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The ruling People’s National Movement suffered an overall 8 per cent fall in support in Monday’s Local Government election compared with its position in the 2013 election, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.
Rowley gave the figure during the post-Cabinet media briefing as he slammed the media for “misinformation” in its coverage of Monday’s election.
The PNM won seven corporations to the Opposition United National Congress’ six, with a tie for the Sangre Grande corporation.
Rowely said misinformation was fed to the media to distract from what was clearly a defeat of the Opposition.
“The entire coverage on Monday was based on misinformation fed to the media...people who didn’t want to face a defeat organised to do this - I must say they did a brilliant job of feeding misinformation,” he said.
Taking issue with reports of preliminary, estimated (unconfirmed ) voter turnout of 17 per cent, Rowley said data available to the PNM was that the voter turnout was 34 per cent. He said their information was also that the turnout figure was as high as 40 per cent.
Most areas were around 30 per cent, with the lowest turnout of 22 per cent and 23 per cent in Port-of -Spain and Diego Martin “where PNM won all seats,” he said.
“That being the case, it was a little aggravating to see the entire media corps accepting wrong information,” he said, noting the PNM was awaiting final results by the Election and Boundaries Commission, which are due to be released today.
The 34 per cent turnout figure PNM has data on, Rowley said, was “relatively normal” for a local government election.
“But it was put across on Monday, that this (election) was the lowest ever turnout — that’s plain not true; it’s an average turnout,” he said.
“In 2013 Local Government election the (turnout of 41 per cent) was unusual as we had a very unpopular government, and we had an exercised PNM anticipating general election - so we had a good turnout then.”
“There were times before when the LG turnout was in the 20s. ...I’m not trying to tell you how to do your scrutiny and analysis. All I’m saying is let it be done on the basis of the data.”
He added, “What happened Monday was an embarrassment. I saw people on national television, not a scrap of paper in front of them, not a line of data — yet pontificating on data which was plainly wrong and attempting to hold the PNM to analysis on wrong data.”
Rowley said it wasn’t for him to tell the media how to run their business, “but if you’re going to comment about us, it’s not unreasonable for you to put to us correct information.”
Rowley said the PNM went into the election with 85 seats and won 82.
“But those who won 55 seats managed to get the media to say they won — I find that conversation a little convoluted...It’s not true the Opposition took 12 PNM seats.”
He added the PNM lost one seat and won new seats, including in south, which hadn’t been won in 24 years.
...APOLOGISES TO REPORTER
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday indicated he had apologised to Newsday reporter Sean Douglas.
This following reports that Rowley had “steupsed” on Monday night when asked a question by Douglas at a press conference at PNM’s Balisier House headquarters after Local Government election results.
Rowley alluded to the apology while responding to questions at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing.
He said, “I apologised to my friend Sean Douglas...who was being a little (am)... anyway...”
The PM had come in for criticism of his behaviour on Monday.
Yesterday, when asked if he regretted the “steups,” Rowley said he’d been “amazed” on Monday at what “became an exercise for the media” and he wasn’t sure the media had known what he was referring to.
He said his reaction had been to “misinformation” being peddled and it was aggravating to him.
In a few days citizens wishing to help 13-year-old Jamelia Julien, who is in need of a heart transplant, can do so via donating though a bank account.
Jamelia’s mother, Roxanne Best, said she was expected to meet with Diego Martin councillor Kathy-Ann Christopher who had also reached out to her to lend assistance.
Best and her family lives in Richplain, Diego Martin.
She said following the meeting with Christopher she intended to set up a bank account.
After the teenager’s plight was aired on CNC3 News and reported in the T&T Guardian this week, Best said she was overwhelmed that so many strangers called, offering emotional support and financial pledges.
She said once the account was opened members of the public could donate to the life-saving operation, which would cost close to US $160,000.
On Jamelia’s condition yesterday, she said her daughter had been battling the flu and “was coughing a lot.”
Jamelia loves to cook and wants to be a chef.
She sat the SEA exams passed for Corpus Christi College but to date her uniforms are unworn and remain neatly placed in the closet.
Five years ago, Jamelia began complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath following which it was determined she was suffering from restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), a rare form of heart muscle disease that is characterised by restrictive filling of the ventricles.
In this disease the contractile function (squeeze) of the heart and wall thicknesses are usually normal but the relaxation or filling phase of the heart is very abnormal. And although Jamelia has been placed on a waiting list, it was still undetermined when she would receive a new heart. Anyone wanting to help can call Best at 766-2598.
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) teachers in Tobago say they are frustrated and fed up of the shoddy treatment meted out to them including what they claim has been the denial to go on maternity leave.
President of the Early Childhood T&T Union (ECTTU) Jamiele Sydney said yesterday despite repeated letters written earlier this year to Education Minister Anthony Garcia, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) officials under which the teachers fall, there has been no response.
Sydney and some of the teachers gathered outside the administrative complex in Calder Hall, yesterday demanding that they be treated fairly.
Sydney, who insisted that the teachers were in fact permanent added, “They are not contracted but the THA has forced a six-month contract on them which is illegal because there is no six-month contract in the early childhood rank.
