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The fall-out from the 2011 State of Emergency continued yesterday with a Vistabella man who was charged with being a gang member being awarded more than $250,000. Justice Nadia Kangaloo in awarding the compensation to Ken Gresham said a message had to be sent to police officers that in arresting people they must be vigilant and not merely engage in a rubber-stamping process.
The judge found that the evidence of charging officer PC Guerero was sorely lacking as to the specific information which led to him charging Gresham under the Anti-Gang legislation.
Gresham was represented by attorneys Kevin Ratiram and Shaun Teekasingh in the malicious prosecution case.
He said around 7.30 am on August 23, 2011, police came to his home, claiming they had a search warrant but none was produced to him. He said the officers did not identify themselves to him. The officers searched his home and nothing illegal was found.
He was arrested and taken to the Marabella Police Station where he was put in a cell. Three days later, he said, Guerero came to the cell and told him he was charging him for being a gang member. He was charged and taken to the San Fernando Magistrates Court where he pleaded not guilty.
He was denied bail and remanded to prison at Golden Grove, Arouca. Gresham said he was placed in a ten by ten cell with seven other men and had to use a bucket as a toilet.
He claimed he was forced to sleep on the ground since there were no sleeping accommodations.
And on September 29, 2011, at the magistrates court, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard offered no evidence and the case was dismissed.
However, Gresham said after he was released people would tell him, ‘You get charge for being a gangster boy,’ which caused him extreme embarrassment.
Gresham, a welding fabricator, denied Guerero claims that he was engaged in a criminal network, in the sale of narcotics and firearms or was part of a gang operating out of the Marabella and Vistabella area.
Guerero, who at the time was attached to a High-Performance Team, said he charged Gresham based on information and instructions received from his senior officer.
The State was also ordered to pay interests and costs.
Attorney Coreen Findley and Kelisha Bello represented the State.
Gary Griffith’s strong stance against wrongdoing and dealing with the controversial Life Sport programme were just two of the reasons why Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley fully endorsed him yesterday as this country’s new Commissioner of Police (CoP).
Rowley made the disclosure while debating a motion to approve the notification of the nomination of Griffith as CoP in Parliament.
In wrapping up the debate, Rowley instructed the Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis to lift the whip on all PNM MPs, allowing them to vote for or against Griffith.
When the votes were taken, the PNM MPs all voted in favour of Griffith while the Opposition’s 13 MPs abstained.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was absent from the House, which Rowley said did not see as “an important one.”
However, Barataria/San Juan MP Dr Fuad Khan seemed reluctant when called upon to vote. He was asked by the Parliament’s clerk the question three times before he gave an answer.
Questioned by reporters why he seemed so uncomfortable with his vote, Khan replied: “Go figure it out.” Khan had openly stated last week that the next CoP did not have to be a police officer.
Rowley also responded to Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal who stated that if Griffith was selected by the House and appointed by the Police Service Commission he was likely to be a witness against former attorney general Anand Ramlogan who had been charged with witness tampering.
In 2015, Griffith was removed as national security minister by Persad-Bissessar over allegations that Ramlogan had sought to pervert the course of justice by asking the Director of the Police Complaints Authority to withdraw a statement he had made in support of the then Opposition Leader Rowley in a lawsuit.
Rowley said Griffith’s testimony in this matter was already on record.
“The matter which generated that…it was the attorney general of the UNC who sued the Opposition Leader seeking to restrain his public speech…and Madame Speaker, when the Leader of Opposition sought to defend his right to speak and defend the public interest, the then attorney general discovered that there was witness testimony that would have made his lawsuit a difficult one to prosecute,” Rowley said.
“Subsequent to that, he has since discontinued the case against the Opposition Leader because I am no longer to be restrained by him,” Rowley said.
Rowley said when the Emailgate issue surfaced in 2013, Griffith was the only one “to have turned in his device and asked that open access be given to his email account.”
Back then, Rowley had read a thread of 31 email messages in Parliament purporting to be a conversation between four people, whose email accounts were similar to those of Persad-Bissessar, Ramlogan, Griffith and Suruj Rambachan.
Following a probe into the matter, the police last year revealed that nothing of substance was found to file any criminal charges.
Rowley said while Moonilal had the temerity to ask him what made him change his mind to support Griffith, the PM said: “Let me give you a good reason.”
Rowley said under the last government, they opened a programme called Life Sport.
“It was supposed to be either $6 or $8 million worth. It eventually turned out to be a $400 million criminal empire that was being funded by the State. It led to murder and mayhem. It led to a level of criminality in the East-West corridor never seen before in the history of T&T.”
At that time, Rowley said Griffith was a member of the then People’s Partnership Cabinet.
“And he was in the forefront of alerting the public and standing on what he believed in against a Cabinet that was prepared to defend Anil Roberts and Life Sport in T&T.”
Rowley said the stance Griffith took was the reason why he supported him, stating that he was made of a different mettle.
“That is a good reason for me to change my mind because he stood up for the people of T&T against a Cabinet that was prepared to bury and hide Life Sport. And most importantly, a man who stood up to his colleagues who would ask him to do wrong and do right by the people of T&T.”
