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Updated: 48 min 52 sec ago

Diego man gunned down

1 hour 40 min ago

One man is dead while another is warded at hospital following a shooting incident in Diego Martin yesterday morning.

Sources said the shooting took place at about 2 am along the North Post Road in Diego Martin.

Residents of the area reportedly heard several loud explosions and saw the two young men bleeding from gunshot injuries. 

By the time police arrived, one of the victims—Jahkim Valentine—had died.

The 26-year-old Valentine, a father of six, was said to have been killed in the yard of his home.

The second victim, Tyrell Martin, was said to have been shot in his lower body.

He was rushed to the hospital where he was warded in a stable but serious condition. 

Meanwhile, Brad Williams, 28, was shot dead along St Vincent Street, Tunapuna around 3.45 pm yesterday. Circumstances surrounding his killing are unclear. 

Tobago mom wants justice

1 hour 42 min ago

A second murder for the year has been recorded for Tobago.

Zaki Lorde, from Lambeau, was shot dead by gunmen in the vicinity of the Live Wire Pub in Lambeau, around 11 pm, Friday.

Lorde, police said, was in his 30s.

The murder toll for Tobago now stands at two.

Speaking to the Sunday Guardian yesterday, Lorde’s father, Hubert Lorde, said he was unaware of any grievances his son had with anyone. He said his son was well liked in the community and acted as a provider for many. The father said he does not hold any resentment or animosity against the men who killed his son since they were not born as criminals. He said he was at peace and is prepared to forgive the men.

Meanwhile, Lorde’s mother, Claudia Phillips, said she remained in shock over the incident.

She wants justice to be served.

“Right now I’m hurt and there’s no forgiveness in me. It’s too hard to think about that right now. I want the perpetrators to be brought to justice, whoever did that to my son,” Phillips said.

Lorde was a poultry farmer and a sanitation worker employed with the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities in the THA. He was also the father of four children ranging from two to seven.

An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow.

Divali Nagar has come a long way

1 hour 44 min ago

Divali Nagar has a come a long way in its 30-year history. Having started as the replica of a village depicting facets of cultural life during T&T’s Indentureship period, the event was initially staged at the back of the Mid-Centre Mall, Chaguanas. 

The event became so popular and outgrew the venue so that the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) lobbied for the Nagar’s permanent home to be located along the Uriah Butler Highway. In three decades, the Nagar has become part of the cultural landscape that has served to demystify Hinduism to people who had little knowledge of the religion. It has also helped to encourage the new generation of Hindus to strengthen their faith. 

The annual themes of the Nagar focus on various aspects of Hinduism. These themes are complemented with a large display on the subject matter that gives a wealth of information. This year’s theme is Ganga Maa, which focuses on the goddess of the River Ganga (Ganges). In Hinduism, the river Ganga is considered sacred and is personified as a goddess, Ganga. It is worshipped by Hindus who believe that bathing in the river causes the remission of sins and facilitates Moksha (liberation from the cycle of life and death). 

The Sunday Guardian sought feedback from people at the Nagar.

Dr Winston Tolan, a Jamaican who organises Indian Arrival Day celebrations in his country, has been coming to the Nagar for the last 18 years to sing. Tolan said the Nagar has given a lot of opportunity for Indians living in the region to showcase their culture. Tolan said in Jamaica there are around 20,000 people of Indian origin. However, they are scattered across the large island and the economics and logistics make it difficult to stage a similar event. He said Indian Arrival Day in Jamaica is the largest event the community has annually. 

Gowtam Mahadeo, spokesman of the Blue Bird’s Sports and Cultural Organization, said his group sells pepper roti at the Nagar. He said it was the only fundraiser the group has annually to assist with several community-based activities in the Penal/Barrackpore area. Mahadeo said he expects this year to be as good as those gone by despite the recession.

Pran Rampersad, a resident of Barrackpore, said he has visited the Nagar since its inception. Rampersad said the Nagar has come a long way. However, he would like to see the format changed to include more outdoor cultural exhibits as was done in 1986. 

Denise Chinpire, who operates a booth with pooja items, said the food court area needs to be upgraded. Chinpire said the area could do with the installation of outdoor sinks for handwashing and places for people with families to sit and eat. Chinpire said even though the economy has slowed down, the Nagar would see hundreds of thousands of visitors during its ten-day run. She said this would provide an ample opportunity to promote her business and interact with customers firsthand. 

Pedro Williams, a corn soup vendor who has been at the Nagar for the past 15 years, said business has always been good at the Nagar. Williams said Thursday’s opening night has been one of the best in years. Traditonally opening nights draw the smallest crowds. William said he anticipates more visitors to the Nagar this year because the event is free and has proper security in place.

Cintra Persad, a newcomer to the Nagar, said her main aim was to promote her graphic arts business, CS designs, and develop a year-round clientele based on the contacts she makes at the Nagar. 

Rajiv Deonarine, one of the few male henna artistes in T&T, who works for an organization called Henna T&T, said henna art is in big demand at Divali time. Deonarine said Henna T&T also hopes to develop long-term clients based on the exposure at the Nagar.

Surujdeo Mangaroo, PRO of the NCIC, said the Nagar has grown in quality over the years and is still a work in progress that will only get better. Mangaroo said despite a fall in government subventions the Nagar would not lower its standards of entertainment or the delivery of cultural themes and presentations. He was confident that support will come from all sectors for the 2017 Divali Nagar.

The Nagar closes on Friday, October 28, and each night promises to be filled with entertainment. The secret is to reach early, make a tour of the grounds, and get a good seat closer to the stage.

La Brea wants medical care from Petrotrin

1 hour 50 min ago

Vance River, La Brea, residents living near the oil-polluted river that four-year-old Caleb Hart fell into are now calling on Petrotrin to set up a medical camp in the community as residents continue to fall ill.

Yesterday, a backhoe supervised by Petrotrin personnel was seen dredging the river running along Fortune Mc Cathy Street, which is a street away from where Caleb lives.

Caleb slipped on a narrow bridge near his home at Fitz Lane on his way to school and fell into the thick oil-slicked river on Wednesday.

He was rescued by his father, but covered from his neck down in mud.

While residents were relieved that Petrotrin was finally cleaning up the oil spill which appeared in the river a month ago, they were very concerned about their health.

Aba Antonio said other children and even adults are suffering from a range of health problems which they believe is a result of breathing in the gaseous oil compounds and physically coming in contact with the oil.

Antonio recalled her nephew Jabari Antonio, seven, slipped on the river bank in his school uniform and fell into the oil last month. She said since then an itchy rash has broken out on the child’s back and abdomen.

She said Petrotrin was informed about the incident, but has done nothing.

