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A businessman has been fined $4,400 for running an illegal “Play Whe” operation at his legitimate casinos in Port-of-Spain, two years ago.
Abraham Moses, 69, of Fonrose Avenue, Cascade, was slapped with the fine by Magistrate Sanara Toon-McQuilkin after he pleaded guilty to two charges of illegal gambling before her in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
While she noted that the offence carries a potential prison sentence, Toon-McQuilkin said it was not appropriate in Moses’ case because of his age and the fact that he had a clean criminal record.
However, she stated that he did not deserve a full one-third discount of his sentence, usually afforded to people who plead guilty, as he waited almost two years to change his plea.
She also noted that illegal “Play Whe” operations, which usually pays better odds that offered by the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), are far too prevalent in T&T.
Toon-McQuilkin gave Moses a week in which to pay the fine. In the event that he does not meet the deadline, Moses will serve four months in prison.
According to the evidence presented in the case, Moses was arrested after police raided Million Dollar Private Members’ Club on Charlotte Street and Queen Charlotte Recreational Club on Henry Street, in January 2016.
The officers seized five cash registers, which were modified to collect bets and $42,861 in cash.
After sentencing Moses, the magistrate granted an order to enable the State to forfeit the seized money under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Under the order, the money is to be placed in the Seized Assets Fund, which is used for funding community development, drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes.
Although Moses’ lawyer Ian Brooks did not challenge the order during the hearing, he has a month in which to decide whether to appeal the decision.
A 39-year-old man from Maraval, who jumped from the 11th storey of a building after being charged with murder, last year, has finally appeared in court.
Rodger Holder, of Hilltop Drive, Maraval, appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Nanette Forde-John in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court charged with murder, kidnapping and possession of firearm and ammunition.
Holder, also known as Ras and Masman, was initially charged alongside Cornelius La Borde, 26, of Morne Roche Road, Maraval, in November, last year.
However, two days before they were due to appear in court, Holder jumped through a window at Riverside Plaza in Port-of-Spain, where he was being detained.
Holder was hospitalised and was only discharged by doctors at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, earlier this week.
He was then charged with escaping lawful custody and for attempted suicide.
Holder, whose foot is still in a cast, hobbled into the courtroom with the aid of crutches.
Holder and La Borde are accused of murdering 35-year-old Donald Marcano, of Maraval, on October 24, last year. Marcano was at home when two gunmen entered and shot him several times.
Earlier that day, the same men kidnapped Marcano’s teenage nephew. The men took him away from his home and beat him before he managed to escape. Holder and La Borde are expected to reappear in court on September 19.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told an audience in Tobago that they should not expect a fast ride on the Galleons Passage, the passenger ferry, which embarks on its first trial run next week.
The vessel is expected to take in excess of four hours to make the journey between Port-of-Spain and Scarborough.
The Prime Minister was fielding questions on Thursday during the fifth instalment of Conversations with the Prime Minister series at the Scarborough Library, Tobago.
Rowley said the Galleons Passage is a single hull boat that travelled at a top speed of 22 knots.
He was asked about the state of the ferry service by businesswoman Shirley Cooke, who operates at Crown Point. Cooke said business was bad for the past two years because of low tourist arrivals.
Rowley called upon Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan to give an update.
Sinanan said the crew for the Galleons Passage arrived on Thursday and trial runs to Tobago are planned for next week. The vessel arrived in T&T in July after a four-month journey from China.
He said once things work as planned, in three weeks time the Galleons Passage, alongside the T&T Spirit should be servicing the islands.
Sinanan said an advertisement was posted in a daily newspaper inviting applications for another fast ferry. He said the plan was to use a third fast ferry to service the islands under a two-year lease arrangement.
Sinanan said Cabinet plans to purchase two new ferries that would replace the older boats before they go into a state of disrepair.
The Prime Minister said the Australian Government is assisting the Government to purchase two new ferries that should be in service by mid-2020.
Rowley appealed to Tobagonians to stop bad talking the island and discouraging Trinidadians, whom he said are now spending their vacation monies elsewhere.
“If I was in Trinidad, as I am, and I wanted somewhere to go, the last place I want to go is Tobago because you get on as if Tobago is a hell hole. We have five planes going back and forth and you can’t get a seat but no tourist in Tobago.”
He said people in St Lucia have told him that Trinidadians are coming to St Lucia because Tobagonians are discouraging them from visiting.
Speaking on the Sandals project, Rowley said the Government would be in the process of drawing up a contract to sign with the hotel chain.
Rowley made it clear that the government has not yet entered into a contract with Sandals. Rowley said the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with Sandals and arrangements with the hotel chain would be negotiated before any contract was signed.
Rowley said the public utilities, airport and infrastructure were being upgraded in preparation for a growth of tourism on the island. He also noted that the THA was spending $20 million to fix agricultural access roads in Tobago so agricultural produce could be developed for the tourism sector in Tobago.
Rowely said the Government has received two applications for a public/private sector venture to develop a marina at the Canoe Bay, Cove area that would also attract other upscale tourists to the sister isle.