He said our country had not yet overcome the effects of Life Sport.
“Up to this day. Worst Madame Speaker…from the Opposition, I observed him (Griffith) becoming a pariah in the Government because he was prepared to speak truth to power.”
He said Persad-Bissessar fired Griffith in 2015 for speaking the truth in the same matter involving the former AG.
“He was prepared to be fired in a job that they love but he spoke the truth to the country and if there is a legal matter going on today his testimony is there and he will be crossed-examined in the court.”
The PM said all those who feel the Government had broken the law with Griffith’s nomination “the road to the courthouse is clear. The doors of the court are opened.”
Rowley said many people believed that anyone who served in the political arena should not be considered a CoP.
“We don’t share that view.”
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon congratulated Griffith. “We have a lot of work to do,” was Dillon’s curt response when asked about Griffith’s being approved as CoP.
Secretary of the Police Social and Welfare Association Inspector Anand Ramesar extended congratulations on behalf of the Association to Gary Griffith on his appointment as the next Commissioner of Police.
He said Griffith needs to understand that the job of Commissioner “is not a job that he can or is expected to do alone.”
Ramesar said he had been designated to speak to the media on the matter by President of the Association Michael Seales.
He explained that the comment which Seales made that policing and politics don’t mix and which was criticised by the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during the debate, “is a sentiment of the membership. I hope it was not taken out of context.”
He said, “impartiality is a keystone characteristic of all police officers and it’s a principle that must be protected at all times.”
Ramesar admitted that the process for the selection of a Commissioner had “generated a lot of mixed feelings among the membership, in terms of whom they wanted to be their Commissioner,” but he said the “fact of the matter is that the choice has been made by the Government and we as police officers are at the point where we must demonstrate that professional maturity and embrace our role as police officers and support the new leadership.”
He urged the Police Service Commission “not to waste any time, in identifying persons of choice for the Deputy Commissioner of Police positions.” Ramesar said those positions in administration and crime are critical.
Having interacted with Griffith in his previous incarnation as a National Security Minister, Ramesar said “I do have an appreciation of him as someone who is willing to try new things, so there is an expectation that he would bring a new perspective in the TTPS in the way we do things. But he must be mindful that it is not a task that he is expected to or can do alone.”
The association is looking forward to meeting with Griffith and is hoping that such a meeting will be given “top priority” by the incoming Commissioner. Ramesar is confident this will happen given the way Griffith operated when he was National Security Minister.
Pastor Clive Dottin congratulated Griffith on his appointment urging him to “show wisdom to unite the various departments of the Police Service.”
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Deodat Dulalchan says there will be no further legal action against the Police Service Commission as he now intends to move forward and work with the incoming Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, Dulalchan welcomed Griffith’s appointment.
“Let me take the opportunity to congratulate him for getting the nod to be the Commissioner of Police,” he said, in a telephone interview.
Dulalchan was the top nominee to be submitted by the Police Service Commission for the post of Commissioner of Police but his nomination was rejected by the Parliament. The Prime Minister telling the House of Representatives his Government could not accept the nomination since Dulalchan had applied for the job of Deputy Commissioner of Police but emerged as the top candidate for the post of Commissioner in what he deemed a “flawed process.”
Yesterday, Dulalchan said, “now is a time you know not for emotions and so on, Gary Griffith has been appointed Commissioner of Police.”
Dulalchan said as a “lover of cricket I know what it is like to be on a team and the importance of supporting your captain, your leader. In this case, the Commissioner to be. I have always support Acting Commissioner Stephen Williams and other senior officers whom I have worked with.”
He said as someone who lives in Trinidad and Tobago his focus has always been and will continue to be getting a handle on the spiralling crime problem.
“The issue of crime for me remains on the front burner. I am wholly committed and I will give Mr Griffith my fullest support,” Dulalchan said.
Dulalchan extended his thanks to Williams for the time they worked together saying “I would publicly like to tell him ‘thank you’ not only to have known him but to have worked with him side by side.”
Several calls to Williams mobile phone went unanswered.
Communications Manager at the TTPS Ellen Lewis told Guardian Media, “I can state confidently that the TTPS is a professional organisation and therefore the rank and file will support the person that has been approved by the Lower House as the next Commissioner of Police.”
Efforts to contact Wayne Hayde, another candidate for the post of Commissioner, proved futile.
Incoming Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith says “time is not on my side and I have no intention to ask for a honeymoon period,” as he gets ready to assume the job of top cop.
Griffith admits that it is an “enormous task” to ensure that the fundamental right of all law-abiding citizens to “safety and security,” but he committed to doing “all that is required to ensure that your most fundamental right is provided within the law.
In an official statement issued to the media minutes after his nomination was approved by the Parliament by a vote of 19 for and 13 abstentions, Griffith acknowledged that he cannot do it on his own.
He reached out to officers within the Police Service who may have concerns assuring them “I am well aware that I can never do this on my own, and I am certain, despite what is reported in the mainstream media, those who took the oath to protect and serve, will do so with pride.”
Griffith, a former captain of the Regiment, reminded the officers “a team is as strong as its weakest link, and part of my role is to ensure all links are bolstered,” he said.
