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Downsizing and its links with depression

Columnists - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:40

In 2006, many of us had joined the UTT as educators, sharing the vision that this new local university would provide for the tertiary needs of an underserved population of persons with multiple intelligences, who were not accepted by the academic UWI institution. I remember a sense of pride as I watched young people graduate years later with skills that were unique to the UTT, many of them first-generation holders of university degrees of their families. In those early years, there was a filial bond amongst us colleagues, as we worked together, many long hours, to develop programmes that would be accredited by both external and local accreditation bodies. However, as political parties changed, so did the vision of the UTT, and relevance became irrelevant, service was translated into disservice, personal agendas ruled the day and organisational downsizing, therefore, became a necessity in the present economic downturn of our country.

These are economically difficult times for many companies and decisions to downsize are often driven by the logic of business survival, competitiveness and an attempt to improve overall efficiency. As usually happens, the adverse effects of downsizing on the mental health of workers are often not considered. This process is associated with a greater likelihood of depression among workers who have been displaced, replaced and laid off. Depression (and its associative symptoms) is ranked as the leading cause of disability in the world and one of the most common contributors to emotional distress, declining health and mental illness of workers, especially when the manner in which terminations are done, seem to be more traumatic than the actual terminations themselves. When dismissals lack transparency and clarity and there seems to be an inaccuracy of information that would have informed the decision-making process, employee perceptions of fairness and justice are affected.

We all know that in a downsizing economy, some layoffs are unavoidable, and even though early warning signs may have been given, these layoffs have to be done in a socially responsible way. Perceptions of procedural justice of a socially responsible downsizing process can considerably lessen depression, especially if affected workers view this process as transparent and understandable, fair and unbiased, well planned and democratic. Research shows that ‘redeploying and supporting surplus employees through the career change process—rather than forcing them to become unemployed’, is important for the emotional health of workers and makes a difference as to whether they will suffer from depression. In any organisation, when a restructuring takes place, workers want an opportunity to influence the process, to be treated as ‘assets to be developed rather than as costs to be terminated’. Instead, it has been heart-breaking to witness mild-mannered colleagues become fired-up, spitting forth fury over dismissals perceived as unclear and unfair. For many, in the autumn of their lives, there would be difficulties of re-employment, decreased income and benefits, and poor financial security, all added factors which lead to an increased risk for poor mental and physical health and well-being.

And what of those workers left behind in the workplace? After employee dismissals, there are severe risks to those whose jobs may not be affected and the likelihood of depression also increases. In my interaction with many of the ‘survivors’, they have reported decreased commitment and performance. This is known as the survivor syndrome. When workers see their colleagues dismissed, there is increased stress due to the higher workload for the remaining employees, mistrust in management, waning commitment, apathy, decreased levels of involvement and motivation, absenteeism, and lessened job satisfaction. What are the health policies that support workers, those who are dismissed and those who remain, after a downsizing exercise? What can be done to mitigate the present chaotic environment where the morale of colleagues has descended into a seemingly bottomless pit of insecurities and vengeful ideation? Who next? And how does one cease to be relevant after a dismissal, my colleague Rudy questioned, after giving years of dedicated service? Being relevant is the core of one’s social identity, derived from membership within the organisation and where ‘identity’ is fundamental to self-concept and self-esteem.

As I walk through my beloved campus and engage with staff and students, I am reminded of the words by Martin Luther King: ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’. To all my colleagues, education is the movement from darkness to light. We sought to create this movement for our students. Let us continue to be unwavering in our commitment to this principle.

Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor is a Clinical and Educational Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at UTT

Categories: News

Why we co-sleep

Columnists - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:35

The research on whether children should sleep with you or not isn’t conclusive one way or the other, so many times when people reach out to me for advice in this area I state exactly that.

My personal belief is to co-sleep.

I believe that the same desires we have children have, and having a warm body with which to snuggle at night is no different.

On my website, I once wrote a blog about the midnight conversations I have with Jess. I turn, pull her close and tell her just how much I love her. I stroke her hair and fill her resting mind with positive affirmations.

Many nights she pulls me close and does the same.

As a single mother, I heard all the time from well-wishers how dangerous that would be when it was time to replace her with a man in my bed, but I guess I always knew that any man deserving of walking down the aisle with, would be just fine with her sleeping in our bed.

Keeping your marriage spicy takes work and creativity and yes, it takes energy. I actually think co-sleeping adds to the spice. Ever tried having sex in your own car in your own parked garage? What about the shower or on the seat of the toilet? Throw a mat down in the kids’ room, if they are in yours, it means their room is empty.

Sticking to the bed at night is kind of boring actually and the fun of sneaking around helps keep things exciting.

There is also a wonderful opportunity to teach compromise and of course, everyone knows that I believe in leading by example, so if the kids have to compromise that means we have to compromise.

One night for us, one night for you.

We can split up the week and interchange the days you sleep alone and the days you sleep with us.

Co-sleeping does not undermine the authority structure of the home because this is still a purposeful decision.

The child is in no way controlling things and this also does not mean the child is the center of the home (which leads to unhealthy entitlement).

It simply means we share night time affection and all the benefits that physical touch brings.

Here’s to a spice-filled week surrounded by loads of hugs and cuddles.

Categories: News

Of plastic and licks

Columnists - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:31

Had planned on writing about lawless school principals and teachers who continue to ignore both the National School Code of Conduct (2009) and the Children Act (2012) in sanctioning and applying corporal punishment at their institutions.

All of us can name at least half a dozen schools where “licks” are still administered in open defiance of a law which aspires to the “prevention of cruelty to children” and which prescribes penalties of between $5,000 and $50,000 and jail from six to 10 years.

By the way, by virtue of the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act of 2000, corporal punishment is also prohibited in “alternative care” facilities including children’s homes/orphanages.