One hundred and twenty-two patients from the Central Block of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) have been relocated over the past two days to wards on the North Block of the hospital and the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) and all elective surgeries have been suspended pending further notice.
This was the word from North-West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) CEO Wendy Ali as she oversaw the process.
She told the T&T Guardian: “We are preparing another ward and executing a plan to get the place ready for the re-opening of the Haematology clinic, so there is a lot going on. Work continues apace as we continue to do what we have to do so that we can get back to some state of readiness and building out bed capacity.”
Ali said it was the first time such an exercise had been done.
“I don’t know that anyone ever decanted five floors of a public hospital. It was a great learning experience. We had a Disaster Committee Preparedness plan we put it into action and of course, while we were doing it there was a lot of collaboration and support from external and internal parties.
“I think we did the best that we could in the shortest possible time.”
She said they had a lot of support from the Defence Force, Fire, Prisons and Police Service and it was a great team effort.
Ali said elective surgeries had to be put on hold because they needed to keep the beds for persons who are acutely ill. While the decanting has been completed, she said the process will continue this weekend to bring back up all the services. She commended the doctors and nurses for staying committed to doing what is required in the circumstances.
The T&T Guardian understands Defence Force members assisted with removing beds and other equipment and supplies from the Central Block on Thursday night, as patients were relocated to wards in the North Block.
Yesterday, the NWRHA said the decision to relocate the patients “was taken out of an abundance of caution” to ensure the continued safety of staff, patients and visitors in light of the 6.9 earthquake and in the event of further aftershocks.
The Accident and Emergency (A&E) department remains open and will continue to provide full service.
In the interim, the Haematology clinic has been relocated to the St James Medical Complex and 14 patients from the Gerontology Ward at the St James Medical Complex have been relocated to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
North Central Regional Health Authority CEO Davlin Thomas said the EWMSC had accepted two tiers of patients. He admitted that the decanting had placed an additional burden on the EWMSC but assured everything was done to ensure the “transition was seamless and excellent.”
However, T&T Registered Nurses Association president Idi Stuart told the T&T Guardian that although they agreed with the decision to decant, “the manner in which it is being done really leaves one to wonder whether patients will get adequate care.”
Stuart said two wards from the old section of the hospital were being used to accommodate patients from the fourth and fifth floors.
“The remaining floors, they are trying to squeeze them into one ward of the hospital so you have six wards coming together to be housed in one ward. This mass exodus is really causing numerous problems, we are trying to reassure our members that with all that is happening patient safety remains paramount.”
He also expressed concern that because six wards were merged there would be an issue with “bathrooms because there is one bathroom for male patients and one for female patients.
Ali said the issue of the bathrooms was being addressed “but Mr Stuart must understand that this was an emergency.” She said some bathrooms were refurbished yesterday and will be made available for use.
Meantime, the Ministry of Health says as of yesterday patients from the Central Block were relocated to wards within the PoSGH, EWMSC, and the Caura Chest Hospital. It assured that the relocation was “conducted in a manner that ensured respect for patients and maintained optimal quality of care.”
Some 35 Rio Claro East Secondary students have now been graded in Principles of Business and Principles of Accounts by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and the majority of them received passes.
This was confirmed yesterday by the Ministry of Education chief education officer Harrilal Seecharan at a media conference at the ministry’s Port-of-Spain headquarters.
In commending CXC for their quick response to the issue, Seecharan said according to a preliminary report received on Monday, it was found that the samples of the students’ work were not done. He, however, added that the respective marks for both subjects were completed and the marks uploaded and their “ungraded” status was revised.
“The other requirement, which is following the submission of the marks, where samples of students’ work needed to be uploaded to CXC for the moderation was not done and hence the reason for students receiving ungraded in those two subjects,” Seecharan said.
“Fortunately for us, copies of those SBAs, the samples, were lodged in the exam section,” he added.
Seecharan said the ministry contacted CXC on Tuesday morning on the issue and by Thursday they got a response “where students’ grades were adjusted based on the samples submitted.”
In terms of who is to be held culpable for what happened, Seecharan said that is currently under investigation.
“Based on the preliminary report and following due process, in terms of clearly establishing what transpired at the level of the school for the non-submission and confirmation of those results and based on that…we would decide what is the next step.”\
Education Minister Anthony Garcia interjected, saying the ministry has established clear guidelines and procedures for SBAs which are prepared at the level of the school.
“Something happened where confirmation was not done…but there is always the possibility of human error.”
When asked if disciplinary action can be taken against the teacher or principal if the error was on their part, Garcia replied: “It is at the preliminary stage and at this stage I cannot say if anyone is culpable, but if it arises certainly we will move to the next stage but I cannot say at this point in time. We can only contemplate that if there is evidence.”
On another issue, Garcia said a number of schools had sustained damage during Tuesday’s 6.9 earthquake and have been put on a priority list by the structural engineer at the Ministry of Works. However, he said the ministry could not say how many schools would have to undergo corrective works until they get a completed report.
He speculated that based on the report, there could be delays in the reopening of some schools at the start of the new school term.
