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Updated: 2 hours 9 min ago

Fishermen on $.5m bail for cocaine charge

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 23:15

Two fishermen from south Trinidad arrested in connection with a $20 million cocaine seizure in the Gulf of Paria last week, have each been granted $500,000 bail.

Sharma Kissoon, 62, of Embacadere, San Fernando, and Nigel Ramcharan, of Lothians Road, Princes Town, were granted the bail by acting Chief Magistrate Maria Busby Earle-Caddle in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court after appearing before her charged with trafficking 40.7 kilos of cocaine.

Venezuelan national Roberto Gamboa, who was also arrested was denied bail.

In addition to the cocaine trafficking charge, the men were also charged under the Customs Act with attempting to import a controlled substance into T&T.

In their application for bail, Kissoon and Ramcharan’s attorneys Devvon Williams and Criston J Williams argued that there clients should be granted bail as their case was likely to be delayed as an apparatus for testing drug samples at the Forensic Science Centre in St James was not working.

Busby Earle-Caddle agreed but required that they obtain two sureties for their bail to be approved. She adjourned the case to June 23.

Kissoon, Ramcharan and Gamboa were arrested aboard a pirogue in the Gulf of Paria by members of the T&T Coast Guard last Thursday. They were arrested and handed over to the Organised Crime and Narcotics and Firearms Bureau (OCNFB) after the illegal drugs were allegedly found on their boat.

Kissoon and Gamboa are also being represented by Kelston Pope. The Customs and Excise Division was represented by Harricharan Cassie.

More protests in Morvant for jobs

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 23:12

For the second time in two weeks disgruntled Morvant residents blocked the Lady Young Road demanding Government immediate intervention to improve the standard of living in the community including a proper water supply and making employment opportunities available to them.

The residents, who blocked the road and lit tyres from as early as 5.30 am, vowed to keep up the protests until they get a response from the authorities. The residents denied that their protest action was politically motivated.

On May 15, residents in a co-ordinated protest blocked off areas of the Lady Young Road and the Eastern Main Road which led to gridlock traffic for those entering Port-of-Spain. The Priority Bus Route was opened up to help alleviate the traffic congestion and bring relief to stranded commuters.

Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday, one of the protestors, Akeil Baig said after the first protest they met with their Member for Parliament (Laventille West), Fitzgerald Hinds who listened to their concerns.

“He only listened but he said that he could not do anything to help right now. So who we could turn to in the long run, then.”

“Right now we are faced with bad roads, the community centre need fixing and we need programmes for the youth. But right now we are being neglected and it is like nobody cares,” Baig said.

Another resident, who asked not to be identified, said police officers instead of giving guidance to the youth they were provoking them.

“Them police and them is no good. They harassing us and saying they will lock us up but for what? Not all ah we here is criminals and bad in here you know,” the resident said.

Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), Romney Thomas said he made some enquiries yesterday when he heard about the protest and got information that a spring in the area had dried up.

He said he was not sure as to whether it was because of the harsh dry season or if that the spring is no longer viable.

Thomas said WASA officials will visit the area soon “to put a more solution in place, to see if they could come up with a viable solution.”

Text messages to Hinds were not answered.

Carmona: Panchayat can solve disputes

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 23:09

President Anthony Carmona has appealed to citizens to follow the indentureship system of panchayat to bring about amicable redress in society.

As citizens of the country continue to live in trying times, burdened by intolerance, indiscipline, conflict and a depreciation of the sanctity of life, Carmona said we need a change in that eternal fight against man’s inhumanity to man.

“Because of indentureship, a traditional method of amicable redress is available to us in the form of the ‘panchayat’ system. The ‘panchayat’ system is one of the earliest manifestations of mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution. It represents a cultural solution to resolving conflict in our communities. The ‘panchayat’ was indeed a forerunner that actualised a restorative justice that can ameliorate individuals or a community enveloped in conflict and burdened by discord. The ‘panchayat’ system, one of the hallmarks of indentureship, is a way of resolving social conflict through the power of mediation and alternative dispute resolution.”

This was the message Carmona relayed in a press release issued yesterday on the occasion of Indian Arrival Day.

With fervent hope, tremendous uncertainty and unbridled enthusiasm, Carmona said Indentured labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Madras crossed the ‘Kala Pani’ on board the ‘Fatel Razack’ 172 years ago and did not look back.

Carmona said the emphasis and care traditionally placed on the environment and “Dharti Mata” (Mother Earth) in the East Indian way of life, should be mirrored and pursued aggressively within our nation.

“It will help us, if we are to adequately and proactively address the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation. Small Island Developing States like T&T and the rest of the Caribbean are at phenomenal risk. There is a clear and present danger. So important is this working philosophy of “Dharti Mata” in East Indian culture, that even some plants and animals are revered, protected and treated as genuine manifestations of a living God,” Carmona said.

He said the Indian diaspora places great emphasis on respect for parents, elders and also nurtures in all the need for hard work, sacrifice and a sound education.

“At the end of indentureship, education became the vehicle of social mobility and change eradicating poverty and garnering respect through sustainable, economically viable and satisfying careers and we all must learn and be guided by this. Through the power of education, East Indians have been able to reach the highest heights in various fields locally, regionally and internationally. The indentured left a veritable generational legacy that hard work, sacrifice and the pursuit of education can bring progress,” Carmona said.

Through indentureship, he said, we are now able to embrace the positives of East Indian culture.

“It is noteworthy that some of the very solutions that we seek can be sourced from traditional philosophies and practices that can guide us.”

Carmona said philosophies of food sustainability and food security are increasingly pertinent in this time of economic uncertainty and financial downturn.

“That philosophy of self-sustainability and that buzz expression, food security may well have emanated from the planting culture of the East Indians, involved in sugar, rice and cocoa production.”