“The stipulation is that the contracts must be three years and up. That is clearly stated in the agreement with the chief personnel officer.”
He claimed that because some teachers were refusing to sign the six-month contracts they were now being paid around the 15th of every other month.
“It is victimisation taking place. And because of the contract the teachers have no sick leave, no maternity or any benefits at all. If they take a day they are cutting their pay,” Sydney added.
Three days after two police officers attached to the Western Division appeared in court on fraud charges, three officers from the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) operating out of the division were arrested in connection with the extortion of a Diego Martin businessman.
The officers, all constables, were arrested following a sting operation between Wednesday night and yesterday morning by members of the Professional Standards Bureau. The men are now being kept at three different police stations within the division.
Pictures of them are already being circulated on social media, with some condemning the entire Police Service for their alleged actions. On Monday, Supt Wayne Thongs and SRP Constable Dayna Spencer appeared before Senior Magistrate Nanette Forde-John charged with engaging in a series of acts tending to pervert the course of public justice and misbehaviour in public office.
It is alleged that while attached to the RRU, Spencer, 40, presented duty slips to Thongs, 55, in February 2015 for work she reportedly had not done and for which he is alleged to have authorised for payment. The duo will reappear in court on February 6, 2017.
In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Insp Michaels Seales, refused comment on the specific case of the three men but said it was time the service purged itself of rogue officers.
“The Police Service needs to do some serious introspection and the association head is calling on police who are decent law-abiding officers to report rogue officers to the Professional Standards Bureau.
“In addition, the general feeling of the membership is that they are happy to rid the service of those bent on doing wrong things. I want the system to purge itself and get rid of them so we don’t have to look over our shoulders for the crooked ones but instead look outward at the criminals,” Seales said.
Inclusive of Spencer and Thongs, there are 152 police officers on suspension due to charges levelled against them for various offences.
In an unrelated incident yesterday, a constable attached to the Eastern Division was shot in the leg as he stood outside a business place at Damarie Hill, Sangre Grande.
According to police reports, Constable Hakeem Blake of the Eastern Division Task Force was standing on the roadway when a car pulled up and a gunman jumped out and shot him. Blake was taken to the Sangre Grande District Hospital where he is warded in a stable condition. No motive for his shooting was divulged.
Up to midday yesterday, “not one bottle of water” had reached the cut off east coast village of Matelot, which was devastated by heavy rains Wednesday, says distressed village council president, Anderson Zoe.
“Right now, we have absolutely nothing in the village. Nothing. Is only children crying and debris. Up to now we have not received one bottle of water,” Zoe told the T&T Guardian via telephone before he got cut off.
Telephone connection to the area has been disrupted and there has been difficulty reaching residents.
Zoe said “everybody” in the village had relocated to the Matelot Community Centre. It was reported between 150 to 200 homes were damaged when roofs blew off and by flooding.
“People bringing foodstuff from their homes and we cooking here for everybody. Water and electricity supplies have been cut off and the whole village depending on one 4.000-gallon tank at the community centre. I don’t know how long that will last,” Zoe said.
He said none of the expected relief supplies were brought into the area up to that point by air or by sea. The Paria Main Road leading in and out of Matelot was cut off by several landslides and as much as ten feet of mud and debris in places.
“One helicopter which could carry only two passengers came to Matelot,” Zoe said.
Outgoing Sangre Grande Regional Corporation chairman, Terry Rondon, and the area’s MP, Glenda Jennings-Smith, went into the area via helicopter on Wednesday and yesterday.
Zoe also lamented that no Coast Guard vessel had brought in supplies for villagers.
“They could bring supplies and we could go out and meet them with our pirogues,” he said.
But contacted on that yesterday, Defence Force public relations officer, Lt Commander Kirk Jean-Baptiste, said Matelot relief operations had been taking place on the ground while the Coast Guard had been put on stand-by in case the situation got worse.
He said the Regiment’s First Engineer Battalion had been involved in Matelot relief efforts in conjunction with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Ministry of Works and the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, through Rondon and Jennings-Smith.
Jean-Baptiste said the road was being cleared and relief supplies, including water, dry rations, canned foods and mattresses coming from the ODPM, are being delivered to the people of Matelot.
“Nobody is forgetting anybody. Nobody is neglecting anybody. I understand they are anxious but relief is not always instant. It will take time but everybody will be reached,” Jean-Baptiste said.
He said there was no port or jetty in Matelot to receive supplies from large Coast Guard vessels hence the intricate ground operations.
The T&T Guardian was unable to reach Rondon or Smith, who were in Matelot yesterday, because of disrupted telephone connections.
Workers at the Sangre Grande Corporation said yesterday the road up to Grande Riviere, the village before Matelot, had been cleared of mud and debris.
They said a Sangre Grande resident brought cases of water to the corporation for Matelot villagers and another expressed interest in donating mattresses and used furniture.
They said workers at the Arima Borough Corporation were also collecting items which would be delivered by helicopter from Grande Riviere to Matelot.