A 47-year-old financial manager of a Caroni company, who is accused of embezzling $1.3 million from her former employer, had her bail doubled when she appeared in court yesterday morning.
Deanna Naalini, 48, of St Augustine Circular Road, Tunapuna, was granted $300,000 bail by a Justice of the Peace on Thursday, as she could not attend court while the Judiciary was continuing structural checks on courts around the country following Tuesday’s 6.9 magnitude earthquake.
However, when she appeared before Magistrate Debra Quintyne in the Tunapuna Magistrate’s Court yesterday morning, Naalini’s bail was increased to $600,000.
As part of the conditions of her bail, Naalini was ordered to surrender her passport and report to police three times a week for the duration of her case.
Naalini, a former employee of TYE Manufacturing Company Limited, was slapped with 88 charges—32 offences of money laundering; 32 offences of larceny and 24 offences of falsification of accounts.
She was not called upon to plead to the charges during the hearing.
The company reported the fraud to the Fraud Squad after it was discovered earlier this year.
An investigation was conducted by a team of detectives led by Senior Supt Totaram Dookie and she was arrested on Monday.
In addition to the charges, investigators have obtained orders from the High Court freezing her bank accounts and seizing a Volkswagen Passat sedan, pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The charges were laid by Sgt Cornelius Samuel. Naalini will reappear in court on September 12.
Amid increased uncertainty and fear about the future of Petrotrin and job security, the state-owned company is assuring the public that there has been no change in its operations.
Social media was abuzz yesterday with warnings of an impending shutdown at the company, army personnel being trained to run the refinery, particularly the bond, a private entity taking over operations, mass retrenchment and Petrotrin Estate officers providing security for board members.
The public was also warned about a fuel shortage and advised to fill up their tanks. This caused panic buying of fuel at several stations across the country.
The T&T Guardian was also bombarded with calls and messages by concerned citizens, including workers and contractors, about the information being circulated yesterday.
However, around 4 pm yesterday Petrotrin sent out a release in response to the plethora of rumours. The release said Petrotrin has invited the executive of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) to a meeting at 10.30 am on Tuesday (August 28) for a presentation by the board on the way forward for the company.
It further stated, “The company wishes to advise the public and all concerned that Petrotrin continues to operate normally and that there has been no change to routine activity. Petrotrin will advise the public of any change as necessary.”
However, a company source said they knew something big was going to happen but no one knew exactly what was being planned.
Calls to the cell phone of OWTU president general Ancel Roget went unanswered yesterday, but research and education officer Ozzi Warwick said the union had received no confirmation of the information being circulated yesterday.
“We are not aware of any of that happening. As far as we are concerned, nothing is going to deter the union and workers from coming out on Sunday, when we will converge at the official residence of the Prime Minister,” he said.
Former labour minister Rudranath Indarsingh, meanwhile, said Petrotrin workers were in a state of stress and anxiety. He called on the Government to come clean on what was agreed to in Cabinet about Petrotrin two weeks ago.
“The UNC is calling upon the Prime Dr Keith Rowley and the chairman of the board of directors of Petrotrin Wilfred Espinet to clear the air on whether the refinery has been sold and what is the future of the 3,000 employees and also how the closure of the refinery will impact on the economy of Gasparillo, Pointe-a-Pierre, Marabella, Vistabella and San Fernando.”
He warned that any closure of the refinery would decimate small and medium contractors.
A Sangre Grande mechanic was gunned down by a one-legged man who became enraged because he had to wait too long to collect $100 he had asked the boss and employees of the business place for.
Shammie Phillip, 35, was at his Ramdass Street, Sangre Grande workplace around 10.30 am when he was shot in the head at point blank range by the man, who lives next door, police said.
According to police reports, the suspect usually went to Phillip’s workplace every payday (Fridays) to ask the owner of the business, a garbage collection contractor and his employees for assistance because one of his legs was amputated a few months ago.
Yesterday, the amputee went to the business’ gate and asked for $100, but was asked to wait until employees were paid. He stood opposite the business for a while before he left.
However, he returned to the compound later, said good morning to the boss and went to Phillip, who was standing close to a vehicle behind the main gate.
The amputee then pulled out a gun and shot Phillip in his head. Phillip died instantly
An employee who saw when Phillip was shot called for assistance and other workers ran outside where they saw their co-worker lying dead.
The attacker then reportedly hopped across to his home and sat at the back. Police who responded were able to arrest him without any resistance sometime afterwards.
He told reportedly told police he killed Phillip because he was “frustrated and distressed” over his inability to take care of himself since his amputation.
As news spread, family members rushed to Phillip’s workplace.
His girlfriend Marisha became hysteric and sat near her boyfriend holding on to the iron gate and screaming. She sat on the ground until police removed her. Phillip’s sisters and nephew were also comforted by police officers.
Phillip, who was from Vega de Oropouche, was described by villagers as a quiet man who loved to play music.
They said when he was not working he would ply his car for hire from Sangre Grande to Vega de Oropouche. He was described by his boss and co-workers as a hardworking individual who was always punctual and when asked to work extra time never refused.
