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State discontinues murder charge against ex-soldier

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:43

After spending a little over two years on remand, a former Defence Force soldier was yesterday freed of murdering a Diego Martin man, who was shot and left for dead in a forested area of Chaguaramas.

Ross Russell Jr, 25, was discharged by Deputy Chief Magistrate Nanette Forde-John in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court yesterday, after the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) filed a notice of discontinuance against him.

The DPP’s Office took the decision after Russell’s attorney Criston J Williams filed a no case submission, in which he questioned whether the State had sufficient evidence linking his client to the murder of Selwyn Gaff, who was killed on June 5, 2016.

Russell’s 36-year-old cousin, Balondemu Julius, who was also a soldier and was jointly charged with the crime, was not as lucky.

Forde-John is expected to rule on legal submissions relating to the case against Julius on September 7.

According to reports, on the day of his murder, Gaff and his friend, Jesse Quashie, accompanied three men on a hike from Diego Martin to Chaguaramas.

The friends were reportedly ambushed by the three men while walking through a trail between Covigne and Macqueripe.

Quashie was shot but managed to run away and reported the incident to police.

He directed police to the location, but by the time Gaff was taken to St James Medical Complex, he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Russell and Quashie were charged after being discharged by the Defence Force.

They were also slapped with additional charges for possession of illegal firearms and ammunition and for shooting Quashie with intent to do him grievous bodily harm. Russell was also freed of those charges.

Russell Jr is the son of former national footballer Ross Russell Sr.

Russell Sr coached the Defence Force football team which won two Pro League titles before he retired in 2015. His son was a member of the team.

Contacted yesterday, Russell’s relatives were celebrating the outcome as they spent time reconnecting with him.

His mother said he was not at home as his friends had just picked him up to go to the beach.

Guardian Media understands that Russell Jr is now considering suing the State for malicious prosecution.

Categories: News

Authority sends warning to Chaguaramas squatters

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:37

The Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) has issued a notice to all illegal land and sea occupants at Alcan Bay, Chaguaramas, to demolish structures built without approval.

The authority has given September 7 as the deadline for the demolition of such structures and the removal of all debris from those sites.

The warning came in a public advisory issued by the CDA yesterday.

The advisory stated that the CDA, by an act of Parliament in 1972, was established to undertake the layout and development of the North West peninsula and offshore islands in the interest and conformity with the Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 35.01), adding part of its mandate requires that it provide a safe, secure and pristine environment while improving the quality of service delivered to customers and tenants under its purview.

In this regard, the CDA said: “Notice is hereby given to all persons illegally occupying lands, mooring boats or storing equipment located at Alcan Bay, Chaguaramas to remove all items and demolish structures built without the authority’s approval. Such persons are also required to remove the debris arising from such demolition and all other possessions from the said area on or before September 7, 2018.”

The CDA warned that failure to comply with the notice will result in further action being taken.

Calls to CDA chairman Gupte Lutchmedial and Minister of Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, under whose purview the CDA falls, went unanswered yesterday.

Categories: News

No bad blood over dousing

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:32

Less than a week after he was doused with flood water by a group of irate Beetham Gardens residents, local government councillor Akil Audain returned to the community to hand out food hampers yesterday.

However, Audain did not venture back to the exact location where he and Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds were attacked, instead opting to utilise the Beetham Gardens Community Centre, which also houses the community’s Police Youth Club.

Questioned over the move, Audain claimed it was a strategic decision taken to ensure those most affected by last week’s flash flooding benefitted.

“If I were to go into the community we might not be able to get everyone because they might not be home. So we can always leave it here for them to collect,” Audain said.

He also said there was no “bad blood” between him and the residents over the attack.

“As I said I have an electoral district to maintain. I am here and I would be coming back because there are things we need to continue,” Audain said as he pointed to excavation works being conducted on the field at the centre. He claimed that he assisted in the development of the playing field through the East Port-of-Spain Development Company Limited.

Yesterday’s hamper distribution drive was relatively incident-free, as most of the 84 beneficiaries queued up to collect their packages under the watchful eye of police officers from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

Some community members not identified for assistance by Audain also turned up in the hope of coping “freebies”. However, they all left empty-handed as Audain only distributed to those on his pre-prepared list.

Some of the recipients also did not seem satisfied with the items contained in the sealed boxes, which included toilet paper, ketchup, rice and boxes of candy.

“What we suppose to do with this? I will need two boxes just to make up,” one man said.

“I really need some help with my stove and fridge because I can’t cook and have to come here to get cold water and something to eat,” a woman added.