“Only Caleb’s mother got medicine from Petrotrin doctors to use on him because he too was getting a rash, but no one else.”

Aba’s sister Abebe showed T&T Guardian a rash on her arm, saying, “I have this about three weeks now and it scratching. Is because of the oil. I went to Vance River beach two days ago and I could not bathe because it had plenty oil.”

Another resident, Natasha Mitchell, a mother of six children ranging between 18 years and three months old, said her children are also being affected.

She said her son Wendell Paul, nine, has been experiencing blurred vision since the oil appeared in the river which is opposite their home. “He has pain in his eyes which has dark circles around them. Two of my daughters’ asthma only acting up. The fumes very strong. I does get bad feeling, I feeling weak. You actually tasting the fumes.” 

Mitchell said she called on Petrotrin to provide medical treatment for her family and help them with their medical bills. 

Antonio’s blind father, Karvin, said, “Sometimes I have to close my eyes because they burning, my nose burning from the fumes.”

Residents said Petrotrin should send a medical team in the village to conduct tests and provide medication for the residents. They also complained that their MP Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre has not contacted or visited them.

Sister: It’s a wound that never heals

1 hour 53 min ago

Imagine suffering a wound from a chop. Then imagine that wound showing no signs of healing.

It’s how the sister of missing nail technician Ashma Naimool has been feeling since June 3, 2015.

Nia Naimool, 36, and members of her family have searched every corner of this island with the hope of finding Ashma.

The Naimool family, along with other families, received calls about ten months ago to identify the remains of a female body. There was no confirmation that the remains were those of Ashma. 

While their search efforts have produced no results, the family refuses to give up hope of finding their loved one. Ashma went missing days before her 33rd birthday. She and Nia were best friends who lived together in an apartment in Tacarigua. Ashma moved in with Nia while finalising a divorce. She was trying to become an independent young woman but her dreams were shortlived when she left the apartment one evening with a male friend and never returned. 

Nia described the close relationship which Ashma shared with a male as “unhealthy.”

“My sister wanted to have her own apartment and a successful business but that never happened,” she said. 

The Sunday Guardian spoke with Nia on Thursday. She shared personal details of her sister’s life and recalled how much love she still feels for her. Nia stills drink tea in Ashma’s teacup.

Ashma was one of four sisters; she also has two brothers. The Naimool family, originally from Biche, has been ripped apart with pain since her disappearance, Nia said.

“The time leading up to Ashma’s disappearance, the crucial time like what every family goes through...those months... we got phone calls from people all over telling us her body was here and there or behind a patch in church. We were asked to send $500 to people’s phones saying they will tell us where Ashma was.

“People called and said she was right there with them, that men were raping her...”

Nia said calls were traced to the prisons from people trying to extort money from the family. She even said the family paid an undisclosed sum to the host of a popular local TV show but still never got assistance.

She said the family never took any call or tip off for granted and went on many wild goose chases.

“In the moment, you would do anything.”

Ashma was the favourite among the siblings; she was also her mother’s favourite child. Nia said there was never any jealousy over that, and joked that they all accepted it.

Ashma’s 56-year-old mother, security guard Seelochanie Lal, has had many sleepless months. Nia said her mother worries and breaks down in tears very often. And with the kidnapping of south hairdresser Ria Sookdeo, the pain has become even more unbearable. 

No healing 

Trying to relate the pain she feels, Nia said, “Rhonda, this kind of trauma...there isn’t any one word to describe it. If you can understand what I am telling you, you might can get a little insight. Have you ever grieved for someone? Have you ever felt grief?”

She went on, “Losing somebody who went missing and who disappeared like this, without a is a deep suffering. It is a deep suffering and here is how I look at it. Have you ever seen a chop wound? It is a big chop and no matter how you try to stitch that up, you keep seeing pink all the time. No matter how you try to put it together, that’s how it a never healing wound. There is no sign of healing.”

She said she often wondered why another person would drop off a young woman by the lonely roadside in Arouca in the night. The CCTV footage which Nia viewed at the Arima bar where Ashma and the male companion were last seen showed the time code as 9.40 pm on June 3. 

Police need 

special training 

Over the last 15 months, the Naimool family has spent money on their own investigation searching for Ashma. 

“I can never imagine the police of our country ever doing what we have done,” Nia said. 

She said there needed to be a restructuring of the unit set up to deal with missing persons and said she believed if there was a more professional, competent and skilled set of police officers, her sister would have been found earlier, dead or alive. 

Nia said, “If you get a call, act on it. At one time we sent $500 to someone because we wanted our sister. Nobody told us not to do that. They don’t tell you that people will call you and tell you x, y and z. They sit there and take a statement and that’s it. Imagine they took statements from me and all of my sisters, but not first from the person who was in the company of my sister.”

She criticised the police saying they were “lackadaisical” and “lagged” with the case. She said the family had begun to get “fed up” of calling and visiting the police. 

“I think she would have been found. Her phone was traced to the Lopinot area.” She said her sister’s case was “just another one.”

Six corporations to watch

1 hour 55 min ago

In the past two Local Government elections six corporations were responsible for the shift in power.

These six corporations are the San Fernando City Corporation, the Arima and Chaguanas Borough Corporations and the Diego Martin, Tunapuna/Piarco and Sangre Grande Regional Corporations.

While there are 14 corporations in all up for grabs across Trinidad in the upcoming elections, according to the results of the 2010 and 2013 Local Government elections there are five in particular that changed hands between the two main political parties—the United National Congress (UNC) and the People’s National Movement (PNM).

While the sixth, the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, still remains under the stewardship of the UNC, there was a significant shift in power between the two elections.

Following the results of the 2013 Local Government election the UNC were only able to retain power at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation because an elected councillor representing the Independent Liberal Party switched his political allegiance.

Starting this week, the Sunday Guardian will be taking a look at these six corporations as we count down to this year’s Local Government election carded for November 28.

A look back

The last time the country went to the polls for the Local Government elections was October 21, 2013.

In that election the PNM won eight of the corporations while the UNC won six.

This was a significant shift from the results of the 2010 Local Government elections in which the UNC-led People’s Partnership coalition convincingly beat the PNM 11-3.

The last time Local Government elections were held in this country before 2010 was in 2003.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission said the 2013 Local Government election was of “historical significance” because it was the first time that a system of “proportional representation was introduced for the selection of Aldermen and Municipal and Regional Corporations”.

This changed the number of aldermen to be elected to the corporations.

The EBC faced some challenges with carrying out its mandate with respect to the changes introduced by the system of proportional representation.

“There were challenges in giving effect to the provisions of (the Municipal Corporations Amendment) Act No 13 of 2013. Challenges which could have been more easily overcome if the Commission had been consulted before the bill was presented to Parliament,” the EBC stated in its report on the 2013 Local Government elections.

