Constitution had something else in mind since the same section provides for the sitting judge or retired judge to be drawn “from some part of the Commonwealth.” It does not refer to “the jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago”, he said.
Sinanan said the appointment of a sitting judge heralded a break with tradition and might be regarded by some as “a recipe for conflict” because the CJ, as the head of the Judiciary, is in effect Justice Pemberton’s boss.
Pemberton sits alongside CJ Archie in the Court of Appeal and while there is well recognised “judicial ethos and culture” for dissent in the adjudication of appeals, it might not necessarily be so in the JLSC, he said.
Despite those concerns, Sinanan has congratulated Justice Pemberton on her appointment. However, he felt President Anthony Carmona should have taken the opportunity to fill all vacancies in the JLSC and bring the body up to its full complement.
For the past three months, the JLSC has not had its full complement following the resignations of retired Justices Roger Hamel Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer.
Petrotrin employee Vidya Deokiesingh resigned from the Lake Asphalt Board earlier this week, Energy Minister Franklin Khan confirmed yesterday.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last Friday said Deokiesingh had signalled his intention to resign from the LATT board and he expected the resignation shortly. Khan confirmed its been received.
This followed Petrotrin’s August internal audit report over January to June 2017 which alleged volume discrepancies occurred, causing under-supply by, and overpayment to a private operator.
A Petrotrin employee was allegedly involved.
Petrotrin presented a final report on the issue to Khan last Thursday. This is expected to be perused by Cabinet today.
Deokiesingh didn’t immediately reply to calls yesterday.
Sources yesterday claimed Deokiesingh had come gone in to Petrotrin recently after the issue broke, submitted leave application and “disappeared.”
Petrotrin president Fitzroy Harewood was said to be in a meeting and other officials could not verify if Deokiesingh was on duty in the capacity he had held—or if the situation had changed in any way.
An official Petrotrin response last night stated the company could not comment on queries over whether he had been suspended or not, since investigations were ongoing.
Yesterday, Opposition MP Dr Suruj Rambachan called on Government to make the Petrotrin report the “number one item” for discussion at today’s Cabinet meeting and to issue a subsequent statement on speedy resolution.
He added: “It should be discussed as a priority item with a view to action of some sort. From what’s known so far, the report contains very scary allegations.
“If Government is serious about being viewed as an anti-corruption administration, they should leave no stone unturned in pursuing proper resolution. It should be dealt with, with the same speed the ferry service report was.”
The Ocean Flower 2 passenger ferry is now in Trinidad and Tobago waters and its owner Bridgemans Services Group Limited says the vessel is here for “a pre-planned dry-docking” following its repositioning from Asia. However, Bridgemans has also put in a new bid for the sea bridge and had a representative present during public tenders opened by the Port Authority of T&T yesterday.
The vessel docked at Chaguaramas just before 2 pm yesterday, the same day tenders closed and were publicly opened by the PATT for a new passenger ROPAX ferry for the sea bridge. The T&T Guardian understands six people tendered. One person submitted three boats, another five and four others submitted one each. The Ocean Flower 2 was among the single tenderers.
In an emailed response last evening, Bridgemans vice president Andrew Purdey confirmed they had “issued a fully compliant bid proposal in alignment with the tender offer” and the vessel offered was the Ocean Flower 2.
The Ocean Flower 2 contract was cancelled on August 8 after it failed to meet three deadlines (July 17, 26 and August 1) for arrival here, then at a lease cost of US$26,500 daily. In an exclusive interview with GML in late August, Purdey admitted the cancellation was in keeping with the exit clause of the contract which dealt with late arrival. He said then, however, that the vessel had suffered “catastrophic engine failure, losing a bearing and a piston” on its journey from Korea to the Caribbean. When the vessel got to Panama, Purdey said “we did work from head to toe.”
Yesterday, Purdey said the vessel is now “fully certified and ready for service” and confirmed the company was in possession of an irrevocable standby letter of credit in the amount of US$3 million which is contained in the Charter Party Agreement with the PATT. He said the stand-by letter of credit was not cancelled when the PATT cancelled the Ocean Flower 2 contract. Purdey could shed no light on why the letter of credit was not cancelled or whether the PATT was bound to accept the Ocean Flower2, saying “this is all under discussion with the client and only they can comment.”