“Well, I was beaten and I turned out okay,” is what we keep hearing. Sorry, but no, you did not “turn out okay”; you are here advocating something described by experts in the field as “cruel” behaviour against children. You are also expressing support for a practice that is disappearing as a feature of life in the civilised world and is banned, under all circumstances, in at least 53 states.

Among the countries holding out on any kind of commitment on this are Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Somalia. Sounds like a nice club to belong to, I suppose.

As to the deterrent effect of such violence against children, I wonder whether a survey has ever been done among the worst offenders in the prison system to determine how many of them were beaten at home and in school. Anybody want to take bets on this one?

See? If I had chosen to write about corporal punishment in the school system, I would have (uncharacteristically) not run out of space.

Oh, by the way, as a parent myself, have I ever administered corporal punishment? No. So on to something else that should also not consume too much time and space.
Plastic.

Why is there a debate about a reduction in the gratuitous distribution of plastic bags at the supermarket? The hysteria is embarrassing, folks. This is a baby step along the path we will eventually have to tread, whether we like it or not.

No sensible person I know of has advocated a complete ban on all plastic, including reusable plastic bags and containers. In fact, plastic is one of the more useful substances conjured up by humanity to make life more convenient and easy.

However, there are common uses for plastic that the world has increasingly turned attention to because of the undeniable damage being sustained by the natural environment as a result of abuse. Plastic single-use bags are just one area of concern.

This goes way beyond concerns about the poor aesthetics of discarded bottles and bags along our highways and on the beach. For example, the sight of plastic “islands” along the Central American Caribbean coast is dramatic and heart-breaking, but many are probably unaware of the comparable presence of plastic “reefs” in our own waters.

I remember the days when the reckless disposal of plastic bags and containers was as common as corporal punishment at school. Everybody thought we would be okay. That “nature” has a way of “balancing” things off. Things are changing.

For, today, Caribbean countries are reaping the environmental whirlwind through the degradation of fishing grounds, agricultural lands and tourism assets as a direct result of our prior ignorance.

At this time, we should be hearing every day from the experts in such matters. SWMCOL CEO, Ronald Roach, has thankfully been an informed advocate and has reminded us that even as the state agency processes 30 tonnes of plastic monthly, this represents less than 1% of what is actually generated as waste by you and me.

I know that through programmes initiated by SWMCOL and the EMA school children are aware of the dangers and opportunities posed by the problem of plastic.

Now to turn the attention of adults away from “cutarse” and in the direction of practising what their children already know and understand about the scourge of plastic.

Categories: News

$20.6m Republic shares traded

Business - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:29

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 14 securities of which five advanced, four declined and five traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 521,901 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $22,674,188.18. Republic Financial Holdings Limited was the volume leader with 200,798 shares changing hands for a value of $20,607,164.58, followed by JMMB Group Limited with a volume of 155,096 shares being traded for $268,588. NCB Financial Group Limited contributed 68,752 shares with a value of $378,136, while FirstCaribbean International Bank Limited added 50,560 shares valued at $448,978.40.

Trinidad Cement Limited registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.32 to end the day at $3. Conversely, First Citizens Bank Limited registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.21 to close at $34.78.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 11,102 shares valued at $223,561.30. It advanced by $0.03 to end at $20.14.

In Tuesday’s trading session the following reflect the movement of the TTSE Indices:

• The Composite Index advanced by 0.62 points (0.05 per cent) to close at 1,244.60.

• The All T&T Index advanced by 1.36 points (0.08 per cent) to close at 1,727.96.

• The Cross Listed Index declined by 0.02 points (0.02 per cent) to close at 102.37.

Categories: News

Tough penalties in draft Fisheries Bill

Business - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:28

By month end, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat will take to Cabinet a draft fisheries bill, which in its final stage, can see fishermen facing significant fines and penalties for trawling in sensitive areas of the sea bed.

Rambharat spoke to reporters yesterday, following the opening ceremony of the Fisheries Value Chain Management Workshop at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre.

Admitting that there are things in the draft bill he does not fully agree with, Rambharat said he intends to take the bill to Cabinet to get his colleagues’ views “since it contained some international and regional agreements,” fines, penalties and compulsory measures that will be imposed on fishermen.

The Fisheries Division started work on the bill in 1992 with support from the European Union (EU), and accelerated in 2015, when the EU gave T&T a yellow card because of legislative deficiencies in management of its fishing stock.

There are about 200 clauses in the draft compared to the nine clauses in the present legislation.

Rambharat said his ministry will hold three consultations next month to get feedback from stakeholders and the fishing community. Coming out of these consultations, changes will be made to the draft, following which Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi will be asked to take it to Legislative Review Committee.

The minister said there are no legislative provision for fishing vessels to be registered to carry monitoring devices. The vessel monitoring system is the subject of a pilot project and is going to be mandatory, he said. Compulsory registration of vessels will allow the ministry to enforce the law.

“To me the most important thing is being able to enforce. It is very difficult to operate in an environment where there is no legislative basis for you to take action. Once you have a mandatory requirement there are going to be penalties for not complying . . . and one of the penalties will be de-registration of the vessel.”

Rambharat said the legislation will give the ministry greater power to deal with trawlers that operate in sensitive breeding grounds.

“From what I have seen so far we are pitching the fines at international standards. It’s substantial. There are some things you want to have corrective behaviour over a period of time. Some of the things we want to make sure that people never do. It’s time to act on it.”

Categories: News

Rambharat: Poor yields not our fault

Business - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:26

Although there has been a sharp decline in rice yields for 2018, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat says negotiations are ongoing for purchase of a new parboiling rice plant following the sale of the National Flour Mills’ (NFM) Carlsen Field facility. He could not give any more details except to say that NFM is currently negotiating the sale.

