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Updated: 1 hour 11 min ago

Man on robbery charge fined $18,000

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:50

A 24-year-old Valencia man, who was charged with robbery with aggression and possession of marijuana, has been fined $18,000 by an Arima magistrate.

Keyon Le Blanc, of LP 117 Oropouche Main Road, was given one month to pay after he appeared in court last week.

The court heard that on August 22, 2018, Le Blanc was arrested for robbery with aggravation.

The incident allegedly occurred on July 23, 2018, at the Food Chain Mini Mart, Pinto Main Road, Arima.

He was placed on an identification parade on August 24, 2018, at the La Horquetta Police Station and was positively identified.

He was subsequently charged by Cpl Kerry Ramkissoon of the CID Pinto. Also involved in the arrest was WPC Smith, who also charged Le Blanc for having one pound of marijuana in his possession.

Categories: News

Thieves torch watchman’s car

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:49

A watchman had to run for his life after intruders made a failed attempt to steal livestock at the Chatham Youth Development and Apprenticeship Centre in Cedros on Saturday night.

Angry that they could not get at their intended bounty, the thieves torched the watchman’s car before leaving the site.

Fearful for their safety, the 30-plus employees at the centre are now calling for proper security measures and lighting at the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs-run facility, which was established in 1966.

Recalling the frightening ordeal yesterday, Davanand Seetaram, 49, who has been working there for the last 15 years, said around 11.45 pm on Saturday, he heard a noise to the back of the compound where they keep the animals which include cattle, goat, sheep, pigs and ducks.

Saying that area was pitch black in the night, he recalled, “When I flashed my flashlight I hear a voice say ‘they coming.’ I run, but I did not see anybody.”

While he was running out the compound towards the main road, Seetaram said he looked back and saw his burgundy Almera on fire. He called a co-worker, the centre’s director, the police and his relatives.

Nothing appeared to be stolen from the centre, but the hinges of sheep’s pen were broken, Seetaram explained. The employees believe the intruders went to steal the animals.

The centre is a training camp for youths interested in masonry, woodwork, carpentry, agriculture and other skills. The employees said over the past few years they have had several break-ins and larcenies—the most recent being four days ago when the air condition unit was stolen.

Employee Ramsajan Manohar said the lighting system was very poor and there are no lights at the back where the farm area is housed. Another employee, Depoo Baldeosingh, complained, “We not taking no chances to go in the back there (in the night). We have no form of protection. We are not going to risk our lives.”

Baldeosingh was hired as a handyman, but like Seetaram, who was hired to care for the animals, they have to double up on their jobs because of a shortage of workers.

“It getting more and more worse because look at where it reach to now. My co-worker’s car burn down. What if he lose his life, what they will say next?” Is a real terrible situation on our job site. We need some sort of action,” lamented Baldeosingh.

Cedros Councillor Shankar Teelucksingh said the situation at the centre was alarming and immediate steps must be taken to address the employees’ safety and manpower shortage concerns. With $.5 million worth of livestock at the compound and no ongoing apprentice programme, Teelucksingh called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe to indicate what is the plan for the centre.

Teelucksingh said it appears as though the Government plans to shut down the facility, noting three years ago they shelved refurbishment works for the facility and workers have since been sent home and the facility is in a state of neglect.

Categories: News

Griffith not out to please everyone

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:36

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith says he intends to meet with members of the business and private sector in the coming weeks.

Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Griffith said it is important to hear from everyone as he strategises and puts measures in place to deal with the crime problem.

Already, Griffith has started “surprise” visits to police stations across the country, visiting nine on Saturday and he says his intention is to visit all 70 stations across the length and breadth of the country.

He explained that the “quick short inspections and visits” are aimed at hearing the concerns of the officers assigned to those stations “without anyone being prepared.” The visits, he said, are being done without the knowledge of anyone and will be impromptu.

He said the objective is to get a first-hand knowledge “to look at the situation, to look at the surroundings, look at the shortcomings, look at the requirements, it may be simple things that can be rectified, logistics support required.” Griffith noted that sometimes it may be simple things required to improve the public perception of professionalism at the police stations.

Thus far, he said, “I have learnt a lot and have seen minor things that can be easily rectified that will improve the image of the Police Service in the eyes of the public and which will also assist in trying to get the police officers at the stations to feel more comfortable in their surroundings.”

Noting that speaking to the officers at the stations was critical to his mission, he said, “I am able to understand what they think about the police service, what they think should be done. It is very important that I get that hands-on approach and get the feel of the troops on the ground, hear what they have to say.”

The top CoP said he has also been having discussions with every head of department, divisional commanders and head of the specific units “to personally hear their needs, listen to their concerns, get their recommendations, let them understand my thought process, how I intend to guide the Police Service in the near future.” So far, he said he has also held 50 meetings with the heads and representatives.

Griffith has also deemed the setting up of a personal line—482-Gary—where the public is invited to provide information about crime, a success. Quite in contrast to what critics of the initiative may think, Griffith said it had proven to be very effective.

He said, “You can never please everyone and I am not here to please everyone. I am here to do a job. The fact of the matter is that we continue to receive thousands of text messages, so it shows in contrast to what one or two persons may think. This has proven to be effective.”

However, he said it is a “temporary measure until there is a more scientific approach to ensure that citizens have the opportunity to send information to me at the Office of Commissioner of Police without any fear of reprisal.”

The CoP said the initiative had provided an important opportunity to the public and there was a lot of information which has been passed on to the relevant units to verify if this can turn into viable information and evidence to arrest people or individuals.

“The 482-Gary line is just one of the many avenues you will see in the very near future that will bridge that gap and once that happens and it continues it will play a very big part to get results in major crime reduction,” he said.

Categories: News

Help us save Ky’Mani’s sight

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:34

The parents of 11-month-old Ky’Mani Thompson are pleading with the public to help them raise US$16,000 for their baby to undergo surgery in Miami to save his eyesight.

Ky’Mani has been diagnosed with Bilateral Stage Five Retinopathyof prematurity (ROP) and is in danger of becoming blind.

But, there is no paediatric vitreo-retinal surgeon in T&T to perform the surgery on Ky’Mani, who, according to a letter from Dr Anil Armoogum of the Ophthalmology Department of the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH), needs highly specialised care to avoid blindness.

Ky’Mani, the last of the three children to parents Sarah Greene-Thompson, 29 and D’Andre Thompson, 35, was born prematurely at 29 weeks with a weight of 1.365 kgs at the SFGH on September 13, 2017.

After being in an incubator for a month, Ky’Mani underwent a routine eye test for premature babies and was subsequently discharged.