It may be some weeks before Griffith actually assumes the role of Commissioner and he asked that “you endure with me until the appointment is made official and the handover is complete.”
He said there is an Acting Commissioner of Police in the chair and it would be “inappropriate,” to say much more regarding his “aim and methods to be used in the direction of law enforcement operational policies and re-branding the direction of the Service at this time.”
Griffith did reveal, however, that part of his strategy will include intelligence-led policing.
He said he intends to utilise leadership, management, accountability and measurement of performance as standards of practice, while implementing methodologies that will advance a “strategic, future-oriented, targeted approach to crime control, focusing upon the identification analysis and management, of persisting and developing problems or risks, also known as intelligence-led policing.”
He acknowledged there are citizens who may have been sceptical about him becoming Commissioner.
“It is my intention to win over your trust and support in the very near future,” he said.
Griffith said his appointment was not a time to “celebrate,” but to give “thanks,” to God for affording him the opportunity to serve the country in another direction, “different to my previous position of service, but at this time perhaps, a more critical and crucial role.” Griffith, who previously served an advisor on National Security matters to the Prime Minister, under the UNC administration, and also served as National Security Minister, is the first civilian to head the Police Service.
He acknowledged the “weight of expectation, and the impact on my family, as such, our focus remains facing forward to the task ahead.”
Griffith thanked everyone who expressed “overwhelming support” to him via personal messages, or their public comments through different arms of social or traditional media, and via the numerous polls conducted over the past few months.
The post of Commissioner of Police at this time, he said, “is arguably one of the most difficult and thankless.”
He said many had asked why he offered his service, the response he said is simple, “I have dedicated my life to serve my country at any level that I can to make this a better place for citizens.”
Griffith said he would do “what is required, within the law, to achieve just that.”
He paid tribute to outgoing Acting Commissioner Stephen Williams for his “immense contribution, sacrifice, commitment and dedication to duty.”
Williams has served as Acting Commissioner for the past six years following the resignation of Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs.
Griffith said Williams had “served the country well, and I am sure he would continue to do so.” Williams is expected to proceed on vacation next month.
He also thanked the Members of Parliament, whom he said on behalf of their constituents “have entrusted me with their votes of confidence.”
ABOUT GARY GRIFFITH
Having served as a member of the T&T Defence Force for 15 years, Gary Griffith was appointed in 2013 national security minister under the People’s Partnership administration.
A past student of St Mary’s College, Griffith began his military career in 1988 where he was immediately commissioned by then President Noor Hassanali (now deceased) to the rank of second lieutenant.
After undergoing an intensive one-year recruiting training programme in Trinidad, Griffith was selected to attend the prestigious and world-renowned Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Surrey England, where he attended a one-year platoon commander course in England, Wales and Cyprus which earned him a Brunei Award.
Upon his return to Trinidad, Griffith held several levels of command among those being the Platoon Commander, Detachment Commander, Company Second in Command and Adjunct.
He was actively engaged in operations of the 1990 attempted coup to ensure democracy was upheld and maintained.
From 1995 to 1999, Griffith was appointed as the Aide to the Chief of the Defence Staff under Brigadier General Carl Alfonso.
Having assumed the role as captain, Griffith was then appointed administrative, finance, welfare and logistics officer for over 300 troops from the Caricom forces that participated in the United Nations mission in Haiti, where he obtained a UN’s Peacekeeping Medal.
In 2000, Griffith was personally requested by then UNC prime minister Basdeo Panday to work directly with him initially as comptroller of the PM’s residence.
Thereafter he was appointed as a military attache to Panday.
As a former UNC senator, Griffith became a security advisor to the party from 2006 to 2010.
In 2013, Griffith was appointed the PP’s fourth national security minister by then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, a post he held for two years before being removed.
Griffith is a holder of an MSc in Security management from the Department of Criminology in the University of Leicester, United Kingdom.
The Opposition has not as yet decided if it will support the nomination of Gary Griffith as this country’s substantive police commissioner during today’s debate on the matter in Parliament, Dr Roodal Moonilal has said.
The Opposition Members of Parliament will meet before today’s sitting of the House of Representatives to decide on the matter.
At today’s Parliament sitting, which is scheduled to start at 1.30 pm, the notification of Griffith to the post of Commissioner of Police is to be discussed.
Griffith was a former National Security Minister with the People’s Partnership administration and became the top candidate after the Parliament rejected the Police Service Commission’s three previous candidates.
Speaking at a press conference at the Office of the Opposition Leader in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Moonilal said the Government has not given any indication as yet on whether they will support Griffith’s nomination.
“We don’t know what will happen tomorrow (today), there is absolutely no indication from the Government as to whether or not they will support a nominee tomorrow so I have absolutely no information whether or not the Government will support the nominee tomorrow and it is something I prefer not to speculate on,” Moonilal said.
Pressed on who they would support, Moonilal said the Opposition was yet to meet on the issue and would do so today.
“The Opposition will of course meet and discuss this matter and really we prefer not to make comments on the matter now because I don’t want to prejudice discussions that the Opposition members will have,” Moonilal said.