Avonelle Hector-Joseph, head of the NGO Is There Not A Cause (ITNAC), said they had also initiated efforts to help Matelot yesterday via notifications on their Facebook page.
“ITNAC has a lot of clothing so we are asking people to donate food, toiletries, cleaning supplies.”
She said people had already pledged to assist.
Hector-Joseph said ITNAC planned to arrange with cooks in Cumana to prepare meals which could be taken to Matelot villagers.
“We also have a network of doctors in Trinidad who are willing to offer their services to Matelot villagers if needed,” she added.
She said ITNAC’s main concern was getting supplies to the village.
“We are waiting on the road to be cleared. We are looking to get into the village by Saturday or Sunday,” she said.
PH taxi driver Afteba Huggi- ns will appear before a Siparia magistrate today, charged with the rape of a female Special Reserve Police constable.
Huggins, 33, of South Oropouche, was charged yesterday with attempted murder, rape, false imprisonment and robbery by Sgt Gokool.
Huggins, who is married and has three children, was arrested on Monday after a manhunt was ordered by South Western Division Snr Supt Inraj Balram. A team of officers, including Insp Ramphal, Sgt Gokool, Cpl Ramlochan, WPC Vesprey, PC Swan and PC Narine, found him in the South Oropouche area. Police said a trace showed he has a pending court matter for rape.
According to reports, the SRP was expected to report for duty at a polling station to provide security for Monday’s Local Government elections.
She told police that she entered a taxi in La Romaine around 3 am and was the only passenger.
The driver stopped at a service station for fuel but instead of taking her to the polling station afterwards drove to the secluded area in South Oropouche, where he robbed her of jewelry and her police jacket. He then raped her until she fought with him and was able to get away.
It was alleged that when she ran off, he fired two shots behind her but the bullets missed and the gun stuck. Yesterday, investigators from other districts interviewed Huggins in relation to relative offences in their area.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says his Government will do all it can to assist the people Matelot who were adversely affected by Tuesday’s inclement weather.
He made the comment during yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. He said he was aware of the unfortunate developments in the area and in Tobago.
“We are aware of the hardships being experienced by the people of that area (and) also in Tobago,” he added.
Rowley said the Minister of Works and others were doing all they could to ensure the affected residents were given the required assistance. He said the Tobago House of Assembly was assisting the people on the sister isle.
He said there were 11 landslides and the Ministry of Works and other agencies were doing all they could to ensure the road was cleared as soon as possible.
He said there was significant damage in the area to bridges and other infrastructure but the immediate priority was to assist residents trapped there. The PM said he hoped by the end of yesterday those relief measures would have been effectively completed.
Rowley also announced that he would lead a T&T delegation to Venezuela on Monday to sign an energy agreement to allow for access to gas from that country here.
The PM said details of the agreement, which seeks to present medium to long-term solutions to recurrent gas shortages in Trinidad and Tobago, would be made public after signing.
Rowley said the agreement was good news for T&T.
Relief, in the form of mattresses, cots, water containers, brooms, portable tents, hoses, basic foodstuff and water, was distributed to affected villagers of Grande Riviere yesterday afternoon.
Soldiers from the T&T Regiment distributed the relief items under the watchful eyes of Toco/Sangre Grande MP Glenda Jennings-Smith and councillor Terry Rondon.
T&TEC crews, led by senior supervisor Wazir Mohammed, also worked all day and were able to return electricity to the homes of villagers. Villagers welcomed the return of power, saying it would at least help them in the clean-up operations.
Some villagers whose homes were flooded out were also assisted by soldiers in their clean-up exercises yesterday but they were still unable to re-occupy their homes and continued to stay with friends and family who were not severely affected by the disaster.
But at least one villager who lost everything in his home did not accept supplies.
Keron Jones said he has four children and an eight-day-old baby and getting a mattress and hamper was not sufficient for him as what he really needed was shelter and replacement of his furniture and appliances, all of which were destroyed by the flood waters on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, villagers at Matelot remained marooned as the two bridges that connect Matelot to other districts were yet to be repaired and the roadway remained blocked by debris left by landslides.
Minister of Works and Transport, Rohan Sinanan, and Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kazim Hosein, visited the affected villagers yesterday and promised to have the bridges and roadway repaired as soon as possible.
Jennings-Smith and Rondon later called for an Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management to be established in Toco so that disaster in these regions could be addressed immediately.
They were both satisfied with the relief supplies brought in but added that would only go a short way. They called on citizens to render some help to the affected villagers in both Grande Riviere and Matelot.
Sinanan later promised to hold consultations on the establishment of an ODPM office in Toco and also to provide emergency shelters.
WASA officials promised to restore a pipe-bourne supply to the villagers before Sunday.
The disaster struck the villages of Matelot and Grande Riviere around 3 am on Wednesday, when villagers reported experiencing heavy rains, thunder and lightning.
The weather felled trees, which brought down electricity and cables lines and caused massive landslides which blocked the roadway with debris and marooned villagers.
A barbaric act!
That’s how the uncle of four-year-old Jenice Ruth Figaro described the child’s death yesterday, declaring that no stone will be left unturned until they get justice.