District Medical Officer Dr Elijah Fagorala viewed the body and ordered its removal to the Forensic Sciences Centre, St James, for a postmortem on Monday.
The 34-year-old suspect remains in police custody and is expected to be charged with murder. Phillip’s murder brought the toll for the year to 353.
Visiting the scene were Snr Supt Garth Nelson, Acting ASPs Joseph, Etienne, Insp Ken Lutchman, Cpl Joseph and Pcs Cielto, Samuel, and Thomas. Cpl Stanisclaus of Homicide Bureau Region II Arouca is continuing investigations.
This was the second murder in Sangre Grande within a few days. Last Thursday, Dr Sinanan Lutchman, of Guaico, Tamana, was gunned down at his Paul Street, Sangre Grande office.
Mother of two Salasha Ali may have received a second miracle of life yesterday after she survived a horrid accident in which an industrial mobile welding plant ploughed into her at the side of the road in Cunupia.
Ali, 30, was standing at her vegetable stall at the side of Chin Chin Road when the heavy plant was thrown from the tray of a three-tonne truck which overturned as the driver took a bend.
Although she was alive at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex last evening, Ali was said to be in a “bad state” and up to press time was in the A&E department undergoing several tests.
Her 11-year-old daughter, who was also struck by the equipment, was also lucky after sustaining a minor injury to one of her eyes. She was treated at the Accident and Emergency Depart (A&E) of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mount Hope and subsequently discharged.
During an interview hours after the incident, Ali’s husband, Michael Sookwah, 51, said just seconds before tragedy struck he was standing at his wife’s side, where the three of them had just packed out ochroes, pommecythere, lemon and lime to sell on a table.
“I had just walked away from Salasha and her daughter when I saw this van speeding coming. In a split second I heard the brakes of the van bawling and as he take the corner I saw when this machine just pitch out from the tray and hit my wife and daughter. The machine landed on her right side, pinning she to the ground,” a worried Sookwah recalled.
Sookwah said his wife sustained a broken leg and hand along with other injuries to her right-side and head.
“She badly off from what I see,” Sookwah said with tears in his eyes.
He added that the driver of the van, on realising what had taken place, stopped and reversed the vehicle to where his wife lay on the side of the road.
“He came out and helped us lift the machine from off of her, but up to now he never said a word to us. Not even anyone from the company the man working for has even tried to contact us.”
The three-tonne truck, TDG 3594, sported the company’s name in a banner fixed on its windscreen. The vehicle belongs to a construction company which is owned by a villager, bystanders said.
Sookwah said he and his wife do gardening and it was normal for them to put stalls along the road to sell their produce. He, however, noted that they had just recently decided to set up at the spot where the incident occurred.
“We come there about two weeks now and we have always been careful,” he said.
Sookwah scolded the driver of the vehicle for speeding and for not securing the heavy equipment.
“He wrong for speeding, especially around corners. If that was tied the entire van would have flipped but it pitch from the van. I just want to see my wife come back good and she gets compensation. I want to see that man in police custody and charged by the police.”
Eyewitness to the incident Foster Antoine, said he was willing to testify in any case which may go before the court. He noted that at that particular corner a lot of drivers tend to speed.
“How much time I will see speeding around this corner and how much time I will be saving people. I live around this corner and I see the van coming and I shout ‘clear’ but it was too late. The woman get pinned down and break leg, hand, ribs and neck,” he said.
“Them people trying to make an honest dollar. Now what will become of her?”
The T&T Guardian understands that the driver was questioned by police investigators and subsequently released.
Officers of the Cunupia Police Station are continuing investigations.
A Special Reserve Police officer has been detained after he was caught by police officers, with housebreaking implements on the roof of a shopping mall, in the Sangre Grande district.
The 23-year-old officer was arrested by officers of the Sangre Grande Task Force and Criminal Investigations Department (CID), after he was seen on the roof of a business place along the Eastern Main Road, Sangre Grande, around 3 am on Wednesday.
Officers also found a bag containing bolt cutters and a red hoodie on the roof and observed that sheets of galvanize had already been shifted to allow access into the building.
The officer, who has five years’ service and last attached to the Arouca Police Station, is being detained at the Sangre Grande Police Station for enquiries in connection with a string of break-ins and robberies across the Northern and Eastern Divisions.
WPC Ria Timothy of the Sangre Grande CID is continuing enquiries.
A prison officer with over 22 years of service has been arrested at the Golden Grove Prison after being found with contraband items.
The arrest took place around 10.35 yesterday.
A statement by the Prisons Service says during a random search, the officer was found to be in possession of several packets of sealed cigarettes as well as 50 packets of wrapping paper.
He was subsequently handed over to the Arouca Police.
During a search of the officer’s vehicle, police found four mobile phones which were confiscated.
The officer was taken to the Arouca Police Station where charges are expected to be laid
Acting Commissioner of Prisons Dane Clarke applauded the ongoing vigilance and efficiency of the dedicated officers who continue to hold the service in high esteem, a statement of the Prison Service said.
The statement said measures had been implemented which were designed to apprehend and convict people who were intent on bringing the service into disrepute.