“The matter occurred quickly, I think a meeting is planned and we will discuss the matter and we prefer not to prejudice those discussions tomorrow before the sitting.”
Today’s sitting is the second time Parliament will meet in the current vacation period to debate a candidate sent by the Police Service Commission (PSC) via the Office of the President.
Griffith’s name was submitted to the President following the PSC’s statutory meeting last Tuesday. Parliament has to debate the nomination.
Parliament had previously rejected the first three nominations forwarded by the PSC, Deodat Dulalchan, Harold Phillip and the man who has acted in the post of Police Commissioner for the last six years, Stephen Williams.
Government will dispose of the 22-year-old T&T Express rather than spend an estimated US$7 to $10 million in drydocking services, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has said.
He made the disclosure during a tour of the T&T Coast Guard Headquarters at Staubles Bay, Chaguaramas, on Friday.
Speaking at a media conference after the tour, Rowley said at this time it was more feasible to sell the vessel “as is” rather than to take in for repair and maintenance works.
He noted that the T&T Express, which has been servicing the inter-island seabridge has “virtually” come to an end of its certifiable life. He added that too much money was already spent on it in its drydocking periods over the years since its acquisition in 2006.
“Cabinet has decided that we will dispose of the Express, as is, where is, and not spend US$7 million or US$10 million on drydocking. The resale market…the market is quite good now and it is a good time to sell it. We will not spend any money trying to bring it up to standard,” Rowley said.
He also noted that in the meantime, the Government will be looking to charter another vessel on a short-term contract until the two new fast ferries Government is moving quickly to acquire are brought in.
Rowley assured that the new fast ferries will be “state-of-the-art” and added that they should arrive in T&T by the end of 2020. He disclosed that both vessels will be bought via Australian funding through its Export Financing Investment Corps.
“These discussions are well advanced. The offer is in hand…We have the offer from the Australians to fund what we need and therefore a Cabinet decision yesterday (Thursday) put us in a position to proceed to execute this,” Rowley said.
In seeking to clear the air further on the purchase of the Galleons Passage, Rowley said brokers were looking for a fast ferry and could not find one. He added that one of the international brokers was the one who located the vessel, which was initially purchased by a Venezuelan national. The vessel he said been valued US$35 million, he said.
“It had just been built for a Venezuelan owner and he could not complete the payments so it was made available to us…the price was right and attractive…the owner just wanted to recover his money and we got it for $17 million,” Rowley said.
Two Trinidadian students have been awarded scholarships by the Korean government.
In a release, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea here in T&T announced that the students, Marianne Chang and Shawnella Chaitan, had been awarded the scholarships by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED) to pursue Master’s Degree programmes in Korea.
NIIED scholarship awardees are chosen on the basis of academic merit and the full cost of their study for three (3) years is covered by the scholarships.
The NIIED offers the Korean Government Scholarship Program (KGSP) to foreign students who wish to further their studies in Korea. Thus far, the NIIED has offered the KGSP to students of T&T at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD Levels since 2013, the release added.
Chang was chosen to pursue a Master’s Degree in Bioengineering at the Seoul National University with an additional one (1) year allocated for Korean Language Programme at Sunmoon University.
Chaitan was meanwhile chosen to pursue a two-year Master’s Degree in Genetic Engineering at Kyung Hee University with an additional one year or a Korean Language Programme at Chonnam National University.
The goods news was shared to Chang and Chaitan as they visited the embassy’s St Clair, Port-of-Spain headquarters last week. Ambassador Moonup Sung congratulated the recipients on his country’s behalf.
The Embassy said the KGSP offers a great opportunity for the exchange of young scholars between T&T and the Republic of Korea, adding it will contribute to the strengthening of future cooperation and fruitful exchanges between the two countries in the years to come.
Persons seeking further information on the Korean Government Scholarship Programme can send enquiries to [email protected].
Director of the Counter Trafficking Unit Alana Wheeler is appealing to locals to be alert and look for the subtle signs human traffickers are using to trap people in this vicious cycle.
Addressing the audience during a Human Trafficking Workshop hosted by Soroptimist International at the Ken Gordon School of Journalism and Communication Studies, Port-of-Spain, on Saturday, Wheeler and Authorised Officer Jerome Ramdular urged the teenagers present to become each other’s keeper.
The conference was held ahead of World Day Against Trafficking In Persons, which is being celebrated today under the theme “Responding to the Trafficking of Children and Young People.”
During her presentation, Wheeler spoke of the various methods used to “groom” victims and also outlined what people should look for to determine if they or anyone they know could become potential victims of human trafficking.
Ramdular meanwhile advised the females present to find strength in numbers, as he said perpetrators would often target and isolate people who appeared to be weak and needy. He said when others came together to fulfil the needs of someone in a vulnerable situation, this would greatly reduce the opportunity for traffickers to prey and profit on the weakened individual.
The two presented several real-life scenarios as they spoke of having to visit local schools after sexually explicit videos and pictures of underage girls were posted online, and of also having to counsel families whose daughters found themselves in similar situations.
Ramdular and Wheeler also advised of red flags to look for, such as underage/young girls moving about with much older men; underage/young girls living/staying with boyfriends and also underage/young girls working very closely for and with older men who were not relatives.
