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Thunderous cheers, whistles and applause greeted a smiling President Paula Mae-Weekes, as she entered the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, yesterday to commemorate the country’s 56 anniversary Independence parade.
Since being inaugurated in March as the country’s first female President this was Weekes’ maiden Independence parade before hundreds of spectators who were dressed in their patriotic colours of red, white and black seated in the Grand Stand.
Among the spectators who gave Weekes a round of applause were Gail Mc Intyre and Deryck Boodoo.
Mc Intyre, 45, admitted that Weekes was the main reason she attended the celebrations.
“This is the first time I am seeing the President in the flesh and I have no regrets coming here today. I feel so patriotic and elated. As a woman, our President has inspired me in so many ways,” Mc Intyre said.
“I know today would have been special with our female President doing the inspection and it really was,” said Boodoo, who lives in San Fernando.
Attending the celebration were Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife, Sharon, who also received cheers from the public.
Among other public officials who witnessed the event were Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, National Security Minister Stuart Young, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, Government ministers, Opposition MPs and members of the diplomatic corps, who sat in the VIP area in the Grand Stand.
This was also Griffith and Young’s first parade since being appointed to the posts earlier this month.
The CJ came alone although his wife’s name was listed on the official programme.
From 8 am, Weekes, who is also Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, made her grand entry into the savannah in a specially decorated military vehicle surrounded by an escort of the Mounted Branch, to the sounds of trumpets. She was invited to inspect the hour-long parade which consisted of the police, air guard, coast guard, prisons, fire service and traffic wardens among others.
Accompanying Weekes during the inspection were Chief of Defence Staff Commodore Hayden Pritchard, Parade Commander Colonel Darnley Wyke and her Aide-de-Camp Major Leslie Ann Mohammed.
All three sheltered from the blistering sun as they stood under a canopy of the military vehicle.
Following the inspection, the protective services marched past Weekes who honoured her with a presidential salute.
Then there was a display of vehicles from the T&T Police Service, Coast Guard, Fire Services, prisons, St John’s Ambulance and T&T Regiment which ranged from hydraulic lifts, motorbikes, buses, fire engines and ambulances which wowed spectators.
One of the highlights of the parade was when two helicopters in national colours flew overhead.
There was a 21-gun salute in honour of the 56 anniversary of Independence during the National Anthem, bringing the curtain down on the event at the Savannah.
The parade, however, continued along a designated route in Port-of-Spain and ended at the St James Barracks.
Weekes, who was dressed in a stunning red and black dress, then shifted to the nearby National Academy for the Performing Arts where she gave a toast to the nation.
President Paula-Mae Weekes yesterday urged Government members, Opposition MPs and members of the diplomatic corps that we need boundless heart, sacrifice and effort, as well as tangible faith, in a bid to move our beloved country forward.
This was the message Weekes delivered as she made a toast to the nation at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port-of-Spain, in the presence of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, his wife Sharon, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, Government ministers, Senators, Opposition MPs, chairpersons of state boards and diplomats.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar, who attended the Independence Day parade at the Queen’s Park Savannah earlier, was notably absent from this event. Bringing greetings on the occasion, Weekes asked the specially invited guests how they felt knowing that 56 years have gone? “Looking back, there can be no doubt that Trinidad and Tobago, over the years, has had many and varying accomplishments of achievements,” Weekes said.
However, looking at today’s situation, Weekes said it “would cause deep concern and maybe alarm in all of us.” She said we have to be our own saviours. “It is for us.” She quoted a line from one of calypsonian Funny’s songs saying: “Right now we backing back on we heel. We have got to turn around. How we do that, has a slow solution?”
She suggested a prescription in moving forward, as she quoted a line from the T&T’s National Anthem— with boundless faith in our destiny. She said what we need was “real faith…tangible faith… the kind of faith that requires all of us…boundless in heart, boundless effort and boundless sacrifice.”
In giving her third and final toast to the nation at the Fire Services headquarters on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, which was attended by Chief Fire Officer Roosevelt Bruce and other dignitaries, Weekes jokingly swore to absolute secrecy, stating that “not a word must leave this room…this is my favourite stop,” as guests burst into uncontrollable laughter.
“I have not been to an Independence parade in many years because as a judge this is the time you would be normally out of the country on long vacation.”
However, she said when she saw the fire officers in the march past at the Independence Day parade at the Savannah, “I became nostalgic.
I have always loved the stripes. But let me sound a word of warning, I am not necessarily faithful and I noticed that the Traffic Wardens are giving you all a run for your money,” Weekes said on a lighter note.
