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Monster in record time

Sports - 19 hours 13 min ago

Hail Motul Monster, the 2018 T&T International Great Race winner and new Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) record holder for the fastest boat to reach Tobago from its twin island Trinidad.

Its lightning-quick 47 minutes and 23 seconds finish on the 95 mile course is now being compared to a Caribbean Airlines trek to Tobago daily, but driver Joey Sabeeney jokingly said he is not ready to transport travellers just yet. Monster’s feat has now eclipsed all other achievements in the event’s 50th-year history, having now been recognised by the world governing body for the sports UIM as an international event, which puts its time into the record books as the fastest in the world from Trinidad to Tobago.

“I am glad that we’ve set this record and have kept the T&T flag flying high in the midst of international competition,” Sabeeney said.

The victory for the 130mph A-Class competitor adds to its hat-trick of wins in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and is the first under new sponsors Motul. It also completes a magnificent record of 58 wins out of 65 races in the boat’s six years of racing in T&T.

After an 8am start at the foreshore, Monster found itself in an expected battle with arch-rivals Mr Solo Too, Jumbie and US entrant Lucas Oil early, but Sabeeney, who was accompanied by his son Joshua as the assistant throttleman, as well as Peter and Daniel Peake as the other crew members, successfully took control of the race after the boat avoided the hazard of floating debris.

The boats had to complete a two-lap circuit before exiting the gulf and later when they reached into Tobago waters.

Sabeeney said their biggest challenge came from a heavy downpour of rain midway through the course which affected visibility, but the crew managed to cross the finish-line as the fastest boat to the sister-isle.

Despite being credited with the fastest time, it was Bacchanal, the 95mph D Class contender that was first to reach Tobago after receiving a staggered start.

First timers Lucas Oil, which was driven by its leader Nigel Hook, stormed home for the second position some seven minutes behind Monster.

Hook later hailed the event as his third best race in the 25 he contested around the world.

“It was a well-organised race that posed much more of a challenge than I expected. I think we were lucky to finish the race in the second position after experiencing early electrical problems. In the end, you have to credit Monster for an excellent performance, but I think we will be back next year to turn our second- place finish into a win,” Hook explained.

Hook said the race exemplified what a great race really is and said he would challenge other US boats to get a taste of the T&T Great Race experience to see how good they really are.

Bacchanal, which was piloted by the father and son team of Wayne and Morgan Honnock, reached Tobago first to win in the D Class, while Mobil Outlaw, the most consistent boat for the year, expectedly took the top spot in the E Class for boats 80mph.

Meanwhile, Fire Chief took the win in the 70 mph F Class, continuing its dominance from the regattas while Limitless, another usual winner in the 60mph G Class, was again in winner’s row.

Joey Sabeeny said that he was delighted to win the bragging rights of this 50th anniversary ahead of Paramount and Mr Solo Too. He said conditions in the Bocas were rough and they lost visibility at one stage, and with an additional ten mile run in the circuit it was somewhat challenging, but in the end the only time they saw any other machine was when they arrived in Tobago.


A class 130 mph: Motul Monster
D class 95 mph: Bacchanal
E class 80 mph: Mobil Outlaw
F class 70 mph. Fire Chief II
G class 60 mph. Limitless From Tobago
Cruiser X class: Ruffin It
Cruiser S Class: Apple J


Categories: News

NCB Financial Group this week’s volume leader

Business Guardian - 19 hours 19 min ago

This week saw 578,243 shares traded on the First Tier Market a decrease of 46.34 per cent on last week’s volume of 1,077,557 shares crossing the floor.

The value of shares traded was down by 26.90 per cent to $8,154,621.33 from the previous week’s value of $11,155,563.78. The volume leader this week was NCB Financial Group Ltd (NCBFG) capturing 23.90 per cent of the market activity or 138,181 shares traded, followed by Sagicor Financial Ltd (SFC) with 15.42 per cent or 89,149 shares traded and has been in the top three for the past three weeks.

In third place was GraceKennedy Ltd (GKC) with 15.01 per cent or 86,767 shares traded and has been in the top three for the past three weeks.

The Indices ended the week in positive territory. The Composite Index increased by 0.84 per cent or 10.28 points to close at 1,241.20. The All Trinidad and Tobago Index rose by 0.06 per cent or 1.04 points to end at 1,712.78, this was attributable mainly to the increase in the share price of Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL) and West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd (WCO). The Cross Listed Index closed at 103.53, up by 2.68 per cent or 2.70 points this was attributable mainly to the increase in the share price of NCBFG and JMMB Group Ltd (JMMBGL). The advance to decline ratio was 9 stocks advancing and 7 stocks declining, while 4 stocks are at their 52 week high and 6 stocks are at their 52 week low.

NCBFG was the major advance this week up 7.43 per cent or $0.42 to close the week at $6.07, followed by Sagicor Financial Corporation Ltd with an increase of 3.20 per cent or $0.24 to end at $7.74. JMMBGL was in third place with an increase of 2.86 per cent or $0.05 to end at $1.80.

The major decline was National Flour Mills Ltd (NFM) this week, with a decrease of 5.03 per cent or $0.09 to close at $1.70. In second place was GKC with a 3.45 per cent drop or $0.10 to end at $2.80, its 52 week low. In third place was FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd (FCI) down by 1.06 per cent or $0.09 to close at $8.40. There was no activity on the Second Tier Market this week.

Categories: News

What really matters with your first credit card

Business Guardian - 19 hours 21 min ago

Getting your first credit card is like moving into your first apartment: It’s exciting, empowering—and, once you get used to it, pretty underwhelming.

Your first time out, “you’re not going to have a credit card that is going to have a high limit,” says Paul Golden, spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education. “It’s not going to have great benefits or kickbacks or reward programs probably tied to it. And that’s OK.”

A starter credit card is just that—a start. Used responsibly, it’s a way to build a positive credit history, which will help you with things like getting a better deal on a mortgage or cheaper car insurance; and it will help you qualify for a card with better terms down the road — for example, one with richer rewards. Here’s what you should look for.

• Ease of approval

When you have a thin credit file and limited income, you’re not likely to qualify for a card packed with benefits. Instead, aim for something more basic

If you already have a credit history that shows consistent on-time payments and responsible borrowing it’s possible to qualify for a regular “unsecured” credit card that doesn’t require a deposit. To increase your odds of approval, apply through the bank you already use or with a pre-approved offer received in the mail.

Don’t have a credit history yet? Consider applying for a secured card, one that requires a cash deposit. Or ask a parent to add you as an authorised user on a card with history of on-time payments and a balance that’s far below the limit.

• No annual fees

Avoiding an annual fee on your first credit card is a budget-friendly move that allows you to keep the card open for a long time at no cost. That can bolster your credit scores if you continue to make on-time payments on the account.

• Useful rewards

When Zina Kumok applied for her first credit card at 22, she wanted a sign-up bonus — one that she could earn easily.

“I wasn’t making a lot, and I was trying not to spend a lot” at the time, says Kumok, now 29, a freelance writer in Indianapolis who covers personal finance.

“I didn’t want to feel like I was being pressured to spend more to reach a bonus, which obviously never works out in your favour,” she says. Kumok opted for a card with versatile cash-back rewards and a sign-up bonus with a modest spending requirement.