Speaking at their La Romaine home about the situation, Greene-Thompson, an administrative clerk, said the disease affects premature babies and had it been detected at birth it would have been easily treated.

However, the mother was told by doctors that in Ky’Mani’s case the disease affected him later on, which is rare.

However, she recalled that she had complained several times to the doctors during routine check-ups at the hospital that Ky’Mani was not focussing and something was wrong with his eyes.

“They kept saying because he was born premie the muscles behind his eyes need to develop,” Greene-Thompson told the T&T Guardian.

She took her son, then five months old, to a private ophthalmologist who examined him and gave her a referral letter to take him back to the hospital.

She said he was again examined at the hospital, tests were carried out and he was diagnosed with the condition.

She said Ky’Mani was later scheduled and in the operating room for surgery at the SFGH but the surgeon cancelled it.

“He was prepped for the surgery and sedated. After he was examined the doctor told me that in his medical opinion nothing could be done because of the amount of scarring that has already formed in his eyes,” she said.

“And if (he) goes into his eyes into his eyes it is possible Ky’Mani could be afflicted with glaucoma, it could cause further damage to his eyes and they could become discoloured and look as though he is blind.

He refused to do the surgery.”

Greene-Thompson said Dr Armoogum subsequently referred her to a paediatric doctor at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.

They contacted the institute and were given a consultation appointment for August 16, but they had to reschedule because they could not afford the plane tickets and the US$5,000 consultation and examination fee.

The cost of the entire process— consultation, exams and surgery—is US$16,000.

While they await a new appointment, the parents have been trying to raise funds through various food sales.

They also made appeals via social media and also set up a Go Fund Me account and reached out to the Hope of a Miracle Foundation.

The parents also sought help from the Children’s Life Fund but were told his case did not meet the requirements.

“We are nowhere close to raising the money. We are just trying to see what we could do but the grace of God,” Greene-Thompson said.

“We are just hoping that by some miracle we get through with the foundation to assist us.” Greene-Thompson, a slot machine technician, believes their son can now only see bright lights but said they have been told his sight will continue to deteriorate. She said Ky’Mani has no pain but the glare affects his eyes, causing him to frequently rub and squint them. The parents are still in the process of setting up a bank account.

More info

What causes ROP?

According to the National Eye Institute in the United States, ROP occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow and spread throughout theretina, the tissue that lines the back of the eye.

These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and can leak, scarring the retina and pulling it out of position.

This causes a retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is the main cause of visual impairment and blindness in ROP.

Persons willing to assist can send donations to https://www.gofundme. com/save-ky039mani039s-sight, or contact them at 394-3926 or [email protected].

Categories: News

Khan shrugs off possible ‘shade’ from Kamla

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:27

United National Congress MP Fuad Khan has shrugged off some “shade” (criticism) throwing from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to those she claimed didn’t want to work for the party when needed.

At last week’s UNC Monday Night forum in Chaguanas, Persad-Bissessar warned that non-workers wouldn’t get the first choice at election time and the UNC’s young members who labour would.

Commenting on the suggestion that he may be one of the MPs who was being singled out, Khan said, “If she was aiming at her MPs, so be it.

Maybe I’m one of those who needs to up my game. But I’m sure everyone would know who she’s speaking of.

Criticism is always warranted once constructive and is accepted.”

He added, “So it’s wonderful the leader has indicated she’ll be going forward with a young vibrant workforce who’ll work to take us back into government, as we’re all getting old.

It’d be apt to see young people like Khadijah Ameen and similar others participate if this is what the leader wants for the future.”

MP Ganga Singh, who’s clashed with UNC hierarchy several times and was shifted to the end of the party’s Parliamentary backbench, declined comment on the issue.

Also contacted on the issue, Congress of the People (COP) leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said, “We’ve already indicated that as we refocus COP we’re talking to everyone concerned with developing solutions for T&T.”

UNC officials said Persad-Bissessar and several other MPs have gone to Florida for a fundraiser in preparation for forthcoming election-related activities. She’s expected back this week.

Last Friday, Persad-Bissessar also came in for criticism from Government Ministers Paula Gopee-Scoon and Camille Robinson-Regis for alleging a minister’s wife worked for a certain company which got state contracts. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed his wife was a consultant with such a company but denied preferential treatment given to any company.

Gopee-Scoon said Persad-Bissessar omitted to say that one of the contracts awarded to the firm in question was under Persad-Bissessar’s administration. She also alleged some PP spouses benefited from contract awards in Persad-Bissessar’s tenure.

Robinson-Regis condemned Persad- Bissessar’s claim of a PNM “wives’ club,” saying it insinuated women are incapable of holding their own and earning their own keep in the administrative hierarchy.

Categories: News

Venezuela gas price deal competitive—Khan

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:14

Government is giving no details on the pricing structure this country will pay for gas from the Dragon Field under the agreement signed with Venezuela on Saturday, but Energy Minister Franklin Khan is assuring that the pricing structure agreed to was competitive and followed “months of negotiation, serious intervention, serious sharing of information and serious sharing of economic models, to come up with an appropriate gas price”.

Speaking during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Khan said, “It is no cheap gas. It is competitively priced gas and is obviously no secret Dragon deal.”

Khan said Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, larger than Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States and has the fifth largest gas reserves in the world, which this country can benefit from.

“It’s a win-win situation, especially since we in Trinidad face challenges on the supply side,” he said.

T&T, he said, also has world-class gas infrastructure through which Venezuela can monetise its gas.

“This provides an ideal opportunity for Trinidad and Venezuela. If I can say so, I think it is a marriage made in heaven,” Khan said.

Khan said he took “umbrage” with the way the media reported on the deal signed in Caracas on Saturday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, as he dismissed a report in another daily newspaper that under the deal the T&T Government would be buying the gas at a mere US$1 per MMBTU. Khan said that was simply trying to create mischief by telegraphing to the Venezuelan people that the government was selling “cheap gas to Trinidad and Tobago”. However, he said the price being paid was substantially more.

Both countries, according to Khan, have benefitted, as T&T could import the gas, process it into LNG and for downstream petrochemicals “and still make a profit and it is a price acceptable to the Venezuelans to get a good monetary return for the resources they own.”

Khan said when Rowley was asked by T&T Guardian journalist Curtis Williams about the price, “Dr Rowley said these gas prices are subject to strict confidentiality clauses. However, he took the liberty to say the prices are very competitive and in some cases lower than what we are paying to domestic upstream producers in Trinidad and Tobago”.