Thanking the Fire Services for inviting her, Weekes said when she thought this was her last stop, “I say, you know, it is an odd thing… that when you think about protective services somehow from timeto- time we forget the fire officers, who are as essential as any other service in our nation.”
She thanked the officers for giving of themselves and service to the country. “Let us take the opportunity today to recommit ourselves to the nation’s business. It is serious business.”
Weekes said it should be no surprise to anyone “that we are all concerned about the national climate and the things that are going on in our country today, but we can’t leave it there,” stating that each citizen must “take responsibility.”
Weekes said part of the fire officers’ oath was to render true and faithful service to T&T.
“You have done so over the last 56 years and I urge you to continue.
Our nation needs you now more than ever.”
The T&T Electricity Commission says it has no suspicion of sabotage following an early morning fire at its Savonetta Substation which knocked out power at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate and neighbouring communities.
The billowing cloud of black smoke at North Sea Drive, Point Lisas triggered speculation on social media that the fire could have been maliciously set. However, T&TEC's manager of Corporate Communications
Annabelle Brasnell said investigations were ongoing and there was no suspicion of sabotage.
"At this point, we have no suspicion of anything like sabotage. Our first priority is to restore supply to customers and get to the source of the fire. We cannot say what is the genesis of this unless we complete investigations.
By 1 pm, the electricity supply was restored to all residential customers at Phoenix Park and Cedar Hill. However, three companies- YARA Trinidad Limited, ANSA McAL Chemicals Limited and Trinidad Nitrogen Company Ltd (Tringen) were without electricity.
Brasnell also denied that the substation was destroyed.
"The substation is still standing. Because there is oil in transformers, the fire looked as if the entire substation was engulfed. People saw the big black smoke but that occurred largely because there is oil in the site. Only one transformer has been damaged and two other pieces of equipment used to transmit the electricity have been burnt. The substation has not burnt down. Another transformer is still intact and substation building is intact as well," Brasnell said.
She added that this was the first fire of its kind to occur in four years adding that there was a fire at the West Moorings facility in 2014.
The substation at Point Lisas was not occupied at the time of the blaze.
T&TEC’s engineers spent hours on site executing repairs and doing checks.
Meanwhile, police said yesterday that a break-in was reported at Petrotrin's Beach Camp facilities in one of the executive building owned by Petrotrin which is often occupied by senior staff.
However, it is uncertain whether anything was stolen.
On Thursday during a press conference president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union Ancel Roget said all of T&T will see black if the government pushes ahead to shut down the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.
"It is an act of reprisal because we can make no sense out of this. But (Prime Minister Dr Keith ) Rowley has to be reminded that those who seek to destroy the OWTU will only destroy himself. Then they talking about a black hole. Let me say to Franklin Khan the whole country would not be placed in a black hole if you leave Petrotrin running.
The whole country will be black is you shut down Petrotrin. In fact, if you don't reverse that decision the whole country will be black," Roget said.
Efforts to contact Roget and chief research and education officer Ozzi Wharwick for comment yesterday proved futile as calls to their cellular phones went unanswered.
A month before he was expected to lose his job with the shutdown of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, Petrotrin welder Jefferson Ogiste ended up dead when the car in which he was traveling ran off the San Fernando Bypass and ended up in a ditch.
The driver of the car, who absconded following the crash, remains unidentified. Another passenger, Akil Williams, who suffered injuries to his head and legs, remains warded in a stable condition at the San Fernando General Hospital.
Police said around 830 am, officers from the Mon Repos Police station responded to an accident at the San Fernando Bypass near the Pleasantville traffic lights. Witnesses said a silver Nissan Teana heading south careened off the road and struck an electricity pole, knocking off power in several parts of the city.
The car ended up in a ravine.
The driver fled the scene, leaving Ogiste and Williams behind.
In an interview, Ogiste's cousin Tricia Purcell said it was uncertain whether Ogiste died before or after the crash. Saying she did not know why the driver absconded or whether Ogiste knew the occupants, Purcell said they were awaiting the results of an autopsy before they could piece together the last moments of Ogiste's life.
Purcell said Ogiste was one of many who is expected to be out of a job when the refinery closes by October 1. She said he was concerned about his family and on Thursday he gave his sister some money to buy school books for his two daughters aged four and eight.
Purcell described Ogiste as a hardworking man who had a close relationship with his family. She said he had no runnings with the law and was committed to his children, both of whom lived with his mother Veera Ogiste at Solomon Street, Princes Town.