“The negotiations are way advanced. I am not at liberty to disclose anything. I can say that the final arrangement will include continued support to local farmers,” he said.

Responding to reports that T&T’s rice farmers had the lowest yields in the history of the country, the minister said he did not have actual production data but if productivity levels are low, Government and NFM were not responsible.

“I am not aware that NFM is responsible for losses. When I was appointed I met unpaid claims dating back to two years. When some the farmers submitted their claims through their attorney last year, it was obvious that these were very recent claims. There is a process to verify claims and make requests for funding to settle the claim. There is a time lag,” he said.

Farmers say they are owed millions of dollars by NFM and can no longer cultivate their entire acreages (see other story).

Asked whether it is feasible to plant rice when imports were cheaper, Rambharat said: “Rice is imported because we have a free market economy and the current price of local rice is heavily dependent on taxpayers subsidizing the whole value chain.”

He said $14 million has been allocated to meet NFM’s fees and the cost of the subsidy to farmers.

On the issue of planting rice for domestic consumption, Rambharat said: “Local rice production, even in the best periods of production when Caroni Limited produced rice, will not come close to meeting local demand. It is our hope that with the proposed parboiling plant there would be opportunities for local rice being available as parboiled rice.”

The minister added: “As I have said on many occasions, rice is the most supported agriculture commodity in the country. The land is leased at nominal rates; water abstraction licenses are provided at nominal rates; pumps are provided in the dry season; seeds are sometimes provided; the rice has a guaranteed price based on grade, and the State pays the milling cost to NFM.”

He explained that because T&T imports 98 per cent of its rice, “it is not possible to set a target because it depends on consumer interest in local white rice; farmers level of investment; yields; weather and other factors.”

He said Government wanted to have local rice production on lands already developed for that purpose, but there is a limit to the extent the State can cover the costs.

Categories: News

Lowest rice production in years

Business - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:25

Grappling with millions of dollars in debts, local rice farmers say they have experienced their lowest yields ever and are blaming the government and the National Flour Mills.

Figures from NFM show that farmers produced only 126 tonnes of rice for 2018, compared to 2,800 tonnes in 2014. At present there are 30 rice farmers in T&T compared to more than 10,000 in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Richard Singh who cultivates lands in central Trinidad said the farmers are so frustrated that many of them were abandoning their estates. They have scheduled an emergency meeting at Warrenville today to discuss the productivity crisis,.

“Every quarter we have to pay ADB (Agricultural Development Bank). Flour Mills (NFM) supposed to pay us but they have not done so. The government owes us and they jamming us with heavy interest. I am owing $2.7 million to ADB but I have paid back $1.3 million. I never had loans before,” Singh said.

Another farmer from southeast Trinidad, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was able to plant only 350 acres out of 647 acres.

“I just did not have money to do full-scale cultivation. Our loans are accruing interest. For this year I paid $600,000 in interest and I am still owing $1.7 million to the ADB,” he said, adding that the last time rice farmers got seeds from the government was in 2014.

“Back then the seeds did not germinate successfully. Because of seed quality, we are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. We cannot see our way because of late payment by the NFM,” the farmer added.

Agricultural economist Omardath Maharaj said according to UN ComTrade statistics, T&T imported 37,843 tons of rice in 2014 at a value of approximately$ 143 million.

“In that year, total exports of the commodity was estimated at 336 tons at a value of $ 0.767 million. Annual paddy production averaged 2,569 tons per annum between 2007 and 2014,” jr said.

Maharaj said there was a need for revitalization, as farmers had invested downstream by bringing three of the more popular rice brands to market—Island Grain, Moruga Hill Rice, and Navet Lagoon Rice.

He called on the government to support production, milling, packaging, and marketing of locally-grown rice. One of the main challenges is the ability of the NFM to efficiently mill and convert all locally cultivated paddy into a finished rice product, he said.

Maharaj said there should be the development of a niche market for local rice.

“Trinidad and Tobago may not be able to compete with regional rice producers such as Guyana and Suriname in terms of volume, parboiled and white rice,” he said.

“However, we can develop and service a regional niche market for healthy, natural foods such as our brown rice. We can also bring more arable and currently idle and under-performing land assets into production with new rice varieties, methodologies, and extension support to increase productivity and income at the farm level.”

Categories: News

Cops close to charging suspect in bank worker’s shooting

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:59

Investigators probing the shooting and robbery of Scotiabank employee Roston Mahabir say they are hoping to charge a Fyzabad man for the crime before the end of week.

The suspect remained in the custody of San Fernando police up to yesterday, four days after he was arrested by South Western Division police at a house in Fyzabad.

Investigators said the suspect is in his early 30’s and is well-known to South Western Division police. They said they are wrapping up loose ends in order to build a solid case against the suspect.

Meanwhile, Mahabir, who suffered kidney damage from the gunshot wound he sustained during the robbery on May 19, remained warded at the San Fernando General Hospital in a serious but stable condition.

Investigators are yet to get a statement from Mahabir and have not recovered the stolen items, but are relying on evidence they have gathered throughout their investigation.

Mahabir, 28, a premiere relationship officer, was just about to enter the bank at the corner of Penitence Street and High Street, San Fernando, when he was approached by a man who grabbed his computer bag and other items. Mahabir held on to his bag and was shot once in the abdomen.

The gunman then ran off with the bag, leaving him bleeding on the ground.

Following the shooting, which came after several armed robberies in the San Fernando shopping district, Southern Divisional Commander, Snr Supt Zamsheed Mohammed deployed Southern Division Task Force, San Fernando CID and the Rapid Response Unit to patrol High Street, Coffee Street, Cipero Street and their tributaries.