Arms, ammunition, marijuana and police operational clothing have been seized during a police exercise in Diego Martin.
According to police reports, on Wednesday, officers of the Western Division Task Force and Canine Unit searched an abandoned house at Riverside Drive, La Puerta where they discovered a Glock 19 pistol, 30 rounds of ammunition and over half a kilogramme of marijuana.
A 29-year old man was subsequently detained for the find.
The officers then proceeded to another house in the area where a 41-year-old man was arrested for being in possession of a Glock 17 and 16 rounds of ammunition.
Further information led officers to search an abandoned building where they discovered two rifles, a semi-automatic shotgun with 13 cartridges, a cylindrical magazine, a bulletproof vest, and items of clothing resembling that of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment and the Police Service.
The exercise was coordinated by Snr Supt Neville Sankar and spearheaded by acting ASP Dhanrajh Ramesar and acting Insp Godfrey Vincent.
The owner of a boat charter company is challenging a decision by the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) to evict it from the Alcan Bay fishing facility, next month.,
In a telephone interview yesterday, Martin “Green” Hourie, owner of Island Royalty Cruises, said that he planned to take legal action over the move, which was announced by the CDA, this week.
Hourie, a life-long fisherman, said he and his family began using the facility over 50 years ago.
“My deceased father had a jetty here. All we do is cast the jetty into concrete to ply the fishing trade,” he said.
Hourie, who now owns five fishing boats at the facility, said that due to the Government’s neglect of the dilapidated facility, he and other fishermen took it upon themselves to build their own toilets and refrigeration facility.
He claimed that the CDA was aware of the development and did nothing to stop it.
“It is not like the CDA did not know. You can not build a concrete structure in two days. If you came and see that something was building, why you did not stop it?” he asked.
He said several years ago he got the opportunity to purchase a used boat, which he repaired and converted for fishing and pleasure charters.
“I got an old boat to buy and I fixed it to carry people down the islands. Everybody here doing the same thing,” Hourie claimed as he said that fishermen were forced to diversify due to economic uncertainty in the trade.
While the CDA has maintained that registered fishing vessels would not be removed, Hourie alleged that fishermen would be eventually be moved by the CDA.
“They (CDA) want to give the place to (name withheld) and they tell the fishermen they want to develop the place for them. They are getting evicted,” Hourie said, as he claimed that he had evidence to substantiate his allegations.
Although he admitted that CDA may demolish structures that were built at the facility, he claimed that it had no jurisdiction over boats anchored off the coast.
“CDA cannot say what boats are to stay in the water. The CDA has no control over that,” he said.
In a release issued earlier this week, the CDA said illegal occupiers have until September 7, to remove their vessels and items and demolish structures that were built onshore without permission.
It also stated that if the CDA was forced to demolish the structures if the deadline passed, the owners would still be responsible for removing the debris. It was careful to note that bona fide fishermen were not included as the location is reserved for a fishing port.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries has proposed to develop the location into a state-of-the-art facility, but no official plans or timeline have been announced.
When a news team from Guardian Media visited the facility and spoke to the fishermen, they were not hopeful over the proposal.
“We hearing about that just as long as we hearing that they going to move us. We will have to wait and see because with politicians they will say two years and it will take 20,” one said.
The 47-year-old financial manager of a manufacturing company in Caroni who was charged with embezzling $1.3 million from the company’s account was yesterday granted $300,000 bail.,
Deanna Naalini, 48, of St Augustine Circular Road, Tunapuna, yesterday appeared before a Justice of the Peace and is scheduled to appear before a magistrate in the Tunapuna Magistrates’ Court today.
According to Fraud Squad officers, the woman was slapped with 88 charges—32 offences of money laundering; 32 offences of larceny and 24 offences of falsification of accounts.
She was previously employed by TYE Manufacturing Company Limited.
A report was made by company officials to the Fraud Squad and investigations and exercises were conducted under the leadership of Snr Supt Totaram Dookhie, including ASP Ghisyawan, Sgt Cornelius Samuel, Sgt Damien Thomas and WPC April-Ann Adams. The woman was arrested on Monday.
Investigations continued and restraint orders were obtained from the High Court, freezing her bank account and seizing a Volkswagen Passat sedan, pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act.,
All charges were laid by Sgt Cornelius Samuel.
Roman Catholic priest Father Michael Cockburn and a small congregation attending evening Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception had a close call during Tuesday’s 6.9 earthquake.
Cockburn had just moved into the sanctuary to put the Eucharist after Communion when one of the church’s finials, shaken out of place by the 90-second quake, fell through the roof and into the church, landing in the sacristy.
There were about 30 people on hand for the Mass but no one was injured, Vicar General and administrator of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Father Martin Sirju, confirmed yesterday.
Sirju said Fr Cockburn himself was doing fine and “he does not seem to be traumatised” but they do now have a hole in the roof to repair on top of the other damage sustained to the overall structure.
Efforts to contact Cockburn were unsuccessful yesterday.
Yesterday, Fr Sirju said there were no estimates yet for the restoration work to be done at the cathedral. He said the basic integrity of the cathedral “is intact” and structural engineers visited the site and said it had withstood the shock of the quake quite well.