119 OJT admins sacked

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 23:04

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has accused the Government of attacking workers on all fronts following the retrenchment of 119 administrators assigned to the On-The-Job (OJT) programme which falls under the Ministry of Labour.

CWU President John Julien promised to battle with the Government for their reinstatement and ensure they received money owed to them.

Addressing some of the workers and the media during a press conference at the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-Operative Studies, Valsayn yesterday, Julien said the rationale used to retrench the workers was baseless and without merit.

Workers from Port-of-Spain, Chaguanas and San Fernando learned of their fate only last Friday, after being directed to collect their cheques at the College. Julien said while all 119 persons were paid, there was a huge discrepancy regarding the severance benefits.

He said that prior to the 2015 general election, the workers should have been considered for permanent appointments.

Failing this, Julien said, when the People’s National Movement (PNM) assumed office, some workers were allowed to continue working according to their existing terms and conditions while three-year contracts were awarded to new employees entering the system for the period 2015 to 2018.

The retrenched workers included clerks, administrative assistants, payroll personnel, human resource specialists and employment organisers.

Julien said the workers were responsible for the placement and payment of the over 4,000 OJT employees that were currently in the system.

Julien said similar situations had been taking place involving workers at Tourism Development Company, Caroni Green Ltd and the Government Human Resource Services Company Limited (GHRS).

He said the latest group of workers was informed in February that there was going to be a reorganisation detailing the roles, functions and responsibilities of employees and that staff would be reduced.

Julien said this was not the case, as all 119 workers received termination letters and were told to reapply for work.

He accused the Minister of Labour Jennifer Baptiste-Primus of delivering a death sentence to the workers. He said while the job titles had been changed, the scope and functions of work had remained the same thereby highlighting the fact that the posts had not been made redundant.

Pointing to the huge gaps in the payment of severance benefits, Julien said persons who had been offered contracts after the PNM assumed office in 2015, had their contracts bought out to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He said those workers would have been paid more than $150,000 each, while employees who had been working for close to eight years and more had only received one year’s severance in varying amounts but not exceeding $30,000 in some of the cases.

He demanded an urgent meeting with Baptiste-Primus to clarify the issues that had arisen.

Julien said the union was prepared to follow the necessary procedures before the matter reached the Industrial Court.

CWU’s Ag Secretary General, Clyde Elder, described the situation as “disheartening” as he said Government had been imploring the private sector to explore other ways of generating revenue and reducing costs, instead of retrenching workers.

He said the Government was not following this advice as they seemed hell-bent on sending workers home every time they had a chance.

Bay Ferries defends itself in ferry fiasco

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:59

Bay Ferries, the Canadian Company which had the contract to service the inter-island passenger ferries for 11 years, is insisting its management contract with the Port Authority of T&T was valued at just under TT$7 million a year and not US$7 million. But figures obtained by the T&T Guardian tell a different story.

Port insiders said the management fee, which was US$954,475, “was just a small part of what we paid annually. In addition to the management fee we also paid for parts, maintenance, crew and airfare for their maintenance team to and from the country. We also paid housing accommodation and other incidentals, all of which was paid in US dollars.”

A breakdown of the invoice paid to the company for the year 2014-2015 and which is similar to invoices paid in previous years, gives the breakdown for payment:

Management contract—US$954,475

Wages and benefits—US$2,907,157.96

Crew accommodation—US$151,500

Accommodation & cleaning— US$21,933.71

Meal allowance BFML—US$233,335,

Vehicle rentals—US$93,544.54

Utilities—US$26,194.32

Insurance ship managers—US $14,649.16

Maintenance—US $2,205,695.21

Captain petty cash—US$4,375.06

Staff reimbursement non-management—US$120,480.00

Agency fees Melville Shipping—US$191,614.34

The figures represent an annual cost to the country of US 7,236,218.77

Last Friday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said both inter-island passenger vessels—the T&T Spirit and T&T Express—had been operating without maintenance for a long time. He added to concerns voiced by both former port commissioner Ferdie Ferreira and Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union president Michael Annisette that US$7 million was paid annually for 11 years for the maintenance of the vessels.

Rowley also expressed concern that the Port had been left with no maintenance data and that Government had since sent to the Australian manufacturers to advise the port on how to proceed.

Yesterday, Bay Ferries said it left the country on September 30, 2016, when its management contract with the Port ended, adding “throughout our entire time serving the people of Trinidad and Tobago we supported an exceedingly reliable ferry service with vessels maintained to international technical and regulatory standards.”

The company insisted that “some Trinidadian navigation officers developed high speed ferry expertise second to none in the world.”

As to the current problems on the inter-island service, it said the Port Authority was “well aware of the need for significant scheduled maintenance projects on both vessels after September 30th 2016.” Bay Ferries insisted that as it prepared to finish its assignment, “we supported whatever transition was going to take place, in a number of ways.”

This, according to Bay Ferries, included delivering all BFML controlled and approved safety management documentation to the port, facilitating direct contact with the port so that any BFML personnel who so wished could continue to work with the port after the company left on September 30.

Bay Ferries is also saying that contrary to what is being said, “all vessel technical plans, manuals and other documentation remained on board the vessels.” It is also insisted “historical vessel maintenance data remained fully accessible on board databases,” but it said to access those databases the Port had to arrange “for its own software licence and applicable training,” which it said subsequently occurred.

According to Bay Ferries, the port was in possession “of very detailed technical reports of all significant work undertaken on the vessels over the years. The company said it was “saddened” that it was being blamed for the difficulties now being experienced on the ferry service.

Port Authority chairman Allison Lewis yesterday told the T&T Guardian that she was holding fast to her position that “we did not negotiate properly with Bay Ferries.” She said her priority now is finding a vessel for the inter-island ferry service.

St Mary’s Home worker attacked

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:58

A welfare officer at the St Mary’s Home in Tacarigua has been beaten by a resident of the home.