Up until yesterday, a strong police presence was seen on the streets and Southern Division police reported that there have been no reports of crime in the shopping district since the new measure was implemented.

Categories: News

Govt looks to New South Wales for help

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:57

In the face of a worsening crime problem, Government is hoping to get the assistance of the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Justice and the NSW Police Force and they are hoping that the teams will pay a visit to T&T in the near future to work with their counterparts here.

In April 2018, the Daily Telegraph reported that NSW has the fewest police officers per capita and spends less on crime-fighting than any other state, with spending on police services plummeting by more than half a billion dollars since 2016.

The police force, according to the report, is “the envy of the Western world” with statistics showing that crime rates were falling.

Yesterday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the delegation including Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young met with officials from the New South Wales Department of Justice and the NSW Police Force where the discussions focused on national security issues.

In attendance at the meeting were Scott Corrigan of the NSW Department of Justice, Inspector Dave Gawel, Inspector Ben Hopper, Inspector Jeremy Woo, Supt Michael McLean, Snr Sgt John Manuel and a number of other officers from the NSW Department of Justice and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The round-table meeting focused on counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism and the NSW whole of government approach and cross-agency cooperation in dealing with this issue.

Rowley and the T&T delegation also met with Australian Export Finance (EFIC) at their headquarters in Sydney.

EFIC is Australia’s export credit agency whose loans are backed by the Australian Government and geared towards assisting Australian exporters.

The delegation will travel to Tasmania today where they will meet with marine vessel manufacturers INCAT. A similar meeting took place on Monday with vessel manufacturer Austal.

Categories: News

Dillon: More tools for cops to fight crime

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:55

National Security Minister Edmund Dillon is once again promising greater collaboration and more resources for the Police Service as he met with the executive arm and divisional commanders of the Police Service yesterday in the face of a growing number of murders across the country.

Dillon told the lawmen that the approach going forward will be based on cooperation and collaboration, and expressed Government’s desire to provide the necessary resources for the Police Service to perform its tasks efficiently and effectively.

In a similar meeting held on July 11, 2016, Dillon stated that the Ministry’s priority was to continuously provide all national security agencies involved in the provision of law and order, and emergency response with the proper tools, equipment, manpower and methods to effectively perform their duties.

Just last week, police said that the rapidity of homicides across the country was a burden to investigators who already have several outstanding cases. Over people have been murdered for the year, the majority of the victims were shot dead.

A senior officer told Guardian Media yesterday that one of the issues discussed was the need for more manpower, vehicles and equipment but given the state of the country’s finances, the police will continue with what they have now.

A release from the Ministry of National Security stated: “He (Dillon) noted the Ministry of National Security’s efforts in treating with financial considerations for priority areas including the acquisition of new police vehicles and the maintenance of existing ones. Further, he reiterated that the Ministry continues to focus considerable attention on ensuring that the Police Service has the required manpower, access to modern security methodologies, equipment and physical infrastructure to carry out its mandate to make Trinidad and Tobago a more secure place for all.”

Divisional commanders and some members of the TTPS executives declined to shed more light on the meeting, saying that the acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime, Harold Phillip would be the most appropriate senior officers to comment.

However, they could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The release listed the Port-of-Spain, Northern, Southern, Western and Central divisions as those areas with the highest murder rates. The meeting was called by Dillon to get an update on the anti-crime strategies being used in those divisions and to clarify the support and resources that is needed from the Ministry.

It also focused on proposed strategies for the upgrade of existing technological systems to assist in intelligence-gathering and crime detection and ways to increase cooperation among the players involved in the Government’s inter-agency approach to crime prevention.

Divisional Heads reported that there were improvements in the detection rate, firearm seizures, surveillance and monitoring mechanisms, evidence–gathering, mobile and foot patrols, joint police/army patrols, community engagement initiatives and crime prevention projects.

Categories: News

‘We will get justice through God’

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:53

Relatives of murdered Mc Donald’s manager Ashmeed Mohammed believe they will get justice for his death.

Speaking with Guardian Media yesterday, Mohammed’s sister, Racine, sent a message to her brother’s killers.

She said: “I want the three of them to know that we serve an Almighty God, Jesus Christ and we will get justice. Maybe not here on earth but we will get justice.”

The woman said her parents were deeply traumatised by the Ashmeed’s murder and intend to “leave everything in God’s hands.”

She said her family remains in the dark over the progress of the police investigations.

“We have not heard from any of them. Nothing. We heard that a police sergeant (name called) was assigned lead but we don’t even know what he looks like. He has not contacted us,” she said.

Mohammed was at the Cipriani Avenue, Port-of-Spain fast food restaurant on Sunday after the business was closed when he responded to a knock on the door.

Police said he opened it and after a few minutes he was heard begging for his life.

Co-workers heard three gunshots and later found Mohammed dead near the door.

Guardian Media understands investigators have gotten a lead into Mohammed’s murder which suggests three men used a known homeless person to lure Mohammed to open the door. The incident occurred after 11 pm.

“It seems that the homeless man was used by the men because people saw Mohammed helping out the same man many times before in giving him food.

“So, it is suspected that the plan was to rob the establishment but to get Mohammed to open the door but that’s when it backfired on the gunmen. They shot Mohammed dead and as a result, they had to escape without any loot,” a source close to the investigation said.

Investigations are continuing.

Categories: News

Missing Freeport mom confirmed as body found five months ago

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:45

A drug cartel is believed to be behind the abduction and murder of Freeport mother Anita Mohammed, whose mutilated remains were discovered at No. 9 Petrotrin Field Road near oil pump No. 481 in Santa Flora five months ago.

Mohammed, 45, of Raphael Road, Freeport, had been tortured before she was killed. Her fingers, toes and genitals were also cut off. Although police were working on a major clue in the investigation, nobody has been arrested or charged with the murder.