Follow Kumok’s lead: Look for a card that will reward you for the spending you’re already doing to avoid overspending to land a sign-up bonus.

Keep in mind that cards with rewards tend to charge higher interest rates. But if you expect to pay your bill in full every month, that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

“The APR only matters if you don’t pay off your balance,” Kumok says.

• How to manage your first card

Applying for your first credit card is simple, but building a credit history takes more effort.

• Stay well below your limit. Using too much of your first card’s tiny limit could sink your score. But you don’t have to spend a lot to kickstart your credit history. It’s possible to build credit by making just one small transaction per billing cycle and paying it off on time. “You could set up your recurring monthly cell phone bill to be paid (with) your credit card,” Golden says.

• Pay your balance in full and on time every month. Do this and you won’t pay a penny in interest or penalties, and you’ll build a positive credit history, too.

• Make a plan. To avoid overspending on your new credit card, set a weekly budget and keep tabs on your accounts. If your spending starts to creep up, trim costs to get back on track.

Categories: News

Find and delete where Google knows you’ve been

Business Guardian - 19 hours 25 min ago

Even if you have “Location History” off, Google often stores your precise location. Here’s how to delete those markers and some best-effort practices that keep your location as private as possible.

But there’s no panacea, because simply connecting to the internet on any device flags an IP address that can be geographically mapped. Smartphones also connect to cell towers, so your carrier knows your general location at all times.

• To prevent further tracking

For any device:

Fire up your browser and go to (You’ll need to be logged into Google) On the upper left drop-down menu, go to “Activity Controls.” Turn off both “Web & App Activity” and “Location History.” That should prevent precise location markers from being stored to your Google account.

Google will warn you that some of its services won’t work as well with these settings off. In particular, neither the Google Assistant, a digital concierge, nor the Google Home smart speaker will be particularly useful.

On iOS:

If you use Google Maps, adjust your location setting to “While Using” the app; this will prevent the app from accessing your location when it’s not active. Go to Settings Privacy Location Services and from there select Google Maps to make the adjustment.

In the Safari web browser, consider using a search engine other than Google. Under Settings Safari Search Engine, you can find other options like Bing or DuckDuckGo. You can turn location off while browsing by going to Settings Privacy Location Services Safari Websites, and turn this to “Never.” (This still won’t prevent advertisers from knowing your rough location based on IP address on any website).

You can also turn Location Services off to the device almost completely from Settings Privacy Location Services. Both Google Maps and Apple Maps will still work, but they won’t know where you are on the map and won’t be able to give you directions. Emergency responders will still be able to find you if the need arises.

On Android:

Under the main settings icon click on “Security & location.” Scroll down to the “Privacy” heading. Tap “Location.” You can toggle it off for the entire device.

Use “App-level permissions” to turn off access to various apps. Unlike the iPhone, there is no setting for “While Using.” You cannot turn off Google Play services, which supplies your location to other apps if you leave that service on.

Sign in as a “guest” on your Android device by swiping down from top and tapping the downward-facing caret, then again on the torso icon. Be aware of which services you sign in on, like Chrome.

You can also change search engines even in Chrome.

• To delete past location tracking

For any device:

On the page, look for any entry that has a location pin icon beside the word “details.” Clicking on that pops up a window that includes a link that sometimes says “From your current location.” Clicking on it will open Google Maps, which will display where you were at the time.

You can delete it from this popup by clicking on the navigation icon with the three stacked dots and then “Delete.”

Some items will be grouped in unexpected places, such as topic names,, Search, or Maps. You have to delete them item by item. You can wholesale delete all items in date ranges or by service, but will end up taking out more than just location markers.

Categories: News

TSTT staff brings empowerment through education

Business Guardian - 19 hours 27 min ago

Employees of TSTT, have already begun mobilising their individual and group contributions towards their ninth annual Book Buddies Programme. Since 2009 more than 500 of TSTT’s staff, managers and executives, have provided back-to-school books, uniforms and other material to over 1,000 children at children’s homes and shelters. The employees’ personal contributions to date have exceeded $1.5 million.

This unique initiative is one of the pillars of the bmobile Foundation which reaches out to the Homes each year, inviting them to submit book lists for children in their care. More than 20 institutions have been included in this project and some employees request to sponsor the same child they’ve sponsored in the past, therefore, genuinely committing to these children’s futures.

Notwithstanding economic challenges, this year staff are supporting 140 primary school and secondary school children from 13 homes.

Betty-Anne Olton, a business analyst in TSTT’s operational efficiency department, is a regular donor who believes in the Book Buddies Programme providing empowerment through education.

“As employees we are always passionate about this venture every single year,” she stated. “There are sections of the company who get together as a group to sponsor 10-12 book lists. By pooling their resources, they can do more, than if they were to, individually. The children are already in challenging circumstances and it is critical for them to have what is necessary for education. It’s their jump-off point for anywhere they want to go in life.”

Even though the programme is centred on creating an academic avenue for these youngsters, it also plays an integral role in developing better work relations among the hosts’ employees.

Olton, who will be sponsoring a Form One student this time around, added: “It gives me a sense of satisfaction to know that we’re helping the future generations. It is really a fantastic initiative to support children on the whole and it also motivates the employees to do better.”

In TSTT Tobago, Marissa Guppy from the enterprise, marketing and communications department, is one of several employees assisting students in the sister-isle.

“As a volunteer, I believe I can contribute directly towards helping a child achieve his/her dreams through education,” she said.

“I have been a part of this initiative previously and I was inspired that so many of my fellow employees were on board. It’s like a responsibility to give back to the less fortunate. It’s a great experience seeing our employees coming together and working towards a good cause.”

Expressing her heartfelt gratitude to the staff of TSTT for their warm gesture was manager of the Tobago-based Sylphil Home in Love, Susan Phillips-Jack. The caregiver applauded both the short and long-term benefits of the Book Buddies Programme and held in high regard, those who openly contribute to the educational development of young minds on a national scale.

Phillips-Jack assured that the donated items would be well kept by their new owners and put to good use. She shared, “Most of the children were born in to or have inherited social challenges. Education is their key to moving past these obstacles and paving a new way to success in life. Material things can be destroyed but a sound education cannot be taken from you.”

Some of the other beneficiary Homes of this year’s Book Buddies Programme are Cyril Ross Nursery, St Dominic’s Children’s Home, Credo Development Centre, Rainbow Rescue, Bridge of Hope, Joshua Boys (Eternal Light Community), Raffa House, Swaha Vishok Bhavan, Islamic Home for Children, Marian House, Ferndean’s Children’s Home, Margaret Kistow Children’s Home, Sylphil Home of Love, Tobago.

Categories: News

Gender fluidity and the law

Columnists - 20 hours 10 min ago

Gender fluidity allows individuals to be categorised, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman.

Presenting an identification document which does not accurately reflect one’s sex and is incongruent with one’s gender identity can prompt invasions of privacy, prejudice, stigma, violence, discrimination, and harassment in a wide variety of settings, including—employment, education, hotels, health care, housing, government agencies, and law enforcement.

Nonbinary gender identity is already an option on drivers’ licences in Oregon. Washington, DC, New York, and California all permit nonbinary residents to record a gender-neutral option on all relevant legal documents, including birth certificates.