It’s the third serious incident in which a staff member was attacked for the year and staffers, who earlier this year invoked section 15 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act by refusing to work in circumstances in which their lives are in danger, are now appealing to the authorities to do something.

The representing Public Services Association (PSA) said it is concerned that the workers’ lives are at risk, adding that because of constraints under the Children’s Authority Act, the workers cannot even restrain a child when they are being attacked.

In the latest incident, the T&T Guardian was told the child and the welfare officer were on a bus when the child suddenly started rolling on the ground. The officer got up and checked the child, who then turned on the officer, grabbed her glasses and started hitting and scraping her in the face.

The incident came less than a month after a meeting called by the Children’s Authority, which was attended by the PSA, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development Jacqui Johnson and Chief Personnel Officer.

PSA second vice president Ian Murray told the T&T Guardian the issue of staff operating under circumstances where they are being attacked by inmates with mental problems was raised at the meeting, but they were advised by the Children’s Authority that the children’s welfare was paramount and staff could be culpable if anything happens to any child.

Murray said the union has recommended that “the CPO needs to ensure that psychiatric nurses and/or orderlies skilled in deviant behaviour and how to treat with it be employed at the home.”

Following an incident in March, workers said they had had enough and refused to work citing section 15 of the OSH Act. The manager of the home reported the workers to the OSH Authority.

But the T&T Guardian understands an investigation conducted by the OSH Authority showed little sympathy for the manager, whom it said had failed to comply with the act and supported the decision taken by the workers.

The St Mary’s Home is run by the Anglican Board but efforts to contact head of the Anglican Church, Bishop Claude Berkeley, were unsuccessful yesterday as he is currently out of the country. The T&T Guardian also tried to contact the manager of the home Patricia Martin the Minister of Social Development Cherrie Ann Crichlow-Cockburn without success.

Govt set to close GISL

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:56

The Government Information Services Limited (GISL) will be no more and its 60 employees will be sent home, Minister of Communications Maxie Cuffie confirmed yesterday.

Speaking with the T&T Guardian, Cuffie said the company has been losing money, with its assets exceeding liabilities by $19 million.

“We have been spending $14 million to keep it going but it is not prodding anything,” Cuffie said hours after met with employees to tell them of the decision.

He said a new board will be appointed for the winding up process and it will determine the terminal benefits for the employees.

“It is an operational board that will be appointed by the Ministry of Finance,” Cuffie said.

Cabinet, he added, will confirm the board members on Thursday.

“It pained me to do this. It was a painful decision for me because I worked there and I hired a number of them there, but it is something that needs to be done. Media companies have been experiencing difficult times and this is generally a cause of concern,” Cuffie said.

Speaking under strict anonymity yesterday, a GISL employee said most of them were shocked over the sudden news.

“Not any one of us thought we would have woken up this morning, gone to our workplace and return home with this news knowing that we don’t have a job to go to now. It is very hard to swallow and to accept,” the employee said.

Another employee, who also wished not to be identified, said initially she had heard GISL would be wrapped up within the next two months but was surprised to know that that changed to “immediate.”

She added that many people are still owed gratuity and wondered if they will ever receive it with.

“Will they still be paid their gratuities? Over 100 were retrenched before and now us, 60. We were told that there would have been no new contracts and that contracts would not be renewed, now, suddenly, pops up to say it is over,” the employee said.

In a 2016 report on the future of the Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) and GISL, it was recommended that GISL be dissolved, its television station TV4 be disposed of and all contract work be ceased.

It also found that GISL and the Government Information Services Department (GISD) provided the same services. The report said GISL should be dissolved as a limited liability company and GISD restructured to co-ordinate the implementation of government’s information policy and provide services aligned with that particular function, as well as to support ministries and departments with the dissemination of information. The report said there should be complete reintegration by July 2016.

The report, which was prepared by the company’s board under former chairman Helen Drayton, also recommended CNMG change its name to the Broadcasting Trust Corporation (BTC) T&T Ltd to be more reflective of its mandate.

Ex-fireman shot in face

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:50

With no idea why he was shot and no word yet from doctors on his condition, relatives of retired Fire Station Officer (FSO) Robin Sookdeo are today praying for a miracle.

Sookdeo, 56, was shot in the right side of his face at his New Settlement, Dow Village, Couva home yesterday. The bullet is said to have shattered in his head.

His sister, Indira Ali, 53, was also shot once in the leg by a gunman who stormed their home.

According to reports, Sookdeo was accosted by the gunman around 10.55 am and shot in the face. On hearing the gunshot, Ali ran out and the gunman shot her in the leg before escaping in a drain near the roadway.

Sookdeo retired from the T&T Fire Service several years ago. Speaking outside the Emergency Department of the San Fernando General Hospital yesterday, one of Sookdeo’s daughters, Risa Sookhoo, told the T&T Guardian her family had no idea why the two were attacked.

She said her father was had undergone an x-ray and was expected to undergo emergency surgery overnight.

“The entire family is just trying to stay strong right now for him. The doctors are not saying much, they said the bullet shattered into fragments in his head and they have not told us what are his chances of surviving,” she said.

Sookdeo is currently employed at the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation as a security officer and Ali is a security officer with Amalgamated Security Services Ltd.

Ali was listed in stable condition and was said to be recovering well last night.

Cops kill murder suspect

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:43

Devin “Country” Wilson, a suspect in the abduction and murder of Central businessman Julian Moonsammy, was killed by police on Sunday night after he allegedly shot at them as they were searching for him.

Police reports are that around 8.30 pm, officers from the North Eastern Division Task Force received information in relation to Moonsammy’s killing and went to Wilson’s home off Laventille Road, San Juan, in an area known as Pepper Hill.

While walking through a bushy area, police said they saw Wilson, 37, fleeing his home and they chased after him.