An emotional Fintan James was speaking during the child’s funeral service at her grandfather’s home, not far from her home at Corosal Road, Whiteland.
The child was beaten to death at her home last Thursday. Police were initially told by a female relative who lived with Jenice, her father Robert Figaro and the woman’s two children, that the child complained of tummy pains after she ate a meal of fries with garlic sauce and ketchup.
Less than an hour later the child was pronounced dead at the San Fernando General Hospital but an autopsy found her death was due to blunt force trauma.
Recalling yesterday how Jenice would play fondly with his head, James said: “Jenice’s life was sniffed away in a barbaric manner. She was loved by everyone in the community. My heart goes out to that innocent child.”
Saying that just last month International Children’s Day was celebrated, he asked: “Why is it that a child have to go through such a traumatic death?”
Finding some comfort knowing she was in a better place, he vowed: “No stone will be left unturned, nothing will be swept under the carpet, justice will prevail. We will live to see justice prevail.”
Describing Jenice as vigorous, energetic, brave and loving, her pre-school teacher, Indira Gunness-Nagessar, recalled that she loved to draw and write.
Her aunt Kimberly Lee, who delivered the eulogy, recalled the close relationship Jenice and her father shared.
“Wherever you see Robert, you see Jenice,” said Lee.
Jenice’s father was so overcome with grief that he remained in the house for most of the service. He came out to view his daughter’s body at the end of the service and broke down in tears.
The emotionally charged service almost descended into chaos when a female relative became angry with the child’s mother, Shana Charles, during the viewing of the body, demanding to know “where you was.”
Charles, who sat on a chair next to the casket, during the entire service cried hysterically.
Reverend Deena Ramnarine officiated at the service.
The female relative, who has since moved out of Figaro’s home, has already given the police a statement.
The child’s body was interred at the Poonah (Whiteland) Cemetery.
Valencia residents are calling for the parents of the two toddlers who died in a fire at their home yesterday afternoon to be charged with negligence.
Speaking with reporters a couple hours after four-year-old Mawaki Gordon and his two-year-old sister, Miracle, perished in the fire at their home at Tattoo Trace, Valencia, next door neighbour Judith Daniel and Local Government councillor, Simone Gill, were highly critical of their parents, who were not at home at the time of the blaze.
Standing next to the smouldering ruins of the family’s small wooden home, Daniel alleged that the toddlers, the last of the couple’s five children, were regularly left unattended.
“Honest to God, I don’t want to lie, they accustom leaving children to see ‘bout children. Would you do that?” Daniel asked.
“This was clear negligence on the parents. There must be justice for the two children,” she added.
Other residents, who were interviewed by the T&T Guardian but who asked to remain anonymous, expressed similar views.
According to reports, around 12.40 pm, the Fire Services received a report of the fire from residents who noticed smoke coming from the house.
When police and fire officers arrived on the scene, the house was already completely engulfed in fire. The fire was quickly extinguished but fire officers later found the children’s remains, which were removed and taken to the Forensic Science Centre, St James, for autopsies.
The parents, a part-time taxi driver and a hairdresser, were detained by police when they arrived on the scene after receiving news of the fire. They remained in police custody up to late yesterday.
The couple’s other children, who were at school at the time of the fire, were collected by police and were put in the care of officials of the Children’s Authority.
Interviewed as she visited the scene yesterday, Gill described the incident as a great tragedy.
“We’ve had fire victims in Valencia before but nothing like this. This is the worst thing I have seen. It’s different when it’s children and the parents not home,” she said.
Gill questioned why the parents did not seek social welfare assistance and did not place Mawaki in a kindergarten.
“They were supposed to be in day care and an early childhood centre. We have two in Valencia. There is no reason for this,” she said. As she pleaded with working parents to be more responsible for their children, Gill said: “Put your children first. Ensure that your needs are not put in front of theirs. Seek out representatives, your councillor, your MP, social services. You must try,” she said.
WPC Joseph of the Valencia Police Station is continuing investigations.
A High Court judge has been asked to strike out a defamation lawsuit brought by the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) against Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal.
Presenting submissions in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday afternoon, Moonilal’s lawyer, Larry Lalla, said the claim should not be entertained by the court as government bodies are not entitled to sue individuals for defamation.
Responding to claims by CEPEP’s lawyers that it should be treated as a State-owned trading corporation such as the National Petroleum Marketing Company Limited (NP), Lalla said it could not as it does not generate revenue for the State.
“CEPEP is not a company selling products on the market, which requires protection of its reputation. For this year it was allocated $530 million for its programmes which is a far cry from the $42 million net revenue generated by NP,” Lalla said.
Lalla also criticised CEPEP’s contention that it was not a state agency as its board members are not democratically elected.
“The board is changed every time a new government comes into office. Its reputation only extends to the Government which appoints them,” Lalla said.
After hearing the submissions, High Court Judge Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh reserved his decision to January 18. Moonilal had initially filed a defamation lawsuit following a statement CEPEP had placed in the daily newspapers in August, on the misappropriation of $39.6 million in funds on construction projects in Moonilal’s constituency of Oropouche East.