The 2021 Canadian census hopes to capture the prism of genders across Canada. The plan is to offer a third gender option besides ‘male’ and ‘female’. Statisticians at Statistics Canada (SC) are unpacking age-old notions of sex, sex at birth, gender, and gender identity according to Marc Lachance, director of the social and aboriginal statistics division.

Laurent Martel, director of demography at SC, wants all Canadians to identify themselves within the census. Feedback after the 2016 census from LGBT+ advocacy groups on the present binary gender options suggests that the census dataset is imperfect.

To test its assumption, SC first floated the non-binary gender option in an opioid awareness survey. Respondents were asked what their sex was at birth and what their gender is at the time of taking the survey: ‘male,’ ‘female,’ or ‘please specify’.

The new census hopes to identify people whose current gender was not reported exclusively as male or female, or those reported as being unsure, or people who were reported as both male and female, or neither male nor female.

Canada has set aside $6.7m (£4.97m) over five years to establish a ‘Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics’ to fill the gaps in its data. This will enable the Government to fund certain programmes and better serve all citizens.

Recently, a court in the Netherlands advised lawmakers to officially acknowledge a ‘third gender’ after ruling that a Dutch citizen was allowed to register as neither a man nor a woman at birth in 1961. This person’s gender could not be determined at birth and the parents decided to register the person as male.

In 2001, the plaintiff underwent medical treatment and changed gender to female. Eventually, it also turned out that the female gender did not fit the person, whose personality is experienced as gender-neutral, the court said. This meant feeling neither like a man nor a woman.

The judges recommended the recognition of a third gender and amendments to the law to enable the registration of a third gender.

In the UK, only male and female genders are recognised in law. People can legally change their documented sex—but only to male or female.

Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, applicants have to be over 18, diagnosed with gender dysphoria, have lived for at least two years in their acquired gender and intend to live permanently in their acquired gender until death.

In 2016, the House of Commons’s women and equalities committee argued for creating a legal category for people with a non-binary gender identity. In its reply, the Ministry of Justice announced in July 2017 that it would initiate a public consultation. This has since stalled.

In May 2017, France’s top appeals court ruled against offering a ‘neutral’ gender designation to a 66-year-old psychotherapist who at birth could not be identified as either male or female but who was officially registered as a man. The French court said the distinction between male and female was a cornerstone of social and legal state-space and that recognising a third gender would involve uncountable legislative amendments.

In India, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi fought to convince India’s Supreme Court to recognise a ‘third gender’ in 2014. The court ruled that it is the right of every human being to choose their gender. Guna Yala is an autonomous archipelago of 300 islands off Panama’s eastern coast. A typical Guna wedding includes a ceremonial abduction of the groom—not the bride. The young man then moves into the bride’s home.

Thereafter, his work belongs to the woman’s family, and it’s the woman who decides whether her husband can share his fish, coconuts or plantains with his siblings or parents.

In Guna society, women are property owners and decision makers, so it is not unusual for boys to become ‘Omeggid’ and take on female responsibilities.

Humanity has slipped away from its original sexual organisation of society as it inches towards a genderless mortality into eternity.

Categories: News

‘Flawed’ process fallout

Columnists - 20 hours 12 min ago

According to the late Patrick Manning: “This country owes a debt of gratitude on this matter to Sir Ellis Clarke and the team of technocrats whom he led from T&T, the region, and the United Kingdom. It was a dedicated group of technocrats who sat for long hours and hammered out an arrangement which this evening was the subject of approval of hon members. I thank and congratulate my honourable colleagues opposite for sitting with us and arriving at modifications to the initial proposals that could meet with the approbation of hon members on both sides. It is a historic day and while we would not expect that there would be a change in the crime situation tomorrow, what this certainly does, it sets the stage for better arrangements in the future and a police service in which the national community can have more confidence and levels of crime that would be more consistent with the national aspirations of the people of T&T. Permit me also to thank hon members on this side, my colleagues for having been so patient in this matter and lending their support to this historic legislation.” (Hansard, House of Representatives, March 27, 2006, p. 114).

In reply to this appreciation of support, Opposition MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar said:

“We thank those on the other side and our side for some very novel and innovative ideas that have come forward…However, whilst we record that we have completed; done a lot of work and all those who have assisted, at the end of the day, it is the implementation. It would not be easy. I ask the hon Prime Minister to put a dedicated committee in place to oversee the implementation. If it sits there it is not going to happen. The Police Service and the commissioner are very busy. For this to work it is the implementation. I request respectfully, that a dedicated committee be set up for implementation of the legislation.” (Hansard, House of Representatives, March 27, 2006, pp. 114-115).

Both Manning and Persad-Bissessar were right. The enactment of this package of legislation (Constitutional Amendment, Police Service Bill and Police Complaints Authority Bill) was regarded as a landmark occasion to bring about fundamental change to the Police Service.

However, Persad-Bissessar envisaged the need to oversee the implementation of the legislation. That is exactly the fault line that has appeared. The pre-parliamentary process was exposed in this round of implementation insofar as the process was described by the Government as being “flawed”, while the Opposition did not subscribe to that view.

Today most of the challenges of implementation have come home to roost. The pre-parliamentary process had its challenges with the issue of talent pooling of people who did not apply for the job of commissioner being advanced for the job. Secondly, the discrepancy that has arisen between the Salaries Review Commission salary for a commissioner from inside the service and the contract negotiations for a commissioner from outside the service. Thirdly, the leak of the interview process that revealed that Gary Griffith did not emerge on top the interview list certainly hit him a political blow before he even got started on the job.

Section 7 of the bill that amended the Constitution to remove the Police Service Commission from the day-to-day operations of the Police Service has not had the kind of implementation yet that the legislation envisaged based on the recent Manpower Audit Report.

According to that section:

“123A. (1) Subject to section 123(1), the Commissioner of Police shall have the complete power to manage the Police Service and is required to ensure that the human, financial, and material resources available to the service are used in an efficient and effective manner.”

The Police Service Commission was replaced by the Commissioner of Police in exercising the functions of appointment, promotion, confirmation, transfer, and discipline of all officers except the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of Police since 2006.

What Parliament did in 2006 was to remove the prime ministerial veto, replace secrecy with transparency, replace the Police Service Commission with the Commissioner of Police for everyday operations, and make the appointment of a Commissioner of Police subject to a professional search by the PSC and political endorsement by the elected representatives.

The problematic fallout, so far, is the resistance of the existing administrative and political cultures to accept this transition.

Categories: News

They took. They went. We lost.

Columnists - 20 hours 13 min ago

First, the good news. The new Angelin platform, commissioned by bpTT, is home to be installed. If all goes well, it will start producing much needed additional gas in early 2019.

Good news for those who work in the energy sector and for all of us, as the additional gas will help stem the drop in gas production, help T&T fulfil its supply contracts and add to the overall economy.

It’s a crying shame, though, that it was not better news. As the platform set off to its future location, we could have been celebrating a major moment for T&T’s engineering and manufacturing sector, (who knows) future major orders, and many more people in employment in the economically deprived area of La Brea.

Sadly, this outcome will remain just a dream and no thanks to our all too familiar culture of confrontation, bravado, and intransigence when it comes to industrial relations.