Audain attempted to pacify the residents, explaining that the relief boxes were prepared using donations from the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA), Fixin’ T&T and other NGOs.

The water-dousing incident occurred last Tuesday as Audain and Hinds were touring areas of the community affected by flooding. The duo was speaking to residents along 16th Street when they were confronted by a group of men who kicked water on them while their backs were turned. Hinds and Audain confronted the men over the incident but were forced to flee as the men, who were armed with buckets, chased after them. Hinds made a report of the incident to police the following day.

Police sources said the investigation is still ongoing. The suspects, some of whom were captured on videos that were subsequently circulated on social media, had not been arrested up to yesterday.

There were allegations that the men, who are not from where the incident occurred, were being egged on by a United National Congress (UNC) activist. However, these allegations have not been proven and the attack has been condemned by several politicians, including Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Categories: News

Griffith starts direct public info line

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:15

Four days after newly-appointed Police Commissioner Gary Griffith started official duties, he has taken a major step towards regaining public trust and confidence in the T&T Police Service (TTPS) by launching a direct and confidential phone contact for information purposes.

In a release issued by the TTPS’ communications unit, the line is to enable persons to share information on criminal activities.

“This new initiative is aimed at building public trust and confidence in the areas of crime prevention and detection. There are many law-abiding citizens who have information on—who the criminals are; where the drugs and illegal guns are entering the country and who has committed a serious crime, particularly murder,” Griffith said, adding this avenue would provide assurance to persons reluctant to come forward with information for fear of reprisal that their information would be treated with the strictest confidence, without any risk to their safety.

He added, “As the Commissioner of Police, I intend to rectify this concern and find avenues to allow citizens to forward with such vital information, which would play a critical role in preventing a serious crime from being committed, and also if one is committed, that the perpetrators can be brought to justice, as there is no such thing as the perfect crime, and on most occasions, a third party would have some knowledge of who the criminal may be.”

Griffith is requesting information on any pending serious criminal act to be committed and any information on the perpetrators of a serious crime that has taken place.

All information can be sent directly to Griffith via Whats App or text messaging at 482-4279.

Additional information can also be made available via the 800-TIPS and 555 numbers.

Categories: News

PM must clear air

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:11

Which People’s National Movement (PNM) Government Minister’s wife is working with a company which has received several Government contacts?

Questions on the alleged situation were raised last night by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Health Minister Dr Terrence Deyalsingh to clear the air on the issue so the public can be assured the contracts were awarded above board.

Speaking at the party’s Monday Night Forum at the Chaguanas South Secondary School, Persad-Bissessar claimed there was a “Wives’ Club” in the PNM. She claimed this “Wives Club” had benefits and company where the minister’s wife worked had acquired several contracts.

“This company has the contract for several Government projects which includes the Mt Hope School of Dentistry and the Red House Restoration project. It is our understanding that the company is also handling the Port-of-Spain General Hospital reconstruction project,” Persad-Bissessar told supporters.

“I call tonight on the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister to say which PNM minister’s wife works at this company. It’s also alleged that the minister and his wife are friends of the owner of the company.”

She also launched questions at Finance Minister Colm Imbert and PM Rowley on the National Investment Fund bond issue. She called on Imbert in particular to say if financial institutions, among them insurance companies and credit unions, may be in violation of the new Insurance Act 2018 by purchasing the bonds.

Holding up what she claimed were two recent Cabinet documents on proposed amendments to the Financial Institutions Act and the Insurance Act, she said, “Tonight on behalf of citizens who may have invested in the NIF, or who have shares or assets in financial institutions including insurance companies, banks, credit unions, I call on Minister Imbert to tell this country whether it is true, that these institutions are now at risk if they have bought these bonds.

“Would they be in violation Section 89 (1) of the new Insurance Act 2018 now overdue for proclamation? Are they in violation now of the Financial Institutions Act sections 42(1) and 43 (1) and (2)?”

Persad-Bissssar congratulated new Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, also calling on him to probe the “AV Drilling/Fake Oil” scandal.

Chaguanas East MP Fazal Karim also called on Griffith to ensure that Chaguanas East was one of the first stops on his tour of duties.

Among earlier speakers, deputy leader Jearlean John, who listed the PP governments achievements (and knocked the PNM’s record), alleged that several PNM MPs are now backbenchers after the latest reshuffle.

“(Laventille East MP Adrian) Leonce is ah backbencher, Ancil Antoine is ah backbencher, Nicole (Olliviere)—they call themselves the blackbenchers.”