Wilson reportedly fired at the officers and they returned fire, injuring him. He was taken to the nearby Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex Hospital in Mt Hope where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Police recovered a revolver at the scene. Officers also arrested a Laventille man yesterday morning in connection with Moonsammy’s killing.

Moonsammy, a 56-year-old foreign-used car dealer, was abducted last Wednesday and found murdered in a wooden shack in the hills of San Juan.

The Church Street, Cunupia man was snatched from a construction site in St Helena just after noon and his body found around 7 pm at Sou Sou Lands, off Laventille Road, Febeau Village, San Juan, after his stolen Nissan Navarra was traced to near the location.

Indian Expo booted out

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:42

On the eve of the Indian Arrival Day holiday yesterday, Enigma Events Limited, the company that operates the Indian Expo located obliquely opposite the Centre of Excellence in Macoya, Tunapuna, has been ordered by the High Court to stop conducting trade at the location by midnight on June 6.

Presiding at the Hall of Justice in Port-of- Spain, Justice Carol Gobin ruled that the company did not have approval from the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation (TPRC) to conduct business at the site and ordered them to cease and desist until it secures the necessary approvals.

The TPRC had taken legal action against Enigma Events, citing the building regulations which fall under its ambit.

Attorney for the company, Simon de la Bastide, instructed by Nyree Alfonso, agreed that his client did not have approval from the TPRC’s engineer, but argued that they lacked the required locus standi to facilitate the proceedings.

Justice Gobin had initially suggested the temporary operation of the Expo given the closeness of Indian Arrival Day, after which they would be required to seek the necessary approvals. However, after deliberations the company agreed to stop conducting business on the site by June 6 and to begin dismantling its structure by the following day

The company will seek the TPRC’s approval before recommencing any trade or business operations and has been ordered to pay their costs of $2,500.

Farai Hove Masaisai appeared for the TPRC in the matter which was heard on May 26.

The TPRC said it pursued the matter in the High Court to have the issue ventilated and adjudicated and to ensure all businesses in the region meet the required standards set out in the Municipal Corporation Act.

Ambassadors express solidarity with Venezuela

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:59

Two regional ambassadors based in Port-of-Spain along with the leader of a local political party signed a declaration in solidarity with the government of people of Venezuela in Lopinot on Saturday.

Signing the Declaration in Solidarity with People and Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela were Ambassador of Cuba Guillermo Vázquez Moreno, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic Dr José Serulle Ramia, as well as political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah.

This took place as the Lopinot/La Pastora Community Council in collaboration with the Embassy of Venezuela celebrated Cruz de Mayo at the Lopinot Historical Complex in Lopinot.

Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, has seen almost daily demonstrations in recent weeks, some of which have turned violent.

Critics are accusing President Nicolas Maduro of moving the South American towards a dictatorship, and want him to resign. But Maduro says the opposition is conspiring with foreign entities, specifically the US, to destabilise the country.

On Saturday, however, the atmosphere was a festive one for Venezuelan Ambassador Coromoro Godoy Calderon and Venezuelans living in Trinidad, as people from all across the T&T and other Spanish-speaking countries as well as visiting Venezuelans journeyed to Lopinot to celebrate the Feast of the May Cross (Cruz de Mayo) with residents of that community.

Cruz de Mayo is an expression of the people and their creative power. People sing to the “Holy Tree,” and pay tribute to nature at the beginning of the rainy season to bring good harvests.

The May Cross tradition began in old Europe when a young girl would be adorned with flowers in commemoration of the goddess Maya the “splendour of nature” representing eternity as spring is the time of renewal. There was celebration of dancing.

Among participants were Grupo Madera from San Agustin, Caracas, Venezuela, as well as students from the Venezuelan Institute for Cultural Cooperation and Jugadores de Unidos Parang Group. Chief of the Santa Rosa Carib Community Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, and Carib Queen Jennifer Cassar also attended.

Anand sticks to his story

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:52

Former attorney general, Anand Ramlogan SC, who led a legal challenge against the Government’s property tax exercise

He is holding on to his position the process was not consistent with established protocol.

Ramlogan, who is representing former United National Congress minister, Devant Maharaj in the courtroom challenge, was responding to Registrar of the Supreme Court, Jade Rodriguez.

Rodriquez, in a letter to Ramlogan last Friday, insisted proper protocol was followed in the fixing of an appointment for the Appeal Court to hear the Government’s appeal of Justice Frank Seepersad’s judgment on Maharaj’s property tax case.

Her letter was in response to Ramlogan, who questioned how could Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi announce in Parliament shortly after Seepersad’s ruling on Friday 19 that the matter was being appealed and the hearing fixed for the following Monday.

Early last week, Ramlogan said Rodriguez, who is also the manager of the Registry for the Court of Appeal, told him no appeal had been listed.

Rodriguez said Ramlogan’s publicising of the matter without consulting her would have led observers to assume he intended to impute collusion between the AG and the Judiciary in the filing of Appeal Court matters.

She also noted Ramlogan raised concerns in a letter to her on May 21.

Seepersad last week granted a temporary halt to the submission of forms sent out by the Government to thousands of citizens in the first phase of the roll out of the property tax.

But Ramlogan, in a letter to Rodriguez yesterday, said while he was heartened to know she held the view proper protocol was followed, he wished to clarify certain facts for the public record.

 

Ramlogan said Rodriguez’s letter has, in fact, confirmed collusion between the AG and the Judiciary.

“This cannot be consistent with established practice and protocol and, if it is, then it must be immediately changed because it is patently unfair and wrong.

“My client should have been kept abreast of these developments so that he could make representations to the learned judge on his own behalf in pretty much the same way the government was doing.”

He said the public was never informed there was an application or attempt by the AG on May 19, a mere hour after Justice Seepersad delivered judgment, to move the Court of Appeal on an urgent basis to deal with the matter that very night.