It all seemed to be going well. T&T’s Tofco had been awarded the fabrication of a similar platform, Juniper. That project was expected to employ over 750 people at its peak, 95 per cent of them being T&T nationals, 55 per cent of them from La Brea.

Juniper was delivered and is in operation but not without upheavals. Following industrial relations problems that threatened the project, the fabrication of parts of the platform had to be moved to Texas to make sure it was delivered on time.

The result of all that? For Angelin, bpTT did not want to go through the high risk attrition game it saw during Juniper’s construction. To be safe, in early 2017 it decided to build the platform outside T&T.

The company’s decision led to perhaps one of the most memorable sound bites in the country’s history, when Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union president, Ancel Roget, told bpTT to take their platform and go.

To run the full quote, he said: “take your platform and go because we are not prepared to have any construction in an environment that is unsafe, unhealthy and certainly that is devoid of industrial relations practices”. A tad rich given Tofco’s solid health and safety record, and the preaching about industrial relations practices coming from a man who, just a year earlier, had been found guilty of defamation against a former NP manager after allegations he made against her were found to be, in the words of the judge, ‘wholly unsupported, untrue and outlandish’. To put it in plain English, the man lied, and in a big way.

That’s why, instead of seeing Angelin departing from La Brea, we had to witness the platform arriving from Altamira, Mexico, where it was fully built. Our loss, Mexico’s gain. (And, yes, Mexico is known for its lower wages, when compared to the US, but its average monthly wage is around $8,500 (TT), hardly breadline material.)

The loss wasn’t limited to Tofco or another contractor. What it is all too easy for our union leaders to forget is that the economic ripple effect of such major projects is huge. Every employee, when paid, spends at local grocery stores, helping local food producers; at shops selling clothes or domestic appliances, helping local sales people and manufacturers; and, yes, even rum shops. That, in turn, brings in much needed additional tax receipts to help pay for public services.

In this case, the loss was even more criminal. It would have brought much needed foreign direct investment, injecting additional US dollars into our economy at a time we worry about our foreign currency reserves. And it wouldn’t have been the kind of speculative FDI many governments worry about. After all, bpTT would be investing in pipes and wires, not stocks and bonds.

The full cost of a project like Angelin can easily generate $10 billion (TT) of business in the shape of manufacturing and services. Not everything is spent directly in the country (mostly because of the very specialised nature of the equipment or services required) but the fabrication of this type of platform can bring in over $1 billion (TT) in direct investment. Ironically, it’s the unionised workers of Altamira in Mexico who have a lot to thank Mr Roget for his flippant remarks. They took the platform, thus taking the wages that came with it.

The actions—and reaction—by the union leadership may have also baffled many of their comrades in other countries. Elsewhere, you tend to see unions fighting tooth and nail to secure contracts to longtail sectors like shipyards in order to save jobs in the short term and secure the future of their industry, as they know a manufacturing plant without a major contract almost certainly equals gates closed forever.

The crucial question is whether all of us, especially some of our union leaders, will learn from the two recent and sobering industrial events—the loss of our steelworks and, soon afterwards, the loss of the Angelin contract.

If they don’t, we must. It is about time we question our country’s approach to industrial relations and, at the same time, challenge this scorched earth policy routinely adopted by major union leaders.

They may rejoice with their memorable quotes or stunts. Sadly, we can hardly rejoice when we see lower investments, fewer jobs and a poorer country thanks to their actions.

Categories: News

Rescue the West Indies from ‘Windies’

Columnists - 20 hours 15 min ago

Almost when we were not looking, Dave Cameron and Cricket West Indies discarded the historic cricketing nation of the West Indies for the inane and gimmickry-driven “Windies”–what a travesty!

Apart from the absolutely nonsensical rationale given for changing the name of the West Indies cricket team to this nauseating “Windies”, the unilateral action of Cameron’s board is repulsive, and an affront to the great West Indian cricketing tradition and the nation.

The constant ring of this “Windies” by the television commentators in the series against Bangladesh got to me. This is not merely the change in the name of an international cricket team, but the attempt to dissolve the 500 years of the existence of the West Indies and all that that means. Viv Richards says when he walked to the wicket it was to honour his ancestors who toiled in the sugar cane fields of the West Indies.

There is much to be said about the process, the name, and the rationale given by the board. Let us start at the name change of the board from the West Indies Cricket Board to Cricket West Indies. Like good little “Mimic Men” as V S Naipaul (thanks for the many painful self-realizations) described us, the board followed Australia in placing “cricket” before the cricketing country that is the West Indies.

However, no Australian administrator in his right mind would dare replace Australia with “Aussies”.

Completely contradictory to the rationale given by the board for the change of its name ie, that “we need all of our stakeholders to work in partnership, and the name change is an important first step in our strategy…” the unilateral and deceptive change of name of the team was done without discussion and consultation with the “stakeholders” and owners of West indies cricket, the people of the region and the West Indian Diaspora.

Nowhere in the release of May 2017 was there even an attempt by the board to give a logical rationale for its change from West Indies to “Windies”; surely it cannot be the trite reference made to “...the Windies name has long been associated with the representative teams within International cricket...”

Can Cameron and the board tell us what good news has resulted from this change of name and brand? Surely it could not be on the field of play; not greater organisation of the teams and the relations between the board and the players; not in terms of nurturing and managing our West Indian players to get the best out of them. If the change has resulted in earning greater returns from the series played against other teams, then that should be told to us.

The changes have surely not resulted in greater crowd support at the cricket grounds around the West Indies; the teams have not ascended the cricket ladder in the various forms of the game; and we are not attracting the top teams to play against us beyond a charitable grant of a Test match or two, a couple ODIs and T20s, no doubt in recognition of the once great West Indian cricketing nation.

I have been told assuredly that the new name and branding had nothing to do with the only West Indian international chain hotel/resort, Sandals, associating itself with West Indies Cricket.

What I have been told is that West Indian commentators and cricket writers have been surreptitiously and with mafia-like stealth forced into referring to the team as the “Windies”. This Cameron board has been the most destructive to West Indies cricket.

We must not as “West Indians,” who C L R James observed back in the 1960s, “crowding into Tests, bring with them the whole past history and future hopes of the islands,” allow a dozen men to sit in a room and so dramatically, violently and perversely mutilate a cricketing nation’s name. What’s in a name? It becomes our birthright.

“This is not just cricket, this thing goes beyond the boundary; it’s up to you and me to make sure that they fail; soon we must take a side, or lost in the rubble in a divided world that don’t need islands no more are we doomed forever to be at somebody’s mercy? Little keys can open up mighty doors”—‘Rally Round the West Indies.’ Rudder.

We owe this to Constantine, Headley, Worrell, Sobers, Lloyd, and our great West Indian ancestors.

Categories: News

Is it politically macho to be wrong and act strong?

Columnists - 20 hours 18 min ago

From all appearances, it would appear that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is not set on offering an apology for the now controversial ‘sari skit’ although there has been a call for him to so do from the Leader of the Opposition, several religious heads, women’s groups, and other non-governmental organisations. And also, notwithstanding a protest outside his office by hundreds of citizens who considered the performance at the PNM family day to be brutally disrespectful and ferociously derisive. There has even been an approach to the Equal Opportunity Commission to investigate possible breaches of the Equal Opportunity Act.