The cathedral is over 150 years old.
The “weak point,” according to Sirju, “are those structures jutting out from the sides of the top of the cathedral, the finials”, which he likened to “chimney tops”.
Sirju thanked the Ministry of Works, Port-of-Spain City Corporation, UDeCoTT, the police and the fire service for responding quickly to assist the church. On Wednesday night, the Works Ministry and UDeCoTT also assisted in removing the piece of the finial on the northern side of the cathedral, which Sirju said “was seriously compromised and could have fallen on people or vehicles”.
Sirju said they expected to get an estimate of the work to be done on the roof of the church by next week and money for the repairs will be used from the Archbishop’s Appeal Fund.
“I cannot say if the amount of money would cover it or if it would require more or less,” Sirju said.
It would be the first work to be done on the roof since the cathedral underwent extensive restorative work just under three years ago.
The main thing to be done is to fix the roof temporarily, he said and to remove the “treacherous pieces of lumber hanging precariously from the ceiling. When that is removed we can begin the clean-up exercise in the sacristy”.
Restoring the ceiling, according to Sirju, “is not very specialised. What would be more specialised and what would not be done now is the reconstructing of the finials so that they would be sturdier in case of possible earthquakes.
The cathedral will remain closed at least for the next week and all masses will be held at the Sacred Heart RC Church on Richmond Street, he said.
But Sirju said “natural disasters are happening everywhere and we have to prepare ourselves for them”.
From a biblical point of view, he said, “Every time disaster happens it is time for internal reflection, it is also a ripe opportunity to recognise that life is short and unpredictable and to look at oneself and to better oneself and to better the country as we approach our 56th year of independence.”
The Trinity Cathedral also suffered damage to four of its finials during the quake. Officials are yet to get an estimate on the cost of repairing the damage done.
Anglican Bishop Claude Berkely, who is on vacation, told the T&T Guardian he was “thankful to God” that the damage had not been worse.
He said the Holy Trinity Cathedral would be 200 years old in five years and had sat through many earthquakes.
Noting there were plans to restore the building for the 200th anniversary, he said: “This will hasten whatever work we have to do.”
The church, he said, would be looking to the public and the wider community to assist in the repair and restoration.
Berkely recalled that just under three years ago some of the more decorative elements fell during another earthquake, “so it was not unexpected that some kind of damage would have been done given what happened before”.
Another earthquake aftershock was felt yesterday in Trinidad - the 38th following Tuesday’s big 6.9 magnitude strike.
And reports of damage from Tuesday’s “big one” have risen to 218, according to the Local Government Ministry.
The latest tremor occurred at 6.44 am yesterday and registered at a magnitude of 4.0 with a depth of 70 kilometres, T&T’s Seismic Research Centre said. It occurred west of Trinidad - the epicentre of Tuesday’s earthquake - and registered as far as St Lucia and Barbados.
The SRC had noted 37 aftershocks up to yesterday’s event, with the biggest one registering a 5.9/6 magnitude.
Yesterday, SCR director Richard Robertson, who acknowledged public concern, called on the public not to panic.
“Aftershocks will be with us for some time. You’re likely not to feel most of them. But aftershocks are the earth’s way of settling itself after a large fracture has occurred within, causing an earthquake,” Robertson said.
“Once a fracture occurs in the earth’s main crust - as happened Tuesday - the surrounding crust has to adjust to the amount of energy released. Usually, this is followed by smaller aftershocks, which is the normal pattern. Sometimes an earthquake might be followed by an aftershock at some point, which might be bigger than the earthquake. But in our case, what we’ve seen of aftershocks is the normal pattern of smaller tremors.”
He said earthquakes are caused purely by processes within the earth and not anything above ground or lunar activity.
“When fractures occur within and the crust cannot move freely, it builds up pressure and this is released via earthquake,” he said.
With continued after-shocks, the Local Government Ministry said reports of damage received from the 14 municipal corporations rose from over 30 on Wednesday to 218 of both major and minor structural damage to private homes.
Assessments have been completed for 146 of the reports, Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein said.
“The majority of reports are minor structural damage such as wall cracks. The corporations are making every effort to assist all affected families and their Disaster Management units continue assessment,” Hosein told the T&T Guardian.
“We urge the public to continue working with all first responders to ensure safety and restoration in their communities. In the event of emergency, please call the 24-hour Disaster Management Hotline of your respective municipality.”
Yesterday, private and public sector agencies also continued evaluating damage from Tuesday’s earthquake. The multi-storey Public Administration Ministry between St Vincent and Abercromby Streets will remain closed until next week, officials said. Legal Affairs, South Quay building was also closed
Assessment and repairs are also being done on a number of private sector structures - from MovieTowne to T&T Yacht Club in Bayshore and Powerboats’ Chaguaramas facility.
The TTYC manager said damage was sustained to the Club’s jetty and finger pier, which disconnected, as did diesel and gasoline fuel pumps. Powerboats’ restaurant area was also damaged.