These challenges were, however, overcome.

The 2013 elections saw the largest number of people voting in a Local Government election in this country.

A total of 452,031 people voted in that election.

This represented 43.60 per cent of the total number of people eligible to vote, according to the EBC’s voter list.

A total of 429 were nominated as candidates when Nomination Day was held for the election on September 30, 2013.

Eventually one of the PNM’s nominees withdrew his candidature before the election.

When the results were eventually tallied the PNM came out victorious.

And now...

This year’s Local Government elections comes just over a year after the PNM won this country’s general election.

A total of $191.1 million has been allocated to the 14 corporations in the National Budget.

According to the EBC figures there are currently 1,051,115 eligible to vote in the upcoming election.

People hoping to vote in the elections have up until Wednesday to register.

In the build-up to these elections the PNM led by Minister of Rural Development and Local Government 

Franklin Khan held consultations on Local Government reform throughout the country.

Khan, however, said there would be no Local Government reform in time for this year’s election. The legislation is expected to go before the Parliament before the end of the year.

Both of the country’s leading political parties, the PNM and the UNC, have already started screening candidates to represent them as Local Government councillors.

Nomination day for the Local Government elections will be November 7.

What exactly is 

Local Government?

Local Government in T&T is handled through five municipalities and nine regional corporations in Trinidad, and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in Tobago.

The THA elections are constitutionally due next January.

Tobago will therefore not be voting in the upcoming Local Government elections.

Many of the community services and facilities in your community are provided by corporations.

Municipal corporations are responsible for the building and maintenance of local roads, bridges and drains, collecting garbage, maintaining parks and community facilities, issuing building approvals, and overseeing public health and sanitation.

Chag residents voting party

2 hours 7 min ago

One day after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the date for Local Government elections, Chaguanas residents interviewed by the Sunday Guardian said they were ready to vote.

The residents also agreed, however, that they felt Local Government elections were useless as councillors still had no power without MPs.

Most residents also said they never saw their councillors and did not see any improvements to their community.

Still, they are ready to vote, and their voting will be based on party politics rather than the development of their communities.

Zena Mack, a resident of Ramgoolie Trace, Chin Chin, Cunupia, said she would definitely be voting on November 28.

Asked why, Mack said it was because it was expected.

Asked if she knew her councillor’s name, Mack, like many other residents, said no.

Asked what Local Government, in Mack’s case the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, had done for her recently, Mack’s answer was nothing.

Her property is well-kept, grass cut low, walkway swept clean, chores done by her son.

The makeshift drainage leading from her property to a main road was created by family members.

“We do everything for ourselves. I don’t even think having Local Government councillors makes sense for most people because I never see them. I don’t know who they are,” Mack said.

While her property is well-kept, free of litter and stagnant water ideal for mosquito breeding, Mack can’t enjoy the benefits.

Next door to her house is an abandoned lot.

“I want to say it is abandoned but people built a foundation the other day and then didn’t come back for three months.”

In those three months, the lot has flooded, taking on a swamp-like look, complete with caimans, rodents and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

From Mack’s point of view, the regional corporation should be enforcing laws to ensure residents of the borough are not faced with these dangers.

What the regional corporations should be doing and what is done, however, is vastly different.

Bishnu Ragoonath: People 

vote party not community

In a telephone interview yesterday, political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath agreed that the majority of voters in the Local Government elections vote based on party politics.

“It is unfortunate but that is how our politics evolved. It has evolved in a way where we focus more about party politics and not community issues,” Ragoonath said.

He said in this way, Local Government elections were no different from the general elections.

He agreed, in theory, that Local Government elections should represent an opportunity to choose candidates based on their ability to make community improvements but said this was not the reality.

Chaguanas unique

In Chaguanas, unlike many other regional corporations, the votes are spread among three political parties, the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM), the Opposition United National Congress (UNC), and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) started by former National Security minister, currently facing criminal charges, Jack Warner.

In the last elections, the PNM won three electoral districts, Edinburgh/Longdenville, Enterprise North/Esmeralda and Enterprise South.

The UNC also won three districts, Felicity/Endeavour, Montrose and Cunupia, while the ILP took Munroe Road/Caroni Savannah and Charlieville.

Despite the tie between the UNC and the PNM, it is the UNC that controls the borough corporation and its resources, after an ILP candidate crossed the floor.

It is also the UNC-held areas that seem, on the surface, to benefit the most.

While residents in Chrissie Trace in Enterprise sometimes do their own community upkeep, each cutting the grass on the sidewalks outside their house, residents in Lange Park saw a new pavement and walking track along La Clave road.

While another green space was given lights in Montrose, residents say they had to pool together and fix a four-foot wide pothole in Longdenville.

Residents on Ragoonanan Trace must walk a few hundred metres to place garbage in a dump, while residents of Edinburgh 500 have their garbage picked up in front of their gate.

It seems no one electoral district has everything they need and no resident is completely satisfied with their representatives, even when work is being done.

Keith Sampson, of Welcome Road, near Esmeralda, has no intention of voting for anyone.

“I see what they do. Look,” he points.

“You see we are getting the road repaired. You see the drain there, we got the drain upgraded late last year. I think they are doing a good job with that.

“But I don’t want to vote. I’m just not interested.”

Sampson’s answer is paradoxical but typical of many Chaguanas borough residents.

Either they see no improvements and are still willing to vote or they are seeing a lot of improvements and are apathetic about Local Government elections.

Chaguanas mayor: 

We distribute equally

In an interview yesterday, Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan said there was no discrimination in terms of development in the borough. 

“Every budgetary year, the money is shared equally between every single councillor regardless of party they belong to. Our policy is equal distribution on roads, drains, the market, and all development projects,” Boodhan said.

Despite this, Boodhan is aware of the challenges faced by borough residents: frustratingly poor traffic management exacerbated by frustrated and inconsiderate drivers, potholes which always crop up in the same place despite several quick fixes, and in some areas badly inconsistent garbage collection.

Some of these issues were created because of Chaguanas’ history of often unplanned development, resulting in streets too narrow for some vehicles to navigate, a high number of unpaved roads and streets that all merge, meander and confront each other in an unrestricted maze.

“We started to have smaller trucks and smaller vehicles going into the area. We are conscious of the fact that when people leave all the garbage in one area, stray dogs tear it apart and it becomes a hazard,” Boodhan said.

He said the borough also started an aggressive beautification and environmental project.

The borough also regularly celebrates educational achievements, with 27 SEA students from primary schools in the borough placing in the top 200 this year, and over 50 scholarship winners either attending school in the borough or living there.