The damaged vehicle has been removed for forensic analysis. Investigators said a trace revealed that it was not stolen. An autopsy is scheduled to be done on Ogiste's body at the Forensic Sciences Centre on Monday.
Anyone with information on the crash can contact Crimestoppers at 800-TIPS.
T&T completely outplayed St Maarten, 95-8, to get its fourth consecutive win at the Americas Federation of Netball Associations qualifiers at the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium in Wildey, Barbados, yesterday.
In the lopsided affair, the “Calypso Girls” led from start to finish with goal-shooter Samantha Wallace and goal-attack Kalifa McCollin combining to score 35 goals before St Maarten connected one goal.
The national players under the instructions of coach Wesley “Pepe” Gomes installed a press defence from the first pass which St Maarten had no answer for.
By the time T&T had reached 42 goals, St Maarten made only hit its second goal.
Wallace went on to score 38 goals from 39 attempts while McCollin netted 16 from as many tries to have T&T ahead 26-0 in the first quarter then 54-2 at the half.
On the resumption, they were replaced by Joelisa Cooper and Tahirah Hollingsworth, respectively, who continued where the professional duo had left off with Cooper producing 30 in 31 and Hollingsworth, 11 of 14.
Down on the other end, the defenders were just as productive with the opening pair in the circle Shaquanda Greene and Kemba Duncan causing problems for goal-shooter Janice Landifort (0/1) and goal-attack Emily Bloomfield (1/4).=
St Maarten made some changes in the shooting circle using Menelva Maduro (2/3) and later Kathetina Gumbs (2/4) and although they were better, were still outmatched by their opponents.
Daystar Swift entered T&T’s defensive circle and she performed effectively as well along with the reliable Onella Jack-Hill, who picked off much of St Maarten’s passes.
T&T never let up and held a 77-3 lead in the third quarter before dominating the fourth period and seized the huge 87-goal victory. The local netballers take on Argentina today before meeting Barbados tomorrow in a virtual final.
Vance Juteram and T’Shelle Barnes added to T&T’s gold medal tally when the Under-11 to Under-17 Carebaco (Caribbean Regional Badminton Confederation Championship) concluded in Paramaribo, Suriname, yesterday.
Overall, the T&T contingent bagged 13 medals, inclusive of four gold medals, five silver and four bronze.
Juteram who was scheduled to compete in three Under-17 category finals on the Ring Sports Centre, finally ended his run of silver medals when he combined with Guyana’s Priyanna Ramdhani to beat Suriname’s Jair Naipal and Erisa Bleau 21-15, 21-7 in the Mixed Doubles final.
Earlier on the night, Juteram and countryman Uzair Omardeen were beaten in the Boys Under-17 Doubles final by Naipal and Danny Chen 20-22, 21-14, 17-21.
And in the Boys Under-17 Singles final, Chen also got the better of Juteram, 18-21, 21-13, 21-9.
The standout performer for T&T at the Championship was an Under-11 starlet, T’Shelle Barnes who won her third gold medal of the week when she teamed up with Suriname’s Megan Chen to beat hometown duo, Gillian Jones and Le Yan Sharon Li 21-16, 21-13 in the Girls Under-11 Doubles Finals:
On Tuesday, Barnes combined with fellow national junior player Andrew Babwah for the top spot in the Under-11 Mixed Doubles round-robin series.
This after Babwah and Barnes outclassed Suriname’s Terrence Huang and Jones 21-10, 21-19 to end with a perfect 3-0 record.
This after the T&T duo defeated Surinamese pairs’ Jeric Van Der Leuv and Le Yan Sharon Li, 18-21, 21-14, 21-10 and, Shaquille Somedjo and Chen, 21-9, 21-13, in their first two matches on Monday.
On Monday, Barnes won T&T’s first gold medal, in the Girls Under-11 Singles round-robin series with a 21-5, 21-1 beating of Guyana’s Mishka Beharry to end with a perfect 4-0 record in the five-team round-robin series.
On Sunday last, Barnes began the tournament with comfortable wins against Suriname duo, Morgan Chen, 21-3, 21-5; and Le Yan Sharon Li 21-5, 21-7; and on Monday she crushed Gillian Jones, also of Suriname, 21-5, 21-2.
The top-ranked Babwah had to settle for silver in the Boys Under-11 Singles decider, when he went under to Suriname’s Jeric Van Der Leuv, 12-21, 15-21.
The older of the Babwah brothers, James also got silver after he and partner Aditya Mahara were outlasted by host pair, Angelo Chen and Dickson Liao 21-15, 11-21,15-21 in the Under-13 Boys Doubles final.