But other businesses and some ministries reopened yesterday after closing following Wednesday’s aftershock. Among those re-opening for business yesterday was the Education Ministry. Today, Minister Anthony Garcia will reveal post-earthquake reports from schools and early childhood centres. But officials said damage to such institutions wasn’t significant.
However, Caroni East MP Tim Gopeesingh wants Garcia to say how many school buildings have sustained any infrastructural damage, the scale of such damage and timeframe of repair works to be undertaken.
He also wants the ministry to inspect all school buildings, especially older ones, to determine the infrastructural integrity and fitness to safely house T&T’s approximately 250,000 students and 16,000 teachers when school reopen for the new academic year shortly.
“I urge Mr Garcia to make it his priority to ensure all government and government-assisted primary schools (422), secondary schools (125) and early childhood centres are safe,” Gopeesingh added, noting schools are also used as relief centres and shelters for the population in natural disasters.
Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodan also called on the Works Ministry to do a structural audit on overpasses at Endeavour, Charlieville and Chaguanas, particularly since the latter links north and south.
Demanding relocation and compensation, a handful of irate farmers confronted Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat yesterday, as he braved rains and potential floods to meet them after their farmlands were devastated by Tuesday’s earthquake.
However, the majority of the 40 farmers eventually expressed satisfaction with Rambharat’s visit, saying they only wanted him to assist them as soon as possible to get back on their feet.
Los Iros Hill View Farmers Association president Reshinand Ramraj said the farmers lost 20 irrigation ponds and 40 acres of farmlands. He said hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of crops, including hot pepper, tomato, ochro, bodi and eggplant, were buried in the dirt, while a plough and a tractor fell into the cracks created by the 6.9 quake.
“Many farmers are afraid to be on the area because the land is shifting at an alarming speed,” Ramraj said.
When Guardian Media returned to the area yesterday, the RE Road was impassable. The crew had to climb up and down steep precipices about 12 to 14 feet high to get fresh photos of the devastation.
Simone Cooper and her sister Akiesha Adams said they walked for an hour to get to the Erin volcano. They reported that there were several new active cones with fresh mudflows emerging off RE Road.
Farmer Nobbie Mathura trudged through cracks, slopes and embankments to get to his pimento crop.
“I cannot let this crop go to waste. I picked 10 bags of pimento and we managed to get it out. I lost over $400,000 worth of crops and equipment,” Mathura said.
Lopsided tomato trees ready for harvest were inaccessible. Irrigation ponds which were once 20 feet deep were also filled up with slush.
Farmer Anil Maraj said at least 10 farmers were in immediate need of relocation. He said although some farmers faced minimal loss, the Government should assist in giving compensation to everyone so they could go back to productive farming.
One of the oldest farmers in the community, George Ramdath, said much of the landslips triggered by the earthquake could have been exacerbated by the destruction of the forested buffer zone which was cleared for agriculture by new farmers in 2014.
In an interview during his visit, Rambharat said he will move as quickly as he could to assist the farmers. With regard to compensation, he said he will prepare a report and take it to Cabinet and Government will determine whether this can be paid.
“So far, RE Road is the only farming community affected. From what I’ve seen, I am recommending that some of these farmers be immediately relocated because they can no longer use the land to farm,” Rambharat said.
Saying Los Iros was a highly productive farming community, Rambharat said in 2016-2017 he spent $3 million to rehabilitate the RE Road.
“The soil type is clay and there is a lot of movement towards the sea. There are some places where the land cannot be restored to productive agricultural use and we will be looking to relocate farmers to other areas so they can continue productive farming,” he said.
Saying it did not matter whether the farmers had leases or not, Rambharat said all farmers who can prove they were doing productive farming will get assistance. He also said the Los Iros farmers will get leases in three phases, the first of which will be given by December.
One week before schools reopen after the July-August vacation, the issue of the fee paid by Government for students remains unresolved.
In the latest development yesterday, the Association of Principals of Private Secondary Schools has rejected an increase of $2400 from Minister of Finance Colm Imbert, saying they are not prepared to accept the offer for the one year proposed by the Government.
The association yesterday met with Imbert and members of a committee, including Education Minister Anthony Garcia, at which time the Government offered to increase the fee paid for students placed in the private secondary schools from $1200 to $3600, a $2400 increase.
But association spokesman Anthony Mc Collin told the T&T Guardian the new proposed $3600 per student per term was “unacceptable,” because the schools are in debt and the religious organisations and private individuals who have been assisting financially just “cannot afford to carry the burden anymore”.
He said Imbert has suggested they accept the offer for one year “and that they will continue meeting with us and audit more schools to come up with an acceptable figure that we all can work with. But we rejected that as well because we cannot continue with this uncertainty”.
Mc Collin said the reality is that with the $3600 “we have another year of debt and that is another serious concern and we have no more money to inject in the schools”.
Mc Collin said in response to the $3600 offer from Government, they counter proposed a $5,000 fee for four years and the Imbert “ has indicated he will try to get back to us by tomorrow (Friday) with a response.”
The association was due to hold a meeting with parents of private school students last evening at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, when Mc Collin said they were to disclose all the information from the four meetings held with Imbert on the issue to date and the latest offer.