Safety and security is still a challenge in the area. Repeated calls for a police post in the Enterprise community have not yet been answered.

“All in all, in all areas of life, we have done work in all areas,” Boodhan said.

He said the fact that people complained of not seeing their councillors was a historical complaint but added that all councillors from the corporation continued to work as hard as possible.

“I apologise if people are not seeing them but I encourage them to call us. You don’t need an appointment to see me at the corporation. People can call and I will visit,” he said.

Boodhan encouraged the Sunday Guardian to share his mobile number 779-7343. 

Cop goes on sick leave

2 hours 11 min ago

One of the police officers involved in the shooting incident which claimed the life of San Fernando resident Adelle Gilbert on Thursday has proceeded on sick leave. The other officers are still on the job. No one could say how many officers were involved in the incident.

T&T Guardian was told that the officer who has gone on sick leave was involved in an altercation with Gilbert’s common-law wife, Alisha Richards. 

Acting Supt Yusuff Gaffar who has been appointed to head the investigation into Gilbert’s death is still compiling the file to send to the Director of Public Prosecutions, sources said.

Yesterday, Gilbert’s grandmother Daphne Gilbert, 74, who had to be hospitalised after she was assaulted by a police officer during the melee on Thursday was still traumatised.

The grandmother of 22 and great grandmother of eight, who was discharged from the San Fernando General Hospital after being treated for an injury to her chest, broke down in tears at her Laurence Street, San Fernando, home yesterday where the incident took place. 

Minutes before the shooting, she said people in the area saw one of the policemen wearing a wig on top of a tall commercial building operating a drone which was flying from rooftop to rooftop. When Gilbert saw the police, she said he ran.

“I could not move at all because all I hear is bullets. I was standing by the doorway and the police wanted to pass.”

She said the police officer cursed her and hit her on her left breast and she felt instant pain.

“Nobody ever treat me like this,” she said, adding after Gilbert was shot, “The officer say he going home and sleep comfortable. That break my heart.”

Richards, who was also taken by the police to hospital for treatment, was charged with assaulting a policeman and granted bail on Friday.

Budget cuts at 14 corporations

2 hours 16 min ago

There has been a $30 million cut in the allocation of funds to the 14 regional corporations under the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government for the fiscal year 2017.

The total allocation to the 14 corporations according to the Draft Estimates—Details of Estimates of Recurrent Expenditure 2017 was $1,689,378,700. 

In addition, $37.7 million was allocated to Regional Corporation Services - General and $1.183 million to the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Local Government Authorities. 

However, there was a notable increase in the 2016 Revised Estimates for Regional Corporation Services - General, which was then listed as $7.5 million. Under the 2017 estimates, the allocation increased by $30.255 million. 

There was also a $418,600 increase to the T&T Association of Local Government Authorities for fiscal 2017.

The San Fernando City Corporation and the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation have seen drastic budget cuts for the next fiscal year with their decreases totalling just over $11 million. 

Although the San Fernando City Corporation received the fourth highest allocation of $143,337,100, it got the biggest cutback of $6,224,600. 

The Port-of-Spain City Corporation received the highest allocation of $251,753,700, while the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation received the lowest of $74,071,000.

The Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation was also hit with a decrease of $5.3 million. Its 2017 estimates were listed as $124,050,000.

Continuing in decreases were the Siparia Regional Corporation, whose budget was slashed by $3.057 million; the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation was cut by $3 million; and the Princes Town Regional Corporation’s budget by $2 million. 

There are 14 corporations which fall under the ministry headed by Minister Franklin Khan. 

Eight of the corporations are controlled by the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) while the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) controls five. In the last Local Government election, the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, which makes up the 14th corporation, was split among the UNC with three seats, the PNM with three seats and the Independent Liberal party with two. That corporation received $86.4 million with a cutback of $1.3 million.

The Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation received the second highest amount—$193,200,000—with budget cuts of $1,682,500. 

2017 Estimates for Corporations 

n Port-of-Spain - $251,753,700

n San Fernando - $143,337,100

n Arima - $85,041,000

n Point Fortin - $74,394,700

n Chaguanas - $86,460,500

n Diego Martin - $109,300,000

n San Juan/Laventille - $183,678,000

n Tunapuna/Piarco - $193,200,000

n Sangre Grande - $90,029,000

n Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo - $124,050,000

n Mayaro/Rio Claro - $93,283,000

n Siparia - $83,133,800

n Princes Town - $91,646,900

Crime down in Laventille

2 hours 18 min ago

When you think of crime in this country one area may instinctively come to mind—Laventille.

You could be forgiven for thinking that, because according to statistics from the T&T Police Service (TTPS) the Port-of-Spain Division of which Laventille is a “major contributor” has recorded the most murders in this country consecutively for at least the last three years.

But now, according to acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, (who is on vocation), “something good is happening in Laventille”.

Williams said according to the TTPS’ statistics, the Port-of-Spain Division is currently ranked fourth in the country in terms of murders.

The Northern Division, which spans from Arima and St Joseph, is now ranked first in terms of murders.

The Port-of-Spain Division is now also ranked fourth in the country in terms of woundings and shootings, again having dropped from the number one position

The Southern Division is now ranked first in terms of woundings and shootings. 

Williams said according to statistics 48 murders have been reported in the Port-of-Spain Division.

This represents 25 fewer people murdered in the area when compared to the same period last year, Williams said.

Last year for the same period 73 people were murdered in the Port-of-Spain Division, he said.

In 2014, 70 people were murdered for the same period, Williams said.

Williams made the statements as he delivered the feature address at the Beyond Borders Conference and Workshop hosted by the Rose Foundation in collaboration with the Hearts and Minds Programme of the TTPS’ Inter-Agency Task Force at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre yesterday.

Williams said the improvement in Laventille could be better seen when the statistics for woundings and shootings are analysed.

Williams said there were 96 fewer woundings and shootings reported in the Port-of-Spain Division when compared to the same period last year.

Last year 141 woundings and shootings were recorded for the equivalent period, he said.

For this year only 45 woundings and shootings have been recorded, he said.

Crime displacement

While Williams has lauded the decrease in murders, woundings and shootings in the Port-of-Spain Division the killing spree in this country continues unabated.

Murders in the Northern Division have now taken over the number one spot.

According to the TTPS’ statistics the Northern Division accounted for 58 murders last year.

The statistics for this year, according to the TTPS’ website, show that the Northern Division accounted for 80 murders so far.

Criminologist Prof Ramesh Deosaran yesterday said this is as a result of the phenomenon known as “crime displacement”. 

“If this is happening in Port-of-Spain with the urban areas as they are in terms of poverty, schooling, parenting and the youth unemployment I think any significant decrease will obviously be a very welcome indicator,” Deosaran said.