“I was never advised of this fact by anyone. More importantly, we were never informed this application or attempt had been rejected by Justice Mendonca who indicated insufficient reasons were presented to move the Court of Appeal that night.

“This fact should have been communicated to the public and Maharaj’s legal team. It is noteworthy the Attorney General made no mention of this when he dealt with this matter in Parliament the same Friday night.”

Ramlogan told Rodriguez that not having been informed of these developments, it is unfair the court took a decision that “should a Notice of Appeal be filed and/or forwarded by the Intended Appellant (the state), the appeal will be listed for Monday 22 May, 2017”.

“That such a decision could have been taken without giving us the opportunity to be heard is unfortunate as the court was making a judgment call on a non-existent, unfiled appeal it had not yet seen.

“This was not what was stated by the Attorney General in parliament. He announced as a fact that the appeal ‘is on for 9am on Monday’.

“He did not say it was conditional upon the state filing its Notice of Appeal.

“Based on the disclosure, it is clear his announcement was plainly misleading and inaccurate as it contained a significant omission.”

 

Ramlogan told Rodriguez her office ought to have immediately corrected this misrepresentation which was widely carried in the media as it gave his client and the public the impression the Government was able to get a non-existent appeal, that had not even been filed or fixed for hearing in time.

He said this was done as a “politically face-saving announcement” in Parliament.

“That the government was able to accomplish all of this in the space of one hour after the decision of Justice Seepersad is incredible to say the least.”

He told Rodriguez when she communicated Justice Mendonca’s decision to Deborah Peake SC, representing the Commissioner of Valuations, at 7:16 pm on May 19, someone should have had the professional courtesy to inform his client’s legal team of this significant development.

“According to you, that was the responsibility of the Government’s legal team.

Rodriguez, in her letter to Ramlogan said, “it is the duty of the Appellant to notify the Respondent of the date and time for the hearing of the appeal”.

Ramlogan said if so, they failed to do so. “No one informed us about this development so that we could ensure we could adjust our court diaries to deal with this sudden Monday fixture.

“This is simply not right and if the shoe were on the other foot I daresay stronger objection would have been taken by the Government.

He said the President of the Court hearing these matters, Justice Jamadar, indicated that the panel of judges were only contacted late Saturday night around 7 pm to see “whether” they would be prepared to grant “an appointment”.

He said it was passing strange the AG was able to make a public announcement in Parliament on Friday that their unfiled appeal will in fact be heard on Monday at 9 am, when on Saturday night the panel of judges were only now being contacted for the first time to see whether they would grant an appointment, Ramlogan argued.

Not protocol Immediate correction

Man feared drowned at Guayaguayare

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:44

RALPH BANWARIE

 

Tragedy struck when three friends went for swim at Frontier Beach Guayaguayare in the early hours of Sunday morning. One man disappeared under the water and is yet to be discovered, while his two friends were able to save themselves by swimming to shore.

Thirty-four-year-old Denish Mahabir of Marabella is missing and his body is yet to be discovered, while his two friends Laura Shantoo 24, of Narinesingh Court, La Romain and Nicholas Maundy of Chadee Avenue, Claxton Bay survived the choppy waters at Frontier Bay and were able to swim to shore safely. They were reported to be traumatized.

Police reports indicate that Mahabir, Shantoo and Maundy were staying at a beach house at Frontier Road, Guayaguayare. At around 5:30am the trio decided to go for a swim at the nearby Frontier Beach at Guayaguayare. While reports indicate they all got into difficulties, Mahabir disappeared under water and never resurfaced, while Shantoo and Maundy swam to shore safely.

Lifeguards, villagers and members of the coast guard and air guard have teamed up to search for the missing man believed to be drowned, but all searches proved futile up to late yesterday.

The search is continuing, while relatives and friends, on hearing the news went to Frontier Bay to give support in the search for Mahabir’s body.

Family members were praying that the body of Mahabir would be washed ashore before nightfall.

Visiting the scene were Supt Phillip, Cpl James and PC Ramsaran of Mayaro Police Station.

Cpl James is continuing investigation.

Enterprise businessman shot dead

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:43

Enterprise Businessman Joey Basdeo, owner of Joey and Laura Wholesalers of Enterprise Street, was fatally shot yesterday while exiting Reuben Lane in the community.

Reports state that around 2.30 pm, Basdeo, who was in the company of his wife and daughter, was driving out of Reuben Lane when a man on a bicycle approached the vehicle firing several shots at its occupants.

Basdeo’s four-year-old daughter was grazed by a bullet during the attack.

Basdeo was rushed to the Chaguanas Health Facility where he later succumbed to his injuries.

The murder was the first in the Enterprise area since a peace initiative took place last month led by members of the Unruly Isis Gang (now known as the Masjid of Peace) and the Islamic Front.

Ex-Caroni Green CEO suing state for $1.5m

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:36

Ex-CEO of Caroni Green Ltd, Sharma Lalla is suing the state-owned company and Government for $1.5 million, claiming that his three-year contract of employment was breached as it pertains to monies owed to him.

Documents to this effect were filed in the Hall of Justice last Thursday by attorneys Ragiv Chaitoo and Larry Lalla. The action was filed against CGL and the Attorney General.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, during the post-Cabinet news conference on March 16, said that Caroni Green and the Government Human Resource Service Ltd would be among the small state enterprises to be shut down.

He said Government has been assessing the performance of state enterprises and had received reports that some of them had passed the point of usefulness, some were “losing their way” and others were grossly under-performing. One or two were absorbing money and not contributing much. The government announced the closure of the Tourism Development Corporation in February.

Lalla is claiming CGL operated as a state agency and the state is jointly liable for damages due to him for alleged breach of contract.

