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A Couva housewife lied to the police about being kidnapped along with her son for a $30,000 ransom because she gambled away all her husband’s money.
Sapna Chinyan, 33, gave the excuse when she appeared in the Couva Magistrates Court charged with wasteful employment of police. She pleaded guilty but her sentencing was put off to give her an opportunity to join the Trinidad - Gamblers Anonymous at Rosalino Street, Port-of-Spain.
Prosecutor Sgt Lincoln Bonnett said Chinyan went to the Couva Police Station around 10.40 am where she reported the kidnapping.
She said around 7.30 am last Thursday four unarmed men abducted her and her six-year-old son from their Carli Bay Road home. She said the kidnappers took them in a Nissan Almera to a location along the Southern Main Road, Claxton Bay, where they demanded the ransom.
Chinyan claimed the men allowed her to leave to collect the ransom money but they kept her son until she returned. Chinyan said they were released after she paid the money.
PC Visham Ramoutar of the Couva CID conducted inquiries, including viewing CCTV footage, which did not corroborate her story. When confronted with that information, Chinyan admitted she lied.
Through her attorney Natasha Mongroo, Chinyan asked Senior Magistrate Siumongal Ramsaran for leniency. Mongroo said Chinyan who is married with one child has a gambling problem and spent the $30,000.
“She could not account for it and in her mind, that was the only way,” said the attorney. Mongroo said the $30,000 was all the money in her husband’s bank account.
“She is apologetic. She understands what she did was wrong. She genuinely has a problem,” said the attorney. She said Chinyan gambled before but never this amount of money. Chinyan’s family did not know she had a problem.
She said Chinyan does food catering but she has been out of work since the economy slowed down. Asking for Chinyan to be placed on a bond, Mongroo said she was also willing to submit to any form of counselling. “She wants to reform herself and rekindle her family situation,” said Mongroo.
Acknowledging that gambling is an addiction, the magistrate said the correct approach is to treat the addiction as a disease.
“Let her get in contact with gamblers anonymous and let her come back and tell me she has enrolled herself in the programme. Then I will decide what her sentencing is going to be,” said the magistrate, as he adjourned the matter to June 11.
When road conditions get deplorable, it is common for people to stage fiery protests to get the relevant authorities to fix it.
But villagers of Sewlal Trace, Fyzabad got together and paved their road for themselves, rather than protest.
The community comprising of 30 households raised $5,500 which they used to buy 12 truckloads of oil sand and crush stone aggregate.
Paving started at the crack of dawn on Wednesday and continued up to late yesterday.
Using rakes, spades, forks, and buckets to dig and spread the oil sand, the villagers worked together earning the support of two Fyzabad contractors, Brian Ramlogan, of Trice Enterprise Limited, and Sheldon Ragbir, of SR Transport.
Ragbir said he first opted to donate his equipment for one day but when the project was not completed on Wednesday he brought in another set of materials and equipment on Thursday to complete the job.
The road, which is about a mile long, falls under the jurisdiction of Petrotrin but despite numerous appeals, it remained unpaved.
Resident Kierron Yip Ngow said, “We decided that it was not worth waiting for Petrotrin to pave it. They promised to do so since 2013. The last time this road was paved was in 2005 when it was done as a self-help project. Back then a resident, Tiffany Mungroo, pleaded with everyone to pave the road and to give us pipe-borne water. We got together as a community and did it with Self Help Commission,” Yip Ngow said.
He added that the road was not maintained by the Siparia Regional Corporation and even though Petrotrin agreed to survey and repave the road, years passed and their cries fell on deaf ears.
He said Ragbir offered to give them materials at a discount. Ramlogan offered a yard of crush and 12 yards of oil sand. That was what we started with and we spent the day spreading the oil sand. It was not enough and those contractors came back with materials and used their backhoes and steamroller to help us,” Yip Ngow said.
Another resident, Deo Mangaroo, said he was proud of the residents’ efforts.
“It is not everywhere you would find this kind of co-operation,” he said.
Mukesh Jaikaran added, “It felt very good. I took a day off today. We deal with the MP well and he spoke with us and explained that we weren’t getting any funds. He was the one who motivated us. We are hoping that we will get an asphalt road one day,” he said.
MP Lackram Bodoe said the residents first approached him last October and he told them that funds were short at the Corporation. Bodoe said he told the residents that if they pooled money together he will match whatever they raised and get assistance for them to pave their own road.
Ideally, the cost of paving the one-mile strip could have been over $10,000 but residents got much more.
With co-operation and charity, they achieved friendships, community camaraderie, and personal satisfaction, Bodoe said.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi will seek High Court’s interpretation of the issue concerning the on the job trainee teacher who was recently asked by Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College administration to remove her hijab before starting her assignment.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia confirmed the move at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing. He said reports from the principal of the school and Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) have been sought on the matter. These will be turned over to the AG who will seek a court ruling on it.
The trainee Nafisah Nakhid was told to remove her hijab before starting her assignment on Tuesday. The SDMS reportedly said it will no longer accept trainees from the Ministry as they “dress how they want and make trouble”.
The Galleons Passage may now be arriving in T&T by end the of June—or thereabouts—since it has to spend four weeks in Cuba undergoing retro-fitting before coming to T&T.
At yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan confirmed the vessel which has crossed the Panama Canal and is now en route to Cuba.
“We’re happy it would have made a journey across the world and all indication is that the vessel is working as we expected. We’re at the stage now where once the retrofitting in Cuba is completed, it will leave Cuba and be on its final journey to T&T,” Sinanan said.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the vessel was delayed in the Panama Canal since it had to queue up. As a passenger vessel it was given a lower priority than other mercantile vessels to pass through the Canal, he added. Imbert estimated it would reach Cuba in a couple days.
Sinanan said it was anticipated that the retro-fitting, which includes the installation of a canopy and toilets on the sundeck, will take just about four weeks.
If the four-week projection for the retrofitting in Cuba is on schedule, the vessel could arrive here in June, or early July.
When the vessel was first acquired and had left China for T&T - in February- Government initially estimated it would arrive here by the end of April. With other delays and stops along the way, it was pushed forward to this month.
No settlement yet for Kay Donna land
Works Minister Rohan Sinanan also said he has not benefitted “anything” from Government’s expected acquisition of Kay Donna cinema for the Curepe Interchange.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert assured that “if Sinanan got anything at all,” it would be based on valuation from the Commissioner of Valuations. Sinanan was asked how much he’s “benefitted” from the acquisition of the property at yesterday’s post-Cabinet briefing. “How much I have ‘lost’, you mean,” he responded.
“As you’re aware I did declare I do have an interest in the property there and that interest would have been declared up front to the Integrity Commission for the last 15 years,” he said.
A crime of passion is how residents of Coco Piece Road, Gasparillo, described the brutal murder of housewife Kavita Lisa Jokhan, who was bludgeoned about the head by a man who claimed to love her.
The suspect’s response was apparently triggered after Jokhan refused his advances.
“He used to say nobody else can get her. Only he can get her,” a neighbour told the T&T Guardian yesterday.
The suspect, a 58-year-old gardener from the area, was arrested at the scene after residents noticed blood splattered on his feet and alerted the police.
According to reports, Jokhan, 27, who lived with her common-law husband, had just returned home around 3.30 pm on Wednesday and was standing in her garage. It is believed the suspect met her there and repeatedly bashed an object against her head and left. An autopsy yesterday revealed death was due to blunt force cerebral trauma.
Police were not sure what was used to kill Jokhan and Southern Division Police were searching the area in the hope of finding a murder weapon. They suspect that a heavy piece of wood was used.
A neighbour said a worker who was loading produce onto a truck nearby noticed someone lying on the floor and alerted them.
“A boy was loading his truck when he said ‘look a man dead over there’. When my husband went across there to see what happened, he said it looked like Lisa killed herself,” the neighbour said.
She said Jokhan had personal problems, but on further checks, they all realised that the situation was grimmer than they first thought.
A diminutive Jokhan was found on the ground with her blood on the walls and the silver Toyota Altis parked in her garage.
Residents gathered at the scene were shocked at the horror that befell their neighbour and quiet community.
They said the suspect later emerged from the bushes behind a neighbour’s house and casually joined them until they noticed the blood on his feet.
Neighbours said the suspect was a drunkard who they stayed away from because he would walk in the roadway spitting profanities.
They said Jokhan, who was brought to the community six years ago by her husband, developed a friendship. They dispelled talk of a love triangle but said Jokhan and the suspect would drink together at his shack at the end of the road, in a track leading to agricultural lands. However, they fell out when the suspect touched Jokhan inappropriately and she and her husband reported him to the police.
Since then, neighbours said the suspect had been passing on the road and cursing her, but they would speak to each other when he was sober.
Southern Division police are continuing investigations.
Six years after being hit by a corkball while sitting in a classroom talking with classmates at the North Eastern College in Sangre Grande, Vidya Jaglal says she is still in excruciating pain and just wishes her life could return to normal and she can be a “normal” parent to her two teenage daughters.
Speaking to the T&T Guardian yesterday, Jaglal became emotional as she lamented she had “missed a lot” with her children.
“They could not hug me because of how painful it is. I am grateful my mother and sister are there to help them with homework and stuff, but as a parent I should be there at least to sit up with them,” an emotional Jaglal, who did not want any photographs for safety and stigma reasons, said, as she noted she can’t even help her children with their homework because of the pains he experiences from the condition caused by the blow.
Simple household chores and gardening are now difficult for Jaglal, who once did massage therapy to earn additional revenue to take care of her family after her husband died through illness in 2005.
The clerk/typist at the Sangre Grande office of the Ministry of Community Development said she was doing the social work course at the UWI Open Campus because her dream was to be a social worker when the life-changing incident happened.
“I wanted to educate myself, also to give back to the country and to do something meaningful for people and at the same time I wanted to look after my children and secure a better future for them, but that had to stop because I can’t handle the stress.”
Although she eventually completed the certificate programme, she cannot do the degree she had hoped to follow.
As a parent, she said it grieves her that the incident has cost her not just financially but valuable parent-child time.
“I was a multi-task person, I would work, look after my children, I have a house in Freeport I used to rent and which needs some work, but since the incident, it has been put on hold. A lot of stuff I used to do I can’t do any more,” she said.