All roads lead to Santa Rosa Park in Arima today where the Arima Race Club (ARC) will be at the centre of one of the biggest race-days for the year with its nine-race Independence Day card.
There will be two feature events, the Independence Cup over 1,800 metres on the Turf Track and the Grade Two – Oaks Stakes for West Indian Bred Three-Year-Old Fillies over a distance of 1,800 metres on the main track.
The Independence Stakes looks like a rematch between last year’s winner Stockyard and His conqueror Princess Suri from the Shaffique Khan Stables should the race be taken off the turf.
If the race stays on the turf then Stockyard should have little problem in taking the first prize cheque for champion owner Shivam Maharaj.
When last they met in the President’s Cup, Princess Suri was impressive in taking the spoils when receiving just three kilos from Stockyard which finished fourth. On Independence Day she will be receiving eight kilos and if the race is taken off the grass she will be a very short-priced favourite to continue her winning ways. This horse has improved considerably in the interim and will win if racing.
In the co-feature, Oak Stakes Streaking far will be at prohibitive odds to succeed. Based on all form, she has the form in the books to win easily for leading rider Ricky Jadoo and trainer Glenn Mendez.
There seems to be little with a form to challenge her and it will be only Dancin Deputy which has been showing no form at all this season, which has the capacity to beat her. River Secret keeps improving and she could go well.
Post time for the first event today is 12.30 pm.
Sprinter Jereem Richards would have been aiming for the gold medal in the 200m at the Weltklasse Zurich IAAF Diamond League final but had to settle for bronze as in-form American sensation Noah Lyles finished first in Zurich, Switzerland.
Richards touched the tape in a time of 20.04 seconds which was slower than his season and personal best of 19.97.
Nicknamed the ‘The Dream’ Richards who took the 200m gold at the Commonwealth Games in Australia beating into second place Canadian Aaron Brown. He again left Brown in his wake as he finished fourth in a time of 201.4.
However, the day belongs to Lyles who stormed to the finish line in a time of 19.67 seconds which was just a tad slower than his personal best of 19.65.
The 21-year-old American who has dominated the half-lap season winning four times in as many outings before this continued his golden run. In winning his previous four races he clocked times of 19.83, 19.69, 19.69 and 19.65. Coming in second was Ramin Guliyev the reigning world champion. He pride of Turkey clocked a time of 20.04.
On the women’s side, the news was not too good for T&T, as Commonwealth 100m champion Michelle-Lee-Ahye, who finished seventh out of nine starters with one disqualification. Ahye faced tough opposition in her event and clocked 11.27 seconds which was much slower than her personal best of 10.82. Marie-Josee Ta Lou who was expected to be the main challenger for gold at this event lost her first race of the season. She actually came in third in 11.10. Taking the honours on this occasion was Murielle Ahoure from the Ivory Coast in 11.01.
Running in second was Dina Asha Smith, who is a joint leader on the 2018 world performance list at 10.85 seconds. The American ran an 11.08 to take second amongst the strong field. (VM)
T&T’s Nicholas Paul, Njisane Phillip, Kwesi Browne and Keron Browne picked up from where they left off at last month’s Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Colombia by pedalling to gold in record time when the first night of competition at the 2018 Pan American Elite Track Cycling and Caribbean Championship ended in Aguascalientes, Toluca, Mexico on Wednesday night.
The trio of 19-year-old Paul, 19, Phillip, 27, Browne, 24, combined for a new Pan Am record 42.681 seconds for the gold medal ahead of Colombia (43.095).
Brazil (43.860) got bronze ahead Venezuela (44.031).
The time by the T&T cyclists was equal to the time done by Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics and Rio 2016 and would have put T&T on the podium as gold and bronze medal winners respectively.
Earlier on in the day at the Belem Guerrero Velodrome, T&T, the Caribbean champions made a super start to proceedings when the Team Sprint trio Kerron Bramble, Phillip and Paul broke the T&T national record with a time of 43.155 and qualified first for the finals ahead of Colombians Santiago Ramirez, Riben Murillo and Kevin Quintero (43.574).
Last month the trio of Paul, Browne and two-time Olympian Phillip competing at the 23rd CAC Games in Barranquilla, at the Velodromo Alcides Nieto Patina clocked a time of 43.873 seconds, a new games record, for the gold medal well ahead of Venezuela (44.578 secs) and Colombia (44.172 secs) who got silver and bronze respectively. Mexico was fourth in 45.774.
T&T had earlier finished with the fastest qualifying time of 44.096 ahead of the Venezuelans (45.154).