Mohammed had been reported missing on December 20th and eight days later her remains were found but at that time there was no confirmation of her identity. The body, minus its hands and feet, was so badly decomposed that her children Chelsea, 20 and son Tristan, 19, could not identify her. Tissue samples were taken for testing and toxicology tests were also done.

Unwilling to believe the remains belonged to her mother, Chelsea took to Facebook begging TSTT to release her mother’s cellular phone records so they could get the identity of the person she last spoke with at the time of her abduction. It was only yesterday that head of corporate communications of the T&T Police Service, Ellen Lewis, confirmed the forensic analysis done of the remains showed they belonged to Mohammed. She was eventually identified by her uncle.

Chelsea and Tristan were not available for comment yesterday. However, a close family source said Mohammed’s death confirmed their suspicion that the drug cartel was involved in her murder. Prior to her disappearance, Mohammed had become distant to her extended family and neighbours. Her husband died five years before, leaving the family heavily in debt.

Mohammed reportedly became depressed started working at a bakery to pay off outstanding loans. She could not bear to sell their mansion at Raphael Road, Freeport, which her husband built, so she worked hard to keep it although she had difficulty maintaining the grounds and buildings. The source said Mohammed later opened her home for rent and two Spanish-speaking men moved in late last year. Strangers were often seen coming to the property located near a duck farm.

The source said two days before she disappeared, the renters were heard arguing loudly and a woman could be heard crying. Mohammed never confided in her extended family and sources said her troubles were kept confidential. After her disappearance, police questioned a foreigner but there was no evidence to lay charges.

Members of the Homicide Region Three are continuing investigations.

Categories: News

‘Uber driver always gave a helping hand’

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:42

Given the recent increase in murders of the “innocent”, including last Thursday’s murder of Uber driver Christopher Mohammed and Sunday’s killing of McDonald’s Cipriani Boulevard’s branch manager Ashmeed Mohammed, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said it is time for tough action.

Persad-Bissessar was a specially invited guest at Christopher Mohammed’s funeral yesterday at the St Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Petit Valley.

In her special tribute, Persad-Bissessar, who said she did not want to politicise the service, urged the scores of mourners to “join hands and say enough is enough.”

“At a time when we are seeing the lives of so many daughters and sons of our soil being snuffed out; it is any parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child, and I can only imagine the pain felt by these families having lost their loved ones,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Persad-Bissessar recently called on the Government to look at the option of getting soldiers involved in the fight against crime by giving them the powers of arrest.

Describing the upsurge in violent crime, home invasions and murders as frightening yesterday, she criticised the Government’s silence and inaction in dealing with this issue. She disclosed that she was asked by the Mohammed family to assist them in coming up with an initiative that will help keep Mohammed’s memory alive. She promised to meet with them soon to continue discussions. Persad-Bissessar urged the family to keep their faith in God during this difficult time.

Officiating Priest Father Stephen Geofroy, in his homily, said he was moved by the message delivered by American Bishop Michael Bruce Curry during the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday.

Geofroy’s advice to the mourner’s gathered was that what was needed in society is love.

“We have to connect our experiences to love and be loved. I was moved by the Bishop from the Royal Wedding…It is the power of love, it is the only hope we have.”

Mohammed was described as a humble person with a positive attitude who dearly loved his family during the service. He was also noted as a well-organised planner known for writing down his plans in a diary and working towards them and achieving the many goals he had set for himself, his family and his girlfriend. Mohammed was also described as one who was “always ready to give a helping hand.”

Mohammed, 28, was shot and killed during an apparent carjacking while on a Uber drive, which was his part-time job. He worked as a sous chef aboard an oil rig.

Categories: News

Garcia orders probe

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:41

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) board of management’s decision to refuse hijab-wearing On-the-Job-Trainee (OJT) Nafisah Nakhid on the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College compound is now being investigated as it directly contravenes section four of the Constitution.

Education Minister Anthony Garcia has already sought the advice of the Attorney General in the matter, noting the act “has far-reaching implications” and “there will not be a repeat”.

Nakhid was assigned to the school by the ministry but was refused entry when she reported for duty this week. A youtube.com personality who engages in discussion on several social issues, including Islam, Nakhid later took to her “Nafisah Talks” channel and highlighted the scenario. In the 16-minute video, Nakhid alleged she was told that Muslims wearing the hijab are not allowed on the school compound. She claimed she was told by a school official that if she wished to remain assigned to the school she would have to take off her hijab before entering the compound and keep it off until she is ready to leave. An emotional Nakhid said she was shocked this happened to her and she became very disoriented after the incident.

“Am I to be a Muslim via shift? Is my hijab a job? Does Allah give me a break?” Nakhid asked in the video.

Breaking down in tears in the video, Nakhid said she cannot change being a Muslim.

“I don’t understand how in 2018 this is happening. You have no idea how this affected me. I came home and was so disoriented, I was shocked that this happened to me and I needed to share this experience,” she said.

“It blows my mind that that is what we are doing in society today. Why we continue to separate these religions and why racists continue to divide our society? It hurt me, not because of the school and the organisation but as a human.”

Up to press time, there was already close to 6000 views.

In a release yesterday, Garcia described the incident as a “flagrant disregard of the laws enshrined in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.”

The move, he said, “sets Trinidad and Tobago back in terms of the steps we have made for religious inclusion and tolerance.”

Garcia noted that Lakshmi Girls Hindu College is a government-assisted secondary school and therefore operates within the same guidelines of public schools in Trinidad and Tobago.

“No institution, organisation or person can create any rules that supersede those enshrined in our Constitution,” Garcia said.