Six years after the incident sleep is still difficult at times without medication and Jaglal said she still needs medical care.
Recalling the incident, Jaglal said she was sitting near the door of a classroom talking with other students when a cork ball flew through the ventilation block and hit her on the back of the head. After the incident, the class was moved to the open campus.
On Wednesday, Justice Ricky Rahim ordered compensation in the sum of $120,000 for Jaglal after ruling UWI Open Campus was negligent in failing to provide a safe environment for students at its part-time facility at the college.
Jaglal said after initial treatment for the injury she visited a neurosurgeon who diagnosed her with severe cervical disk and nerve trauma - equivalent to her getting whiplash from a car accident. Between 2012 and 2013, she was given two separate six-month periods of leave because of the excruciating pain and effect the medication had on her.
Admitting she used up all of her savings on medical bills and transportation, Jaglal said she had hoped UWI would have accepted some responsibility and offered compensation. However, the campus later told her it would not pay the medical claims because the time had passed for her to file them in relation to the incident.
On the advice of friends, she sought legal advice, but the first attorney called $40,000. She eventually sought help from Freedom Law Chambers, the firm of former AG Anand Ramlogan, which agreed to take the case pro bono.
While happy the court had ruled in her favour, Jaglal yesterday said, “I would have loved to go back to my normal life, but we know that is not going to happen.”
Guardian Media reached out to Dr Terrence Babwah, who specialises in sports medicine, about Jaglal’s case. He said while a lot of people may believe she is faking it six years later, a corkball weighs about five and a half ounces and when it hit her it would have forced her head forward, “setting off something like a whiplash kind of thing.”
Babwah said Jaglal “is a classic case of somebody with acute pain which was not properly treated and then she went on to develop chronic pain. He said there is a process called “central sensitisation where changes happen within the spinal chord and brain and that would have caused this chronic pain and they are in pain and its real pain.”
Amputee Virginia Reyes yesterday expressed pride over her grandson Leon’s act of honesty. She said she expected nothing less than him returning the wallet he found to its owner untouched, with all the money, cards and other important documents intact.“I grew up my seven children to not to take what is not theirs and I transferred that teaching to my grandchildren. I always told them if you sweeping and you see money, sweep around it and if you see something and it is not yours leave it alone, it is not yours,” an emotional Reyes, 59, said as she sat on her wheelchair at her Maloney home yesterday.Several years ago, Reyes herself was in a similar position after finding a wallet lying on the ground at the nearby Building 18. She took it up, searched through it, found a contact number and called it. The number was for the wallet owner’s mother, who lived in Tobago at the time.
“She was able to contact her son who met with me and I was able to give him back his wallet with everything in it. I remember how happy he was to get it back. That was my satisfaction.”In this latest situation, Leon, 14, went to a cafe at the Maloney Mall on Wednesday morning to purchase a snack. On his way back home he noticed the wallet on the ground between two vehicles. Virginia said Leon ran home and asked her what to do about it.
“I told him that it was okay to go back for it and once it’s there to pick it up and bring it for me. He got it and we went through it to see if we got any phone number but we got none, so that is when he and his uncle (a police officer) decided to take it to the police for further tracing on the name we saw on the identification cards.”
The wallet contained over $400 in cash, ID and credit cards.The Maloney police were later able to locate the wallet’s owner, identified only as Nigel from Morvant.
“My grandson was so happy that he got a $100 reward and he even wanted to bless me with it. Leon is such a blessed and honest child,” she said.Reyes said Leon lived with her from a little boy, as his mother lives in Moruga while his father lives in Arima. Leon is a Form One Five Rivers Secondary School pupil.
She said having her left leg amputated from below the knee last year and being in a wheelchair would not deter her from keeping her watchful eyes on all of her grandchildren. Reyes is currently awaiting a prosthetic limb she applied for through the Ministry of Social Development.
“I never wanted to depend on people. Before this I did geriatric nursing and certified myself to take care of children. That is how I took care of my seven children and now, grandchildren. I hope to get my prosthetic soon so I can move around again.”
A shy Leon meanwhile admitted he was afraid to even touch the wallet at first.
“I watched the wallet and passed it straight but I had to tell my aunt and grandma what I saw. I then told my uncle to take it to the police after. The owner was very happy and thanked me because he said he thought it was stolen for good.”
Leon said he wants to follow in his uncle Andre Modeste’s footsteps and become a police officer and promised to study hard to achieve this.
A planned “hit” backfired for the hitman when he was shot dead by his intended victim in Belmont yesterday.
The victim, also shot in the attack, died as well.The dead men were identified as Khareem Stanislaus and Kobe “Bottles” Brown.
Police said Stanislaus, who was wearing a bulletproof vest and ski mask, was the “hitman.”
According to a police report, Brown was at his home at Walcott Lane, off Belle Eau Road, when he was confronted by Stanislaus, who opened fire on him. Police said Brown managed to draw his gun and fired back at Stanisclaus, hitting him several times in the bulletproof vest and once in the head.
Police said Brown was a “priority suspect” in several cases and was held during the 2011 state of emergency for alleged gang affiliation.