He said it was widely known in the energy sector that “the commercial terms of gas sales agreement are subject to the strictest confidentiality clauses”. As he revealed that he could not even answer a question in the Parliament on pricing when asked some time ago, he said because of the confidentiality clause.

“No government past or present, UNC or PNM, has ever made known to the public any negotiated price of gas,” Khan said.

The PM did, however, reveal that under the agreement the volume of gas to be provided will be 150 million cubic standard feet per day with an option to go to 300 million standard cubic feet per day.

On Saturday, Rowley and Maduro signed two documents - a base term sheet for the Dragon Gas deal which set out the commercial term for the gas sales agreement, including volume and price, which was signed by the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, Shell as the private investor and the National Gas Company.

Another agreement was signed where both governments committed to the implementation of the project and to see it to finality. Khan said while it was a cross-border relationship with Shell, PDVSA and NGC, “at its most fundamental level it is a government to government arrangement”. He said the gas deal had the effect of securing “a long-term symbiotic relationship with Venezuela”.

He said it was a pricing model and template to allow them to move forward with other fields, including the Loran Manatee, which was the first cross-border project identified between the two countries more than a decade ago.

The Loran-Manatee field contains in excess of 10 trillion cubic feet of gas with 7.3 TCF on the Venezuela side and 2.7 TCF on the Trinidad and Tobago side of the border. Khan said Maduro suggested and PM Rowley agreed “we should develop agreements for the production of Loran Manatee.”

Categories: News

Maxie breaks down in tears

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:12

La Horquetta/Talparo MP Maxie Cuffie broke down in tears yesterday, as he made his first official public appearance before his constituents at an interfaith service held for him at the La Horquetta Regional Complex.

After much praise and worshipping of God and giving thanks, Cuffie dismissed claims that he was brain dead which surfaced during his rehabilitation period, saying, “I was not brain dead but I’m born again.”

Cuffie, who sounded as though he had a very slight slur, shared a bit of his experience, emphasising how scary the passage of the period was.

He said when he suffered the first stroke and was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital they had no medication, which is usually available at all public hospitals, to reverse strokes.

“They checked the other hospitals and none. Because of an arrangement with St Clair, they had it, but before they applied the medication they needed to do tests to see if I would survive it,” Cuffie said.

Joined at that time on stage by his wife, Hermia, she said prayers went up before a decision was made for him to undergo the tests.

“I looked at my head and my brain was looking like it was outside my head. I had to go to the US for rehab,” Cuffie added.

Breaking down in tears, Cuffie said it hurt him inside when he heard about the horrible comments people were making about him and the petition that went around for his removal “from serving his constituents and the country.”

Hermia said in the first week of her husband’s rehabilitation in Washington, Cuffie had a “second episode” where there was a strange shaking of his head. This also led to a second surgery, she revealed.

Cuffie proudly mentioned that when he pulled through, he and his wife renewed their marital vows.

Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, in her brief address at the event, thanked God for Cuffie’s return.

“He is a very courageous and respectable man. Maxie gave contributions in Cabinet and is always a team player and a gentleman around the table,” she said.

“Maxie is a miracle in front of us. Thank God for you.”

One of Cuffie’s doctors, who monitored his progress from beginning to end, was Strokes and Diabetes Specialist Dr Jerry Antoine. Antoine, who has been working abroad for the past 45 years but is originally from Arima, said he was contacted by Cuffie at about midnight some months ago.

“Strokes and diabetes are devastating in this country...I have seen miracles in action,” he told the gathering.

Earlier, Cuffie, his wife and Gopie-Scoon entered the hall at 4.38 pm. As he entered there were shouts of “Welcome back” and “God bless you.” But there were even shouts of “Dead man Alive” and “Miraculous Maxie”.

Cuffie returned to T&T on July 26 after his eight-month stay in Washington for rehabilitation and neurosurgery following a stroke last September. He had received surgery locally before going to Washington last November for further medical attention. Cuffie had neurosurgery in May and after completing physiotherapy was cleared to travel back home.

Cuffie is expected to return to Parliament when the current mid-year recess ends next month and also return to work at his new post of Minister in Public Administration. He was given that post when the ministry was split between Marlene McDonald (Public Administration) and Stuart Young (Communication) in June.

Also present at last evening’s function were several of Cuffie’s colleagues, including MPs Ancil Antoine (D’abadie/Omeara) and Nicole Olliviere (La Brea) and Sangre Grande Regional Corporation chairman Terry Rondon.

Categories: News

Roget believes refinery to be sold

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:09

The Government is looking to sell the Petrotrin refinery and is trying to scale back on the number of workers in order to ensure a sale.

That is the firm belief of Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) leader Ancel Roget.

Roget, who led a prayer session outside the Prime Minister’s official residence in St Ann’s yesterday, said he believed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley wants to get rid of the refinery.

If that is the case, then hundreds of Petrotrin employees could face the axe tomorrow after Petrotrin’s planned announcement following a proposed meeting with the union.

Roget yesterday admitted he was sceptical of the meeting with Petrotrin executives. (See editorial on Page A20)

“It is not a meeting, they are going to make an announcement,” he said in a telephone interview after his union ended three-hour long prayer session outside the PM’s residence.

Tuesday’s announcement could affect the livelihood of hundreds of jobs at the refinery, he said.

“Whoever they (Government) planning to sell the refinery to they want a much smaller staff,” Roget said.

He said some of the union’s recommendations to the company were taken and he suspects these will be used by the incoming owners. He said Rowley told the union he had received a recommendation from advisers on the best move for the company but did not share that information with the union during a meeting last week.

“He would only say that it would be painful and that the country does not need to be a refinery, that the refinery is the problem. He (Rowley) said that the region is moving away from liquid fuel,” Roget said.

Roget asked if the PM believed this, why did NiQuan Energy receive the Government’s support to invest and purchase the failed World Gas to Liquids plant.

“It seems there is an agenda to ensure the sale of the refinery,” Roget said.

Yesterday, just hours before the prayer session, Energy Minister Franklin Khan said Petrotrin’s debt could bankrupt the country. Khan held a media conference to shed some light on the Petrotrin situation and the deal signed with Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday. He said the restructuring of the state-owned company is expected to be rolled out tomorrow, following the meeting with the OWTU. (See page A5)

Over the weekend Rowley waded into the fray as well, saying that Petrotrin could not continue the way it was going and that things must change.

The T&T Guardian sent messages to both Rowley and Khan about Roget’s statement but did not receive a response up to last evening.

Categories: News

A black hole—Khan

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 23:07

Energy Minister Franklin Khan is sending a strong warning that Petrotrin’s current state of affairs has the ability to “bankrupt” the country, as he yesterday described the state oil company as coming to what is referred to in astrophysics as a “black hole.”