“This is not the first instance of this kind in Trinidad and Tobago and a precedent has now been set by the cases that have been tried before. In 1995, in a case where a student and her family took on the school and the state for a similar issue, Justice Margot Warner gave a ruling that has since reinforced that it is unconstitutional to prohibit a child from the freedom of religious belief and observance. This has since guided the practice of religion at our schools and has been further extended to teachers, staff and in other professions.”

The School Supervision and Management Division of the ministry has been mandated to provide a full report of the incident, Garcia said.

Stemming from this incident, the ministry has also reminded principals to be aware of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago and to be mindful of the human element in interactions where sensitive matters are concerned.

But Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha secretary general Sat Maharaj last night defended the decision in an interview with CNC3, saying Lakshmi Girls College is not a teacher training college. He said the body which assigns OJTs often asks them to take on these trainees and they sometimes do so, but said they are not obligated to train teachers. He said in any event, any individual who was accepted to teach in their schools would still have to conform to the code of conduct and behaviour of the institution. He confirmed, however, that there are both teachers and students at Lakshmi who are Muslim.

The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, part I, section 4.

It is hereby recognised and declared that in Trinidad and Tobago there have existed and shall continue to exist, without discrimination by reason of race, origin, colour, religion or sex, the following fundamental human rights and freedoms, namely:

(h) Freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance;

Categories: News

Search at Usine Pond for baby’s body after woman seen ‘dumping’ it

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:39

Police and fire officers were searching the Usine Pond in Ste Madeleine last night, following a report that a woman threw a baby into the water.

Southern Division police said they did not know if the report was a hoax, but had no choice but to search the pond to see if it was true.

Around 8 pm, police received a report that a woman was seen walking towards to the pond with a baby in her hand. Minutes later, she walked back to the Manahambre Road without the baby and entered a gold

Nissan Almera sedan and left. Ste Madeleine police responded and divers attached the Fire Service began combing the bank of the pond.

Police detectives were also hoping to source video footage from nearby CCTV systems in hope of finding the alleged car and woman.

In recent times, the Usine Pond, which was used to supply the now-defunct Ste Madeleine sugar factory, has been turned into a dumping ground for killers. Last April, the decomposed body of a mentally impaired man, David Conlisse, was found floating in the pond. In 2017, two men, including a Canadian national, were murdered and dumped in the pond.

Categories: News

Judges angry over Archie’s extra leave

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:38

Judges of both the Supreme and Appeal Courts are said to be upset over the decision by Chief Justice Ivor Archie to proceed on an additional six-week vacation and are demanding answers about the “type’ of leave he has proceeded on.

Archie left the country last weekend. In his absence, Justice Allan Mendonca will act as Chief Justice from May 19t-June 7, when Mendonca himself will be out of the country.

Appeal Court Judge Alice Yorke Soo Hon will act from June 8-17 and Mendonca will act again from June 18-29-. Archie is due to return to office on June 30.

In an email to judges, Archie’s administrative secretary Shabiki Cazabon said the CJ would be out of the jurisdiction from May 19-June 30 to continue his vacation leave cut short by the death of his mother.

The T&T Guardian was told members of the Judiciary and “even those in the Court of Appeal,” are “very angry” at the leave. By their calculation, Archie is only entitled to a further two weeks.

“We are very upset, nobody understands the leave,” the judges said.

One angry member of the Judiciary told the T&T Guardian, “It is time for members of the Court of Appeal to stand up for what is right and bring an end to this. The Court of Appeal has to say the Judiciary cannot take this.”

Last November, Archie applied for six months sabbatical leave which was approved by then-president Anthony Carmona. But that leave was scuttled after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley raised questions about the authority for it after he received a request for Justice Allan Mendonca to act as CJ in Archie’s absence. The recommendation for sabbatical leave was contained in the 98th report of the Salaries Review

Commission but not approved by the Parliament. An interpretation summons filed by the state on the matter will be heard in June.

Archie then announced he was taking vacation leave and left the country in March. He returned recently following the death of his mother, but flew out again last weekend on vacation leave.

Yesterday, with questions swirling in the public domain about the additional six weeks leave, legal sources called on President Paula-Mae Weekes to “clear the air” and tell the country “what is the nature of the leave which was approved and where did it come from?”

They added that it’s not “good enough” for Weekes to say this leave was approved by the former president.

Israel Khan SC defended Weekes, saying if the leave had been approved by her predecessor “she had little choice in the matter.”

Khan told the Guardian it is open to interpretation that the leave which Archie had embarked on was “sabbatical leave,” but questioned how as CJ he could proceed on such leave given the matter is now before the court for interpretation. He said “until the court interprets the summons as to whether he is entitled to sabbatical leave or not, the status quo remains”. However, he said, “The CJ ought not to take that leave until the court decides.”

He said the President “could have stepped out of her crease and said she was awaiting the court’s ruling on the interpretation summons, but given that the leave had been approved by the former president she wanted to be objective and not take sides.”

However, Khan said it was passing strange that nowhere was it mentioned that the CJ’s original six-week vacation leave was broken because of his mother’s funeral.

Categories: News

LATT wins round 1

News - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:34

Embattled Chief Justice Ivor Archie has one final bid to stop the Law Association of T&T (LATT) from resuming its investigation into misconduct allegations levelled against him.

Archie will now have to petition the United Kingdom-based Privy Council after his lawsuit barring the investigation was overturned by three of his Court of Appeal colleagues yesterday.

Presenting submissions after the association scored the major legal victory, lawyer Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, said LATT had agreed to wait to recall its special general meeting until Archie files his appeal and is granted leave to pursue it.

The meeting, in which the association’s members were expected to discuss the report into the allegations and vote on what action, if any, should be taken, was cancelled after Archie filed the lawsuit in March.

Hamel-Smith also opposed a move by Archie’s lawyer, Ian Benjamin, to stop LATT from allowing two queen’s counsel retained to give advice on the results of the investigation from resuming work.