PM Rowley himself, has dismissed the criticism as “foolishness” and his Minister of Communications has labelled it “a bit of fun”. But given such public condemnation, to frivolously and mockingly brand the not so good theatre as fun, is perhaps an act of foolishness in itself. The question therefore is why in the face of such growing discontent and dissatisfaction would the PM not offer an apology? Why would a leader be so politically disinclined to confess to error when major sections of the society stand in such strong solidarity and conviction that their cultural or religious views have been trampled upon? Why would a Prime Minister aspiring for a second term of office not simply admit that the portrayal can easily be perceived as insensitive and brutish and that it carried a subliminal message, that violence against women is acceptable?

According to a Harvard Business Review (2006), “for leaders to apologise publicly is a high-stakes move: for themselves, for their followers, and for the organisations they represent. Refusal to apologise can be smart, or it can be suicidal. Conversely, readiness to apologise can be seen as a sign of strong character or as a sign of weakness”. Perhaps the most recognised and international political apology was that of US President Bill Clinton and a televised one at that, in which he admitted to an inappropriate relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

In that much publicised address he said that, “it was wrong”, that he deeply regretted having misled the country and that he promised to put the past behind him to redirect his attention to the nation’s business. It was discovered afterwards that, apologising did not hurt Clinton at the polls as at the end of his presidency, his approval rating remained high at 66 per cent.

In this particular case and given the strong public sentiments that have been expressed, it would appear that PM Rowley has nothing to lose in offering an apology. In fact, he should be cognisant that a successful apology may have the ability to transform hostility into personal and organisational triumph, while little or no apology can foster individual and institutional ruin. No leader should be so impervious to the sensitivities of the people. Surely it is in his interest to retract and recant and to provide a public expression of regret. One would never know whether such an apology is merely strategic and not authentic.

But a larger social purpose would have been served.

Perhaps it is politically macho in the Caribbean to be wrong and appear strong. But with elections 2020 around the corner, the time would soon come when even politicians would realise that it is never too late to apologise.

Ashvani Mahabir BA, LLB, LEC, MA, is an attorney and communications consultant.


Categories: News

Home Home goes to school

News - 20 hours 31 min ago

The new T&T Young Adult novel Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini will be included in a national secondary schools book tour from September-December.

Home Home’s manuscript was awarded in the 2017 CODE Burt Awards for Caribbean Young Adult Literature at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port-of-Spain. It was first published in the Caribbean and UK by Dominican publisher Papillote Press in June, 2018. The rights to the book have since been acquired by US publisher Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Delacorte’s North American edition is scheduled for publication in Spring of 2020.

“Home Home is “the story of a Trinidadian girl’s journey to recovery from a mental illness after she is sent to live with her estranged, lesbian aunt and removed from anything and everyone she knows to be home,” said the Publishers Weekly rights report on August 6.

According to a release, The Bocas Lit Fest will co-ordinate a tour of T&T schools by Home Home author Allen-Agostini and other Burt Award winners in the coming term.

Allen-Agostini is an award-winning journalist, fiction writer and poet, and the author of three other books.

In partnership with CODE, the Ministry of Education and the Educational School Libraries Division of Nalis, Home Home and other Burt Award books will be distributed to the libraries of 26 secondary schools around the country.

“This culturally-relevant and engaging YA novel will also be a required reading text for Form Three students of San Juan North Secondary School as part of a pilot project of introducing Burt Award winning books to the English Literature syllabus,” said tour co-ordinator Anna Lucie-Smith of Bocas Lit Fest.

The Bocas Lit Fest and Papillote Press will co-host a Home Home reading and discussion at the Writers Centre, St Clair, in September. The book is available online and from Metropolitan Book Suppliers, Paper Based Bookshop and other retailers.

Categories: News

Man finds dead body in his car

News - 20 hours 50 min ago

A bookstore worker got the shock of his life on Friday evening when he returned to his car to find the body of a man lying on the floor.

The man was not identified up to late yesterday and investigators said no preliminary cause of death could be determined as there were no marks of violence or signs to suggest how he died.

Police reports stated that around 6 pm, they were contacted by the owner of Richie’s Bar, which is located along the Point Fortin Main Road.

The owner reported that she observed someone lying unresponsive in a silver Mitsubishi Lancer that was parked along the main road. Sgt Sobie and PC Maharaj of the Point Fortin CID went to the scene where they interviewed the car’s owner, Dean Joseph, who said that he parked the car there around 8.20 am and left for work.

He told police that he locked the front doors using the key alarm system but forgot to manually lock the back doors. When he returned that afternoon, he found the man lying motionless behind the driver’s seat and did not know who he was.

The body was still warm when the officers’ checked and the man was taken to the Point Fortin hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Police said the man appeared to be an Afro-Trinidadian in his 70s whose hair was greying. He was wearing a red T-shirt, is six ft tall, slim built with dark skin tone.

n Anyone with information can contact Point Fortin police at 648-2426 or call any police station.

Categories: News

Rising murder level a bugbear to T&T’s economy

News - 20 hours 53 min ago

The murder level in T&T continues to be a source of great concern to most of the population. At August 8, 2018, the murder level was 332 as compared to 296 people the same time last year.

That is a 12.1 per cent increase above last year and therefore, if we project this 12.1 per cent increase for the entire 2018, one would arrive at a murder level close to 554.

The highest murder level for the period 1956-2017 was in 2008, with a murder toll of 500.

With a projected murder level of 554 for 2018, it means that policy makers will have to overhaul the existing menu of strategies as they have failed. It must now become business unusual.

Figure 1 (at right) shows the relationship between the murder level in T&T for the period 2008-2018 and the index of productivity or output level for the same time period.

It indicates that the murder level increased while output level fell—assuming 2018’s productivity level was the same as 2017.

There can be a number of explanations for this.

One could be that workers became less enthusiastic as the murder level increased or workers left work earlier to reach home within certain hours to try and avoid being the target of crime during particular periods of time.

In terms of actual manufacturing capacity utilisation, which is an indication of the proportion of the manufacturing sector in use at any one time, Figure 2 (on next page) indicates that after 2014 when the murder level began to increase, there was a decrease in the manufacturing capacity utilisation rate from 70.8 per cent to 65 per cent.

This is not a sharp decline but it is the type of decline we would want to reverse.

There may be several reasons for the inverse relationship between manufacturing capacity utilisation and the murder level.

It may be that some workers may no longer be willing to work the 11 pm -7 am shift (a third shift for the manufacturing sector) simply because of the risk associated with the climate of crime existing in the country at this point in time.

The relationship between tourism inflows and the murder level is definitely an inverse one for T&T, as well.

When travel advisories go out from the relevant embassies, in particular the UK, Canadian and the US, there is the possibility that random tourists searching for a sun, sand, and sea location would not come to T&T but instead go to another Caribbean island, eg Barbados or Antigua and Barbuda, where there is a perceived lower level of crime (see Figure 3 on next page).

Meanwhile, Figure four, shows that as the unemployment rate in the economy increased (data is only available for the third quarter of 2017 for the unemployment rate and this was used as a proxy for 2017 on the whole), especially after 2014, the murder level in the economy also tended to increase.