Lalla claimed he had a three-year contract from August 17, 2015 at a gross salary of $45,000 per month, including vehicle bonus. He claimed CGL was entitled to terminate the contract at any time and for any reason without notice upon the payment of 12 months’ gross salary and benefits plus gratuity.

After statements by Government officials on CGL’s closure, Lalla claimed the new board chairman told CGL monthly-paid staff in April, all provisions of their employment contracts will be honoured.

However despite assurances, Lalla received an April 19, 2017 letter from the new chairman stating CGL would cease operations that day and he would be paid $196,566.67. On April 19, 77 employees of Caroni Green, comprising 63 farm workers and 14 monthly paid staff, received retrenchment letters at the company’s Brechin Castle, Couva office.

Lalla claimed he was also advised his salary and ex-gratia payments would be paid by April 20, 2017.

But Lalla claimed the offer of $196,566.67 was in breach of his contract which required CGL to pay him $1.5m for various matters - including salary from April 2017, vacation leave and other aspects - on termination of contract.

He maintains CGL is liable to pay him this under the contract. Lalla sent CGL a pre-action protocol letter on April 24. He received responses in May, denying the claim, but is pursuing it legally now.

In an interview with the Guardian on April 19, Caroni Green chairman, Jerry Hospedales, said payments totalling close to $2 million would be made to the retrenched workers, comprising a cash alternative to their vacation leave, 45 days service in lieu of their notice and a fortnightly pay based on the calculations under the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act.

Hospedales also told the Guardian in April that 22 employees would be kept on staff—three employees to assist in the liquidation and finalising the closure and 19 employees to man the Mon Jaloux and Union East estates from April 20 until the Ministry of Agriculture provided further instructions.

The 19 farm employees were being kept on to ensure that the existing crops were not lost, amid reports from employees that the company has close to a year’s supply of hot peppers and papaya for export.

Minister of Labour says: Retrenchment Act revision coming soon

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:33

Government is moving ahead with revisions to the country’s labour laws to improve and clarify redundancy and workers’ retrenchment severance benefits, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus has confirmed.

She said government currently has in hand draft policy positions for revision of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act (88:13) which prescribes procedures to be followed concerning redundancy and provides for payments of severance benefits to retrenched workers.

Baptiste-Primus disclosed this during Thursday’s Senate debate on amendments to allow payment of pensions and gratuity to fire officers who acted in posts for three years prior to retirement.

That matter was in the works since 2003 when Baptiste-Primus, as Public Services Association president at the time, negotiated the terms, which were approved by the Peoples Partnership administration in 2012.

Baptiste-Primus said T&T’s labour legislation requires amendment as many pieces of legislation have passed their time, no longer affect the rights and privileges of employees and employers and need to be modernised to ensure the rights of both parties are upheld.

She said T&T has an estimated 580,000 workers and there are 22 pieces of legislation under the Ministry’s purview. A ministry committee is reviewing the labour legislation and has prioritised ten laws that are due to be updated in the near future.

These include amendments to the Industrial Relations Act, Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act (88-13), Workers’ Compensation Act (88:05), Occupational Health and Safety Act (88:08) as well as laws governing Cirpriani Labour College, as well as friendly societies and co-operatives.

Also under review is legislation governing the private security sector, laws to eliminate child labour and to set terms for citizens entering the labour market.

Draft policy positions concerning the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, Co-operatives Act and the Industrial Relations Act are before Cabinet, she added.

By 2020, all such legislation will be revised, said Baptiste-Primus, adding” “It’s not a promise, but a commitment to deliver,” noting that consultations were held on several of the laws, including the IRA and Retrenchment/Severance Benefits act.

Also in the Senate

Energy Minister Franklin Khan defended Government’s hiring of retired Energy Permanent Secretary Selwyn Lashley in the same post of PS for a year.

Replying to Opposition queries on a one-year contract for Lashley, Khan detailed several areas where he said Lashley’s expertise and input is needed including preparation of a strategic plan 2017-2021, energy policy consultations, renegotiation of key contracts and initiatives with Venezuela.

“It was important (Lashley’s) services be retained to ensure seamless continuation of the Ministry’s daily operations and provide expert advice and support to the Minister in on-going stakeholder discussions,” Khan added.

He said Lashley has specialised skills and government couldn’t always pay highly skilled people. The Ministry is now recruiting, however. Khan acknowledged the contract could be extended to as much as five years but said succession planning was in the works. He didn’t forsee extension beyond one year.

But when Opposition Senator Wade Mark asked for commitment that Lashley would only serve a year, Khan said he couldn’t give an “absolute guarantee” but the Ministry would do its best to ensure succession planning is done. 

Sports hotel fees realistic

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:29

Hassel Thom, president of the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants & Tourism Association (THRTA) says the $92,000 bill chalked up by Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, Darryl Smith, for a three-night stay at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort in Tobago for a delegation of 12 officials, including himself, were “not really exorbitant” and “realistic”.

That is, compared with the cost of staying at five-star hotels like the Hyatt Regency and Trinidad Hilton in Port-of-Spain, he said.

Putting aside what he called the “politics and other issues” surrounding Smith’s Tobago visit, Thom gave his view on what it actually costs for 12 people to stay at a five star hotel for three nights.

Although the Magdalena Grand’s website gives the hotel a 4.1 star rating, Thom felt it was more between “3.5 to 4”.

He said the going rate for staying at a hotel like the Hyatt can be anywhere between $US150 to over $US200 per night or between $TT12,000 and TT$15,000.

“You multiply that by 12 rooms for three nights and if you have breakfast, it comes up to around TT$54,000 for three nights. And that’s not even a suite you are calculating for.”

“If you add the 20 per cent hotel tax for accommodation and service, it comes up to TT$64,000. Add to that the cost of the flight and four car rentals for three days.”