Benjamin’s request was eventually granted as acting Chief Justice Allan Mendonca and Appellate Judges Peter Jamadar and Nolan Bereaux agreed to put a stay in place.

Archie was not present for the judgement, as he is currently on continued vacation, which he is using to complete a fellowship at the Federal Judicial Centre in Washington, DC. (See editorial on Page A18) The application for leave to go to the Privy Council was expected to be filed yesterday evening and will be determined by the court next Monday.

In an unusual move, all three judges wrote separate judgements in the appeal although they arrived at the same conclusions. In their individual judgements, they all ruled that High Court Judge Nadia Kangaloo was wrong when she granted Archie’s judicial review lawsuit and the corresponding injunction blocking the investigation. They rejected Archie’s contention that the investigation was illegal as Section 137 of the Constitution provides the only method for investigating allegations of misconduct against a CJ or judge.

Under Section 137, the President appoints a tribunal after misconduct allegations against a CJ are referred by the Prime Minister or against a judge by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC). The tribunal, which includes a chairman and at least two other members, all with judicial experience in Commonwealth jurisdictions, will investigate and then make recommendations.

While Bereaux admitted that the procedure adopted by the association was similar to the process prescribed under the Constitution, he said this did not invalidate it.

“The fact of imitation of the procedure cannot render the enquiry wrong. But more importantly, the apparent mimicking of the procedure is simply an attempt by the LATT to be fair,” Bereaux said.

Jamadar also questioned whether Archie’s suggestion that an investigation into serious allegations could be initiated by the PM or JLSC without preliminary checks.

Jamadar said: “Thus, if the CJ is correct, neither the PM nor the JLSC can undertake any kind of inquiry or investigation, they are mere conduits, mindlessly and irresponsibly representing that a CJ should be investigated with a possible view to suspension and/or removal.”

Mendonca suggested that Archie’s approach would also infringe citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of thought and expression.

“No useful or constitutional purpose can be served in so doing. Indeed, to do so would contradict the democratic notions of our society and the expectation that a judge’s conduct can be the subject of public scrutiny and comment,” Mendonca said.

Bereaux supported the point, as he said the Section 137 tribunal merely protects judges from arbitrary action by the Executive and not from public scrutiny. While Bereaux did not make any ruling on the veracity of the allegations against Archie, he criticised his (Archie) handling of the situation.

“They required strong and authoritative responses. Nothing of the kind has been forthcoming. When a response was in fact given, it was tepid and inadequate in the extreme,” Bereaux said.

He also questioned Archie’s challenge of the investigation, which he pointed out could not affect his (Archie) tenure.

“The submissions of the respondent are unduly restrictive of the rights of the public. They bear the hallmarks of an attempt to suppress the facts. If the allegations are false, as the respondent contends, then why stop the enquiry?” Bereaux said.

All three judges dismissed Archie’s counter appeal in which he claimed the association was biased based on their no-confidence motion in him and the JLSC last year. The motion was over their handling of the short-lived judicial appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar.

The association is also being represented by Jason Mootoo, Rishi Dass and Robin Otway, while John Jeremie, SC, Kerwyn Garcia and Keith Scotland are appearing alongside Benjamin.

More info

The controversy surrounding Chief Justice Ivor Archie arose late last year in a series of newspaper reports which accused him of attempting to persuade judges to change their State-provided security in favour of a private company where his friend and convicted fraudster Dillian Johnson worked.

Archie was also accused of attempting to fast-track Housing Development Corporation (HDC) applications for his friends.

Archie only responded to the allegations once, where he denied discussing judges’ security but admitted to suggesting persons for HDC housing.

In November last year, the Council of the Law Association called on Archie to respond to the allegation that he discussed the judges’ security with a private individual.

The association’s council then appointed a sub-committee to investigate the allegations and sought the legal advice of two eminent Queen’s Counsel to determine if the allegations were sufficient to trigger impeachment proceedings under S137 of the Constitution.

Archie has repeatedly refused the association’s request and calls from colleagues to directly respond to the allegations since then.

Categories: News

Cuba sweeps Calypso Spikers for bronze

Sports - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 00:31

T&T’s senior women’s volleyballers missed out on a podium finish at the inaugural Norceca Women’s Challenge Cup after a 0-3 (18-25, 17-25, 13-25) loss to Cuba at the Edmonton Expo Centre Hall D, in Alberta Canada on Sunday night.

Playing without the services of the Turkish-based duo of middle-blocker Sinead Jack and Krystle Esdelle, the “Calypso Spikers”, led by Sweden-based Renele Forde, were faced with an uphill task against the Cubans who showed more poise and executed when they needed to.

In the end, the Cubans, led by the scoring of Regla Gracia Gonzalez with 13, Diaris Perez Ramos (12) and Sulian Linares (11), secured a well-earned victory in 66 minutes to take home the bronze medals.

Meanwhile, T&T got a match-high 16 points from Philippines-based Darlene Ramdin (Generika-Ayala Lifesavers) while Channon Thompson who played the first half of the year with Turkey’s Ankara Amune before joining Philippines’ Grand Prix Super League bronze winners Foton Tornadoes, chipped in with 11.

The team, coached by Francisco “Panchee” Cruz, was outscored 31-44 on spikes; 3-6 on blocks and 1-6 on service aces.

The T&T squad, which was competing together for the first time this season since earning an FIVB World Championship ticket on home soil last October, also committed 19 unforced errors as compared to the Cubans, 13.

Commenting after the loss, Cruz said he was not pleased with the performance of his team

He said: “It went very bad. The players weren’t doing what I was indicating. Maybe they had too much pressure on them today (Sunday). I cannot explain, I will need to analyse because there is not a relationship between this game and other games we have had”.