Policy makers would want to pay careful attention to this and may want to introduce strategies that would improve the employment situation in the country, perhaps by simultaneously improving manufacturing capacity utilisation with the hope that a rise in employment could in turn lower the murder level."

The way forward

With a rising murder level, the business sector will definitely incur additional costs as they try to protect both their businesses and themselves.

For example, business people can incur the cost of having a security on staff and putting up a superior burglar proof system.

They would have to buy steel, employ a welder to install the burglar proof etc, and other expenditures along those lines.

This increases costs for the business person.

In an environment in which the consumer already has a decline in their incomes due to a higher unemployment level, passing on any part of this increase in cost to the consumer can result in a reduction in spending by consumers.

The high murder level has also forced many firms to employ immigrant labour as security. Generally, these “security” officers typically cannot stop an armed robbery, but they add to costs and firms employ them to give customers “a sense of safety.”

After 7 pm, some business establishments such as supermarkets and quick shops tend to lose business because customers are afraid of being out late.

Meanwhile, the appointment of Gary Griffith as Commissioner of Police may signal a change in the Government’s intentions and a deeper sense of purpose by bringing in a brighter, more charismatic person.

Griffith has promised the population “less talk and more action” and said one of his main mission was to reduce crime and the fear of crime, and regain the public’s trust and confidence in the Police Service.

If we don’t see change with this move, there is the possibility that “crapaud go smoke we pipe.”

Senior economics lecturer at UWI, St Augustine, and co-ordinator of the Trade and Economic Development Unit

Categories: News

Charges against Hinds’ attackers could be laid soon

News - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 23:50

Charges could soon materialise against the handful of Beetham residents who created a “sideshow” involving their MP, Fitzgerald Hinds last Tuesday as he intends to fully cooperate with the ongoing police investigation.

Speaking during the media briefing which followed the People’s National Movement (PNM) General Council meeting at Balisier House yesterday, the Laventille West MP said despite the ridicule it had generated, he continued to be impressed by the overwhelming support he has received from constituents.

He said many people had expressed embarrassment, disappointment, and even shame over the incident which had tarnished the area’s reputation “yet again.”

He reaffirmed his commitment to the area and its’ residents.

“I heard from the police yesterday (Friday) and they have told me their investigation is well afoot and that they are proceeding to take the legal action that police are trained and paid to do.”

Asked if the matter had formed part of the General Council’s discussions, Hinds confirmed it did.

He said: “Several constituencies expressed condemnation of what they saw.”

Pressed to say how concerned the PNM was about the kind of message this act could send to other constituencies and by extension the treatment meted out to MPs, Hinds said: “The members expressed concerns about that today, precisely that point about the implications and they called on the Government to do whatever it can, particularly through the Ministry of National Security.”

He said other ministries were involved in the effort to address all the issues affecting T&T.

Also asked to comment on whether the action could be interpreted to mean that the party was losing support in what was has always been considered a PNM stronghold, Hinds said: “From the discussions yielded today, members seemed very clear that the vast majority of people on the Beetham and in the constituency are decent, ordinary, law-abiding, hard-working people like you and I.”

He said the party would not be deterred from serving the people despite the economic straits the country is facing.

Categories: News

Kamla concerned but gives Griffith a ‘bligh’

News - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 23:41

Despite kicking him out of her Cabinet back in 2015, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she is giving newly appointed Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith a “bligh.”

However, Persad-Bissessar said she was concerned about the relationship between Griffith and recently appointed National Security Minister Stuart Young.

She said there seemed to be a concerted effort to attack Griffith, linking her concerns to a newspaper article published last week.

The article stated that Griffith did not rank first among the candidates who interviewed for the post. Griffith officially took charge of the Police Service yesterday. His appointment has been debated due to the selection process used.

Speaking to the media in Penal yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said: “I was very disturbed to see that when Captain Griffith’s name came forward and he was approved, there was this whole story in the newspapers about whether he was first, second, third or fourth. It seemed to be an orchestrated and concerted effort to attack him and where does it come from?

“You are in the media and I will ask you, where in the media that story came from and who is the Charlie’s Angel of Minister Stuart Young with respect to that story?

“It is that they already want to set up CoP Griffith with Minister Young, who has to be the minister of everything and will not want to see Gary Griffith succeed? I want to see him succeed, we want to see him to succeed because we want safety and security.”

Categories: News

Rowley, Roget to meet Tuesday

News - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 23:36

Despite the war of words between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget, the two are scheduled to meet this Tuesday to discuss the anticipated restructuring of Petrotrin. Based on correspondence between the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the OWTU, Rowley and seven members of the union are expected to meet at the Prime Minister’s office in St Clair.

During the PNM’s Family and Sports Day in Chaguanas last week Sunday, Rowley responded to a call by Roget for Petrotrin workers to gather outside the Prime Minister’s official residence in St Ann’s next Sunday to kneel and pray for the debt-riddled Petrotrin. “Don’t threaten me,” was Rowley’s response, adding that he had no quarrel with Roget, whom he had invited for talks.

“He refused to speak to me as Prime Minister. He preferred to stand on the pavement and shout, and I understand he is coming to kneel down outside the Prime Minister’s residence and to march,” Rowley said.

But this caused major contention for the OWTU as Roget accused Rowley of being a liar, saying that the PM never invited him for talks.

The OWTU leader, in a media conference last Tuesday, described Rowley’s remarks at the Family and Sports Day as “the ranting of a desperate man” who was unqualified, incompetent, and inexperienced for the job he has and was desperate, deceitful, ungrateful, and lazy”.

“I challenge him to tell me the date and time he had spoken and requested to meet with me,” Roget said. Based on correspondence sent to the media yesterday, five days after Rowley’s statement, Permanent Secretary in the office of the Prime Minister Maurice Suite sent a letter to Roget under the subject:

Request for a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss matters related to the restructuring of the Petroleum Company of T&T. The letter stated: “I have been asked by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley to invite you and up to six members of the OWTU to a meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister, 13-15 St Clair Avenue, Port-of-Spain on Tuesday, 21 August 2018 at 10.30 am.”

In a response written on the same day, addressed directly to Rowley, Roget accepted the invitation and informed that the names of his accompanying officers would be submitted by tomorrow. Calls to Roget’s phone yesterday were unanswered.

While the OWTU had not admitted that it supported the PNM in the 2015 election, Roget was adamant that the People’s Partnership government had to be voted out. In 2015, the OWTU met with Rowley, then opposition leader, and signed a Memorandum of Agreement with regards to labour policies. The OWTU also met with the Independent Labour Party. In 2016, the OWTU’s vice president Carlton Gibson was the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (Fitun) representative on the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC). However, labour leaders soon withdrew from the NTAC, claiming disrespect by the Government.

Since then Roget has been criticising the Government, especially Rowley, for their handling of the country. During this year’s annual Labour Day Rally in Fyzabad, he gave the Government a failing grade for its handling of crime, the economy, labour, health, and education.

Categories: News

Hinds: Beetham miscreants causing flooding woes

News - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 23:31

Stolen equipment, threats, and demands for large sums of money from contractors are the reasons behind the continuous disruption in routine dredging of the two major rivers that run through the Beetham.