Categories: News

Fired URP workers collect service $$$

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:07

Labour and Small Enterprise Development Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus yesterday accused the former People’s Partnership government of terminating the contracts of 529 Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) workers for political revenge and retaliation.

Baptiste-Primus made the announcement as the former URP workers collectively received $21.9 million for their years of service at a cheque distribution ceremony at the Cipriani College of Labour in Valsayn.

The workers, who were sent home in December 2010, took up the matter with the Banking Insurance General Workers Union (BIGWU) and the issue went before the Industrial Court in 2013. In June 2017, a settlement between BIGWU and the ministry was arrived at to pay each terminated worker for their years of service.

Yesterday, Baptiste-Primus said the PP wanted to give each worker a meagre one month’s salary, which was never honoured during their term in office. Some of the employees had given upward of 16 years of service while others had worked less than six months, she said. The lowest payment ranged from $4,000 to the highest being $179,000.

In an address to the former workers, Baptiste-Primus said, “It has been a journey of eight long years. Eight years of patience, hardship, tolerance and I dare say eight years of endurance…you who were the unfortunate victims of political retaliation and revenge. You are about to be blessed with what has been for many years your just and rightful due.”

Expressing similar sentiments was worker representative JoAnn David, who admitted that following the 2010 general election the URP workers went through their own political turmoil.

“Every time there is a general election and the government of the day is changed hundreds of workers are sent home because you support a particular political party….that is your right,” David said.

On the eve of Christmas in 2010, Baptiste-Primus said the workers’ services were “maliciously and uncaringly terminated by an administration on the basis of nothing more than false, misleading and downright presences.”

However, she cautioned that some employees may not receive payments for their entire years of service, as the URP records were in a mess. She suggested, however, that if the former workers have records of their own they should bring it into the ministry so they received their correct benefits. She also advised the workers to put the money they received to good and productive use.

“Save and invest. It’s a pity the date for the National Investment Fund has gone. Do not run out and spend what you are getting on consumerables…you want a new fridge…no! What you have is enough. Save and invest wherever you can,” Baptiste-Primus pleaded.

Former URP regional supervisor Christine “Twiggy” Livia, who collected upward of $100,000 for her four decades of service, said she was not satisfied with her payment. “They supposed to put $200,000 again with this,” she said, pointing to her cheque.

She, however, thanked the PNM for the money, which she said would she said would come in handy.

Categories: News

Customs policy archaic

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:04

Lawyers representing businessman and sex therapist Giriraj “Raj” Ramnanan have written to the Comptroller of the Customs and Excise Division to clarify its position on the importation of adult toys.

The move from Ramnanan, a self-professed sexual wellness pioneer in T&T, comes less than a week after e-courier Web Source issued a notice to customers warning that such intimate items fell under the division’s list of prohibited items. The list included other conventional contraband including drugs, firearms and camouflage clothing.

In the letter, Ramnanan’s lawyer Kiel Taklalsingh claimed the division is required to clarify the position, especially for corporate citizens like his client whose businesses revolve around the importation and distribution of such items.

“Any policy or practice of Customs with respect to the deeming of imported items as being “prohibited” must by necessity be sufficiently clear to obviate the risk of Customs Officers acting in an arbitrary manner,” Taklalsingh said.

He questioned whether the division’s officers had the discretion to classify an item as prohibited or whether the division had an overall policy on adult toys and devices.

“Given the fact that there exists a spectrum of objects which may be labelled as “adult toys”, it is also our considered view that it would constitute an unlawful exercise of your discretion for the Customs Department to adopt a carte blanche policy banning any item with the nomenclature “adult toys” in the absence of some clear, cogent and rational criteria,” Taklalsingh said.

He also questioned whether the classification of the items fell under an interpretation of Section 45 (l) of the Customs Act. The legislation bars the importation of “indecent or obscene prints, paintings, photographs, books, cards, lithographic or other engravings, gramophone records or any other indecent or obscene articles or matter”.

“It is our view that an archaic interpretation of this statutory provision without recourse to modern realities, standards of acceptable practices and proper consultation is irrational, ultra vires the intent of the Customs Act, null and void and of no effect,” Taklalsingh said.

In addition to requesting the legislative basis for the alleged policy, Taklalsingh also requested information on whether the division’s staff was given guidance on classifying items as adult toys. He requested that he receive a response with 14 days.

Speaking to a Guardian Media (GML) team at his Total Image Limited business in St Augustine yesterday, Ramnanan said his lawyers requested the information to determine if a lawsuit against the alleged policy is possible.