Also medalling on Wednesday for T&T was Alexi Costa, who took the Caribbean Championship bronze medal in the Women’s Scratch event after escaping a major crash in the final sprint.
Yesterday in the men’s Keirin, Paul and Browne went after medals while today, Jabari Whiteman faces the starter in the Men’s Individual Pursuit qualifiers and Points Race; Costa returns to competition in the four-part Women’s Omnium, and Paul and Phillip go after glory in the Men’s Sprint.
At the CAC Games Browne, got a bronze in the Keirn after fellow Paul was relegated to sixth for an infringement after he originally ended in third spot, one ahead of Browne.
Earlier in the morning session, Paul and Browne were one-two finishers in the second of three keirin heats.
Paul will also compete in the Kilo Time Trial on Sunday, September 2 along with Quincy Alexander, while Akil Campbell, another CAC Games medalist faces the starter for the men’s Scratch Race tomorrow and Omnium.
The T&T team is being accompanied by Erin Hartwell (Technical Director) and Elisha Greene (mechanic).
The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs made the members of the national women’s volleyball team a happy bunch by donating towards the country’s participation at next month’s FIVB Women’s World Championships in Japan.
Yesterday minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe presented the NGO with a cheque valued at TT $450,000 to the T&T Volleyball Federation (TTVF).
Receiving on behalf of the association was president Nicole Selvon and Delegate vice president Vaughn Martin, at the Ministry’s Head Office, St Clair Avenue, Port-of-Spain. Chairman of the Sports Company of T&T (SPORTT) Douglas Camacho, was also on hand to witness the presentation.
The cheque is to assist the women’s volleyball team with the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Women’s World Championship in Japan, for which they qualified last year. This is the first time T&T has qualified for the FIVB Championship, being the first English speaking country to do so and the first member of the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) region to participate.
During the brief meeting, Minister Cudjoe stated: “I am happy that we can offer assistance to the Volleyball Federation. Please extend our best wishes to the team as they make history and represent our country. The presentation of this cheque signifies the ministry’s ongoing commitment to providing financial support to sporting bodies like the TTVF, ensuring that organisations, projects, programmes and individuals, specific to the development of the sport, have access to financial resources required for the realisation of their goals and objectives.
“The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs remains a dynamic, customer-oriented and policy-driven organisation, determined to bring all stakeholders together to promote total participation and excellence in sport and supports effective and efficient operations of organisations which serve the needs of sport in T&T,” Cudjoe said.
Since taking over as minister earlier this year Cudjoe has made a great impact in terms of getting close to the national bodies and getting them to understand what is required to get proper funding to run their affairs.
Fellow citizens, on August 31st, 1962, Trinidad and Tobago shook off the reins of colonialism and dared to go it alone. To the tolling of bells, the Union Jack was lowered for the final time and the red, white and black hoisted to signal the birth of our nation.
In his Independence address, Dr Eric Williams, our nation’s first Prime Minister, charged the citizens of this land always to place first the national interest and cause. He further proclaimed amidst great country-wide expectations ‘You are on your own in a big world. You are nobody’s boss, and nobody is your boss.’ No longer were we attached by the umbilical cord to the metropole; we had secured the right to determine our own future - an exhilarating, if somewhat daunting prospect.
Since then, Trinidad and Tobago has enjoyed a relatively stable democracy, significant economic transformation and general improvement in the quality of life of its citizens. Recently though, challenging circumstances have arisen, brought on by rising levels of criminal activity and economic uncertainty. In that context and considering the continued role of the Privy Council in determining our affairs, our vulnerability as a Small Island Developing State to the vagaries of the world economy and the effects of climate change on our tiny island, among other concerns, the question need be posed: How independent are we?
It is a significant sign of maturity when a nation embarks on this most solemn of endeavours, charting the course to self-determination and taking full responsibility for the future of its citizenry but political separation from the United Kingdom was only the first step of our long journey of self-discovery.
Independence has never been a static notion; it implies the constant working out of identity and purpose, sovereignty over one’s decisions and taking responsibility for one’s actions. When those decisions bear good fruit, we are entitled to pat ourselves on the back, but when they go wrong, as they often do, we must not lay blame at the feet of others. Our attitudes and the lens through which we view our roles as citizens must be firmly aligned to the needs of our country, which at this time in our history, appear more demanding than ever.
Every individual has an important role to play in nation-building as institutions merely facilitate the democratic process. The active participation of every citizen in the social, economic and political life of our nation is required to ensure that our children inherit a stable and prosperous country.