“Secondly we have to examine the statistics and the investigations to see whether the decrease is due to more effective policing or whether the community partnerships are beginning to work in a particular area,” he said.

“The phenomenon of crime displacement is still uppermost in criminological thinking because Trinidad is a small place so it is like water, when you block one hole it seeks another space, so if there is a commensurate increase in other divisions with respect to the crimes that you are citing, if there is an increase, the question of displacement arises,” Deosaran said.

The Central Division, according to the latest TTPS statistics, is second in the country for murders with the Southern Division ranking third.

“We have done some research some years ago. Not only looking at the crimes and where they happen but where the offenders come from and we found that if a crime happens for example in Caroni or in Toco it does not mean to say that the offenders live there,” Deosaran said.

“What we have found is that there is a remarkable transmigration from one district to another and especially the Port-of-Spain Division because I have heard that the commanders become very firm in controlling the Port-of-Spain Division and the other high crime areas, so that if pressure has been brought upon the criminals they will naturally shift, so the question of displacement arises,” he said.

Deosaran said a proper analysis of the statistics must be done 

“We have to look at the statistics very closely. Not just at the end numbers, we have to look at the genesis and I think one way we can look at it is to look at where the offenders come from and the other related demographics in terms of schooling so we can present a more overall solution,” he said.

The tipping point

Williams said we cannot “arrest our way” out of this country’s crime problem but instead a softer approach to crime is needed.

He said he believes that the TTPS going into the Port-of-Spain Division and meeting with residents may be responsible for the positive changes being reflected in a decrease in crime.

“We need to be able to utilise the cumulated impact of all the small things that have been happening which are good to create what one writer has described as a tipping point. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping Point identified that there is some point in time when all the small things can come together and have a major impact. That is what we are seeing,” Williams said.

Williams said he hopes that the crime figures continue to decrease.

Roman Catholic priest Fr Clyde Harvey who is known for his work in Port-of-Spain lauded the police in the area for their hard work and dedication to duty.

“I think what people do not understand is that there are some really great policemen that have been doing some wonderful work building relationships rather than just in the common perception killing and locking up people. The key to the resolution to the Laventille thing, which is not a crime problem alone, it is a community problem, the key to that is building relationships. If the teachers built relationships in school they would have less angry young people, so I would give the police a certain amount of credit for doing a good job,” Harvey said.

Victim wants national debate

Sat, 10/22/2016 - 00:12

The young woman at the center of a social media debate on sexual harassment said yesterday she recorded and exposed the men because she was fed up at being a frequent victim of such acts.

Speaking with CNC3 yesterday, Karian Forde said she while she had been a victim of such acts before, she was stunned by this most recent one and felt she had to act against it by publicly shaming the men and subsequently posting the video on social media. The video subsequently went viral

Recalling that she had just left the gym and was sweating as she walked through the Brian Lara Promenade in Port-of-Spain, Forde said the three men’s harassment stunned her into action.

“They talked about how wet my private area was, they talked about what they wanted to do to it ... they talked about, just really lewd and ridiculous things,” she said.

“It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back I think. I was just really fed up of it and the fact that they were following me I said no I have to tape it and I need to show people how annoying it is.

She said she hoped her act would help the country rethink such acts more seriously.

“I would like to see some form of national discussion happen out of it and really educate young men, older men, men in general, that this is not a compliment, it is not something nice, women don’t feel good when you give us those types of compliments. We feel scared, we’re angry, we’re hurt, and it’s the most uncomfortable feeling.” 

Forde’s comments came even as the Ministry of State in the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs) condemned the act in the video. The ministry cautioned that women and girls must be allowed to walk the streets in peace and urged that they be treated with dignity and respect.

Saying sexual harassment was against the law, the ministry said according to the Against the Person Act, Chapter11:08. Section 30A, harassment included alarming the person or causing the person distress by engaging in a course of conduct including, for example, making contact with the person whether by gesture, directly, verbally by telephone, computer, post or in any other way, or giving offensive material to the person. In order for the conduct to constitute harassment, it must be carried out on at least two occasions, the release said, adding it carried a $2,000 fine or six months imprisonment upon summary conviction.

It added that a person who indecently assaulted another was guilty of an offence and was liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years for a first offence and to imprisonment for ten years for a subsequent offence.

Police seek video in fatal accident

Sat, 10/22/2016 - 00:08

Police have requested video footage which may assist them in investigating the death of Guyanese national Keith Miller who had his head crushed in an accident Thursday evening.

According to police reports, Miller, 53, who they say had no relatives in the country, was employed as a security officer with Boriserv Security Company. Police said Miller was found around 6.45 pm Thursday after he left his work station with a bunch of keys. 

His body was found during a search for him on the Maritime compound, Barataria, where the security firm is based. Police said they had no information regarding reports that Miller’s body may have been dragged a few metres after he was involved in a vehicular accident. A picture of Miller’s body in a ditch with his head squashed began circulating on WhatsApp Thursday night. Police also stated that they could not say if Miller was involved in a vehicular accident and have not made any rulings on his death so far.

Culture minister: Nagar inspires global heritage

Sat, 10/22/2016 - 00:06

Divali Nagar has inspired people around the world to renew their East Indian cultural heritage with similar festivals being replicated regionally and in North America, according to Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts.

She was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Divali Nagar on Thursday night, at Chaguanas. The Nagar continues nightly until October 28, the night before Divali is celebrated. 

Gadsby-Dolly said Divali Nagar is now a significant aspect of the annual calendar in T&T. Hundreds visit every night. 

“The festival has served to preserve and promote Indian culture nationally, regionally and internationally; it represents a cultural exchange among our people,” she said.

Gadsby-Dolly applauded the work of the National Council of Indian Culture which is hosting the event.

“You have continued to bring awareness of the religious, social and cultural dimensions of the festival of Divali. 

Through various themes, attendees have the chance to learn about the essential aspects of our Indian culture.” 

Gadsby–Dolly said the theme for this year’s Nagar, “Ganga Ma—Sacred River,” focuses on the Hindu goddess (Mother Ganga) and symbolises purity. It speaks of cleansing, health and mercy; reminds us of new life, rejuvenation and victory. 

“They say that it is here in T&T that the Ganges meets the Nile. And so even as we celebrate the sacred river and the festival of lights, we also celebrate the diversity of our people.”

Doodhai elected new TTUTA president

Sat, 10/22/2016 - 00:02

Lynsley Doodhai is the new president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA).

Doodhai, who previously held the post of second vice-president, was declared the winner at 1.18 am yesterday.

The results were signed off by the TTUTA Elections Commission close to eight hours after the polls were closed at 5 pm.