Thom concluded the overall $92,000 for Smith’s stay at the Magdalena Grand was not really exorbitant. “If that was the cost for a government entourage of 12 for three nights, then it’s not such an exorbitant cost. It’s realistic.”

He said it would have come across high because of the “timing”.

He said it came immediately after the disclosure of a $59,000 roaming fee by Minister of Tourism, Shamfa Cudjoe, and amidst calls by the Government for citizens to be conservative in spending.

He said the concerns around Smith’s trip were not based only on the cost itself but on the three additional people who went with him at the last minute, referring to the newspaper photograph of Smith and an employee of his ministry, Kate Balthazar, one of 11 employees who accompanied him on the Tobago trip.

“That’s what you have to weigh,” Thom said.

He described that aspect of the report as a “political game,” saying he does not get involved in politics.

Smith and his entourage went to Tobago two weekends ago to attend the Tobago House of Assembly awards on the Saturday night, among other events.

Brinsley’s moving search for his roots

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:22

University of the West Indies history professor, Dr Brinsley Samaroo, great-grandson of indentured Indians, in a moving search for his roots in India, found his relatives in the village of Baraich in Uttar Pradesh and keeps a close connection with them.

A graduate of Delhi University and descended from the Somaroos from Bahraich in Northern India, Samaroo said he has been travelling frequently to India after his studies there to do research and bond with his relatives.

“I can go back at will to my village and I am treated well.” He said they actually had a piece of land that was left for his great-grandfather which they offered him. “They joked, do you want that or can we take it.”

Samaroo, a Presbyterian, said he is valued by his Hindu Indian relatives because he fills a void in their lives created when his great-grandparents left India.

He said to this day Indians in Baraich and different villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the majority of Indian immigrants came from, yearn to know where brothers, uncles, other relatives went, if they were killed or suffered.

“It pleases me that I am able to go to their villages and fill that void, give them some kind of closure. I tell them about the villages the Indian created here and they are happy to know they did not come here and were killed.”

He said Baraich was a village when his great-grandparents left it but is now a thriving agricultural town cultivated with pomegranate, mango, pineapple, guava, rice, lentils and even sugar cane.

“It’s quite big now and it was with great difficulty I was able to find the particular region from where my great-grandparents came.”

Samaroo said he meets people in these villages looking just like Trinidadian Indians who eat the same kind of food prepared in exactly the same way.

“When you go to these villages you get food your mother used to make, sada roti, dhalpuri, talkari made with exactly the same ingredients. You see the Indian from whence you came still very much alive.”

He said India has started doing research into Indian indentureship and has actually begun to celebrate Indian Arrival Day and it is becoming quite popular there.

Samaroo, who did specific research on the humble jahaji bundle Indians brought here with them, spoke to the T&T Guardian on the eve of Indian Arrival Day on his Indian roots and how 143,939 Indians who arrived here between 1845 and 1917 not only changed the economic and social landscape of T&T but its physical space, as well.

He has been going to schools in different areas, like Penal/Debe, giving students lectures on the jahaji bundles brought to T&T by Indians, modest pieces of cloth tied to long sticks, which carried the seeds of new fruit trees and vegetables which were to later change the literal geography of the island.

Given swamplands by the colonial authorities after their indentureship was over, they also transformed wet, marshy areas, like Felicity, into thriving villages.

Samaroo said Indians who came poor, bedraggled and as semi-slaves have today transformed themselves and the geography of the Caribbean islands where they settled.

“In their jahaji bundle, which was like a very large three cornered handkerchief tied to the top of a large stick, they brought a remarkable range of seeds of fruit, vegetables and herbs we didn’t have in the Caribbean.

“Like mango, pomegranate, guava, downs, cowa, karaille, bodi, mustard, different varieties of dhal and rice, a whole range of bhaji, cinnamon, clove, cumin.”

The Indians brought ganga (marijuana) to the Caribbean because it was not illegal and prohibited and used it very sparingly as a form of relaxation in the evening, he said.

Samaroo said Indians were given the worst lands after their indentureship, the swamplands of Caroni, Oropouche and Nariva.

“If you go and look at these swamplands now, you see remarkable transformation. Indians had thousands of years of experience in India in converting swamplands to profitable lands.

“In places like Felicity, Barrackpore, Plum Mitan, they changed the physical geography by draining and cultivating these areas and making them profitable.

“Indians created villages where there were no villages before out of swamp and jungle and gave them ancestral Indian names, like Chandanagore, which means place where the moon shines, Calcutta Settlement Number One and Two, Madras Settlement, Coromandel, Malabar, Barrackpore, Fyzabad and Eli Road.”

Samaroo will lecture on Indian indentureship at the Sangre Grande Civic Centre at 11 am today.

"When you go to these villages you get food your mother used to make, sada roti, dhalpuri, talkari made with exactly the same ingredients. You see the Indian from whence you came still very much alive."

Man attacks home for elderly

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:18

A physical attack on several senior citizens, a nurse and a visitor at a home for the elderly in Woodbrook on Saturday is now engaging the attention of the police.

Investigating officers are now looking for the attacker, who is said to be a close male relative of one of the home’s officials. Police believe that the man is in hiding.

According to a police report, at about 5.10 pm, a 49-year-old woman, whose identity was not given, went to the home at Petra Street to visit her 83-year-old mother when she was attacked by the man.

The woman was slammed head first into a wall, dragged and bodily slammed twice on an iron gate before being thrown out into the street.

A 55-year-old nurse was struck on the right side of her head near her ear with a stone by the attacker. The visitor’s mother, who suffers from Alzheimers, was also attacked.

Currently at the home there are said to be seven residents—three elderly men and four women.

When the T&T Guardian contacted one of the victims yesterday, she said that she and the other victims remained very much traumatised over the entire incident and are hoping for speedy justice.