Moonilal had denied that the projects were undertaken in his constituency and later resorted to making certain statements against the operations of CEPEP, prompting it to file the counter-claim which is currently being challenged. CEPEP had initially sought an injunction preventing Moonilal from further criticising it, but withdrew the application before Boodoosingh was able to rule on it.
There has been an outpouring of love and support for 13-year-old Jamelia Julien who is in dire need of a heart transplant.
After the teenager’s plight was aired on CNC3 news on Tuesday night, her mother, Roxanne Best, said she was not only pleasantly surprised but overwhelmed that so many strangers called offering emotional support and financial pledges.
Choking back tears Best, who spoke at her home at Bagatelle in Diego Martin yesterday, said, “It is really unbelievable that so many people want to help. It is really good news. I feel very happy. I mean ordinary citizens just wanting to help. I did not expect this so quickly.”
She said she had not yet accepted any money as she would be opening an account at one of the banks this week following which members of the public could donate to the life-saving operation that costs close to US$160,000.
“I do not want to take any money from anyone until the account is set up. I want everything to be above board,” Best, who left her job to fully care for her daughter, insisted.
But it seemed that time may be running out as Jamelia has been having minor heart attacks. Some doctors also predicted that she may not live to celebrate her 20th birthday.
“She would hold her chest in pain and her eyes would roll back and during all that I would shake her to wake her up because I do not want her to die,” her mother recounted.
Five years ago, the teenager began complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath following which it was determined she was suffering from restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), a rare form of heart muscle disease that is characterised by restrictive filling of the ventricles.
In this disease the contractile function (squeeze) of the heart and wall thicknesses are usually normal, but the relaxation or filling phase of the heart is very abnormal.
And although Jamelia has been placed on a waiting list, it was still undetermined when she would receive a new heart.
“We were told at the hospital that there are others waiting before Jamelia so we really don’t know how long it would take before she gets a heart.
“They advised us that the next best thing was to raise money for the operation and that is what we trying to do now,” Best said.
Added to this, she said the operation cannot be performed locally.
Saying it has been a daily struggle, Best was, however, more hopeful that her daughter’s life could be saved and most importantly in time.
Jamelia was also grateful as she thanked God for opening a way when there appeared to be none.
Although battling the flu, Jamelia was like a regular teenager as she played video games on her phone.
But she was still worried about her fate.
“I don’t want to die,” she said softly as she professed her love for her family.
Jamelia loves to cook and wants to be a chef.
This was evident in the her constantly being glued to the “cooking channel,” her mother said.
Best said all she wanted was for her daughter to have a regular life and to be happy.
Even the opportunity for Jamelia to have a secondary school education now seemed possible.
Jamelia sat the SEA exams and passed for Corpus Christi College in Diego Martin. But to this day her uniforms have remained unworn and neatly placed in the closet.
“I did not want to stress her out because any strenuous activity is a challenge for her. I just want this year to end and when the new year starts hopefully, when everything works out, she will be able to start school. I know she would be looking forward to that,” Best said.
Praising the doctors and nurses at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope who have cared for her daughter over the years, Best described them as “pillars of strength” not only for her daughter but also for herself and Jamelia’s father Anthony Julien.
“The doctors and nurses have really been good to us. They are doing all they could. They have been very diligent and accommodating,” Best added.
Anyone willing to assist can contact Best at 766 2598.
Most of the human trafficking cases in T&T identified by the Ministry of National Security’s Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) have been related to sexual exploitation, Alana Wheeler, CTU’s director, said yesterday.
She was addressing participants attending a conference on Human Trafficking and the Co-relation to Abuse, HIV and Aids at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation’s Regional Complex.
Itt was organised by the Network of Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs), with members from various religions in T&T.
“Since it began its operations (in 2011), the CTU has identified 30 persons as victims of trafficking and charged 22 T&T nationals for human trafficking and related offences.
“The victims we have encountered have come mainly from within the region, Venezuela, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“And, yes, we have had T&T nationals as victims as well,” Wheeler told a small gathering in the auditorium.
She continued: “Most of these cases, approximately 85 per cent, have been for sexual exploitation.
“The other types have been for domestic servitude and forced labour.”
Wheeler said, at present, there were two human trafficking cases in the High Court, the two people charged being police officers.
She said there were 20 other matters in the preliminary pre-trial phase, two of which involved minors.
She said the traffickers’ main weapon was deception.
“They lure their victims via advertisements, social media acquaintances or persons known to them,” she added.
Participants were told of real cases in which young people gave suspected traffickers information on people they knew as friends.
The potential victims were later followed by people unknown to them.
“This is what is happening in our country. It’s real,” she told the conference.
Wheeler said victims were not always naive, poor and desperate people.
“They can be of any socio-economic demographic.
“We have had victims who are mature in age, university students and graduates, and people from well-connected and respected family backgrounds.”
She said calls to the CTU’s human trafficking hotline, 800-CTU have tripled since its launch.
Wheeler said FBOs have a role to play in helping victims rebuild their lives by restoring their faith and trust in God and man.
They also have a tangible role to play in providing food, clothing and shelter to victims, she added.