Presenting the results at the TTUTA’s headoffice, Curepe,, around 10 am yesterday, outgoing president Davanand Sinanan said 63 per cent of the 11,000- member electorate had participated in the elections.

Claiming they were “free and fair,” Sinanan said there were no reports of major problems or glitches affecting the process.

The voting caravan traversed 76 polling divisions, enabling all teachers to cast their ballots irrespective of the division in which they were.

Sinanan later described the voter turnout as “pretty good.”

The five positions contested included president, first vice-president, second vice-president, third vice- president and treasurer.

The post of general secretary was uncontested, so incumbent Fitzroy Daniel will continue to serve for another three years.

The other positions were filled by Doodhai with 4,648 votes; Gewan Durga as treasurer with 4,544 votes; Marlon Seales as first vice-president with 3,616 votes; Kyrla Robertson as second vice-president with 3,034 votes; and Darren Lee Him as third vice-president with 4,519 votes.

History was created following Robertson’s successful election as she has now become the first woman to hold that position.

Performing his last official function as president when he presented the results yesterday, Sinanan said the election campaign had been well fought.

He urged the incoming executive members to use the time between yesterday and their installation on November 1 “for healing.”

He admitted the election had created acrimony and negativity among people in the quest for votes and that “a little bit of bad blood had been created.”

However, Sinanan believes once officials close ranks and embark on TTUTA’s work to represent all teachers, regardless of who voted for them, they will accomplish whatever mandate is set.

There is a 24-hour window for anyone to challenge the results and if none is forthcoming, Sinanan said the next move would be to inform the ministry’s permanent secretary so that arrangements could be made to facilitate the new executive as it took up its positions.

The incoming executive will be guided by the outgoing members during the one-month transitional period.

Revealing he was experiencing a “bitter-sweet” moment yesterday as he presented the results, Sinanan, who is set to return to his substantive post as principal of the Palo Seco Secondary School, said: “There were very rewarding moments and times of despair.”

He added it had been a gratifying and enlightening six years for which he was grateful.

To the incoming president, Sinanan said everyone had a unique leadership style but that it was necessary to be “patient and tolerant.”

Admitting that it can sometimes become overwhelming, Sinanan said Doodhai would do well to remember that with teamwork and collaboration, “the job is not difficult.”

He added: “Be a good listener and treat everyone with fairness and equity.”

Ecstatic about his win, Doodhai said: “The results reflect the overwhelming majority voted in favour of me as president.”

The independent candidate said he had also re-written the history books by becoming the first such person to attain the highest possible office.

Thanking his campaign team for its work to ensure his victory at the polls, Doodhai said he would always strive to maintain the confidence the electorate had placed in him for the next three years.

First on the agenda after being installed, Doodhai said he intended to convene a meeting with the Ministry of Education to address matters affecting teachers, as their monthly meetings had not materialised since July.

Contradicting Sinanan’s claims that the voting process had gone smoothly, Doodhai said his polling agents had been made aware of a problem where certain teachers were being presented with pens containing a pull-out feature, bearing the pictures and names of certain hopefuls, to take into the voting booth. 

He said once the voting officials were made aware of it, the matter was rectified immediately.

UNC Senator accused of ‘shaming’ Tobago

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 23:59

Tobago “shaming.”

PNM Government senator Nadine Stewart added a new category to the “shaming” dictionary yesterday when she accused UNC Senator Danny Solomon of making offensive remarks about Tobagonians’ selling of certain delicacies.

She was referring to remarks he made when he spoke in Wednesday’s Senate debate of the 2017 budget. 

Stewart, in her Senate budget contribution yesterday, noted that Solomon had spoken about Tobagonians selling bene balls and toolum. This was among his remarks on local tourism on which he had made recommendations.

But Stewart said some Tobagonianas were upset at Solomon alluding to such sales and linking it to Tobagonians. She questioned why he was “berating” (sic) the way they made their livelihood selling such delicacies.

“We won’t encourage this type of shaming,” Stewart said.

She also waded into UNC Senator Wade Mark who, in his contribution on Thursday, had spoken about $500,000 allocated in the budget to build a residence for the Prime Minister in Tobago.

Yesterday Stewart explained the $500,000 was to demolish the current structure at the location and to go towards building “suitable accommodation in Tobago for the officer holder.” 

“The Opposition wants to class Tobagonians as second class citizens. Isn’t it Trinidad and Tobago?” Stewart asked.

She said the Opposition had claimed that former PNM prime minister Patrick Manning had built “a vanity house” (sic) at St Ann’s, the PM’s official residence and Diplomatic Centre, when he was in office.

But during the UNC/PP’s term “aunty, uncle, nennen, boy, girl all moved into the official residence at St Ann’s,” she added.

Stewart also said a Bill on internal self-government would be debated in the Tobago legislative chamber next week and would subsequently be sent to Cabinet

The planned Sandals investment would be the catalyst to solve low hotel occupancy and issues concerning North American airlift and all other hotels would have to upgrade their facilities due to Sandals’ presence, Stewart added.

She said Tobagonians could expect an improvement in the standard of living when “Tobago is returned to the PNM in the next Tobago House of Assembly elections.”

Family keeps hoping, praying

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 23:55

One month ago, mother of two and businesswoman, Ria Sookdeo, kissed her children goodbye as she dropped them off at school. 

Minutes later, she was snatched by two men, bundled into a waiting vehicle and taken away. It was the last time Ellena, nine, and Torres, five, saw their mummy. 

At their Raghoo Village, Debe, home yesterday, the youngsters and their father, Mark, spoke fondly of happier times with Ria and opened up about how they have been coping with her disappearance since September 22. 

“Prayers and hope,” Mark said simply. 

“That’s all that keeps us going...every night before we go to sleep, we say our prayers one by one and listen to gospel music until we fall asleep.” 

Torres, who is five, is hailed as the one to lead the family in prayer, Mark said. “He has one prayer he recites every night for her...he knows it by heart.”

With the worry over whether his wife is alive and well now etched on his face, Mark held Torres close and said, “We pray and ask that she find her way home safely, that whoever took her returns her to me and to our children. Our children need their mother.”

He said in the days following her kidnapping he shied away from media attention, as he tried to focus on being there for his children.

“I didn’t know how to find her and I put my trust in the police, that they would do what is right and what is necessary and I have to say, they did not let me down.”

He said before Ria went missing, the family led a normal, quiet life.

“She didn’t go out much, I was the one who would more socialise for work. We would spend time as a family, playing games, cooking, just keeping to ourselves and being happy.”

Since the abduction, he said, police have been providing support and counselling for him and the children. But Ellena still doesn’t sleep through most nights.

“If I get up to use the washroom in the middle of the night, by the time I come out of the bedroom, she is following me...I have to stop and take her back to bed. She wakes up scared and on the verge of crying most days.”