Our journey to maturity can only be accomplished if we are united, not only by a common goal but with agreement on how this can be achieved. Let us aspire together and achieve together as we press forward into the future, working to ensure that our carefully selected watchwords: Discipline, Production and Tolerance are incorporated into our daily lives.
We cannot afford to sit and wait for development to happen - we must shoulder the daily responsibility of being disciplined, caring and industrious in order to build Trinidad and Tobago into the great nation we know it can be. The privilege of having control over our affairs must be matched by determination to fulfil the vision of the many Trinbagonians who longed for and finally achieved our independence.
I am confident in the strength of our diversity, the oneness of our common ideals and the sufficiency and resolve of our people, to harness their considerable talents in the service of making Trinidad and Tobago a nation in which we can all take pride.
I wish the national community a safe, happy and enjoyable Independence Day.
President Paula-Mae Weekes
Overall market activity resulted from trading in 18 securities of which three advanced, eight declined and seven traded firm.
Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 1,398,011 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $53,090,374.37. ANSA McAL Lltd was the volume leader with 429,098 shares changing hands for a value of $24,029,488.00, followed by JMMB Group Ltd with a volume of 287,285 shares being traded for $488,384.50.
Massy Holdings Ltd contributed 202,274 shares with a value of $9,506,755.60, while The West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd added 131,900 shares valued at $11,594,010.
First Citizens Bank Ltd registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.23 to end the day at $34.24. Conversely, ANSA Merchant Bank Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $2.00 to close at $38.00.
On the mutual fund market 14,428 shares changed hands for a value of $286,873.60. Clico Investment Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 14,028 shares valued at $280,553.60. Clico Investment Fund advanced by $0.01 to end at $20.00.
• The Composite Index declined by 4.05 points (0.33%) to close at 1,237.16.
• The All T&T Index declined by 6.99 points (0.41%) to close at 1,701.30.
• The Cross Listed Index declined by 0.14 points (0.13%) to close at 104.01.
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Public Services Association (PSA) president, Watson Duke, have agreed to draft a Memorandum of Understanding on the structure of the proposed Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority.
The decision came following a meeting of ministry representatives and the PSA on Wednesday.
Legislation on the authority is now before a Joint-Select Committee of Parliament and requires a special majority vote.
In a press statement, Imbert said the two parties discussed issued of job security and employee benefits, as well as union representation, the health plan and pension plan.
The minister said he asked the PSA to put their requests in writing so that the ministry can have a clear indication of all the issues.
He said Duke, in response, requested that the MOU be drafted and settled, showing the shape and form that the Revenue Authority would take, and outlining the protection of workers.
Imbert said Duke gave an undertaking that within a month the ministry will get a document from the PSA identifying what their concerns are.
The ministry’s permanent secretary will work with Duke on the drafting of the MOU. Imbert described the meeting as “very cordial” and said they made “a lot of progress”.
The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce supports the recommendations of Petrotrin’s board, according to a media release from that business chamber.
In an address to the media on Tuesday, Petrotrin Chairman Wilfred Espinet said the board recommended shutting down the refinery and retrenching 1,700 workers. “We believe that the company is on the right path to fulfilling its obligations to the State, and towards financing its own business requirements,” the media release said.
The Chamber said that it recognises that employees and contractors of Petrotrin and their families, as well as businesses in the surrounding communities, will be affected by this decision, but trust that all stakeholders can work together to mitigate the negative impact.
The T&T Chamber added that this will call for dialogue, creativity and a willingness to be open to new possibilities and also hopes that the settlement of payments to contractors and other suppliers will be handled responsibly and in a timely manner.
“In today’s global business landscape, any entity must be competitive in order to thrive; we recognise that this is not achievable without significant changes being made to Petrotrin’s current operational structure.
Everyone knew that some action was required, and it is unfortunate that the decision took this long to be made. Perhaps if tougher measures had been taken earlier, when the country was in a better financial position to buffer the impact, the process might have been less traumatic. Sadly, the current economic environment left the board with limited choices.”
The T&T Chamber said that it acknowledges that there is still a great deal to be worked out when it comes to the impact this move will have on the wider population and added that this includes, but is not limited to, the following questions:
• How can the country reintegrate the affected employees back into the workforce or help get them established in start-up business ventures?
• How does the country address the impact of the closure on the refinery’s numerous contractors and their employees?
• What effect will the move have on T&T’s foreign exchange requirements?
• How will it affect the cost of fuel to consumers, industrial users and Caribbean Airlines?