Although Ramnanan is seeking clarification in the letter, he claimed the issue of the importation of adult toys arose almost six months ago when some items in his shipment were seized by Customs officials. He claimed competing businesses also experienced similar problems.

He complained, however, that the current process, in which the discretion allegedly rests with individual officers, was too subjective.

Saying mostly products which bear illustrations of genitalia are flagged, he said, “It all depends on how the person wakes up in the morning, their mood, attitude, how they feel about themselves or what they feel about the product based on their religious upbringing.”

Ramnanan also said the ad-hoc policy is loosely based on T&T’s colonial-age laws.

“We changed our Constitution in 1976 but we cut and paste these laws. Now the same countries we have cut and paste from have done away with it, while we still hold on,” Ramnanan said.

Although he said he was willing to take any potential lawsuit through the entire process, Ramnanan suggested it would be easier with political intervention.

“We need some politicians with the testicular fortitude to say hear what, these things need to be taken off or struck off the books and we need to let people decide what they want,” he said.

He also claimed some of the devices on the banned list are being used by some to treat sexual medical conditions, including erectile dysfunction.

“How can you put a ban on these instruments when people use it for their own benefit and medical reasons? These are things that have to be taken into consideration not just the pleasure aspect of it,” he said.

While he said adult toys were considered a taboo subject when he entered the business over 30 years ago, Ramnanan claimed citizens’ attitudes towards them had evolved.

“I have seen a drastic change from the 1980s to now. I have seen people mature and individuals know much more now,” he said.

Ramnanan is also being represented by Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally and Stefan Ramkissoon.

Categories: News

Jitters as PATT hunts Cabo Star replacement

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 23:01

The Port Authority of T&T is currently seeking a temporary replacement for the Cabo Star cargo vessel which will go on dry-docking next month. But the authority has contingencies in case no replacement is found.

Port Authority acting CEO Vilma Lewis-Cockburn confirmed this yesterday after simmering concerns by Tobago businesspeople about the upcoming dry-docking of the vessel over the September 20-30.

“We have arrangements in place to ensure the cargo transport requirements of the Tobago seabridge are met during the 10 days of the Cabo Star’s dry docking,” Lewis-Cockburn added.

The PATT notified the Tobago Chamber on July 31 that the vessel would be dry-docked for 10 days for maintenance work to improve its speed. The port wrote the Chamber again a couple weeks ago stating attempts were being made to secure an appropriate vessel for use while the Cabo Star is dry-docked. But the Port added, “Our investigations thus far haven’t been successful.”

While the Port continues seeking a vessel, one contingency plan is having the Cabo Star sail every Saturday from this coming Saturday (August 25) to ensure there is no backlog of cargo and to assist Tobago businesspeople in expediting stocking up plans, Lewis-Cockburn said. Before the vessel is dry-docked it will also focus on transporting heavy trucks taking stock to Tobago.

Lewis-Cockburn said the PATT was still trying to source another vessel but hadn’t found one yet.

But other Port sources explained that it takes time for a vessel to come to T&T and most require a longer contract than 10 days even for temporary work. They said the Atlantic Provider barge, which was used previously PATT, wasn’t an option being considered.

Tobago Chamber of Commerce member Diane Hadad expressed concern that the impending dry-docking situation would be detrimental for Tobago business people—even with contingency measures.

Before ferry issues arose in the last year, many businesspeople obtained goods on credit if they had to stock up for periods, including when the boats weren’t working, she noted.

“In current circumstances in Tobago, where we’re not selling the same amounts as before - we’re selling 45 to 50 per cent less - we no longer have the financial trust of suppliers or financial capacity to get more goods to stock up with,” Hadad told the T&T Guardian.

“Also, Trinidad merchants have been ‘locking down’ on us for a long while and would hardly give us extra lines of credit now. They already have problems getting foreign exchange and they won’t give us credit when they can sell goods to Trinidad businesspeople—we’re waiting to see how this works out.”

Categories: News

35 pupils ungraded

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 22:59

An entire class of 35 pupils from Rio Claro East Secondary have scored ungraded in two of their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination subjects after their School-based Assessment (SBA) marks were not uploaded to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

Some of the disappointed students yesterday journeyed to the Ministry of Education’s District Education Office in Rio Claro to query the grade while others went to the school hoping to get answers.

Khanak Lobin said his daughter got up at 2 am to check her grades and she broke down in tears when she saw she was ungraded for Principles of Accounts and Principles of Business.