Ramdular also spoke of the elaborate schemes used to ensnare victims, such as money being paid for “personal” favours up-front and even newspaper and online advertisements promising things that appeared too good to be true. He urged vigilance on what personal information and pictures people post online as it could be misused.
Saturday’s attendees included girls from Sophia House, St Dominic’s Home, St Jude’s Home for Girls and Amica Home for Girls.
With millions of children, women and men falling into the hands of traffickers yearly after being lured by fake promises and deceit, the United Nations said it affects nearly every country in the world.
Officials estimated there were millions of people whose liberty, dignity and essential human rights had been stolen after they were coerced into sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging and stealing and even compelled to “sell” skin and organs.
Vowing to change that, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said its focus remained on the trafficking of children and young people.
In his message for today’s occasion, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said trafficking in persons was a “vile crime that feeds on inequalities, instability and conflict.”
He said human traffickers profit from people’s hopes and despair while preying on the vulnerable and robbing them of their fundamental rights.
Guterres said children and young people, migrants and refugees were especially susceptible, with women and girls being targeted again and again.
“We see brutal sexual exploitation, including involuntary prostitution, forced marriage and sexual slavery. We see the appalling trade in human organs,” Guterres said.
He warned that human trafficking took many forms and knows no borders, adding perpetrators often operated with impunity because their crimes received not nearly enough attention.
He said, “This must change.”
The UN, he said, is committed to advancing action to bring traffickers to justice while protecting and supporting their victims, whose rights of victims must come first.
In their proposed Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to be adopted in December, Guterres said member states had also demonstrated resolve to prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing activities of transnational criminal organisations and has been internationally referred to as “modern-day slavery.”
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), forced labour, which is only one component of human trafficking, generated an estimated $150 billion in profit in 2014. In 2012, the ILO estimated that 21 million victims were trapped in the multi-billion dollar system.
The Government recently agreed to work with marijuana activist and head of the Caribbean Collective for Justice, Nazma Muller, to stage public meetings to discuss the issue of decriminalising marijuana. The T&T Guardian has been, over recent weeks, looking at the issue. Today, we continue the series with one of the real-life stories.
Seven years ago, Javed Baksh had to take as many as 26 pills a day to treat clinical depression and schizophrenia.
Today, Baksh does not have to take any pills.
Baksh attributes this remarkable turnaround to one thing - marijuana.
“I had a history of clinical depression and schizophrenia, so I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist, I was put on antidepressants.
“I was on antidepressants for just over two years, a combination of antidepressants and antipsychotics, I was taking up to 26 pills a day and it just wasn’t helping,” Baksh told the T&T Guardian.
So one day, one of Baksh’s friend’s suggested he smoke some marijuana.
But Baksh had heard all the negative things about marijuana and was sceptical.
“I was hesitant about it, but eventually I said I have been trying everything already so why not,” he recalled.
However, Baksh said he did not realise the difference until the morning after he took that first smoke.
“It was like it completely rewired my brain and because I was against it (marijuana) I never did any research personally and after that experience, when I started doing my research I realised everything I thought I knew about marijuana was just propaganda, everything that I was told, that I saw, that I read that was negative was just propaganda,” he said.
Baksh is now calling on those who may be sceptical as he was about marijuana to give it a chance.
“It is not what you think it is, plain and simple, because whatever negative thoughts that you have about it, whatever you may have heard growing up from parents from peers it is all propaganda and I can say this because I was just like that,” Baksh said.
He added, “So just give it a chance, do some research and try not to remain biased about it because it is helping a lot of people globally.”
Baksh said he is living proof of that.
“I haven’t been on a pill since then. Before, when I stopped taking pills I was left with severe anxiety and insomnia, and cannabis has been the only thing that has actually helped me to function of a normal daily life and the only thing to help me relax and fall asleep at night and stay asleep,” he said.
“It changed my way of life completely.”
Since experiencing the health benefits of marijuana first hand, Baksh has now opted to try and help others.
“It had such an impact on my life that I wanted to bring the same quality of life to others,” he told the T&T Guardian.
Baksh formed a company called GrassLab and is a part of the non-government organisation named Cannabis and You (CAY), which is advocating for the legalisation of marijuana here.
With GrassLab, Baksh imports hemp-based products that have Cannabidiol (CBD).
“Cannabis comprises of two main compounds THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD. THC is the one that gets you high, CBD is the one that doesn’t but you get all the medical benefits without the high so you don’t have the psychoactive effect,” he said.
Baksh said people suffering from a range of illnesses, including cancer, epilepsy, arthritis and Alzheimer’s, come to GrassLab, which is located in Arima, for help.
“All the people that buy the products are seeing positive results. My main focus is to push the medical side of cannabis because a lot of people are currently suffering and if we can do something to help by all means we must,” he said.
Some people even treat their pets with the products, he said.
CAY also holds awareness drives throughout the country.
The group was on hand two Fridays ago when a petition was handed to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley by Caribbean Collective for Justice, Nazma Muller calling for the legalisation of marijuana.
As the country prepares to have public consultations on the reform of marijuana laws next month, Baksh said everything must be done to ensure that cannabis is legalised.