But on August 21 following a meeting with stakeholders in Tobago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had made it clear the Government was not interested in the Ocean Flower 2 when told reports were that the vessel was still reportedly coming to T&T.
The PM said then: “As far as I am aware, the Port Authority, advising the Government, the Ministry, has advised the principals of that boat that their contractual arrangements have ceased. The owners are free to travel with their boat on any ocean they wish, but coming to Trinidad and Tobago, the contractual arrangements have been terminated for cause.”
The timing of the vessel’s arrival yesterday was curious given the close of tenders for a passenger ferry.
The T&T Guardian was told yesterday that ship’s local agent Lester Kenny, of Ken Shipping and Marine, had written to the Immigration manager on September 8 indicating the vessel would arrive on September 12 for dry-docking. It only arrived yesterday.
Purdey insisted yesterday that this was a “pre-planned dry-docking to install the T-Foil’s following its repositioning from Asia.” He said while the vessel is ready for service “as is,” installation of the T-Foils would “improve ship ride performance and speed,” a process which would take less than a week.
Purdey said while the vessel was not en route to another port that “may change by the hour” as they had been asked, through a broker on behalf of FEMA, to “support the humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean” following the recent hurricane damage suffered by several countries. But he said they were “only in negotiations and nothing was certain at this time.”
Contacted yesterday, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan referred all questions on why the vessel was here to the PATT and Bridgemans. However, he said as far as he was concerned the contract for the Ocean Flower 2 was “terminated and that is as far as where we are.”
As for the vessel arriving here, he said “those questions are better answered by the owner.”
Sinanan said tenders invited by the PATT for a passenger ferry closed yesterday and he “will support the outcome of that tender.”
MINISTRY: CREDIT LETTER VOID
The Ministry of Works and Transport is insisting that the presence of the Ocean Flower 2’s in this country “is not related to the terminated contract.”
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry said the vessel is here “relative to a dry docking exercise being undertaken by its owners.”
With regard to the stand by letter of credit, the ministry said because the Ocean Flower 2 was terminated, “such letter of credit cannot be drawn down by Bridgemans Services Group.”
It said the letter of credit will come to an end “at its natural effluxion of time in September 2018” and as such “the interests of the public are not in any way exposed or compromised.”
A Housing Village, Coryal maxi-taxi driver was killed while his wife was in critical condition last night after bandits stormed the family’s compound on Thursday night.
Kishore Ramdin, 52, was beaten with a shovel, shot several times and his throat slit by two masked men. His common-law wife Taramatee Tambie, 59, was also shot in the stomach when she raised an alarm during the attack on Ramdin.
Police said around 2.30 am yesterday, Ramdin, who operated his 25-seater maxi on the Arima/Port-of-Spain route, was walking towards his vehicle when he was approached by the two men. One of them then took a shovel and hit Ramdin on his back and he turned around and was about to retaliate when the other man pulled out a gun and shot Ramdin. One of Ramdin’s attackers then took the shovel and slit his throat to ensure he was dead.
When Tambie ran outside and realised what was happening she began to scream for help and the gunman fired, hitting her in the stomach.
The men made their escape in nearby bushes.
Neighbours who heard the screams rushed to the home and found both Ramdin and Tambie bleeding from their injuries, before taking Tambie to the Sangre Grande Hospital and calling the police.
ACP Persad, Supt Neville Sankar, Insps Birch, Sewak Baran, PCs Thomas, Christian and officers attached to Homicide Bureau Region II, Arouca, responded and cordoned off the crime scene to avoid people polluting it.
Villagers described Ramdin as a quiet and respectable man who seldom limed.
They said they were shocked at his killing, noting this was the first murder that had occurred in the agricultural village.
Police said they had no motive for the killing as nothing was stolen.
PC Thomas of Homicide Region II is investigating.