The PH taxi driver who allegedly raped a female Special Reserve Police (SRP) constable at gunpoint was pointed out in an identification parade yesterday.
The suspect, from South Oropouche, was held on Monday hours after his victim escaped his clutches. She was taken to the Oropouche Police Station where she identified him from among other possible suspects. The suspect, who has a previous charge for a sexual offence, is expected to undergo more identification parades throughout the South West Division. He is expected to be charged with rape and attempted murder.
The Guardian learned that he is in his 30s and is married, with three children.
According to reports, the woman constable left her home at La Romaine around 3 am Monday and boarded the suspect’s taxi. She was expected to report to a polling station to provide security for Monday’s Local Government election.
She told police she was the lone passenger and the driver went to the nearby service station for fuel. Instead of taking her to the polling station, he took her to a secluded area in South Oropouche where he put a gun to her head and raped her.
The woman eventually began to fight with her attacker and ran off. It was alleged that he fired two shots at her but he missed and the gun stuck.
A Maloney man was gunned down at the home of his friend on Tuesday night in what police are saying is a case of mistaken identity.
Police reports are that Everald Martin, 31, was killed at Building 21, Maloney Gardens, around 9 pm.
They said the gunman knocked on the door and when Martin opened it, he was shot in the head. Police said Martin lived two floors above where he was killed and was just visiting his friend, who police suspect was the gunman’s initial target. Martin’s shooting is similar to that of Daniel Voisin, 21, on November 21 at Building 19.
Voisin was shot dead in front his apartment around 7 am after the killer told him to put down his son, who was in his arms before the shooting.
One week before Voisin was shot he and a group of men were threatened by a gunman who police suspect was either his killer or orchestrated his killing. Voisin and Martin were both friends, police said, but Martin was not one of the men who Voisin was with when he was threatened. Police said the man who Martin went to visit was with Voisin at the time the threat was made and believe both killings were linked.
Voisin was targeted because he allegedly witnessed the murder of fellow resident, Akile Garcia, 26, on August 15, police said.
Police believe Voisin was first targeted because he was not one to be known to have a gun and most likely unable to defend himself and suspect that Tuesday’s killing of Martin was a similar situation as the intended target is also not known to be a “gunman”.
The men, police said, were being targeted because relatives of the killer complained that friends of Voisin pulled guns for them following which a “gunman” threatened that all who were there when the incident happened would be killed.
After his home was shot at on Tuesday night community activist and candiate in Monday’s Local Government elections, Julius Edwards, says he is done with improving the Malabar area which he has been doing for close to three decades.
Edwards, who was a candidate under the United National Congress (UNC) banner for Malabar South, did not win in Monday’s polls. He said prior to that he was heavily involved with the Malabar Football Club in the semi-pro league and with Tuesday’s incident he was walking away from community activism because it was “like casting pearls before swine.”
He said he was of the belief that the shooter was a youth who was promised payment for working election day and was not paid. He added it was explained to the youths that payment would be made by weekend but it was rumoured that he received payment but was not disbursing it.
Edwards said he first thought of quitting activism in 2013 when his brother, Garnet Edwards, was murdered at his home on March 8, again by those he were seeking to help. He said the killing of his brother was linked to the controversial LifeSport Programme that was disbanded amidst allegations of corruption.
His brother, he said, was killed after it was suggested he had LifeSport payments at his home and thieves came looking for it.
“Since then I wanted to quit but I believed in the youths more but now I will watch from a sideline because it don’t make sense. These youths don’t want anything good,” Edwards said.
Asked what advice he had for the person who would replace him in guiding the youths away from criminality, he said: “Trust in God. If a seed don’t want to grow it will not. Do your best and let the jails and the prisons deal with those who don’t want to do any good. I reach my point, I gave my heart out”
Edwards recalled that he had just returned home around 9.30 pm Tuesday and was seated in his kitchen with a friend when he heard gunshots. He said he shouted to his friend “Is bullets” and dove to the ground. Edwards said since the shooting he was not contacted by the UNC leader and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar or any of the executive members and that had him feeling dejected.
“I feeling like I get set up, like I not getting any support,” Edwards said adding had his workers been paid then the shooting may not have happened.
The Guardian contacted Prakash Bharath, Edwards’ regional manager regarding claims he was being owed payment for his campaign workers. Bharath said candidates were told they needed to raise their own funds and were given a fixed amount.
He said what happened to Edwards was a sad thing that was now in the hands of the police but Edwards may have spent more money than he should have.
The Opposition UNC has so far lost recounts in three out of six electoral areas and was awaiting results for Sangre Grande northwest last night.
Elections and Boundaries Commission chief election officer, Ramesh Nanan, said following Local Government elections, recounts were sought, mainly by UNC and one by the PNM.
The UNC had sought recounts in seats in San Juan/Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco, Mayaro/Rio Claro, Princes Town and Sangre Grande.
The PNM sought a recount in the Princes Town Corporation seat of Hindustan/St Mary’s seat which the UNC had won. That was abandoned, the Guardian learned.
Up to yesterday, however, UNC had lost the recounts in Mayaro/Rio Claro, San Juan/Laventille and Princes Town.