“The fact of the matter is we are over 20 years behind (the rest of the world when it comes to the cannabis), so I don’t think we need to ever try to play catch up now. We need to hit the ground running, the world right now is progressing, everyone is seeing what is happening, everyone is benefiting with decriminalisation, more so with the countries and states with legalisation, and I don’t know what Trinidad and Tobago is waiting on,” Baksh said.
“I don’t know how much more evidence and facts they need.”
SEE PAGE A9
Businessman Derek Chin is now angry and questioning an advertisement recently posted by the Urban Development Corporation of T&T Limited (UdeCOTT) for current tender requests for expressions of interest for the development of lands at Invaders Bay.
The ad recently posted gave the period of tender from July 27, 2018-August 30, 2018, with a submission deadline of August 30, 2018.
But Chin yesterday expressed shock and confusion to the T&T Guardian of this development, given the fact that since 2011 his Dachin Enterprises had proposed to the People’s Partnership administration a $1 billion Invader’s Bay Development Project—Streets of the World—for the lands.
“Has UdeCOTT decided to by-pass our previous approval of my Streets of the World Project and another’s marina by the last administration?” Chin said.
“Do we have to reapply again? Everyone knows of my vision and plan, which puts me back to square one having done all that work and spent millions.”
Chin also claimed UdeCOTT used his plan in the ad and expressed disgust.
He said he has since held talks with several stakeholders, including government officials both in the past and present administrations on the issue.
In a T&T Guardian article on September 28, 2015, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said she welcomed Chin’s project and added that “Government is willing to meet with him about the long-delayed project.” Gopee-Scoon had also promised a detailed review and analysis.
Yesterday, Chin detailed those plans again, saying the Streets of the World project will be a 22-acre ultimate destination theme park venue appealing to the entire Caribbean.
Officials of the Disney and Hettema Group, who specialise in uniquely-creative designs for theme parks, museums and cultural attractions, have already visited T&T and held extensive discussions with Chin on the project.
The only obstacle in the way for Chin over the years was the signing of papers to acquire ten acres of land allotted to Dachin Enterprises so that construction can begin. But with this latest UdeCOTT development, Chins admitted he was hurt.
“I only saw the ad yesterday (Friday) and it’s like a snub. Our Streets project, which everyone is aware of including yourself, was approved by the last administration and we were never declined. We were awaiting the awarding of land to do the approved project,” Chin said.
“My Street of the World plans are now in the public domain and followed the criteria for the development of these lands.
“It’s certainly not fair to now place us back to square one and others to copy and submit a similar vision.
“Same with the person who was awarded the approval for his marina development in conjunction with my project. We find it very unfair and are investigating to determine our next approach in light of the previous approval of our projects.”
Chin also wondered whether UdeCOTT’s current move was legal.
“It’s very unfair and could be illegal.”
He lamented that because of the run-around he has been getting on his project since 2011 he had since invested the money in a MovieTowne Guyana project which opens later this year. That investment was worth over $300 million.
“Trinidad lost out! As I said the Streets project would have taken this country to a totally new level and solve the tourism issue,” he said.
In a previous article in the T&T Guardian, Chin had also said he had investors lined up for the Invaders Bay project.
“Disney and Hettema are now waiting on me to get possession of the land. When that happens, I will start to bring in the investors. I have a lot of people on the side that are interested in this project, including Coca-Cola and M&M, who will both put up stores,” Chin said in a previous article published by the T&T Guardian.
One of the main attractions of the project, Chin said, will be the Main Street, a re-creation of Frederick Street, downtown Port-of-Spain, in the 1930s complete with a tram car.
Chin explained that the streets will reflect the rich culture of T&T and there will be a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum highlighting T&T’s Carnival history, including elements of the steelpan and calypso. There are also plans for a live entertainment theatre and an aquarium featuring leatherback turtles, fish and a coral reef.
Efforts to reach UdeCOTT chairman Noel Garcia yesterday for comment were unsuccessful as calls to his cell phone went straight to voicemail.
Up to press time, UdeCOTT corporate communications manager, Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms, also did not reply to a detailed list of questions on the matter sent to her via email yesterday afternoon.
MORE ON UDECOTT’S AD
The Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (UdeCOTT) currently possesses 75.37 acres (30.5 hectares) of undeveloped, new greened, reclaimed land situated in west Trinidad along the Audrey Jeffers Highway known as Invaders Bay (hereinafter ‘the Lands’).
As part of UdeCOTT’s 21st Century Infrastructure Transformation Programme, UdeCOTT wishes to identify suitably qualified entities to submit proposals to develop the Lands in accordance with its Conceptual Development Plan.
The Conceptual Development Plan includes:
• Office and Commercial Spaces
• Recreational and Entertainment Facilities
• Hotel Accommodation
• Conference and Convention Facilities
• Residential Spaces
• Marina/Ferry Terminal
n EXPRESSION OF INTEREST (EOI) REQUIREMENTS
Interested parties are invited to submit proposals for one or more areas of development. The proposals must demonstrate experience in undertaking similar development projects. The EOI submission must at a minimum include:
(i) A Letter of Introduction
(ii) The Company Profile inclusive of proof of Incorporation
(iii) A description of all senior members of the Company
(iii) A description of similar development projects undertaken by the entity
(v) Minimum of three (3) years audited financial statements or management accounts
(vi) General overview and concept for the proposed development
(vii) A description of the intended financing arrangements
Participants may associate to enhance their team but must indicate in their submissions whether their association is in the form of a Joint Venture, Consortium or Sub-Consultancy.