“It was too much for her. She said ‘Daddy go and see about this for me. I cannot handle this,’” Lobin said.

He said after spending thousands of dollars in extra lessons for his daughter it was heart-wrenching to see her grade.

“She worked so hard. She has lessons all week every afternoon. She was not happy with the little work that was going on in the school so we decided to take matters into our own hands and do extra lessons so she would score a good grade,” Lobin said.

Student Jeremiah Grant said he too got a nasty shock when he went online to view his marks.

“I did everything I was supposed to do. I did my SBA, submitted it on time, I went on time for my exams. I was waiting anxiously for my result and then I saw ungraded,” Grant said.

After calling up his friends they realised the entire class was ungraded.

“We decided to come to the ministry’s office and find out what happened. We do not know whether our SBA’s were marked. We are waiting for a school supervisor to tell us what happened,” Grant said.

He added, “My teacher never contacted us to say what happened. I have no contact with him and the ministry is saying they have to wait for the supervisor to speak to the principal.”

Schoolmate Treena Smith said she was devastated when she saw her grade and called on Education Minister Anthony Garcia to launch a probe into the matter.

“I felt so dejected and hurt. It is unfair to us and I want the Minister of Education to get to the bottom on this,” she said.

Addanna Peruse, who accompanied the students to Rio Claro, said in light of the ongoing impasse between the ministry and the T&T Unified Teachers Association over the marking of SBAs it was suspicious that 35 pupils were ungraded and possibly because their SBAs were not sent to CXC.

“I read that the ministry plans to send out a pre-action protocol letter to TTUTA because teachers are unwilling to mark SBAs unless they are paid. We need some answers,” Peruse said.

In an interview yesterday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia assured that the students will not be disadvantaged. Garcia expressed surprise that the entire class was ungraded and confirmed he had launched an investigation into the matter.

“Every year we may have queries from one or two students but this is the first time that I am hearing that an entire class was ungraded because of the SBA not being uploaded at the school. We are investigating how this happened. CXC will not grade any student whose SBA mark is not uploaded. If they don’t have a mark from SBAs, CXC will not give a passing grade,” Garcia said.

He said he expected to get a report on the matter today, adding, “As long as they submitted their SBAs we will make sure that they are not disadvantaged.”

Categories: News

Entire class "ungraded" in two CXC subjects due to administrative error

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 16:21

An entire class of 35 pupils from Rio Claro East Secondary have scored ungraded in two subjects of their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination after their School Based Assessment marks were not uploaded to the Caribbean Examinations Council.

Some of the disappointed students journeyed to the Ministry of Education District Education Office in Rio Claro to query the grade while others went to the school hoping to get answers.

Khanak Lobin said his daughter got up at 2 am to check her grades and she broke down in tears when she saw she was ungraded for Principles of Accounts and Principles of Business.

"It was too much for her. She said 'Daddy go and see about this for me. I cannot handle this,' " Lobin recalled. 

He said after spending thousands of dollars in extra lessons for his daughter it was heart-wrenching to see her grade.

"She worked so hard. She has lessons all week every afternoon. She was not happy with the little work that was going on in the school so we decided to take matters in our own ha ds and do extra lessons so she would score a good grade," Lobin recalled.

Student Jeremiah Grant said he too got a nasty shock when he saw his marks.

"I did everything I was supposed to do. I did my SBA, submitted it on time, I went on time for my exams. I was waiting anxiously;y for my result and then I saw ungraded," Grant said. 

After calling up his friends, they realized that the entire class was ungraded.

"We decided to come to the Ministry's office and find out what happened. We do not know whether our SBA's were marked. We are waiting for a school supervisor to tell us what happened," Grant said. He added, "My teacher never contacted us to say what happened. I have no contact with him and the Ministry is saying they have to wait for the supervisor to speak to the principal." 

Another student Treena Smith said she was devastated when she saw her grade. 

"I felt so dejected and hurt. It is unfair to us and I want the Minister of Education to get to the bottom on this," she said.

Addanna Peruse, who accompanied the students to Rio Claro, said it was suspicious that 35 pupils were ungraded in light of the ongoing impasse between the Ministry and the T&T Unified Teachers Association over the marking of SBA's.

"I read that the Ministry plans to send out a pre-action protocol letter to TTUTA because teachers are unwilling to mark SBA's unless they are paid. We need some answers," Peruse said.

In an interview Monday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia assured that the students will not be disadvantaged. 