UNC Senator, Gerald Ramdeen. representing the party at the Sangre Grande recount, said UNC had initially sought recount for two Sangre Grande seats — northwest and north.
But he said when the final figures were obtained, the margin of victory for the PNM in Sangre Grande north east was too large— about 300 votes—and the UNC did not pursue that recount.
Up to 6 pm yesterday, recount for the Sangre Grande northwest seat was still in progress with two more boxes to be counted.
PNM deputy leader, Rohan Sinanan, optimistic the PNM would retain the seat, noted: “The PNM did better in Sangre Grande on Monday than we did in 2013. We made inroads into UNC areas and where we lost to UNC — such as Manzanilla — it was by small numbers. So we are closing the gap.
“I cannot see how the UNC can claim any ‘victory.’ We had eight corporations, we have gotten back eight (with Grande). We had 83 seats in 2013 and lost one now.”
The UNC, which sought recount in the Mayaro/Rio Claro seat of Cocal Mafeking, lost.
The results remained the same as before, UNC Mayaro MP Rushton Paray confirmed.
UNC Senator Wade Mark, who monitored the recount in the San Juan/Laventille seat of Barataria, said the UNC lost.
“The PNM won the seat since the recount showed we got the same number which came in on Monday. We lost by just over 300 votes,” Mark added.
A recount in Caura/Paradise/Tacarigua (Tunapuna- Piarco), which began at 10 am, was continuing yesterday. By 3.15 pm, only six of 21 boxes had been checked, the UNC stated. PNM officials expected to hold the seat since the PNM won by 309 votes.
RESULTS REMAIN THE SAME IN PRINCES TOWN
The UNC had also sought a recount in one Princes Town seat and the PNM had sought a recount in another.
UNC Princes Town MP Barry Padarath said the UNC had sought recount in the Lengua/Indian Walk seat which the PNM won.
But Padarath said the recount results were the same and the PNM won the seat by over 100 votes.
On the PNM’s requested recount in Hindustan/St Mary’s (which the UNC won), Padarath said the PNM called off the recount when the fifth of 16 boxes was opened. UNC retained that seat.
Consequently, Padarath said, Monday’s results in the Princes Town Corporation remains the same: Nine seats for UN, one for the PNM,”
“We have noted PNM Moruga MP Dr Lovell Francis’ lament that many in his constituency returned to the UNC. “We also noticed many switched from the PNM to the UNC. If you examine results by polling divisions, you see where PNMites went to the UNC. So between now and general election we’ll be working Moruga to regain it in next general election,” he added.
Padarath said high voter turnout had been observed among supporters in its strongholds “and less of a turnout in PNM areas but we gained 12 additional seats in Chaguanas, Tunapuna, Princes Town, Mayaro and Sangre Grande.”
Heavy rains which began during the early hours yesterday morning forced the evacuation of at least nine people whose homes were said to be slipping into the sea in Matura, while gusty winds ripped the roofs off another 11 households in the community.
Over in Blanchisseuse, at least three homes were also reported to be slipping after the supporting land was washed away, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) CEO Dr Stephen Ramroop confirmed.
He said the inclement weather had left “quite an impact on the Blanchisseuse and Matelot areas.” He said residents in the north-eastern part of Trinidad began reporting the adverse effects from as early as 3 am yesterday, which included several trees falling into a nearby river.
Ramroop said the river was blocked and resulted in several homes being flooded, as the rising waters were prevented from flowing downstream. He added that rehabilitation work had also been hampered by a landslide which occurred along the main access road into Matura and surrounding areas.
Heartened by the presence of Ministry of Works and Transport officials who were out very early helping affected residents, Ramroop said they were working alongside the regional corporations to “ensure residents had some level of comfort and shelter.”
He said the National Operations Centre’s helicopter was used to conduct an aerial assessment of the damage and the impact on residents and temporary shelters had been activated.
Assuring the ODPM was prepared for any situation, Ramroop said, “The ODPM had pre-positioned supplies and equipment on the other end so that if an event occurred residents would have help.” He said the ministry had been tasked with clearing the blocked roadway, which was expected to reopen by noon yesterday.
While there were not many reports of flooding in Blanchisseuse, Ramroop said three homes were threatened by slippage after the heavy rains washed away the majority of the material from under them.
Ramroop also credited the media and social media for acting as an early warning system to alert residents across the country about adverse reports on rainfall and flooding.
Even as T&T grapples with the effects of heavy rains and the resultant issues, so too are other Caribbean territories such as Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Heavy rains on Tuesday across St. Vincent left a number of houses in Kingstown destroyed, while floodwaters exposed the contents of some graves at the Sandy Bay Cemetery and blocked, damaged or destroyed a number of bridges
Education Minister Anthony Garcia has asked for an in-depth report into a recent video which surfaced showing a young student being beaten by a gang of schoolgirls.
Garcia said the incidents of school violence had been on the decline and he was “extremely concerned” when he saw the video which surfaced on social media last month.
The video shows the girl being kicked about the body as she lay on the ground. In the video someone is heard shouting “allyuh go kill she” but the abuse continued with the girl being kicked about the head.