Khan’s stark warning ahead of tomorrow’s meeting between Petrotrin and the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union on the restructuring of the company, came at a news conference at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, as he described Petrotrin’s future as “the most fundamental issue the country faces in terms of our economic fortunes or lack thereof”.

“If Petrotrin is not handled properly, it could bankrupt this country. It is as serious as that,” Khan said.

Asked to explain this statement further, Khan said, “Once Petrotrin cannot face its bankers and put a plan in place to repay its debt the obvious corollary is that they will need a Government guarantee, which will throw all our indicators way off course, our debt to equity all these things. And then our repayment schedule, our debt servicing. It is unimaginable the dire consequences if not managed properly,” Khan said.

Khan urged citizens to support the Government in its attempt to bring stability and long-term viability to Petrotrin. He said while successive administrations, “both PNM and UNC, have kicked the can down the road” with respect to Petrotrin, it just could not continue as the company has serious systemic, structural and operational issues which must be dealt with.

He explained that Petrotrin “has a massive debt profile in excess of TT$13 billion and we all know about the famous bullet US$850 million payment due in November 2019.” He said if something is not done “Petrotrin and or the Government will have to find a cheque of US$850M to pay to the bondholders.”

“As we speak, Petrotrin owes the state $3.5 billion in outstanding taxes and royalty, that is the people’s money which is being consumed by a company to satisfy whatever inefficiencies that operate in the company,” Khan said, noting the company is also saddled with high operating costs.

He said it costs an average of between US$30 to US$40 for the company to lift a barrel of oil and when oil prices are US$40 it is obviously uneconomic. The company is also generating no working capital to reinvest because it is operating at a loss. He said Petrotrin’s local crude production is a mere 40,000 barrels per day but the refinery has a capacity of 150,000 barrels per day.

Saying this means in order to keep the refinery going the company has to import 110,000 barrels per day, Khan said, “What compounds this matter is that for every barrel of crude refined the company loses US two dollars and fifty cents to US three dollars per barrel, so you importing oil to lose money.”

But Khan explained that Petrotrin is a “net user of foreign exchange, so here you have your state oil company not bringing in any net foreign exchange, because the amount they are spending to import crude and lose money on the crude they import, it has made the refinery unprofitable.”

Khan also expressed concerned that salaries and wages account for 50 per cent of the company’s operating cost.

“For an oil company to be skewed so badly that in excess of 50 per cent of its operating cost is salaries and wages, something has to be fundamentally wrong,” he said.

Khan said Petrotrin was coming to what was called in astrophysics a black hole.

“That means an area of such intense gravity which if you come to it sucks you in and you cannot come out. Before we reach that stage we have to do something and something quickly.”

On Tuesday when the Petrotrin board and OWTU meet, Khan said it will be the first time “we will lay bare what our plans are, what consequences will follow and the way forward for Petrotrin.” Khan urged all parties to treat the matter with maturity, pragmatism, and a certain level of patriotism, because of the fundamental national consequences. He said as the numbers reveal themselves the situation will become clear.

He said after Tuesday’s meeting between the union and Petrotrin Prime Minister Dr Keith will address the nation on the future of Petrotrin on September 2.

Quizzed on options Government could look at going forward, Khan refused to say whether privatisation or a merger with Shell could be involved

Categories: News

Piparo residents fear mud volcano erupts

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 02:54

Loud rumblings from Piparo mud volcano following Tuesday’s earthquake have stirred up frightening memories for the survivors of the deadly eruption on February 22, 1997.

Concerned residents are calling on geologists and the relevant authorities to conduct more tests and surveys to monitor the activity at the volcano.

Sporadic loud noises emanated from the volcano while mud pitched up on two occasions from the mounds while the Guardian was at the site on Friday.

Housewife Jasmin Mohammed said they would usually hear faint sounds from the volcano, but the noises had increased since the earthquake. “It really scary. Yesterday morning and last night it making noise non-stop. We hearing it here because the sound wave coming down this way so we will hear it more often than the other side. Yesterday, my son went up and he said he hearing a sound like a wave,” said Mohammed.

She said around midnight on Thursday the noises were so loud that she could not sleep. “Just because of the earthquake, I a little more concerned and shaky about it.”

Recalling the 1997 experience when the volcano erupted, she said “That is something I never want to experience again.”

Another resident Sheriffa Solomon, 64, said during the early hours of Friday morning she heard “like big waves crashing. It get a little louder since the earthquake”.

Solomon, who was displaced for six months after the 1997 earthquake, said those memories came flooding back to her. “When I heard the noises I was thinking where to go when this volcano erupt again. I don’t ever want to go through that (1997 eruption) again.”

Solomon said she was getting a strong scent of sulphur in the area. “That has to be coming from the volcano. They should come and check so at least they could allay our fears.”

However, retired police officer Samlal Harrilal, who lives very close to the volcano, said while he has not observed any increased activity, the experts should still monitor the volcano.

He was also concerned that a cell tower which was mounted about 50 to 75 feet from his home could fall as a result of frequent land movement.

Harrilal complained that since the 1997 eruption the village had been neglected and was in need of proper drainage.

Geologist Xavier Moonan, who visited the volcano the day after the earthquake, confirmed that the volcano had become more active. “We are keeping a close eye on it because that’s the one we anticipate will erupt next. Based on the cyclicity, it is expected to erupt in the next five years, but events like the earthquake could possibly trigger an eruption. We have done a number of surveys on it earlier this year and we will be doing more later this year.”

Categories: News

Excellent Stores turns 60…goes to St Lucia

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 02:49

Amongst its many milestones Excellent Stores Ltd has yet another to celebrate on its 60th anniversary, which was held at its MovieTowne branch yesterday.

On September 22, 2018, for the first time the ‘Trini-rooted’ business will open in Rodney Bay, St Lucia. The plan is to sequentially open in other islands in the region, including Guyana and Jamaica, Managaing Director and Chairman Franco Siu Chong disclosed at yesterday’s celebrations.

“It is the first step we have taken on our journey towards becoming a regional store, rooted in T&T and yet still growing to serve the people of the Caribbean,” said Siu Chong.

Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, who spoke at the anniversary celebrations, said the retail industry plays a critical role in creating revenue and economic opportunities for domestic firms and employment.

She said in T&T there are over 8,000 retail establishments contributing approximately ten per cent of the country’s GDP, and, together with the wholesale industry, employing approximately 18 per cent of the total workforce.

Also present was Deputy Mayor of Port-of-Spain Hillan Morean who brought greetings on behalf of Mayor Joel Martinez. Morean said the 60th anniversary was an“excellent” achievement and lauded the company for being one of the more honest businesses.