The Chamber concluded that while the scope and magnitude of the shutdown’s effects are currently unknown, the T&T Chamber appreciates that such a tough decision was taken in the nation’s interest. “We caution against impulsive actions which could be counter-productive to making Petrotrin a sustainable enterprise, and strongly recommend frequent communication among all parties during this transitionary period. We stand ready to provide assistance in any way possible.
T&T’s footwear customers have continued to spend their money on shoes despite the downturn in the economy, according to Jerus Mohammed, country manager, Payless Shoe Source.
“Our T&T customers have always had a high spending power. With the economic downturn we have seen that rate reduced, however, shoes are a necessity in T&T and we have to wear shoes, everyone has to wear shoes. So instead of buying three pairs of shoes, we have found that our customers buy two, but we still do extremely well here,” he told the media yesterday.
Mohammed was speaking at the opening of their new super store in Trincity Mall.
Payless Shoe Source opened its first super store in the English speaking Caribbean yesterday at Trincity Mall, which brings the total number of stores to 22 in T&T.
Payless Shoe Source is the number one speciality footwear retailer in the United States and one of the world’s largest.
The new store is contained in 4,682 square feet on the upper level of the mall and is twice the size of a standard Payless store.
According to information from Payless, the super store concept is designed to give customers a more comfortable shopping experience with wider aisles, more cashiers, more staff and more styles with over 25,000 pairs of shoes in stock at that branch.
Mohammed said their women’s career shoes is the most popular segment.
Denise Bernard, vice president, Latin America and the Caribbean region for Payless Shoe Source, who also spoke at the event, described a super store as “a wide array of shoes that we could not fit into a conventional store.”
She said they had a “soft opening” on Wednesday and since then 2,400 customers have visited the store.
“That is a testament as to the loyalty of our T&T customers and how faithful they are to us.”
She said they opened the super store based on feedback from customers.
“There was a need for more sizes, there was a need for more depth in the product and more variety. What large format stores as this one do is give us the possibility to bring that solution. This has made us the authority in footwear in T&T and in all of the Caribbean.”
Scores of customers filed into the store after the launch.
Ann-Marie, who was accompanied by her daughter, told Guardian Media that they usually buy all their shoes at Payless and came to the new super store to see what bargains that they could have gotten.
“We always check out the sales and the styles we want. We always go to the store in Mausica but today we came to this one to see the variety. This one is much bigger than the one in Mausica and the prices are reasonable.”
Another shopper, who identified himself only as Kelvin, said there was not much difference with other shoe stores.
‘This one really big for sure but other than that I do not see the big difference with other local stores. It is about the same prices,” he said.
An amputee appeared in court charged with the murder of a Sangre Grande mechanic.
Kevin “Guts” Civilian, 37, appeared before Magistrate Cheron Raphael, in the Sangre Grande Magistrates Court late on Wednesday charged with the murder of Richard Shamme Phillip.
Phillip, 35, of Rampersad Trace, Vega de Oropouche, was shot dead at his workplace on Ramdass Street, Sangre Grande on August 24.
The charge was laid by WPC Ria Timothy of Sangre Grande Criminal Investigations Department following instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard.
The accused was arrested moments after the murder. He was also charged with possession of firearm and ammunition.
Standing in front of the magistrate with the aid of a crutches, Civilian shook his head as the murder charge was read to him.
Civilian was remanded into custody at Golden Grove Prison, Arouca and is expected to reappear in court on September 26.
Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan yesterday gave the assurance that primary and secondary school students will be provided with proper supervision and safety should teachers boycott classes next Friday.
Seecharan was responding to calls by the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) for teachers to stay away from schools on September 7 as a day of rest and reflection in a show of solidarity with Petrotrin workers.
The country has over 15,000 teachers. The Joint Trade Union Movement has also called for a day of rest and reflection.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia, in an interview with Guardian Media Ltd on Wednesday, said his ministry will open all schools despite TTUTA’s planned action.
Garcia also asked teachers to remember their responsibility to their students.
He could not say if teachers could face disciplinary action for staying away butadded that if it comes to that he will speak to the Chief Personnel Officer.
Yesterday, several calls to Garcia’s cell phone went unanswered. But Seecharan reminded citizens that this was not the first time TTUTA had called for a day of boycott by teachers.
If teachers do opt to stay away, Seecharan said all schools have measures in place to deal with such event.
“The ministry has clear protocols in the event that some teachers stay home that arrangements are made to ensure that students are adequately supervised.”
Should there be a mass boycott, Seecharan said each principal knows what his/her responsibilities are and protocols must be initiated.
“There is a middle management team at the level of the school so that the teams will assess the situation and make decisions in terms of supervision and safety of students.”