In an unrelated incident at about 9 am yesterday, the body of an unidentified man wrapped in a garbage bag was found over a precipice off Morne Coco Road, near Le Platte Village, Maraval.
Police said the body was in an advanced state of decomposition.Investigations are continuing in both incidents.
T&T Police Service public affairs officer, ASP Michael Jackman, says domestic violence is a social ill impacting T&T in a profound way and it is time for all to act.
“Domestic violence is not only physical abuse but it covers sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse and anyone in society who is aware of any of these situations should make it their business and report it to the police,” Jackman said on CNC3’s Morning Brew yesterday.
He said last year there were over 1,100 cases of domestic violence reported, of which 43 victims were killed. So far this year, there have been over 100 reports made to the police. But Jackman said the police still had a lot of challenges getting full cooperation from victims.
“They are many instances where victims would refuse to work with the police officers and cooperate and would just want the officers to warn the offender. But it is a dangerous practice,” he said.
“I advise that all parties to go to the court and apply for protection orders. Other family members can also apply on behalf of victims. Also, adults can apply for children.”
Anyone seeking further assistance in relation to domestic violence cases is asked to contact the TTPS’ Victim and Witness Support Unit at 624-8853. —Rhondor Dowlat
Facing death after a gunman pumped a bullet into his head, Zainool Mohammed ran frantically to his niece’s home crying out for help.
Within the seconds it took for his niece, Sherene Mohammed, to reach her front door, however, Mohammed died and his killer had escaped.
Police said Mohammed was at his home on Coquette Street, Ste Madeleine, around 10.35 pm Wednesday when he was shot.
Sherene said yesterday that she heard a single gunshot, followed by Mohammed calling her name.
As she walked outside, she said she was frozen with fear as she saw her uncle lying still in front their gate. She said he had a gunshot wound under his chin that looked like someone pressed a gun there and shot him. Relatives believe someone he knew well and shared a cordial relationship may have been the killer because of how close the person got before shooting him. Ste Madeleine police and an ambulance responded, but Mohammed was dead before they got to the scene.
The murder came as a shock to relatives, who said he never got into arguments or fights with anyone and never complained of any threats. They said since Caroni (1975) Ltd was shut down, he had been cleaning yards and doing small jobs around the neighbourhood to make a living. Most of his days were spent liming with a friend in the area.
But police said while they had no clear-cut motive for the killing, his addiction to cocaine and crimes as a petty thief may have led to his demise. At her Petit Morne home yesterday, Mohammed’s mother, Shiroon Mohammed, said he was a good son but would give “a little trouble” whenever he smoked his cocaine.
↔— KEVON FELMINE
Former government minister Jack Warner has 120 days to raise to $3.7 million or sell three of apartments at his Emerald Plaza Hotel at St Augustine to settle an outstanding judgment debt.
Warner agreed to those terms after Docs Engineering Works Ltd filed a judgment summons for the court to order Warner to sell Emerald Plaza and use the money to settle the debt.
In 2011, Le Sportel Ltd, a company owned by Warner, was ordered to pay Docs Engineering $7.5 million for breach of contract.
Docs Engineering was contracted by Le Sportel to construct the Emerald Plaza, but in January 2001, Le Sportel terminated the contract.
Warner appealed the judgment. The $3.7 million represents costs owed to Docs Engineering.
Yesterday, the parties entered into a consent order before Justice Frank Seepersad in the San Fernando Civil Court. Warner agreed to sell the apartments at a cost of $5 million if he fails to raise the money in 120 days.
This comes less than two weeks after Warner was ordered to pay $1.5 million to businessman Krishna Lalla in another civil matter in the High Court.
Lalla, the founder of Super Industrial Services, said the money was a loan, but Warner claimed the money was to finance the UNC party election campaign.
A Vistabella man who in a fit of rage killed a homeless man after the man threatened his wife and child with a bottle should be spared a prison sentence.
This is the position of both the defence and State attorneys in the matter of Christopher Henry who pleaded guilty to the offence of manslaughter. The incident took place almost 17 years ago.
However, Henry’s faith rests solely in the hands of Justice Hayden St Clair-Douglas who will give his decision on June 12, in the San Fernando Second Criminal Court.
In his mitigation plea yesterday, attorney Subhas Panday submitted that Henry, then a street vendor on Coffee Street, San Fernando, had minutes before given the homeless man, identified as David Duncan, a cigarette and some money.
Panday said Henry “flew in a fit of rage” when minutes later his wife told him that Duncan had threatened her and their two-year-old daughter with a bottle on July 19, 2001.
Panday said there was no premeditation as Henry picked up the piece of wood while walking down the street. Henry caught up with Duncan on the corner of Lord Street near Republic Bank carpark.
He struck Duncan to his arm, shoulder and legs but Panday said it was never his client’s intention to kill the man. Duncan died from the injuries caused by the nails which were protruding from the piece of wood.
Panday asked the court to consider that Duncan had a mental illness, a history of violence and a criminal record.
“He would attack and harass everybody all the time,” said Panday, who added, “any man will make every effort to protect his wife and two-year-old child.”