A leading department store in T&T, Excellent Stores, which began as a small variety store on Henry Street in Port-of-Spain, then called Excellent Trading, was the contrivance of Chinese immigrant and patriarch,

Hong Ling Siu Chong. It has grown to six retail branches spread across the country, which included the recently added Arima branch in November 2017.

Now in the hands of a third generation of the Siu Chongs, the business boasts of its niches—specialised Christmas and E-commerce stores at its distribution centre in Chaguanas.

During his speech, Siu Chong said the company prided itself on three things—quality, affordability, and customer satisfaction.

“We believe in the principles of honesty, integrity, hard work, and delivering to our customers value for money,” said Sui Chong.

“Excellent Stores treat all members of staff as family, and it is this cohesive family that is the path to our successes and has allowed us to weather some turbulent times in country’s history.”

In its 60 years of existence Excellent Stores survived the 1985 fires at its Park and Frederick streets, Port-of-Spain branch and its London Street, San Fernando branch. The brand remained standing through the

1970 Black Power uprising, 1990 attempted coup, the 1985 economic downturn of 1983 and most recently, the 6.9 earthquake.

“We were shaken at times, but never were we broken,” said Siu Chong.

Categories: News

‘Caribbean should unite on cannabis legislation’

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 02:43

When Krishnan Wignarajah found out his mother and two of his siblings were all diagnosed with cancer he started to look into alternative medicine to help their treatment.

In this search to educate himself, Wignarajah said he came across the health benefits of cannabis.

“I saw them having to go through this entire medical process. It definitely was not easy,” Wignarajah said.

He said apart from how expensive treatment was, it had an emotional effect on his family.

Sadly, Wignarajah’s mother passed away as a result of cancer. She developed a 23 cm tumour in her stomach and was given one month to live by doctors.

Wignarajah said this rocked the family. His two siblings, who are diagnosed with cancer, are still battling the deadly disease.

Wignarajah was able to convince his brother Gajen to try Cannabidiol (CBD) oils, which occur naturally in cannabis, to control his pain.

“It does not take away the cancer but it controls the pain and helps build his cells,” Wignarajah said.

Gajen has been using the CBD oils regularly.

Wignarajah, however, has still not been able to convince his sister Ambi to try it. Ambi still believes all the misinformation she had heard about cannabis.

Wignarajah said his mission is now to spread the truth of cannabis.

He is the Chief Operation Officer (COO) of a company called Weedadvisor and has been having discussions with governments in the region to reform the laws surrounding the use of cannabis here.

Time to move towards legislation

Wignarajah said now is the perfect time for T&T to move toward the legalisation of cannabis here.

He said like Ambi, one of the main deterrents is the miseducation people have about cannabis.

Wignarajah said there are five common myths that need to be debunked.

He said the first common misconception was that cannabis is viewed as a gateway drug. “Politicians and activists have been using this argument for decades. They claim that cannabis use will eventually generate curiosity about ‘harder’ drugs, leading to experimentation. This is blatantly false.”

Wignarajah said according to a report by the National Academic Press there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.

Wignarajah said the second myth was that “smoking cannabis is more harmful than cigarettes”.

“We all know the dangers of smoking. In fact, thanks to education efforts, the habit is at an all-time historic low; however, this also caused public opinion to see the act of smoking any kind of plant as being equal to–or worse–than cigarettes,” he said.

“Granted, we are not saying that inhaling smoke is completely safe, but comparing it to cigarettes is simply wrong.”

Miseducation about cannabis Wignarajah said people also wrongfully believe that “cannabis leads to criminal activities”.

“Of course, if cannabis is illegal, then simply possessing it does indeed make someone a criminal; however, when it comes to things like assault and homicide, the evidence just doesn’t support the more extreme claims,” Wignarajah said.

Wignarajah said marijuana was not as addictive as many people believe. “While there are rare reports of addiction, it’s important to note that the dependency is psychological, not chemical. People often turn to it as a way to mitigate the symptoms of other issues, like depression or anxiety,” he said.

Wignarajah said some people also believe cannabis causes schizophrenia.

“Anti-cannabis groups often like to show studies indicating that long-term use—especially among young people—can lead to schizophrenia; however, the doctors have said that this is due to a classic statistical error: ‘correlation does not equal causation,” he said.

Wignarajah said the best way for people to overcome the wrong impressions they have about cannabis is to get educated about it.

He said ideally the Caribbean region should approach the issue of cannabis legalisation as one and create a booming industry here.

However, he said that in the interim individual countries should push forward on their own and reap the benefits the industry has to offer and not get left behind.

Categories: News

Tips to follow during and after earthquakes

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 23:39

An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth, caused by the breaking and shifting of underground rock.

They can happen anywhere and without warning; cause fires and damage roads; and cause tsunamis, landslides, and avalanches.

If an earthquake happens, protect yourself the right away.

Drop, Cover, then Hold On!

• If in a vehicle, pull over and stop.

• If in bed, stay there. Lie on belly and cover head with a pillow.

• If outdoors, stay outdoors.

• Do not get in a doorway.

• Do not run outside.

HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN AN EARTHQUAKE THREATENS

• Secure items, such as televisions, and objects that hang on walls. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves.

• Practice Drop, Cover, then Hold On with family and co-workers.

• Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Crawl only as far as needed to reach cover from falling materials.

• Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops.

• Create a family emergency communications plan. Plan where to meet if you get separated.

• Make a supply kit that includes enough food and water for at least three days, a flash light, a fire extinguisher, and a whistle.

• Consider each person’s specific needs, including medication.

• Do not forget the needs of pets. Have extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment.

• Consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy. Standard home-owner’s insurance does not cover earthquake damage.

• Consider a retrofit of your building to correct structural issues that make it vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake.

SURVIVE DURING

• Drop, Cover, then Hold On like you practised. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops. Crawl only if you can reach better cover without going through an area with more debris.

• If in bed, stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow.

• If inside, stay there until the shaking stops. DO NOT run outside.

• If in a vehicle, stop in a clear area that is away from buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses, or utility wires.

• If you are in a high-rise building, expect fire alarms and sprinklers to go off. Do not use elevators.

• If near slopes, cliffs, or mountains, be alert for falling rocks and landslides.

BE SAFE AFTER

• Expect aftershocks to follow the largest shock of an earthquake.

• Check yourself for injury and provide assistance to others if you have training.

• If in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building.

• Do not enter damaged buildings.

• If you are trapped, cover your mouth. Send a text, bang on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle instead of shouting so that rescuers can locate you.