The students are from the El Dorado West Secondary School. Garcia said he met with the school’s vice-principal and was informed that the students had been suspended.
But he said he had ordered “an in-depth investigation because what we have found is that in some cases where students are indisciplined it is because they have no parents around. They are looked after by an elder sibling or another relative. In some cases it may even be an uncle or grandparent.”
Garcia said they had also found that in some schools female students attend classes as normal “but they shacked up living with somebody (male).”
He said clearly there were “troubled children in the school system. This is where the Student Support Services come in. They offer guidance and support.”
He said different children have different circumstances and while in some cases parents were unemployed for “any number of reasons not necessarily the economic situation, this makes it harder.”
Garcia said he had received “an interim report on the incident but I want a more in-depth report on the circumstances surrounding what happened.”
He expects to have the report in hand soon. Garcia said he would also meet with the parents of the students involved.
A 2014 report on the incidence of school violence obtained by the T&T Guardian ranked the El Dorado West Secondary School 13th based on the number of incidents of violence perpetrated by students. The school had 39 incidents of violence from January 2014 to November 2014.
Garcia said that period was before he came into office. He said things had changed and the incidence of violence had been significantly reduced but he could provide no specific data for that specific school
CONTRACT WORKERS CRY OUT
There are reports that 250 contract employees of the Ministry of Education whose three-year contracts expired have been working on month-to-month contracts for the past 15 months.
Those affected are in the IT, Textbooks, Research, Evaluation, and Policy Departments of the Ministry of Education.
The workers claim they are not paid on time and among other things are not entitled to sick leave or gratuity.
They claim the kind of conditions they have had to work under are in violation of the Industrial Relations Act.
They say they have been informed that Cabinet Notes were prepared to be taken to Cabinet for their positions to be extended for an additional three-year contract but because of administrative problems the notes were never given to the minister.
Garcia said he was not aware of the situation and promised to “look into it.”
Villagers of Matelot and Grande Riviere have been marooned from the rest of Trinidad, after two bridges were washed away and the roadway was left covered by slush, rocks and fallen electricity, cable wires and trees.
Seven houses lost roofs due to high winds while several houses along the coastline were also flooded and villagers had no electricity or water supply.
Affected families told the T&T Guardian yesterday they feared they would have no place to sleep last night as there is no emergency shelter in Grande Riviere for the affected villagers as the Grande Riviere Community Centre, which is used as a shelter, was flooded out.
Toco/Sangre Grande MP, Glenda Jennings-Smith, and councillor, Terry Martin Rondon, were desperately trying to put things in place last evening to help affected villagers find somewhere to sleep.
However, villagers received food supplies and water from the T&T Coast Guard, who accessed the area by sea to take in relief supplies.
Jennings-Smith admitted they could not access Matelot.
“We are unable to get on the ground because of the conditions. We did an aerial view and will be back on Thursday (today) to ensure that work is being done to clear the road and have the bridges replaced so we can visit and speak with the villagers,” she said of the attempt to get to Matelot residents.
The disaster, said to be the worst seen in 50 years, hit the villages of Matelot and Grande Riviere after persistent rainfall over the past 24 hours adversely affected the northeast coast.
The T&T Regiment’s 1st Engineering Battalion joined the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, Ministry of Works and private contractors to clear landslides and restore road access yesterday but this proved a challenge as work was hampered by huge amount of fallen trees, slush and rocks that covered the road and the lack of electricity as night fell.
The T&T Air Guard conducted aerial surveys to map all affected areas, especially where bridges fell, to provide critical feedback to the Engineering Battalion.
Guardian saw a T&TEC crew busily working to restore power to the community but the water supply remained to be addressed.
The Coast Guard last evening also advised fisherfolk in the region to bring small craft ashore to prevent destruction of their vessels and to take larger vessel to areas of safe shelter.
The disaster struck around 3 am yesterday, when villagers reported experiencing heavy rainfall accompanied by thunder and lightening.
Villager Joy Matthew told the Guardian “the lightning was like Christmas bulbs blinking continuously” and when it stopped she heard loud crashing sounds. She woke her husband and when they looked out they saw the trees come crashing down, taking electricity poles and wires with them and throwing the village into darkness.
Another villager, who only gave her name as Lara, said she lived her 50-plus years in Grande Riviere and it was the first time she had such an awful experience but thanked God no one was injured.
A tree was reported to have fallen on a blind man’s home in Matelot but he escaped being hurt. Matelot fishermen also reported boats being sunk in the disaster.
It was impossible to get to Matelot, which was reported to suffer the worst damage. Two bridges to access the community were destroyed. No one could therefore either leave or enter the village.
Chief Engineer, Bridges in the Ministry of Works, Chatram Sooklal, told T&T Guardian that Bailey Bridges had been sourced to provide alternative relief to the community but they have to wait for the roadway to be cleared.
“We cannot move, so this is our problem. But as soon as the roadway is cleared the Bailey Bridges will be taken into Grande Riviere and Matelot and installed in the quickest possible time.” Sooklal said.