All members of such associations must have real and well-done inputs to the assignment and their contribution must be detailed in the submission.
UDeCOTT reserves the right to develop a shortlist of entities based on an assessment of the responses received. Interested entities are therefore required to submit a comprehensive response. Failure to so do result in exclusion from further processes.
Homicide investigators are trying to determine the motive behind a “hit” carried out on a Chinese businessman at his supermarket in Princes Town yesterday.
While the murder of Chen Zhi Zhong, 24, was being linked to the “Chinese mafia”, investigators last evening said they were yet to gather enough evidence to determine a motive.
A report stated that just after midday, Chen was sitting next to the cashier when his killer walked into the Karvill Supermarket Ltd along Manahambre Road yesterday and carried out the brazen attack.
The killer was barefooted and wore a black Nike Jumpman hoodie. He approached the cashier with a bottle of Minute Maid orange juice. CCTV footage showed the gunman wandering around the area, checking out the snack shelves near the cashier for several minutes as other customers shopped.
When the supermarket cleared up, the gunman spoke to Chen briefly before pulling out a gun and shooting him in his face. The gunman then ran out of the supermarket and entered a silver hatchback that was waiting for him a few buildings away.
Chen was taken to the Princes Town District Health Facility where he later died.
A team of Southern Division officers, including Sgt Ramroop, Sgt Williams and PC Ramcharan, were on the scene gathering information when the T&T Guardian arrived on the scene. Up to late yesterday, the suspect had not been found.
There was talk that a contract killer from Tarodale Gardens, Ste Madeleine, who is wanted by police in relation to several other murders in the Southern Division, was the suspect. However, investigators said they were still working to determine the killer’s identity.
Chen, a Chinese national, had been living in T&T for several years and opened the supermarket three year’s ago in a building that he rented from a Princes Town family.
His killing was one of two which occurred within hours of each other yesterday.
In the other incident, 21-yearold Tyesha De Sousa was stabbed to death by a man who chased her down in the heart of Port-of-Spain before killing her.
According to police reports, around 3.50 am, De Sousa of Trou Macaque, Laventille, was in a vehicle driven by a 31-year-old man along Charlotte Street, Port-of- Spain, near the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
Police said the two reportedly got into a heated argument and the vehicle ran off the roadway and crashed into a wall. De Sousa reportedly ran out of the car and the driver, now armed with a knife, chased after her. The woman’s attacker eventually caught up to her and stabbed her several times.
According to reports, a member of the T&T Defence Force who was nearby, went to De Sousa’s assistance and subdued her attacker.
She was later taken to the nearby hospital The suspect was in custody last evening being interrogated by Homicide Bureau investigators.
Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, says the issues surrounding the inappropriate use of the Judiciary’s letterhead to address a private matter involving Chief Justice Ivor Archie and the Law Association of T&T (LATT) is another blow to the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.
Last Tuesday, the Judiciary issued a media release on the Privy Council’s decision to reserve its judgement in the matter where Archie took legal action against the LATT. Archie is seeking the Privy Council’s interpretation of the powers of the LATT under the Legal Professions Act to investigate him.
However, High Court judges Frank Seepersad and Carol Gobin took issue with Archie’s use of his office for a private matter, deeming it inappropriate. In an emailed response to the concerns raised by Seepersad, however, Archie told his subordinate that his time would be more productively employed attending to his own job and allowing Archie to attend to his.
Weighing in the latest controversy involving Archie yesterday, Maharaj agreed that the issue with Archie and the LATT was a private matter and supported the view of Seepersad and Gobin.
“I support the views of the judges who take the position that the Judiciary’s letterhead should not be used for private litigation and private purposes of the Chief Justice. The use of the letterhead gives the impression that the release was on behalf of the Judiciary,” Maharaj said.
“The Chief Justice ought not to have used the Judiciary’s letterhead for sending out the release. That is a private matter between the Chief Justice and the Law Association, not the Law Association and the Judiciary.”
The LATT’s proposed investigation into the conduct of Archie stemmed from allegations that he attempted to persuade judges to change their State-provided security in favour of a private company where his friend and convicted fraudster Dillan Johnson worked. Archie was also accused of attempting to fast-track Housing Development Corporation (HDC) applications for his friends.
The CJ subsequently denied asking judges to change their security but admitted to suggesting persons for HDC housing. Several judges and the LATT have called on Archie to respond directly to the allegation, but after his refusal the LATT appointed a sub-committee to investigate the claim. The LATT sought legal advice from two Queen’s counsel to determine if the allegations were sufficient to trigger impeachment proceedings under Section 137 of the Constitution.