• If you are in an area that may experience tsunamis, go inland or to higher ground immediately after the shaking stops.

• Save phone calls for emergencies.

• Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cellphone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.

• Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris.

• Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself.

• Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.

Categories: News

Govt has $11m plan to mitigate impact of earthquakes

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 23:29

Government has embarked on an $11 million project aimed at mitigating the potentially devastating impact of future earthquakes through the application of building codes and appropriate land use policies.

The Seismic Microzonation Studies Project which started in 2016, and which will be implemented over a ten-year-period, seeks to establish effective disaster risk reduction measures for strong and major earthquakes in T&T.

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6 to 6.9 is categorised as strong, while one with a magnitude of 7.0 to 7.9 is categorised as major. A great earthquake is 8.0 and more and can totally destroy communities near the epicentre.

The project is being implemented by the UWI Seismic Research Centre and funded by the Ministry of Planning and Development through the Town and Country Planning Division. This was confirmed by officials at the Planning Ministry who said there were several projects in various phases that were currently underway to address these and other issues.

Following the 6.9 magnitude earthquake which hit T&T on Tuesday, the officials agreed it was important to implement mitigation measures.

However, they were unable to confirm if there was a national evacuation plan already in place or one being put in place by the Government for the city of Port-of-Spain. Officials said many businesses and government offices in POS, however, had developed internal policies and procedures to be followed during times of disaster.

Efforts to contact National Security Minister Stuart Young and Head of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management Neville Wint to confirm if there were evacuation plans in place for Port-of-Spain and other city centres in the event of another natural disaster proved unsuccessful as calls to their cellphones went unanswered.

Seismic experts warn: The Big One Is Looming

Director of the Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Prof Richard Robertson said in the last ten years or more, we have had elevated seismic activity with several sixes “so we wouldn’t be surprised to have a major event” occurring.

Robertson echoed concerns raised by fellow seismologist Dr Illias Papadopoulos who warned back in March that a major earthquake could hit the region and that the capital and environs were being constructed on reclaimed land.

Papadopoulos said two specific earthquake zones—located north of the Gulf of Paria and within the Gulf of Paria—posed a major threat and could generate earthquakes measuring a magnitude of seven or more.

Both expressed alarm because the capital city was at a greater risk of devastation because of water saturation which could contribute to the process of liquefaction.

In geology, soil liquefaction refers to the process by which water-saturated, unconsolidated sediments are transformed into a substance that acts like a liquid, often in an earthquake.

Robertson said “Imagine a granular material which has fine sediments and also liquid like water in it, if you shake that quite vigorously this will cause it to lose its structural integrity and stops behaving like a solid as the grains move so fast that things can sink. That can happen because a large magnitude earthquake will shake the ground vigorously.

“Areas where you have reclaimed land and land that has lots of liquid in it, those are areas that are well-known by geologists to be prone to or more likely to be impacted by liquefaction.”

Revealing that they had undertaken a detailed study over the last couple years in which they had been examining the nature of the sub-surface in built-up areas such as Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Scarborough, and Diego Martin, Robertson said “We now know how thick the granular material is and based on this, one of the places we could have major liquefaction possibly happen is in the waterfront area of Port-of-Spain and some of the same areas where large structures have been built.

“That said, we don’t know if the structures built there will be affected because we are not involved in the construction industry.”

Robertson said it was possible to build in areas where liquefaction occurs and not have the structures sink or fail.

Acknowledging the urgent need for long-term investment to foster a greater sense of resilience, Robertson said “Drills help in the immediate response, but there are other things which require greater investment in terms of building stronger and safer structures that require policies to be put into place.”

Commenting on the absolute need for the enforcement of safety and building codes by local authorities, Robertson said “As far as I am aware, T&T does not really have a legislated building code. There was some effort in the past and even some that are ongoing, but there is nothing that says when you build a structure in T&T, you have to follow a particular code.”

Categories: News

Beach chair ‘wars’ at Maracas

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 23:25

A bake and shark vendor, a beach accessories vendor, and two lifeguards are selling beach chairs along with several other chair rental companies adding to the chaos at Maracas Beach.

There are nine chair vendors on the beach but only one is licenced by the Government, and was paying a rent up to last year.

The Sunday Guardian visited the beach last Sunday after several complaints from citizens that the ‘rogue’ chair rental companies had literally taken over the beach staking their territory with their chairs and umbrellas early in the morning, preventing beachgoers from getting a spot on the sand and in effect pushing them out or extorting them to rent their chairs and umbrellas for the space.

As soon as I alighted from the car in the Maracas car park, a teenaged tout asked politely if I wanted a chair or umbrella.

The scene on the beach resembled a slum overrun with the visual pollution of plastic beach chairs and umbrellas that numbered more than beachgoers. There were children in the water watched over by their guardians or parents on the water’s edge and a few spaces in the shade.

One man who did not want to be named said “These two businessmen and lifeguards are filling up the beach with their chairs and umbrellas and then going and protest and complain about the number of chairs on the beach.

“I would like the Government to ask the young fellas to produce police records and certificates of character before they could sell and interact with people on the beach.

“There are all types of people on the beach, families, young children, seniors, visitors and some of these chair vendors are using obscene language, smoking marijuana, and fighting.

“Most of these youths have matters before the courts and these same fellas are among people on the beach with their children which could be dangerous.”

There was a murder in Tyrico Bay last year over beach chair ‘territory’, he recalled.

Kimberly Lewis, 24, was chopped to death and her husband, Jonathan Garcia, 29 was stabbed about the body at their business/home, the Beach Viewers Mart, opposite the entrance to Tyrico Bay, on May 22, 2017.

Police said the attack stemmed from a dispute with another couple two months before involving a neighbour’s missing beach chairs.

The man suggested that the Government should charge the chair rental companies for use of the beach as they were using resources such as water to wash their chairs.

He said the young men renting the chairs were running people from the beach since they had no training in etiquette.

The man said this was becoming an all too frequent occurrence on the beach now when one group of young men would pitch their chairs and umbrellas on the beach and another group would come and throw the first group’s equipment away.

Beach chairs an impediment to lifeguards, people feel harassed

Myra Gosein, from Princes Town, said the umbrellas and chairs posed a potential life-saving hazard to the lifeguards in the event they had to respond to an emergency on the beach or water as their view was blocked by the umbrellas and the chairs presented an obstacle course for them to cover the distance to render assistance.

Jon Mahabir, from St James, said for a while now he had been hesitant to bring his foreign family to the beach due to its overall poor condition.

He said he was approached to rent chairs and they made it seem like it was a necessity and that he almost felt bullied into doing so.