Panday said Henry, 45, now a plumber, was a good man, father and husband. The judge interjected, “Sometimes evil come looking for you when you are minding your own business.”
The defence attorney submitted nine testimonials, including one from a police officer and a spiritual baptist church attesting to his client’s good character.
Agreeing with the defence, State attorney Trevor Jones said, “It is one of those rare cases where a non-custodial sentence is justifiable. And this is not because the deceased was a vagrant.”
Jones said the State’s investigation confirmed that the homeless man had threatened members of the public and was mentally ill. Jones said Henry has no other criminal matters, except for a marijuana conviction.
The judge, however, rejected a request by Panday to allow Henry to remain on bail pending the sentencing hearing. Henry was remanded into custody last Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to the offence.
Danny Thomas spent his boyhood days filling water on wooden box carts and performing stunts in them with his friends but without the proper guidance, he was soon lured into a life of crime which eventually led to his imprisonment.
Now 12 years after leaving prison, Thomas, now 44, has returned to his childhood past time but instead of riding the box carts, he is now designing, building and selling them to young people.
Using used wheel bearings and discarded pieces of wood, Thomas fashions the box carts in a matter of minutes. He uses paint donated to him to create abstract designs and sells the carts for $200 to $300 depending on the size.
Thomas stacks the carts at the corner of Priam Street, Diamond Village, where many people gather to socialise on afternoons.
Having faced a difficult life in prison for possession of drugs, possession of arms and ammunition, kidnapping and larceny, Thomas said he now uses his time to help others understand the dangers of crime.
“My motivation is to bring the youths back to the old time days. Nowadays, its Facebook and tablet. People don’t want to enjoy the outdoors. They want to stay inside and play games. I met a woman from Penal who told me that my box carts brought back the old time memories to her. She grew up pulling cane and filling water. She bought two box carts from me and she gave it to her pupils. She motivated me to sell more carts,” Thomas said.
He complained that Diamond Village had been overcome with drugs and he thinks his option to offer young people a childhood adventure may set children on the right path.
“I did not have a good father and I went astray but I brought back my life in order. I grew up selling drugs, robbing people. I do all kinds of things in my life. That is not a life to live because when you selling the drugs and end up in jail, other people outside living up a nice life and you stuck in there,” Thomas said.
He said he now earns $700 a week selling box carts. So inspired are his neighbours by his transformation that they offer the materials for him to work free of charge.
Thomas said gets the wheel bearings from a nearby garage. For most of the day, he could be seen hammering the carts into shape.
“I not charging them plenty. It have certain people begging me to do this. I getting paint and certain things to bring back these things. It is rewarding work,” Thomas said.
He added that his girlfriend has been his motivation as well. Anyone interested in Thomas’ box carts can call contact him at 353-4299.
There has been a drastic reduction in the number of cases involving children charged with serious criminal offences, according to the Child Protection Unit of the T&T Police Service.
According to the most recent statistics, for the period January 1 to May 19, there have been 53 child offenders, as compared to 96 for the same period last year.
This signals, according to CPU’s Sgt Michelle Lewis, a 45 per cent reduction.
Lewis was speaking at the TTPS’ weekly media briefing which was held yesterday at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain.
The TTPS’ goal is to implement a Booking Centre in each of the nine police divisions. In March, Booking Centres at the Maracas/St Joseph Police Station and Oropouche and Brasso Police Stations became operational.
These centres service the Port-of-Spain Juvenile Court Project/Children’s Court for matters along the East-West corridor and the Fyzabad Juvenile Court Project/Children’s Court for matters along in Central, South and South Western areas respectively.
Booking Centres will soon be established at the Maraval, Belmont, Gasparillo and Moruga Police Stations.
Lewis, in her statement, disclosed that in 53 per cent of matters the children were at the Maracas/St Joseph Booking Centre for various offences. She added that Oropouche accounted for 32 per cent of the offenders and 11 per cent at Brasso.
“The prevalent offences being robbery, possession of firearm and ammunition,” Lewis said.
There has also been a “slight decrease” of three per cent in crimes committed against children when compared to the corresponding period in 2017. The figure moved from 259 to 252.
Ste Madeleine residents gathered anxiously at the Usine Pond to see if the horrible story of a baby being dumped in the water was true yesterday, but after two hours of searching Coast Guard divers found nothing.
Southern Division police said the search was called off after the pond and its bank yielded no signs of a body. However, Ste Madeleine officers are expected to keep an eye out in the coming days for any signs of a body.
From early yesterday, labourers were cutting the grass at the banks of the pond to assist in the search while officers scoured the bank. They told the T&T Guardian they were not sure whether a baby was thrown into the pond, but had no choice but to check it out. By midday, the Coast Guard divers joined the search, reaching greater depths than on Tuesday night
Initial reports on Tuesday night stated a woman was seen walking into the dirt road alongside the pond with a baby in her arms. Minutes later, she returned to the Manahambre Road without the baby and left in a gold Nissan Almera.