Sitting close-by with an overstuffed album of family pictures on her lap, Ellena chimed in, “Tell them about the visions, Daddy.”

Her father explained, “She says she sees her mother watching her, watching her sleep, watching her in school and at home. She often tells me ‘Mommy is watching us.’”

When nothing else can calm his children, Mark plays them ‘Mummy’s song’, which is Enrique Iglesias’ 2014 hit Bailando.

“Mommy and me used to dance to this song all the time,” Ellena said. “It was her favourite song and it is my favourite song too.”

Mark has not been back to his job since Ria went missing but the children have started going to school again.

He said while he did not have plans to commemorate the one-month anniversary of Ria’s abduction, he did plan to clean her hairdressing salon, which has not been touched since the day she went missing.

“We wanted to clean it out for her, so when she returns home she’ll be happy and comfortable.”

He firmly believes Ria is alive and with the weight of his children’s stares and unanswered questions on his shoulders, Mark sent out an emotional plea to his wife’s abductors, “Please, please, these are innocent children and they need their mother, they have been grieving for her. Please just let her go, let her come home to us.”

Boy, 5, falls into oil-slicked river

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 23:51

For the past month, residents of Fitz Lane, Vance River, La Brea, say they have been making complaints to State-owned oil giant Petrotrin, begging the company to clean up a spill in a watercourse that runs through their community. 

Until Wednesday the residents’ complaints had gone unanswered. 

Then, while on his way to school that day, five-year-old Caleb Hart slipped on a narrow bridge leading from his home to the roadway and fell into the oily water.

Luckily for Caleb, the waters were not deep and his father, Junior Jerome, who was walking him to school, was able to quickly fish him out. He was taken for treatment by Petrotrin doctors in Point Fortin and then sent to the Augustus Long Hospital.

Yesterday, angry residents blocked the Guapo Main Road and burnt tyres in protest at the company’s lack of action. 

In an interview with the T&T Guardian, Caleb’s aunt Susan Jerome blamed Petrotrin and the Government for her nephew’s near-death experience. She said the accident could have been prevented had the company lived up to its responsibilities.

“We have been complaining for weeks to Petrotrin and it was only when I started to get on with them last week they came and dropped some sand on the concrete bridge,” Jerome said. “I told the Petrotrin man that throwing sand on a concrete bridge will be hazardous to children, that somebody will fall and when somebody get damaged, then they would want to come and clean the oil.

“So said, so done...I want the country to know what it is that people have to put up with on a daily basis.”

She explained why the residents protested, noting La Brea had been stigmatised as protesting for ‘nothing.’

“We didn’t block the road because we want jobs or we want the road fixed, we blocked the road basically because we have been calling on Petrotrin for the past three weeks to clean raw crude oil that is running more than 15 kilometres in a river that a child fell in and they don’t want to come and clean it. They reach so far to tell us don’t let it go viral and don’t involve the media.”

After Caleb’s accident, the company pledged to send out crews to begin the clean-up work but Jerome said yesterday no one was seen until almost 3 pm. Jerome said the stench of the leaking oil had caused numerous health problems among residents.

“There are people living along the riverbank who have gotten coughs, wheezing, rashes and chest pains...this is affecting so many people in so many ways.”

Her neighbour, Natasha Mitchell, who has a newborn son, held up a fistful of prescriptions, stating, “My son is only three months old and all of this is medication I have to buy for him because the scent of the oil real affecting him.”

She said she gave birth to her son by Caesarean (C-)section and was experiencing problems with her stitches.

“I am getting a lot of pain and I feel faint, mostly at night when the stench is overpowering.”

In a release last night, Petrotrin said the source of the leak seemed to be a nearby abandoned oil well. It said a team had visited the area yesterday, met with residents and had also started remedial work and clean-up of the area, which is expected to be completed by next week. The company thanked the residents for their understanding and said it would continue to work with them to ensure the restoration efforts are concluded in a timely manner.

Calls to La Brea MP Nicole Olivierre were also unsuccessful.

Islamic Front head gives Govt Monday deadline on detained Trinis

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 23:47

Head of the Islamic Front Umar Abdullah is giving Government until Monday to act on the continued detention of five Trinidadians in Venezuela, although the men have reportedly been freed having served their time.

He gave the deadline after an impromptu meeting with acting Attorney General Stuart Young last evening, after Abdullah and the wives of the five men had earlier made a failed attempt to meet Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses at the ministry’s International Waterfront Complex, Port-of-Spain, offices.

At about 2.30 pm, Abdullah and the women attempted to enter the reception area of the building but were blocked by security and told they could not enter the building. However, after a few minutes, under the watchful eyes of members of the media the group was allowed in to the reception desk, but was then told there was no official to see them.

“Under the last government and this Government, every time we come here this is always the excuse,” Saadiqua Pitilal, wife of one of the detained men, Dominic Pitilal, said, noting there appeared to be discrimination because they are Muslims.

After insisting on seeing someone, the group was told to wait as an official would be down shortly. But after another wait and no official in sight, they left and proceeded to a spot adjacent to the Parliament building.

“I will make an attempt to speak with a Government minister and if not, remain outside the Parliament building [until] the men are safely on a flight to T&T,” an adamant Abdullah said at that point.

As he stood outside Parliament, Abdullah was first met by a police officer who said Moses was not in the House. He then met with a parliamentary protocol officer who had a discussion with him. At about 4 pm Abdullah was escorted to a room in the Parliament building where he met with Young on the pressing issue.

Abdullah told Young the men, although being freed by a Venezuelan judge last Saturday, remained detained in a Venezuelan prison. He said officials in the Venezuelan prison claim they are awaiting orders from the chancellor there, who is also the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, to effect the release.

“But the judge has already given that order! Are we seeing here that the Venezuelan minister has more authority than the judge and the court?” Abdullah asked.

He said the Government now needs to play a bigger role in getting the men back home.

Abdullah said Young told him Government would make every attempt to address the matter urgently. Abdullah said he was satisfied with Young's response and will give the Government until Monday before he determines his next course of action.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, via a release, said five men, who were detained in Venezuela since 2014 on terrorism-related charges, were subject to a judicial process in the Venezuela courts in accordance with due process.

According to the statement, these legal proceedings were recently completed and the men—Dominic Pitilal, Wade Charles, Leslie Daisley, Andre Battersby and Asim Luqman—were found guilty of certain criminal offences and sentenced.

At recent talks in May between T&T and Venezuelan leaders, Government officials asked that the matter be expedited during discussions on repatriation of people detained in each country on immigration issues.