Earlier this year, the APPSS submitted a document to the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Finance indicating it costs $5700 per term to educate a child. The Government currently pays $1200.
Efforts to contact Imbert on the matter were unsuccessful yesterday as he did not answer calls to his cell phone.
Mc Collin said with school due to start in a week they remain optimistic there will be a resolution to the issue. If not, he said some of the schools may have to close their doors.
North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) CEO Wendy Ali must find space at other institutions for the relocation of 250 patients previously housed at the Central Block of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, as the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) gets set to undertake critical remedial works on the building after it suffered damage during Tuesday’s 6.9 magnitude earthquake.
But while Ali has put forward several proposals for the relocation exercise, Public Services Association president Watson Duke and former health minister Dr Fuad Khan have condemned the move.
Following an assessment of the hospital on Wednesday, relocation of all the patients in the wing to other hospitals was deemed necessary and Udecott promised to have it repaired.
Yesterday, Ali said the hospital had come up with several proposals, among them relocating patients to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Caura Hospital and Costaatt. She said they were also looking at operating the Haematology Department out of the St James Hospital, which had to be finalised.
The EWMSC, Ali said, has been extremely supportive of the plan.
“I have not set up anything outside of Port-of-Spain as of now. I, however, have stabilised eight patients that needed to be admitted at the hospital’s Accident and Emergency and they have been referred to Eric Williams for admissions. That is a temporary measure,” she told the T&T Guardian
Ali said the NWRHA has been considering all possibilities available to them.
“As we examine them ,which one presents the best solution we will accept,” she said, adding at this time the PoSGH has been continuing its services to patients in as efficient a manner as it can.
“At this moment, we are decanting our third floor and as of now those persons are being housed within our institution,” she said, adding those patients were relocated to Wards One, Three, 15, 16 and 17.
Ali said while the Caura Hospital had available bed space this facility was still being considered.
“We will not move our patients until we are certain that the standard of care that they currently get will in no way be compromised. We have to be sure that all places are ready to receive patients,” Ali said.
“This is not about picking up people and running down with them. This is not how we are approaching this exercise. This is not a long extended halt of services. This is just a period to decant Central Block. Once we have decanted everything will resume.”
If patients are to be relocated, Ali said there must be an assurance that all services, equipment, dietary needs, pharmaceuticals, linen and resources are available to them. But she said the hospital had also not made a final decision on moving patients outside of Port-of-Spain.
“When we do, persons will know what wards and caliber of patients we have decided to relocate and where.”
Going forward, Ali said new wards will be created but could not say when as she was still awaiting a structural report from engineers on the building.
On other aspects of the PoSGH’s operations, Ali said the maternity department has been functioning, while its five operating theatres have been performing only emergency surgeries. Elective surgeries have been cancelled. On Wednesday, Ali said the A&E Department attended to 177 patients.
Asked how many patients are likely to be shifted from the Central Block, Ali said patients’ intake and discharge keep changing, but noted the hospital is “looking at approximately 250 patients that we would normally house.”
Questioned if hospital administration had been looking at utilising the Costaatt building, Ali said while this institution fell under the purview of the Ministry of Education “there is some dialogue going on. I cannot speak to it. Once I have a decision I will communicate to the media.”
She said her healthcare staff have been comforted by the fact that the hospital has been putting their health and safety first.
Also contacted yesterday, Costaatt president Dr Gillian Paul said they were unable to give the NWRHA any information as to whether any of their facilities will be suitable for their purposes.
“We are trying to get an understanding of how we have turned up on the radar screen somewhere that could take these patients. I didn’t understand how we surfaced as an option,” Paul said, admitting she was puzzled about how they could help the situation as all their campuses have full utilisation of classrooms.
But former health minister Khan yesterday said he strongly believed Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh was inconveniencing and deliberately provoking hundreds of patients in an effort to reinforce a false narrative that the Central Block requires demolishing and reconstruction. Khan said based on Udecott’s report on examining the structure, there was little reason to relocate patients.
“In fact, Deyalsingh is causing more pain and suffering for those patients than they would have sustained during any of the earthquakes experienced over the past three days,” Khan said.
Duke also argued that shifting patients to other hospitals would result in overcrowding on wards, while he insisted that the hospital’s health care workers should be transferred to the Couva Hospital to perform their duties
A 47-year-old financial manager of a manufacturing company in Caroni is expected to appear before a Tunapuna magistrate today charged with embezzling $1.3 million from the company’s account.
According to Fraud Squad officers, the woman was slapped with 88 charges—32 offences of money laundering; 32 offences of larceny and 24 offences of falsification of accounts.
A report was made by company officials to the Fraud Squad and investigations and exercises were conducted under the leadership of Snr Supt Totaram Dookhie, including ASP Ghisyawan, Sgt Cornelius Samuel, Sgt Damien Thomas and WPC April-Ann Adams.
The woman was arrested on Monday.
Investigations continued and restraint orders were obtained from the High Court, freezing her bank account and seizing Volkswagon Passat sedan, pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act.
All charges were laid by Sgt Cornelius Samuel.