These obstructions have contributed to the flooding issue in Beetham Gardens. So said Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and recently assaulted MP for Laventille West Fitzgerald Hinds.

Yesterday as work resumed on the waterways by contractors V&V Contracting Ltd, now under the watchful eyes of the Police Service and Defence Force, Sinanan and Hinds told the media as recently as August 10, prior to the flooding at Beetham Gardens on August 13 and 14, contractors were chased out of the area by “certain elements”, forcing them to abandon the dredging exercise which led to the flooding.

“While the contractor was mobilising to do the dredging certain elements would have moved in and told the contractor he had to stop. However, with the cooperation of National Security this morning, the work has started back and we intend to continue this work, which would help with the flooding in the Beetham and Barataria areas,” said Sinanan.

He said the work, which began in January, would have been completed already if that incident had not occurred on August 10. He subsequently noted that as a result of these ongoing interferences, taxpayers are feeling the brunt as contractors arguably ask for more because of the risks involved in working in these specific areas. He said if that continued, a job that should cost $100,000 in certain areas would now cost $200,000, because very few contractors would bid for the job and when they did, they would want to cover all the risks involved.

‘A few misguided, illiterate miscreants’

Hinds, who was doused with flood waters by a few residents last Tuesday on a visit to the area where he hoped to bring relief to flood-affected residents, said obstruction of routine dredging by “miscreants” of the community dated as far back as the 90s when the PNM procured the services of Carl King Company Ltd to do dredging of the entire drain from Morvant Junction right down to the Citrus Growers, in order to clean and pave the murky drain that ran alongside the Priority Bus Route in the Beetham.

Fearing for his life and that of his workers as well as the safety of his equipment, after equipment was stolen and $400,000 was demanded of the contractor to return it, the job was abandoned.

Hinds noted the drain remained unfinished up to today.

In another instance, Hinds said, Lutchmeesingh’s Transport Contractors Limited, one of the contractors hired during the rebuilding of four culverts which had become clogged, feared for his life after some miscreants of the Beetham Gardens again approached that contractor demanding $400,000 or else he and his workers would meet trouble. He said the contractor did not concede to the demand and shots were subsequently fired from the Beetham, injuring one of his supervisors. Following that incident, he said, $200,000 of taxpayers’ money had to be spent in security.

He also highlighted a similar occurrence during the reconverting of the Laventille Technology Centre where workmen were robbed of their valuables on the first day of the job.

Hinds said the dredging exercises were of grave importance as the waterways must remain clean to prevent flooding issues, but there were those who insisted that it must stay this way.

“We have an understanding as to why they want it to stay this way but we also understand why it cannot remain this way because the water will not flow out,” said Hinds.

Taking the opportunity to address his unfortunate encounter last week with a few of his constituents, Hinds said what was displayed was “the share ignorance of a few misguided, illiterate miscreants whom many from that constituency found to be gravely offensive but many of them cannot outrightly say it as they will come under serious threat”. He said he could confirm this from the knowledge he has from past events.

Hinds said he held no malice against the people, but wanted the handful of troublemakers to know that when they behaved like that they were causing their entire neighbourhood to be stigmatised and marginalised as a consequence. He said the many comments from the public regarding the entire community worried him to a degree as not all residents of Beetham Gardens were like the few who engaged in the act.

“So don’t blame all of Beetham, it is a handful of misguided people who feel they could bully their way through everybody in this society,” Hinds said.

He said he would address the national community about Laventille soon. (See Pages A6, A7)

Categories: News

Harry considers legal action against PM, PNM

News - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 23:28

Suspended People’s National Movement (PNM) member Harry Ragoonanan is considering legal action against the PNM political party and possibly its leader Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for trying to bring his name into disrepute.

“Of course, I will be taking legal action because the prime minister is out in the public domain saying that I am the worst the country has to offer and then I cannot have a trial...I must have the man who made the tape in the same room with me so that he can be cross examined by my lawyers.

They are not taking natural justice seriously,” Ragoonanan told the Sunday Guardian in a telephone interview.

“My lawyers will deal with what it is, they told me to say nothing and just hold on and wait,” he said.

On Tuesday, two days before the PNM’s disciplinary committee found Ragoonanan guilty of three charges of alleged corruption and bribery involving the procurement of Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) buses, Rowley described him as the worst this county has to offer.

Ragoonanan appeared before the party’s disciplinary committee chaired by Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis with his attorney Mario Merritt on Thursday.

Ragoonanan has been suspended since October last year.

He has followed the PNM since 1956 and had been the PNM’s Oropouche constituency chairman for 17 years before his suspension.

Ragoonanan called for full disclosure from the disciplinary committee and was told they would get back to him on the issue.

Among the evidence the committee is said to have had in its possession was a telephone recording between Ragoonanan and another individual.

Ragoonanan said while he was denied access to the recording, he heard it being played on a radio station yesterday.

“The whole process was contaminated,” Ragoonanan said.

He said the chain of custody of the recording was unknown and its authenticity was therefore questionable.

The alleged conversations were said to take place in June, July and September 2016.

The special PTSC tender involved was aborted.

Ragoonanan said the laws of natural justice dictates that he would have been given full disclosure and also be able to cross-examine the whistle-blower.

The PNM disciplinary committee said it was not reopening the investigation into the matter, Ragoonanan said.

On Monday acting Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds said the PNM had received information and a complaint from a citizen “about a most untoward conversation that was electronically recorded between Mr Ragoonanan and a bus supplier to the PTSC”.

Hinds said he found the contents of the recording to be “troubling”.

National Security Minister Stuart Young also described the recording as “most troubling and suggests of corrupt practices and behaviours with respect to procurement at PTSC”.

Young said the State played no role in the electronic recording.

Ragoonanan said he believes he is being targeted for speaking out about the sea-bridge fiasco.

Ragoonanan appeared with former minister of the People’s partnership government Devant Maharaj and maritime attorney Nyree Alfonso during a media briefing last Sunday where they questioned Government’s decision to purchase two marine patrol vessels from Austal.

Maharaj yesterday said, “Interestingly these ‘recordings’ have only surfaced when the relationship between Harry Ragoonanan and the Rowley Administration soured over the lack of procurement process regarding the ferries for the collapsed sea bridge”.

Maharaj questioned whether the in-house PNM investigation would adversely affect any police investigation that may or may not be ongoing or may start.

Rowley slammed Ragoonanan for seeking company with Maharaj and Alfonso.

A police investigation into the recording involving Ragoonanan is said to have commenced months before the PNM invoked Article 26 of the party’s constitution which states that members under investigation could be suspended during that period.

When questioned about an update on the Ragoonanan situation during a press conference following the party’s General Council meeting yesterday, PNM chairman Franklin Khan said due process was taking place and that he did not want to say more on the matter.

Categories: News

PM Rowley sorry for ‘sari skit’

News - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 23:23

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last night unreservedly apologised to the Hindu community for a skit performed at the People’s National Movement (PNM) family day, saying the skit was disrespectful to that religion but it was done out of ignorance and not malicious intent.

Rowley gave the apology during a PNM political meeting held at the Malabar Community Centre last night. “Tonight, on behalf of the People’s National Movement and all concerned, I unreservedly apologise to the Hindu community,” he said.