However, councillor for Corinth/Cedar Hill, Shawn Premchand, said he contacted the police after hearing a baby’s cry. Premchand and members of the Corinth/Cedar Hill Coordinating Committee were planting jhandis along the wall of the pond in preparation for their Indian Arrival Day celebrations next Wednesday. He said they heard a woman scream and shortly after, saw an Afro-Trinidadian woman in a black dress walk to the roadside and leave in a car heading toward San Fernando. He said around 7.30 pm, after the woman left, they heard a child crying and went in search. However, when no child was found they contacted the police, who responded along with divers from the Fire Service.
He lamented that the picturesque pond that one supplied the now-defunct Ste Madeleine Sugar Factory was now a disposal site for murder victims. Last April, the decomposing corpse of David Conlisse, of Sangre Grande, was found wrapped in linoleum. In January, PH taxi driver Richard Beharry, 24, was shot and killed and his body left in the backseat of a white Nissan AD Wagon that was partially submerged in the pond.
Last December, Canadian citizen Vishnu Narine was shot dead and dumped at the side of the pond.
Industrial Court president Debra Thomas-Felix yesterday urged Government to establish legislation to define sexual harassment and introduce policies in the workplace to deal with inappropriate behaviour.
Such a move, she said would offer support to victims of sexual harassment.
Thomas-Felix put forward the suggestion while addressing a Sexual Harassment in the World of Work symposium hosted by the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s.
Stating that sexual harassment in the workplace has been a relevant and critical topic, Thomas-Felix acknowledged that subtle sexual innuendoes had become part of our natural conversation.
Even our songs, she said, have been riddled with sexual innuendos, as she drew reference to the punchline of three calypsoes—Woman doh like soft man; I want to wine on something; and A deputy is essential to keep your living vital,” to emphasise her point.
When behaviour is driven by culture, Thomas-Felix said it is difficult for some to discern boundaries and have a calm discourse on the issue.
However, she stated that T&T continues to remain a conservative society when addressing any issue that pivots on sex and gender.
While our ability to respond to sexual harassment in the workplace was stymied by the lack of coherent workplace policy guidelines, Thomas-Felix recommended that such guidelines be crafted with input from all partners at work and supported by a range of administrative mechanisms and relevant legislative instruments.
“One of the challenges, inherent of treating with sexual harassment in the workplace has been to adequately define it. To date, there exists no single universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes inappropriate and prohibited behaviour.”
She said Barbados had recently enacted the Employment Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017 which defined inappropriate conduct in the workplace and provided that each employer has a clear written policy statement against sexual harassment.
“As you are aware there is no legislation in T&T which addresses the issue…and therefore there is no legal definition to guide employers and the workforce in this country on what conduct is acceptable.”
Notwithstanding, Thomas-Felix said sexual harassment causes harm to the victim and may constitute a health and safety problem.
“This is a highly-complex issue that has proven elusive for policy makers to come to grips with because it occupies the thorny intersection between sex, gender and power.”
As managers, employers and legislators, she said, we are not sure what inappropriate conduct is, its indicators, and what guidelines should be developed to deter sexual harassment.
“In my view, central to tackling the issue is accepting that sexual harassment in the workplace is inextricably linked to the balance of power, where that power resides and the abuse of that power,” she said.
Thomas-Felix said while the victim feels powerless, isolated and afraid to speak out when faced with the risk of losing her/his job, the impact extends beyond the workplace.
A 46-year-old aspiring social worker from Sangre Grande, who was seriously injured after being struck by a cricket ball during a class at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Open Campus, has received over $120,000 in compensation.
High Court Judge Ricky Rahim ordered the compensation for Vidya Jaglal on Tuesday, after ruling that the distance education institution was negligent in failing to provide a safe environment for students at its part-time facility at North Eastern College in Sangre Grande.
The case centered around an incident at the school compound on March 5, 2012. Jaglal, a typist clerk with the Ministry of Community Development, was attending a class for a certificate in social work when a ball travelled through the ventilation blocks of the classroom and struct her on her head.
Since then she has had to receive continuous treatment for chronic debilitating neck pain and has been left with a 20 per cent permanent partial disability.
UWI and the school challenged the lawsuit, alleging that Jaglal fabricated the story because her claim allegedly defied physics and logic based on the layout of the school compound.
However, Rahim conducted a comprehensive site visit during the trial of the case, where the cricket pitch and classroom were closely examined.
Stating that the evidence in the case was “clear as daylight” on Tuesday, Rahim ruled that Jaglal had successfully proven her claim.
Although he ruled that while there was no evidence of such an incident occurring before, he said it was a reasonably foreseeable consequence due to the close proximity of both areas.
He said: “Firstly, cricket was being played merely within 100 feet of the classroom with a clear line of sight to the large ventilation blocks...The defendants have given no evidence whatsoever as to the steps or measures they may have to put in place to secure the area in which cricket was being played so that the classroom essentially formed part of the open field as it were.”
He also dismissed claims by both the institution and school that neither had a duty of care towards Jaglal.
“The first defendant (UWI) has a duty to provide a safe environment for its students and the second defendant (school), in providing the classroom for use of the first defendant, likewise had a duty of care to provide a safe environment for the students,” Rahim said.
In his 45-page judgement, Rahim ruled that Jaglal was entitled to $60,000 in general damages for the pain and suffering she endured and a total of $72,293.60 in special damages.