The T&T coach indicated that his players may have been intimidated by having to play Cuba, which was a force to be reckoned with in the past, but now going through a transitional stage.
“Other teams had a higher level and the Cubans don’t have that level, so maybe it was just the name. I am not happy with the result.”

Forde added,“The game definitely didn’t go our way today. We had a lot of issues in terms of our organisation on the court. Our defence didn’t come in today (Sunday), our blocking was inconsistent and we generally had hoped for a better result.”

The loss was the second in as many matches for T&T at the tournament which was originally expected to be comprised of six teams, but for the late withdrawal of Costa Rice due to travelling issues.

Puerto Rico took the gold medal with a thrilling 22-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-27, 15-8 defeat of Canada led by Daly Santana with a whopping 30 points and qualify to the FIVB Volleyball Nations League.

The T&T women were expected to return home last night and will resume preparations for a go after an eighth CAZOVA overall title in Suriname from June 28 to July 5 to be closely followed by the 12-team 17th Women Pan American Cup in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic from July 6 to 15.

A few days later, the team will jet off to the 23rd Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Colombia from July 20 to August 3.

In the women’s CAC Games Indoor, T&T will compete at its fourth straight CAC Games and will battle with host Colombia, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica in Pool B while champions Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela will compete in Pool A.

T&T women will then make their debut at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in Japan from September 29 to October 20 where they will face defending champions and world second-ranked USA, as well as fifth-ranked Russia among their five matches at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship First Round Pool C group of the 24-team tournament which will be contested across six cities.

T&T, which has a world ranking of 34, will also battle tenth-ranked South Korea, Thailand (#16), and Azerbaijan (#24) at the Kobe Green Arena.

Ramdin cops First Outside Hitter award

T&T’s Darlene Ramdin was named as the ‘First Outside Hitter’ awardee when the inaugural NORCECA Women’s Challenge Cup ended at the Edmonton Expo Centre Hall D, in Edmonton, Alberta Canada on Sunday night.

Ramdin’s award was the lone one won by a T&T player as the seven-time Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) champions ended fourth of five teams after a loss to Cuba in the bronze medal match.

Puerto Rican libero Shara Venegas who was named “Best Libero” and “Best Digger”, was selected as the “Most Valuable Player” of the competition.

The defence of Venegas was considered a key for the victory of Puerto Rico in the five-set contest against host Canada to define the champions of the tournament.

Daly Santana also of Puerto Rico was selected as the “Best Scorer” after landing 30 points in the gold medal match while team-mates Raymariely Santos and Shirley Ferrer were named “Best Setter” and “Best Opposite” respectively.

Canada’s two middle-blockers Alicia Ogoms and Jennifer Cross were included in the All-Star team as well as Cuba’s Emily Borrell who was recognized as “Best Receiver” and her compatriots Sulian Matienzo “Best Server” and Diaris Perez “Second Outside Hitter”.

Categories: News

TennisTT executive gets another term

Sports - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 00:29

The entire executive of TennisTT, being led by businessman Hayden Mitchell, was given another term in office following Saturday’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Election of Officers at the National Racquet Centre (NRC) in Tacarigua.

Mitchell, the president of the organization, assistant secretary Warren Steele and new public relation’s officer Carlista Mohammed, who is still actively involved in the sport, was elected unopposed, while secretary Jermille Danclar prevailed overwhelmingly in a contest with Anthony Jeremiah 33-13.

Dexter Mahase, the other piece of the puzzle in the hard-working Mitchell-led administration, also got the better of Caren Grazette 25-17.

Danclar told Guardian Media Sports that his team’s return was due mainly to the work it has done in moving the sport forward.

In addition to ensuring that the first ever professional women tournament called the ITF Women $15, 000 Tacarigua was held on local soil, Danclar said they also received favourable responses for bringing back the National Inter-Club Championship last year.

The executive also received support for its role in developing coaches, players and other officials through the Level One Course, conferences and other seminars.

The Mitchell-led tennistt is also set to roll out the first-ever Nation’s Cup tournament in collaboration with the COTECC region, Central America and the Caribbean Tennis Confederation. This tournament is aimed at bridging the gap for players moving from the junior division to senior.

According to Danclar, Mitchell who is on the Board of COTECC is attempting to develop the sport in the region by providing avenues for countries in COTECC that never competed at the Fed and Davis Cup tournaments, to do so.

Mitchell could not be contacted for comment as he was out the country on official tennis business.

WALTER ALIBEY
 

Categories: News

San Francique makes winning start

Sports - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 00:25

Victoria District champions San Francique Presbyterian School made a winning start to the Atlantic National Primary Schools Cricket League Round 1 Girl’s competition with a 68-run victory over Marac Baptist at Evergreen ground in Woodland yesterday.

San Francique enjoying the home advantage batted first and scored 199 for three in 20 overs with Samantha Hosein continuing a magical season by scoring an unbeaten 80. Diamond Teeluckdharry was also in fine form and notched an unbeaten 28. Not to be outdone was Llainna Brepat who scored 20.

In response, Marac batted well but could not keep up with the required run rate. They ended on 132 for four off its allotted 20 overs with Moliste Lera top-scoring with an unbeaten 42, while Abbygale Ragoo continued her impressive form with the ball by taking two wickets for 22 runs.

With all the District competitions out of the way, the Nationals will continue over the next few days.

ATLANTIC PRIMARY SCHOOLS SCORES

At Evergreen:
San Francique Presbyterian 199/3 (20) (Samantha Hosein 80no, Diamond Teeluckdharry 28no, Llianna Brepat 20) vs Marac Baptiste 132/4 (20) (Moliste Lera 42no, Abbygale Ragoo 2/22) - San Francique won by 68 runs.

Categories: News

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