To Maharaj, the latest controversy adds to the overall concerns the public has with the Judiciary to efficiently carry out its function. He said the allegations made against Archie and the fact that they have not been fully investigated have cast a serious blot on the administration of justice. He said the longer the matter remains without an investigation the greater the damage will be to the Judiciary’s image.
Maharaj said that while Archie challenges the right of the LATT to look into his conduct, the judges who have expressed their support for an investigation should also not be singled out for criticism by him.
Nonetheless, he said the parties involved should wait for the Privy Council’s decision, adding that there are powers under the Constitution which can be used to rebuild the public’s confidence in the Judiciary.
“We will have a little wait while damage can be done, but we can hope that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Efforts to contact LATT president Douglas Mendes yesterday were unsuccessful as calls to his cellphone went unanswered.
Pregnant Naomi Marquis and her husband Damian have been living in their car for the past six weeks after falling on hard times.
The couple was discovered living out of their Kia car at Balgobin Trace, Tunapuna, on Tuesday by WPC Crystal Jumadeen, a Cunupia community officer, prompting her to jump into action to assist.
Jumadeen and her colleague PC Vikash Harrinanan went to great lengths to find a rent-free apartment in Chaguanas which the couple will be soon moving into.
Naomi, who is five months pregnant with her second child, broke down in tears several times on Friday, as she related how their lives changed after becoming jobless.
Up to last year, the couple had lived comfortably with their three sons, ages 16, 13 and six, at a Cunupia apartment.
The two eldest boys are Damian’s children from a previous relationship.
Days after finding out she was pregnant Naomi’s life came crashing down after she was retrenched as a casino worker.
Not long after, Damian, 34, who worked as a security guard and bartender at an establishment, was laid off.
After losing their jobs the couple gave up their apartment and moved in with relatives in Freeport.
“The little savings we had in our accounts began to dwindle. We also had to sell one of our two cars valued at $18,000 for $4,000 when desperation set in. All this time we kept sending out resumes but got no response. Also, Damian was using his car to run PH but it could not settle our bills, buy food and pay our monthly car instalment,” Naomi told the T&T Guardian.
With little money coming in and five mouths to feed, Naomi said tension began to build and they had to flee the relative’s home.
Naomi, 29, and her son then moved into the home of another family member while Damian stayed at a friend’s house.
The mother of the two boys welcomed them into her home.
“We were no longer a family. Everyone went their separate ways which tore us to pieces. From a happy family, our lives were shattered in a matter of weeks,” Naomi said, as tears welled in her eyes.
Naomi then again found herself in the same situation.
“The pressures started to build at the relative’s home and I had no choice but to leave. I was fed up of complaints. I had become a burden to them. That’s when I decided to move into the car with my son and husband. It was a tough decision but I felt this was the best choice for us to be together. We packed our worldly belongings in the trunk and decided to fight up on our own.”
On the first night, they parked the car in front of Scotiabank in Cunupia.
“We decided to sleep there because the bank has a security camera outside just in case bandits attacked us it would be recorded. That night our son cried because inside the car was too hot as the air condition was not working. We had to drive around with the windows down to get some breeze. It was a restless and a scary night for all of us,” she recalled.
Damian said he approached the mother of his two sons who offered to keep their son while they continued to live in the car.
“We used to sleep in the car park at Price Plaza where it was safe. Naomi would sleep on the back seat while I would throw an eye out. It has not been easy for us, especially for Naomi, who is carrying our baby.
It has been stressful. Many nights she cried in the car just thinking of the happy and enjoyable life we shared months before.”
The couple spent their days hanging out at malls. Damian said he never expected their lives to turn upside down.
“I feel so helpless and hopeless. It’s as if all the odds are stacked against us. It’s not that we have not tried to get jobs… just the responses have been far and few between. Those who have responded want to exploit you for small money,” the father of three said.
Recently, one of Naomi’s friends who heard about their plight came to her rescue by allowing them to stay at her father’s congested home in Tunapuna during the day, where they can wash their clothes, shower and have a meal.
“We no longer go to Price Plaza to sleep. We have been parking the car in the yard of this home to sleep,” Damian said.
Having spent the last six months running from pillar to post, a relative has since offered the couple a piece of land in Freeport where Habitat for Humanity will provide $24,000 in building materials so they can erect a home.
Jumadeen said after she met the couple she went to Habitat for Humanity seeking help for them. She said having since screened them their application for help was being processed, which may take from a few weeks to a few months.
“I started looking around for a place for the family to live in. Luckily, someone offered them free lodging at an apartment in Chaguanas until their home is constructed. My heart sunk when I heard about Naomi’s struggles and suffering. I was brought close to tears after hearing what she has been going through as a pregnant woman. I felt compelled to assist,” Jumadeen told the T&T Guardian.
Jumadeen has also dipped into her pocket to buy foodstuff for the family so they would have something to eat when they move into their apartment shortly.
“I am also trying to get Damian a job so they can get back on their feet,” Jumadeen said.
Naomi admitted she always saw the police as being rogue elements, abusive and corrupt but Jumadeen has changed her perception.
“Officer Jumadeen has showed me that among the bad apples there are good and caring officers in the service. I can’t stop thanking her for all that she has done. She is one in a million,” Naomi said.