The special damages represent the $26,653 in medical expenses, her loss of earnings (unpaid sick leave) as a result of continued pain ($39,340) and the money she expended in travelling to and from regular hospital visits since the incident ($6,300).
“Since the incident she has been unable to carry out basic household chores such as cooking, cleaning her home and playing with her children. It is now difficult for her to push the trolley in the grocery, as she experiences a lot of pain in her neck and head,” he said.
He also noted that since the incident she is required to wear a neck brace and to take muscle relaxants regularly.
Jaglal was represented by Douglas Bayley and Kavita Sarran. David Alexander and Dave de Peiza represented UWI, while Antionette Alleyne and Nisa Simmons represented the Office of the Attorney General, which appeared on the school’s behalf.
Despite heavy criticism from several quarters, Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary general Sat Maharaj is standing his ground on its decision to deny On-the-Job Trainee Nafisah Nakhid entry to the Lakshmi Girls’ High School with her hijab on Monday. He said yesterday that they have a right to enjoyment of property under the Constitution and as a result also a right to determine how people dress when they go onto the compound.
But not so says attorney Fareed Scoon, who is advising Nakhid.
“A school is not a sacred space, but national space and you cannot impose your system or values on somebody who is utilising together with you what non-sacred space is,” Scoon said in response to Maharaj’s suggestion.
Both men have been speaking out on the issue involving Nakhid, who was given a choice when he turned up at the school on Monday morning dressed in a hijab. She was told at a meeting with the school’s principal, vice principal and dean, whom she said is also a Muslim, that she could stay but would need to remove the hijab, or she could leave. She chose the latter option, saying it was possibly the “worst experience” in her 23 years.
The action comes 23 years after Justice Margot Warner delivered a historic judgment 1995 ruling in favour of Summayah Mohammed, a Muslim schoolgirl who was banned from attending Holy Name Convent in Port-of-Spain wearing a hijab. Warner ruled then that Mohammed was entitled to attend a Catholic school wearing the hijab and she was eventually allowed to attend classes. That decision, which was not appealed, allowed Muslim girls to attend private and public schools without discrimination.
In his defence yesterday, Maharaj said, “The girl is not attached to the teaching staff, she came to learn to teach, but she wants to teach us how to dress, we said we have a dress code.”
Nakhid, who graduated with Honours from the University of the West Indies in the field of Mechanical Engineering, was sent to the school to work alongside a teacher.
There is nothing in the Concordat entered into with denominational schools in 1960 which speaks to a dress code. But Maharaj said it was the teachers of the school, which includes Muslims, Presbyterians and Afro-Trinidadians, “who put together the dress code and we approved it.”
The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago sets out fundamentals rights and freedoms of citizens, with sections 4 and 5 speaking to rights which exist without discrimination by reason of race, origin, colour, religion or sex. It also speaks to the right of an individual to among other things enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived of these except by the due process of law.
But Scoon said although Lakshmi Girls share a compound with the SDMS, “it is a public institution. It is funded with public funds, its teachers are paid by the public and it cannot legally or morally debar someone wearing a hijab.” He advised Maharaj to review the policies of the school, saying “they are inconsistent with the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago and from what I understand with true Hinduism.”
Maharaj reiterated that Lakshmi Girls was “doing a favour by saying come and we will teach you how to teach”.
But Scoon countered, “I don’t think it is a one-sided bargain. The school benefits from her experience, she is a graduate who went to give a service, not to be trained, but she is delivering deliverables that the school requires.”
Nakhid said the school requested someone with a science background and the OJT officer with whom she had the interview “called the principal and said I have a background in mechanical engineering and the principal said send her.” She said although the principal was told her name she never asked any questions about whether she wore a hijab. She said the principal admitted in their conversation on Monday that although she was given her name, she could not tell what religion Nakhid was from her name.
Nakhid said she was “traumatised” by the incident.
“I was so shocked. How can you ask a practising Muslim to remove a hijab for a job? Would you ask a nun to remove a habit for a job?” she asked.
Scoon said the Maha Sabha should do the proper thing and “apologise.
“If they do not apologise they probably will be visited with some kind of sanction by the Equal Opportunities Commission, which is the authority to deal with this on the basis of race discrimination religion or otherwise,” Scoon said.
But Nakhid said an apology is not enough.
“I would accept an apology but I am not sure if that is the end. An apology is just an apology, will that change this happening again? I want to see change and I am not sure if an apology will cause change.”
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar is urging the board of Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College to reconsider their decision to deny OJT Nafisah Nakhid the opportunity to train there and she is also calling on the Education Minister and Attorney General to move swiftly to have this matter resolved.
Persad-Bissessar said yesterday that the matter is “not a political one” but rather was one of “natural justice, equality and fairness”.
Responding to public concerns about the decision by the Maha Sahba to prevent Nakhid from taking up a job because she was wearing a hijab, Persad-Bissessar said while she agrees that a dress code is appropriate at schools, “the reality is a hijab cannot be classed in the same category as hats, capes, sleeveless dress or see-through mini-skirts”. (See letters on Pages A20 & A21)
A hijab, she said, is “sacred wear for Muslim women and they should be free to wear such without let or hinder.”