Police Welfare boss wants body cameras

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 23:44

President of the Police Social and Welfare Association, Insp Michael Seales, is again calling for body cameras for police officers.

His call comes after yet another case in which his colleagues are under fire, especially on social media, after being accused of killing unarmed labourer Adelle Gilbert in San Fernando on Thursday.

Speaking at a book handing-over ceremony from Amalgamated Security Services to the Police Service yesterday, Seales said the entire incident was not recorded but body cameras could have assisted in presenting a clearer picture to the public. 

“Let me just say the feedback should be body cameras are a priority now. I have gotten expressions from the membership of what has been shown is just one version of the event. 

“I’ve had the benefit of looking at it in its detail and I understand now that we need body cameras because it would capture footage from the inception of police activities and not at the back end of police activities, which is what we saw.”

Seales said it was time for the Government to do what needed to be done to ensure officers were outfitted with the gadgets. He added cameras would also assist in training new officers in ways to diffuse hostile situations and how to act under certain stresses of the job. 

“There was some reluctance initially (to body cameras) but now we are seeing that the membership is running towards it. As I said, part of the expression of the social media network, the membership has said ‘You know what, it is about time for the body worn cameras because it would have captured everything instead of a he said, she said thing.’ 

“Because not everything was caught in relation to the footage online right now in relation to the private citizen,” he added. 

He said the footage should not be treated like a holy grail and be hidden but made available to the citizens. He said vice-president, Insp Anand Ramesar, underwent training on body cameras and suggested that like in the US, the footage be made available online. 

He said the video shared on Facebook and WhatsApp after Gilbert was shot was posted hours after it was recorded, which meant that the footage may have been altered. With the body cameras, Seales said, there would not be any room for editing. 

One major issues raised by viewers of the video was a snippet of an officer picking up what appeared to be a spent shell as they prepared to remove Gilbert. 

Asked about that, Seales said the officer might have been removing a 25-cent piece or even jewellery from off the ground. He added that the investigation would reveal all that took place and if anything illegal was done or best practices were not followed, then the officer would have to answer for it. 

He reiterated that it was not illegal for police officers to be videotaped while doing their duty but called on the public not to get in the way of the officers while they were recording as that may constitute obstruction of an officer.

Give us justice, family cries

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 23:41

Disturbed by a viral video showing Adelle Gilbert being dragged by police after being shot, Police Complaints Authority director David West says witnesses are already coming forward to give evidence.

Saying a thorough and independent investigation had been started into Gilbert’s death, West said he was now more concerned the crime scene could have been compromised as the video showed an officer picking up items from the scene and putting it into his pocket with his bare hands.

“It bothers me when I see the treatment given to this person and how he was handled in the video. The PCA will do investigations and we will try to get recommendations as soon as possible,” West told the T&T Guardian.

Expressing frustration that the PCA cannot carry out its mandate properly because of lack of legislation, West said both Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning, when they were prime ministers, had agreed to amend the legislation to give the PCA the requisite powers but nothing was done. 

“One of the ammendments was to give us the powers to solely and independently take charge and preserve the crime scene. Once this man was shot, a senior officer should have taken charge of the crime scene, cordoned off the area and left it intact as they wait for the crime scene experts to come,” West said.

He said the PCA has, however, already recorded statements from witnesses. 

Meanwhile, acting Police Commissioner Harold Phillip also promised an open and transparent investigation yesterday. He described Gilbert’s death as unfortunate and expressed condolences to the family over their loss.

He said the shooting involved members of the Southern Division Task Force, who were on exercise duty at Lawrence Street, San Fernando. 

Acting Supt Yusuff Gaffar has been appointed as the lead investigator with support from the Homicide Region Three, South, while the Professional Standards Bureau has the responsibility for monitoring and oversight of the investigation.

Gilbert, 34, of Embaccadere, San Fernando, was shot in the chest after being chased by police at Carlton Lane, San Fernando, around 12.48 pm on Thursday. Police said he was carrying a gun and shot at them but residents alleged he was shot in cold blood. Gilbert died while undergoing emergency treatment at the San Fernando General Hospital.

Gilbert’s criminal record

Senior Supt of the Southern Division, Adeline Pesnel, also assured yesterday that a thorough investigation would be done into Gilbert’s killing. 

Pesnel said she convened a meeting with the first responder officers yesterday to find out what happened with Gilbert. 

She said she got a file on Gilbert’s criminal records which showed he had three convictions, two for possession of marijuana and one for resisting arrest. Gilbert also had five matters pending at the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court for kidnapping, malicious wounding, shop breaking and larceny, pavilion breaking and larceny and robbery with aggravation. 

There were two outstanding warrants for Gilbert for resisting arrest and possession of marijuana. 

Saying the video footage did not give a complete picture of what transpired, Pesnel said very often when police shootings occurred, residents and relatives contaminated the crime scene.

“It is the duty of the first responders to secure the scene. It is possible that the officer was actually protecting the crime scene,” Pesnel said, adding the items being picked up did not appear to be bullets or spent shells.

“People are crying cover-up but I want to assure that a thorough investigation will be conducted,” she added.

Pesnel said death threats made to officers were also being handled internally.

Gilbert’s relatives said yesterday they were waiting for justice. His brother Joel said yesterday that the shooting showed a clear violation of process. Cousin Kyle Thompson said Gilbert’s two children — Eli and Elijah—had been moved to a safe location. 

“We are hoping that justice will prevail. This is hard for us to deal with,” Thompson said.

Meanwhile, attorney and former independent senator Sophia Chote expressed horror at the video showing Gilbert’s shooting. She said it was regrettable that after spending $18 billion on national security over the past few years, police officers could not still effect a simple arrest. 

Widow on $15,000 bail

Alisha Richards, the widow of Adelle Gilbert, appeared at the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with assaulting a police officer.

Richards, 29, of Broadway, San Fernando, was featured in a viral video posted after her husband's death. 

Nursing a bandage over her left eye and limping, Richards appeared before San Fernando Magistrate Brambhanan Dubay and was not called upon to plead as the charge was laid indictably. 

The court heard that around 12.48 pm on Thursday, Richards assaulted PC Donald Snaggs at Lawrence Street, San Fernando, as he executed his duties.

Her attorney, Frank Gittens, said she had no previous convictions and worked with the San Fernando City Corporation. He said her injuries were as a result of what transpired when her husband was killed.

Gittens said there was no one to look after Richards’ two children, aged four and six. Richards was placed on $15,000 surety bail and was reunited with the children late yesterday after her mother, Ann Gillard, took her bail. She will reappear in court on November 18. 

Help needed

Anyone with information on the police killing can contact the PCA at: 800-2PCA /800-2722/ 627-4383 / 627-4386 or email information at [email protected] and PoliceComplaintsAuthority