An investigating officer told the T&T Guardian that they received information that the man frequents the place and is sometimes seen doing chores at the home.

When contacted yesterday, the visitor who was attacked spoke with strict anonymity and described the incident as “appalling” especially given the fact that it happened on the first day of her fast for the Holy month of Ramadan.

The woman said she arrived at the home for the visiting hours, between 5 pm to 7 pm. She said usually they would have her mother waiting for her in the porch but when she got there her mother was seated in the living room area.

“I went upstairs and saw the gentleman (the attacker) sleeping on the couch, his back turned to me. I saw that his pants were off and on the ground and the nurse was trying to wake him up. I went to my mum and hugged and kissed her and asked how she was doing. All that time the nurse continued talking to the man telling him to get up. He began to twist and turn on the couch. She told him that I was there to see my mother and that he should get up and organise himself because she had to leave as her shift has ended,” the woman said.

“With that the man got up in a rage and started to curse the nurse and told her to get out. I quickly asked the nurse to help me move my mother to the porch. The nurse told the man to leave her alone and he left and went outside. I thought he had left but when I looked outside again I saw him running up the stairs with a concrete slab in his hand,” she added.

The woman said that as the man entered the room an elderly man attempted to block him but he slapped the man and pushed him out of his way.

“The man then started to walk up to the nurse and the nurse tried to run but he chased after her and hit her with the concrete slab to the head. She fell and all I could see was blood. I started to scream and tried to get my mother away from there but then he walked up to me in my face. I told him I was fasting and to move. That was when he choked me and slammed me to the ground,” the woman added.

The woman said she told the nurse to stay with her mother while she go to the police for help.

All victims were taken to the St James Medical Centre where they were treated and discharged.

Investigating officers have already retrieved their medical reports and are said to be continuing investigations.

Indian Arrival Day celebrates spirit of survival

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 23:40

It happens every year as we celebrate Indian Arrival Day. I get phone calls and emails, and it comes up in conversation with friends, colleagues and family. And it always centres on one question: Why celebrate Indian arrival when it has had so many negatives?

My answer has always been the same: we celebrate the resilience of our ancestors. We celebrate their courage to survive and thrive in spite of the myriad colonial obstacles that sought to keep them relegated to subsistence workers.

I recently read a passionate commentary by Guyanese-American writer Rajiv Mohabir (http://aaww.org/indian-arrival-day/), who offered his answer to the perennial question.

“Why the hell should I celebrate colonization?” he asked, adding: “To celebrate Indian Arrival Day is to celebrate the beginning of our slavery sentences...To celebrate Indian Arrival Day is to celebrate the cause of each ill: diabetes, racism, alcoholism, homophobia, and domestic violence. To celebrate Indian Arrival Day is to celebrate death.”

In the same commentary, Canadian-based Indo-Trinidadian Dr Andil Gosine is quoted as saying that when we celebrate Indian arrival, “We are implicitly erasing the history and actual experiences of indentures.” His view is that Indians were “merely the cargo of the system of Indentureship, and it is ridiculous that we would celebrate the beginning of bondage”.

Everything about Indentureship was wrong. We need to continue to question why Britain freed one race and almost immediately after emancipation subjected another to what some British officials characterised as “a new system of slavery”.

But we should not let the horrors of indentureship blur our view of what it is we are really celebrating as Indian Arrival Day.

We can continue to highlight the negatives to justify our objection to the celebration or we can see a different, more positive picture in which Indians have overcome the degradation, moved away from the sub-human plantation experience and have risen above it all to become responsible citizens.

We celebrate not leaders and professionals but the unnamed and forgotten thousands who kept people and culture alive in spite of the adversities they faced.

To appreciate today we have to go back to the beginning.

The export of Indians to Trinidad that started in 1845 resulted in the movement of more than 147,000 Indians to Trinidad by the time indentureship ended in 1917.

In 1945—100 years after the first Indians landed in Trinidad—the Indian population was 35 per cent of the national population (195,747) comprising the descendants of indentured Indians and former contract workers.

During the first 100 years, many Indians had migrated from the periphery to occupy influential spaces in the national community and they were contributing to the state in every facet of life.

They put education at the forefront of family life, and helped their children rise out of the ashes of the plantations.

Many achieved success in business and a few had entered politics.

It was a landmark year and the community staged the first Indian Arrival Day, at which the acting governor, Sir Bede Edmund, congratulated the community on its achievements. And Mahatma Gandhi sent a telegram stating, “Domicile Indians prove worthy of Motherland”.

Fifty years later in 1995, Prime Minister Patrick Manning declared May 30 a public holiday and it has remained a grand annual event.

What we celebrate today—and what we did in 1945 and the intervening years before the day became a national holiday—is the Indian spirit of survival.

Indians were abused. They faced adversities like depression, malnutrition, disease and social stress leading to alcoholism and domestic violence, demons we continue to confront.

But they refused to let those negatives impede their will to survive in order to create a better life for future generations. Had it not been for their strength, and their conviction that they could do better, their story would have had a tragic ending.

But it didn’t. Theirs is a story of survival through a determination to stand firm and defeat a system of bondage and servitude so future generations could be free in the new land they embraced as home.

They preserved their rich and diverse cultural and religious traditions and adopted the best of their new environment to move forward and conquer the system through education and cultural persistence.

In the end, we the people won—all of us, Indians and non-Indians alike. We won because THEY won and together all of us have contributed to building a diverse state that is still evolving.

They created opportunity out of misery. That is the legacy of a people who defied colonialism, bigotry, ignorance and persecution through their strong spirit of survival.

They created new communities dedicated to preserving the richness and glory of the motherland while embracing and enhancing their new home.

That is what we celebrate.

Jai Parasram is a journalist, communication and media specialist and author. His forthcoming book Beyond Survival is a photographic narrative celebrating Indians in T&T 1845-2017.

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