Mahabir said he usually carried a large beach mat that can comfortably fit four people and keep their belongings off the sand so he doesn’t usually use chairs.

He said he had been to many famous beaches worldwide and beach chairs were by request only unless it was a private beach in which case the chairs were complimentary and were also heavily regulated at most popular beaches.

Richard Robinson, from Cunupia, said he and his wife and other parents came with their children and members of their swim club (teens) to Maracas to train for the Maracas Open Water Swim Classic on September 16.

He said there were constant badgering and throwing of words at them by the chair vendors for either not wanting to rent or being abusive when asked to move the chairs. Robinson said he would like the authorities to put some regulations in place for the use of the foreshore and beachfront at T&T’s beaches.

He said commercial operators must be licenced and properly identified and the rules needed to be enforced when it came to illegal vending on the beaches.

Robinson said people go to the beach to relax; not to shop.

Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell did not return the Sunday Guardian’s messages on Friday.

Categories: News

Questions over Govt’s new energy company

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 22:48

Questions are being raised about the role of a new energy company—Trinidad and Tobago Upstream/Downstream Energy Company—in the pending reorganisation and restructuring of state-owned Petrotrin.

The new company, registered back in March, lists the directors as the Permanent Secretary in the Minister of Finance Vishnu Dhanpaul and the acting Permanent Secretary in the same ministry.

Dhanpaul, in response to an email, directed all questions to the Minister of Energy Franklin Khan.

Dhanpaul did not respond to subsequent questions about why he was listed as a director of an energy company even though he is employed by the Ministry of Finance.

These concerns are now compounded by statements made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley after the historic signing of the Dragon Gas Deal in Caracas yesterday. Rowley and a contingent was in Venezuela to meet with President Nicolas Maduro at the Mira Flores Palace in Caracas when he was asked by reporters about Tuesday’s meeting between Petrotrin and the OWTU.

“Within the next few days, the Board of Directors at Petrotrin will meet the OWTU to discuss the restructuring of the company. The meeting will take place shortly after which the company will be in a position to tell the country what it intends to do to restructure Petrotrin,” he said.

While on the way back from Caracas, Rowley spoke with reporters on the plane and said that Petrotrin could not continue the way it was going. He highlighted the fact that there are currently four rigs drilling for oil and none of them are in Petrotrin’s acreages.

“Petrotrin is the only oil company that I know of that has developed a policy of being in the oil business and not looking for oil,” Rowley said.

Suspicion rising

The Prime Minister’s harsh criticism of the state company is not new. At the beginning of the year, Rowley gave a cryptic overview of the operations at Petrotrin and promised then to fix the problems “once and for all”. Soon after Rowley’s statements, the cash-strapped Petrotrin engaged in a series of talks with the OWTU and external advisers to carve out a successful way forward for the company.

It is understood that a significant downsizing of the state company is on the table and suspicion is rising that this new company is established to take up the excess work but not the workers.

It is also unclear if any of Petrotrin’s assets have already been divested into the new company. Back in June, when Khan first mentioned the new company, he said that it was the Government’s intention that “selected energy assets of the State be held by” the Trinidad and Tobago Upstream/Downstream Energy Company.

On Thursday, the National Gas Company’s (NGC) Corporate Communications Manager Lisa Burkett was contacted about NGC’s own investment into the new company. Burkett would only refer to what Khan said back in June.

“What was published in the newspapers as announced by the Minister of Energy is all that NGC can say at this point in time,” she said in response to emailed questions.

When pressed further about the status of NGC’s upstream investment in Mitsubishi’s methanol plant under construction at La Brea, Burkett said that NGC would continue “to focus on its growth and sustainability portfolio until advised otherwise from its shareholder”.

These new questions about the energy company comes at a time of increased tension between the OWTU and Government as the union plans to protest outside the Prime Minister’s official residence in Cascade today.

Espinet: I do not know anything about that company

Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet yesterday dismissed any questions that the new company was registered to replace Petrotrin.

“I do not know anything about that company. It has nothing to do with anything I have to do,” Espinet said.

“The Petrotrin board knows nothing of it other than what has already been in the press.”

Though Espinet is keeping his cards close to his chest until after Tuesday’s meeting, the Sunday Guardian has been informed that the downsizing of the company is on the table.

“I will not discuss the reorganisation of Petrotrin until after Tuesday,” Espinet said.

Despite the lack of answers, the Sunday Guardian has learned that job packages have already been prepared at the new energy company.

Back in June, the Minister of Energy issued a statement in which it mentioned the new company, describing it then as a “newly incorporated state-owned energy company”.

He said then that Cabinet approved a Gas Sales Contract, executed on behalf of the Government by Trinidad and Tobago Upstream/Downstream Energy Operations Company Limited.

Khan had detailed the successive failures to get the World Gas To Liquids off the ground until a 2016 Sales Purchase Agreement with NiQuan Energy.

Khan said a review of the project showed financial benefits to the Government and state-owned Petrotrin, as well as the creation of jobs in the long and short term.

Categories: News

OWTU heads to PM’s residence today

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 22:46

President General of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union Ancel Roget is expected to make a statement on state-owned Petrotrin today in front of the official residence of the Prime Minister at La Fantasie Road, St Ann’s.

Roget will be speaking in the presence of hundreds of Petrotrin workers who are expected to converge at the Prime Minister’s residence to kneel and pray for Petrotrin, workers’ job security, and good governance.

OWTU’s research and education officer Ozzi Warwick said workers were expected to assemble at the residence around 3 pm and they expected a very positive response.

“A prayer service will be held but the president general will make an important statement on the way forward for Petrotrin. There will be some surprises. It is going to be big,” said Warwick.

He said Roget’s statement will focus on solutions and the way forward for Petrotrin from the union’s point of view.

Roget has been at loggerheads with the Rowley-led government which he claimed had failed in every aspect of governance and with its handling of Petrotrin.

Rowley had fired back at Roget warning him against threatening him, but Roget said the union will not be silenced.

Roget has repeatedly called for the removal of Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet and other members of the board. He also accused the Government and Petrotrin executive of failing to adhere to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) established by OWTU and Petrotrin in April to set up a working committee to oversee the restructuring of Petrotrin over an 18-month period.

Roget has claimed that Government intends to privatise Petrotrin and retrench thousands of workers. Last Tuesday, Roget met with the Prime Minister and other ministers at the office of the Prime Minister in Port-of-Spain to discuss Petrotrin’s future and restructuring, but Roget described the meeting as “not helpful”. Meanwhile, citizens remain in a state on anxiety about Petrotrin’s future and this was evident on Friday after there was a barrage of messages and rumours about Petrotrin being shut down, the army taking over Petrotrin operations, workers being sent home, and a fuel shortage.