She said the “hurt that Ms Nakhid and her family must feel is understandable. Equally hurtful would be if a Hindu person were to be barred from wearing a Raksha or a Christian person barred from wearing a cross.”
Persad-Bissessar said what is “highly commendable” is that Nakhid had chosen to follow a God-fearing and diligent path in life, which she shows by her commitment to wearing her hijab.
This, she said, “is especially important, as today in our country we see widespread crimes being committed by people who seem to have no care for the rule of law or love of God and fellow men.”
She said as a woman leader, it was her “responsibility to seek especially the interest of women and girls and to do my duty without fear or favour and with love regardless of ethnicity, religion or social status.”
The Organisation Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago also stood by Nakhid for showing religious maturity and that Muslims can integrate successfully in any school or society.
PRO Imtiaz Mohammed issued a statement saying, “The wearing of the hijab is compulsory for all female Muslims once they attain puberty as stated in the Quran.”
He said it was “unfortunate that this specific school board chose to exercise religious intolerance resulting in religious discrimination, clearly violating our Constitution.”
He said they strongly condemned the action of the school board and statements by Maha Sabha secretary general Sat Maharaj that Islamic schools deny Hindu children their religious right to wear the ticker on their foreheads or the Raksha on their wrist. Those statements, he said, are “misleading.”
Mohammed said while Maharaj said his school has a dress code for persons and parents entering the school compound, “the hijab is only an additional garment that would complement his dress code, resulting in the same modesty and respect that his schools are striving to achieve.”
The Centre for Indic Studies, headed by Dr Arvind Singh and Aneela Bhagwat, also said in a Facebook release that the refusal of the Maha Sabha to allow Nakhid entry to the assigned school due to her headdress is “disappointing and indeed shameful” for any organisation which calls itself Hindu “and more so for one that purports to be the voice of Hindu Trinidad and Tobago”. It said, “one cannot be a bigot and still have the audacity to call oneself a Hindu”.
The spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, meanwhile said it was sad that in Indian Heritage Month, where we reflect on “our Hindu, Muslim and Christian indentured ancestors, that a Hindu leader would seek to discriminate against a Muslim”.
He said the Maha Sabha does not represent all Hindus and the leadership of the Maha Sabha is “not only a throwback to a bygone era but a source of never-ending shame and embarrassment for a large cross-section of the Hindu community.”
Maharaj said to carry out “this act of denial to a young Muslim girl wishing only to learn how to teach is simply not acceptable in modern Trinidad and Tobago,” adding “this has the makings of a religious war, further dividing our already fragile society.”
Kunti Deopersad’s husband Tilkee Gopaul has fallen into depression and relatives now fear for his safety after a recent incident.
In fact, distraught relatives are now calling on the National Family Services Division to provide counselling for Deopersad, Gopaul and their seven children, two of whom are still in school.
During an exclusive interview yesterday, Gopaul said he will always have a place in his life for his wife although she walked out on their marriage after faking her own kidnapping two months ago.
Speaking at his Oropouche South Trace, Barrackpore home yesterday, Gopaul, 60, said he has been unable to work or sleep since Mother’s Day, after he and Deopersad had a physical altercation. Gopaul said he could not fathom the treatment he got from Deopersad, whom he lived with for 23 years and in frustration he lashed out. Remorse later set in and he attempted something he now regrets.
“I was not thinking straight. I had a piece of poui and I give her a lash. Why is she treating me so? I never do nobody nothing. We used to live good. I struggle and build my house, I worked hard to provide for my family and last year I retired from the corporation. I used to still go out and work, cutting people grass and planting garden. She never want for anything, why she do this to me?” Gopaul said with sad eyes.
He said the shame of her betrayal had trapped him inside his own head and his own home. Saying he did not know where he went wrong, Gopaul said now that he was in the latter stages of his life he wanted to have peace.
“I can’t leave here to go anywhere, not even to walk down the road. My daughter had to leave her job in Princes Town because people were talking about Kunti. The children missing her. If I have to go anywhere, someone will drop me. It is not nice what we going through,” Gopaul said.
Recalling his latest ordeal, Gopaul said his son-in-law and one of his daughters prevented him from doing himself severe harm.
Gopaul said he last saw Deopersad in Princes Town on Tuesday.
“I didn’t see her but she called me out. I asked her when she coming back home and she said she will come back after she cools her head,” Gopaul said.
He added that his two younger daughters were facing ridicule in school and he was worried.
“One of them wrote exams yesterday and I could see the sadness on their faces. It not easy watching them grieve. I am glad I did not die because of them. I am sorry for what I did and I won’t do it again,” Gopaul said.
However, his 18-year-old daughter Radha said she was worried about Gopaul. She said she wanted both her parents to get counselling from the National Family Services Division. She too said she was confused by her mother’s behaviour, adding that her father was a good man who always provided for them.
But the man with whom Deopersad is now living with said yesterday that there were many issues which the public did not know, but said it was not his place to tell her story. He said Deopersad has been receiving counselling.
Several attempts were made to contact National Family Services at their hotline, but both numbers were not in service.
Attempts to reach Minister of Social Development Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn were also unsuccessful as she did not answer her cellular phone.