He said there are 134 government and government-assisted secondary schools, while there are 455 primary schools in T&T.
The ministry also places students in private secondary schools.
State-owned Petrotrin will foot the bill for the severance of the 1,700 workers who will lose jobs when the company’s refinery section closes in October, board chairman Wilfred Espinet says.
Petrotrin had estimated 2,700 workers were involved in the matter and about 100 would be taken back into the company after the refinery was closed. That would leave 1,700 out of jobs.
Yesterday, OWTU officer Ozzie Warwick told T&T Guardian that Government was undercalculating how many workers would be affected and its estimate of 1,700 workers only encompassed permanent workers.
Warwick said the OWTU estimates a total of 9,00o workers - permanent, casual, temporary - will be affected.
“And the termination costs will be huge,” Warwick said.
Speaking to T&T Guardian, Espinet said Petrotrin will have to solve the payout settlement aspect of the situation on its own, rather than depend on the Finance Ministry or Treasury.
“It’s got to be sourced by Petrotrin, we’ve got to find the money,” Espinet added.
On whether people who may lose jobs may find opportunities in the modified company plan, he said, “In any areas, if there’s a genuine vacuum, it will be filled by people who’ll do the job.”
Acknowledging it was a volatile time, Espinet said he believes people can re-tool for jobs.
Espinet maintained that the refinery closure was necessary to remove the part of Petrotrin which wasn’t making money. Questioned on the proDRAYTONjected plan for the company minus the refinery, he said projections would not involve buying any more infrastructure apart from “a few bits and pieces.” He didn’t detail those.
The new TTT television station must be the “gold standard” of quality in broadcasting and lead the charge in providing factual, accurate information and combating “fake news,” Prime Dr Keith Rowley has indicated.
He did so yesterday as he launched TTT Limited—formerly CNMG—at Maraval Road, Port-of-Spain.
“In closing CNMG, we’re opening the door to a brighter future,” Rowley added.
Rowley said TTT needed to adhere to high standards because of the seriousness of the role the media plays in citizens’ lives.
In a time when one has to question everything seen and misinformation, he said TTT has the role of building a reputation as a bastion for correct information. If a question arises on something that’s “trending” and if it’s seen or heard on TTT, “... you’ll know it’s been checked.”
On TTT’s other role as a production house, Rowley said it’s important for the station to not just broadcast news or provide a platform for creativity but facilitate the creation of local content. He said with the negativity seen in the news, it was important to produce programmes that elevate, entertain and drive people to a higher quality of life.
“Rather than be news carrier, it’s more important for this generation of TTT to be a programme producer of content for T&T and externally,” he said.
He projected jobs and projects which could bring revenue from such productions, which would, in turn, offer a platform for talented people.
Rowley said the media is an integral part of T&T’s quality of life. He said he’d had two friends in the media, one of whom he taught in school. He said he’d once disagreed on state-owned media but over time changed that view. He cited the US’ PBS and UK’s BBC as proof of a role for the state in media.
Communication Minister Stuart Young said TTT will lead the charge of 100 per cent accurate news to combat the proliferation of “fake news”, which he said was growing and taking over, especially on social media, and would be a go-to platform for information.
Four men, charged with the murder of a PH taxi driver in Diego Martin which occurred on August 20, appeared before a Port-of-Spain Magistrate on Wednesday.
Paul Williams, aka ‘Porter’, 22, of Savannah Terrace, Diego Martin; Shakeem Charles aka ‘Keem’, 20, of Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain; Joseph George, 20, of George Street, Port-of-Spain; and Isaiah Pantin, aka ‘Wong’ and ‘Ziah’, 18, of Four Roads, Diego Martin, appeared before acting Deputy Chief Magistrate Nannette Forde-John in the Port-of-Spain 5th Magistrates’ Court.
Charles and George were also charged with of possession of a firearm and ammunition. The matter was postponed to September 26.
The victim, Jerrell Aris-Mendez, a 27-year-old, of Fatima Trace, Laventille, was hired to transport four men with his vehicle, into the Cascade area around 11.50am on August 20.
At Bagatelle Extension Road, Diego Martin, the passengers, two of whom were armed with firearms, announced a robbery.
During a struggle Aris-Mendez being shot several times. The suspects escaped on foot and the victim died at the scene.
The four men were arrested on the same day of the incident by officers attached to the Western Division.
Investigations were supervised by acting ASP Suzette Martin, while charges were laid by PC Dominic Garcia, both of Homicide Bureau of Investigations, Region 1, following advice received from Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard, SC.