Categories: News

Gary makes surprise visits to police stations

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 22:45

Newly appointed police commissioner Gary Griffith yesterday paid a surprise visit to nine police stations across the country as he embarked on a tour to meet officers “working on the ground”, so he could hear their concerns first-hand.

Arising out of those visits Griffith yesterday promised to get rid of the derelict vehicles littered at police stations across the country so the facilities could “look the part”.

Griffith said it was common to see a “little fortress” of derelict vehicles at this country’s police stations.

He, however, said this was “unacceptable” and promised to have the matter dealt with urgently. Speaking to the Sunday Guardian, Griffith said the derelict vehicles will be either “sold, removed or repaired”.

Griffith began his tour yesterday visiting police stations in west Trinidad and those at Penal, Mon Repos, Marabella, Siparia, and Fyzabad.

He has promised to visit all the police stations in this country.

He is hoping to have this done within his first month as Police Commissioner.

Griffith said the surprise visits are done so he can see for himself what the public and the police officers are faced with on a random day.

Griffith described yesterday’s visits as productive, saying he was happy to meet with his team of police officers and talk to them and listen to whatever concerns they may have.

He said the police officers all responded positive to the visits.

Griffith reiterated that dealing with the country’s crime scourge is not a one-man mission and can only be successful if he has the support of the police officers.

Categories: News

Cheap natural gas for T&T

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 22:43

History was created in Caracas yesterday when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley signed on the dotted line for the importation of cheap natural gas from Venezuela.

This will make T&T more attractive to billion-dollar downstream investments in the energy sector.

T&T has experienced gas shortages in the last five years and there has not been a single new investment in the petrochemical sector since.

In what must be considered one of his most significant achievements since coming to office almost three years ago, the Prime Minister beamed with pride as he told reporters that not only would the gas be coming here to support this country’s development but that the cost was less than the National Gas Company (NGC) was paying many of the upstream producers.

“We may have been able to save our industry by getting a secure source of gas for the downstream sector. It may over time also allow us to look at the expansion of the downstream sector and investments there, as long as we can show investors we have a secured stream of gas,” Rowley told journalists on the flight back from the Bolivarian Republic.

Rowley also revealed that the NGC has been able to negotiate a tranche of gas for power generation at an even lower price than the rest of the gas to be used by the petrochemical sector.

The dream of the processing of Venezuelan gas in T&T and its sale to major international markets was one that was articulated by the late prime minister Patrick Manning, and while there have been negotiations on various cross-border blocks to achieve the same objective nothing has been achieved in more than 15 years.

Today’s signing in the Venezuelan capital brings this dream one step closer to reality.

The Prime Minister was not willing to disclose the price of the gas, pointing to commercial confidentiality, but he revealed it will be 150 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscf/d), with the possibility of it increasing to 300 mmscf/d.

Rowley said the pipeline carrying the gas from Venezuela’s Dragon Gas field in Eastern Venezuela to Shell’s Hibiscus platform off the North Coast will be built and owned in a joint venture between the NGC and Shell Trinidad.

The estimated cost of the construction of the pipeline is over $1 billion TT.

To put the deal into perspective, Trinidad would access enough gas to support at least two methanol plants from Venezuela, it will help with the shortfall in natural gas to the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, and would provide a guaranteed source of cash to the Venezuela government.

As President Nicolas Maduro puts it, the deal will lead to money to build schools and provide drugs to Venezuela’s hospitals. The drive from the Simon Bolivar Airport to Mira Flores demonstrated how much the cash is needed as long lines could be seen everywhere in the capital as people struggle to deal with the worst economic crisis in the Americas.

Both Rowley and Maduro acknowledged that the signing of terms of the agreement had come a year and a half after they signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the very project, but both said it was better late than never.

The two neighbours are also involved in negotiations to develop gas in the Loran/Manatee fields that straddle both countries’ maritime borders. The Loran-Manatee field has an estimated 10.25 trillion cubic feet of gas of which roughly 74 per cent belongs to Venezuela with 26 per cent belonging to T&T.

THE DEAL

T&T and Venezuela signed a Heads of
Agreement (HoA) in March 2017 on
a project that will see gas piped run
from the Dragon field in Sucre state
to the northeast of Venezuela from
PDVSA’s Mariscal Sucre project to the
Hibiscus platform in T&T operated
by Shell and then to the NGC for sale
downstream.
Rowley met with a high-level
delegation from Venezuela on January
24, 2018, as negotiations for the
supply of natural gas to T&T continued
to progress. In June, Stuart Young,
then minister in the office of the
attorney general, had led a delegation
to continue negotiations.
The Government has promised that
the natural gas shortages experienced
by the downstream companies
will come to an end by 2021. It has
based its projections on improved
production from the upstream energy
companies and on natural gas from
Venezuela’s Dragon Field.

Categories: News

EU grant to help former inmates

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 22:58

The European Union Delegation to T&T has bestowed a €100,000 (TT$783,000) grant to Vision on a Mission to extend its pre-release and resettlement programme for former inmates.

In a press release earlier this week, the delegation said that the NGO was selected based on its decades of work with the Prison Service and Ministry of National Security.

EU Ambassador Aad Biesebroek, who spoke at the event, said that the grant was just one of several local human rights initiatives supported by the EU over the past three years.

“Second chances are important. This project ensures that rather than slipping through the cracks and falling into recidivism, ex-offenders will be given the opportunity to reintegrate and make positive contributions to society,” Biesebroek said.

The others local projects supported by the EU included research on the death penalty, support of single fathers seeking to maintain contact with their children and the promotion of gender equality and the reduction of discrimination based on sexual orientation. The organisation’s founder Wayne Chance said he was pleased after his organisation was selected.

“There are very stringent measures to qualify and we are very happy that we could have met the international standards to qualify,” he said.

He said that the application was made because they felt that its current pre-release programme could not provide the skills and training required for reintegration into society.

“For a lot of those leaving the prison, the impact of their imprisonment and the programmes they were exposed to were not all that sufficient to make them marketable,” Chance said.

He said that under the new two-year programme, former inmates would be trained in food and agro-processing.

“We are going to work with 70 persons to help them become entrepreneurs,” Chance said as he stated that the aim of the programme is to be sustainable.

The grant will go to setting up the programmes, hiring staff to facilitate it and establishing an outreach centre in San Fernando. While he said the organisation was thankful for the support of the EU and its Government subvention, Chance called on corporate entities to partner with it

Categories: News

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