Rowley said the party’s Tabaquite constituency put on the skit which saw a woman having her yellow sari being removed to highlight that constituency changing political allegiance to the PNM from the United National Congress (UNC).

However, Rowley said while that was the intention behind the skit, he now understands how it could be seen as mirroring the Mahabharata.

Rowley said he did not know of the story of the Mahabharata before, but loud chorus of opposition to the skit caused him to find out about it. Rowley said the Mahabharata “is a serious spiritual, religious expression” that is extremely significant to the Hindu community.

Rowley said he did not know this before and last week was a learning experience for him.

As such, Rowley said this country’s education system needs to ensure all aspects of the country’s diverse religious and ethical beliefs are taught.

Rowley, however, said while the skit was insulting the PNM were not advocating for either rape or violence towards women.

He said no one can disregard the hurt that was caused by the skit and said the situation needs to be a learning experience for all.

Rowley thanked Sat Maharaj for understanding that the PNM did not intend to disrespect Hindus and said all disrespect was unintentional.

He, however, slammed former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran for saying the skit was Rowley fantasizing about sexually assaulting Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Rowley said the skit was equivalent to someone having a skit around Christmas time and having someone pretending to be inebriated urinating on the crèche with Jesus Christ.

He said he had now problem apologising for the wrong that was committed.


Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, founder of the Satya Anand Ashram Temple of Truth and Bliss in Aranguez, and Persad-Bissessar got their wish last night when Rowley apologised for the PNM’s controversial skit.

Maharaj and Persad-Bissessar, however, could not be reached for comments last night.

The two were joined by scores of people who took part in a placard protest in front the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair last Thursday. The protest followed last weekend’s PNM’s Family Day, when a skit was performed depicting a woman’s yellow sari being undone by men dressed as gorillas. This caused a firestorm of negative sentiment, though the Government rejected the criticism. National Security Minister Stuart Young said it was a “lil bit of fun”, while Rowley claimed people were “hell-bent” on creating racial, religious tensions and dismissed it as “foolishness”.

The group delivered a letter to the PM’s office last Thursday seeking an apology.

It noted the skit offended many as it was seen as simulation of violence against women, mockery of Hinduism, and depiction of political violence. Plus, they said, Young’s dismissal compounded Government’s insensitivity on the matter.

The letter warned, “Government’s hostile, belligerent and intractable position in this issue only contributes to stoking fires of division. It does no good to the PNM to attempt to victimise the victim further by labelling legitimate concerns as ‘foolish’ or ‘racial.’ “

—(reporting by Charles Kong Soo)

Categories: News

Paraplegic pleads for help to find a home

News - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 23:18

It takes Stacy Ann Parris, a 39-year-old paraplegic, at least two to three minutes to make her way down a very short flight of stairs to open the front gate to the severely dilapidated, colonial- styled structure she has called home from birth.

At the corner of Roberts and Gatacre streets, Woodbrook, the Sunday Guardian is greeted with Parris’s wide and bright smile. A man in a delivery truck, apparently known to her, stops to say hello and to briefly “scope out d scene,” as we were strangers outside her gate.

He only leaves with the words from Parris: “I’m fine.”

She said it was the norm for her neighbours and those around to look out for her.

Once we entered the premises, Parris, who depends on crutches to walk, began to apologise for the condition of the house, which is extremely unfit for human dwelling, let alone a person with a disability.

Once inside we immediately notice a sink in the wooden floor, which is covered over by a worn out looking piece of linoleum.

There is a dirty medium-sized mattress on the floor—situated left upon entrance. It’s covered in what looks like a pile of unwashed laundry.

Parris does not have a washing machine and even if she did, because of the electrical problem in the outdated shack, she cannot use any high voltage electrical appliance, as a fire can be easily sparked.

She struggles to wash with her hands—an almost impossible task.

She gets some ease at times from friends who would offer to do her laundry.

In her kitchen stands a makeshift wooden kitchen sink, an old refrigerator and stove, and a cluttered table bearing baking instruments from when she once baked bread for a living. She can no longer do so with financial constraints.

The most modern things in the room in which she sleeps are the Lasko standing fan and a variety of canned peas and beans lining a shelf protruding from the wall.

Her half brick, half wooden toilet and bath are situated outdoors to the back of the house, which poses a great challenge for Parris who has to climb down a flight of uneven stairs to get to them.

She said she has often soiled her clothing trying to get to the toilet.

The house has also been broken into twice with Parris inside.

A determined attitude

On a partially-broken down and littered space saver, two trophies are prominent, they are awards for Best Talent and Miss Photogenic, which Parris obtained in the country’s first staged differently- abled beauty pageant in 2012.

It’s not surprising though these accolades, as amid her struggle the former Bishop’s Centenary College student manages to continually smile and maintain a calm, cool, and collected disposition, not to mention her seemingly healthy appetite for life. Parris’s daily routine involves morning meditations followed by daily exercises and preparing for breakfast but not without a challenge.

Parris can only use the two front burners of her stove, as she is unable to reach the ones to the back.

She sits to prepare her meals as she said trying to stand makes her very tired quickly.

Prepping takes some time as multi-tasking is tough. But despite this, she does not let those challenges stop her from trying.

It’s this determined attitude that led to Parris living on her own.

After it was told to her mother, Ingrid Parris, that her daughter could not live without her, Parris took on the challenge and has been living alone ever since.

Asked why not live with her mother now, Parris said her mother also does not have her own home and is financially strapped.

She said she has never been a dependent person and never used her cerebral palsy related disability, sustained during a difficult birth, to dictate her dreams or even her mobility. But she does admit, there is only so much she could do.

Parris pays a rent of $200 per month but with no cash lately, she has missed payments amounting to $800.

She survives monthly on a disability grant of $1,800 and a food grant of $410 from the Ministry of the Social Development and Family Service’s public assistance programme.

But lately, she has experienced a run-around with the latter, she claimed, after the Ministry incorrectly dated the food cheque, to which they have not yet rectified even after many complaints.

Parris said the money was divided in paying rent, electricity, buying toiletries, medical supplies, and food. The money, she said, is finished before the middle of each new month.

In the middle of the interview, radio personalities from a nearby radio station, who became aware of Parris’s dilemma, showed up with a box of groceries, which made her very happy.

Parris has written several letters to the HDC and pictures of the house were even taken into the housing institution but to no avail.

“I got one interview on the second floor with someone and they told me I would be placed on the emergency list in 2016. It’s now 2018,” ‘Include us in decision making process’ It’s been ten years since Parris last worked. She job-hunted but gave up after never being hired for what she believes was as a result of her disability.

Parris, who is a spoken-word artist, has even performed for free hoping someone would see her and offer her a job.

“We are active people, we don’t sit home sulking and being sad because we are like this,” she says.

“Some of us cannot walk, some of us cannot even move, but we live our lives despite the situation.

I think it’s about time people take notice of what is happening to us.

The challenges are really disheartening.

The majority of us are disrespected and treated less than human.

Parris said differently-abled people aren’t really consulted in the planning and decision making process that involves them and it needs to stop.

Besides her long life dream to become a Paralympic competitive swimmer, Parris said for now all she wants is a house where she could recommence her baking and not worry about things falling on her head or the house collapsing on top of her.

To help Stacy Parris call 868-702-5684.

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