Saying he has launched an investigation into the matter, Garcia expressed surprise that the entire class was ungraded.

"I am surprised. Every year we may have queries from one or two students but this is the first time that I am hearing that an entire class was ungraded because of the SBA not being uploaded at the school. 

We are investigating how this happened. CXC will not grade any student whose SBA marks is not uploaded. If they don't have a mark from SBA's, CXC will not give a passing grade," Garcia said.

He said he expected to get a report on the matter today adding, "As long as they submitted their SBA's we will make sure that they are not disadvantaged."

Categories: News

PTSC staff call for safer work environment

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 15:22

Marking the one-year death anniversary of their colleague who was gunned down at his workplace, staff from the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) on Monday staged a placard protest, calling for a reliable bus fleet and a safer work environment.

Standing outside of the PTSC bus terminal at Kings Wharf, San Fernando Monday, the workers called for a meeting with Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan.

Branch secretary of the Transport and Industrial Workers Trade Union Ryan Ramdath said since PTSC painter Carlos Samuel was gunned down outside the corporation’s garage at Lady Hailes Avenue on August 20 last year, PTSC's management has not repaired the broken down fence.

"Anyone can walk in here. PTSC says they are going to move the facility but when? In the meantime, we are exposed. People are coming into the compound and robbing workers and stealing the batteries. 

This place is infested with mosquitoes and rats," Ramdath said.

He also said that bus drivers were placing their lives at risk because many of the PTSC's 350 bus fleet were defective.

"The buses are shutting down and PTSC is not buying sufficient parts. They are making a utilization run out of 35 buses on a daily basis and 90 per cent of the buses are defective. We need new vehicles, new parts and we are not getting that," Ramdath said.

He also said several routes had to be abandoned because there were insufficient buses to service the routes.

"At least 15 areas are affected. People in Tabaquite, Mayo, Union Hall and Woodland are suffering because there are no more buses working in these areas. The San Fernando to Chaguanas route is at a standstill," Ramdath added.

Charlton Felician, shop steward from the TIWU's Port of Spain branch said while PTSC's management was ordering parts, there was confusion because there were more than 29 makes and models of buses in the existing fleet.

He also said that there was a severe shortage of workers in the garage and body shop, where Samuel was killed.

"The mechanics are short by 15 workers and the body shop is short of 18 workers. We have 16 people in the body shop and 13 in the mechanics' department. Some of them working 15 and 16 years and they were never regularized," Felician said.

Another worker Lester Lake said those bus drivers who speak up about the issues are usually victimized.

"They would send us in another area to work if we speak up. Bus drivers not supposed to be frustrated when they are at work but they frustrate us," Lake added.

PTSC's manager of the south branch Shawn Harris declined to comment and referred questions to Actg general manager Davis Ragoonanan. 

However, he was engaged in a meeting and could not respond.

Contacted Monday, Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan said he has no information on the bus drivers' concerns. 

"Those are matters related to the internal management of PTSC that the chairman can speak about," Sinanan said.

Asked whether he was willing to meet with the workers, Sinanan said, " I have no information on this. 

Once a report comes in from the Board.

I will give it consideration." However, Ramdath subsequently said that PTSC's last board was disbanded and the company was currently functioning without a Board. 

Categories: News

Six-member OWTU team meets PM Tuesday

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 11:29

The Oilfields Workers' Trade Union will meet with Prime Minister Keith Rowley at 10.30 am tomorrow (TUE)  to discuss matters related to the restructuring of Petrotrin.

OWTU's Chief Education and Research Officer, Ozzi Warwick said the six-member union team will be led by OWTU President General, Ancel Roget.

Warwick said the meeting was requested by Rowley last week and OWTU accepted the invitation.

Warwick couldn't detail the subject of tomorrow's meeting but he said OWTU's proposals form the basis of recommendations by the Selwyn Lashley team mandated by Government to suggest a restructured way forward for Petrotrin.   

Government has had the report for some time. 

OWTU's proposals include dividing Petrotrin into four - Trinmar, Land Operations, Refining and Marketing and the Augustus Long Hospital, Warwick noted. 

OWTU's Roget will address the media at 10 am prior to the meeting which is being held at the Prime Minister's office.

Categories: News

Residents wrong, it will happen again

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 23:14

The political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah says that while he does not condone the use of violence to resolve any situation, he believes that there will be more episodes similar to the incident where Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds was doused with flood water last week.

Unless there is a change in the governance and respect for the issues citizens face, politicians will continue to face difficulty in their interaction with the people on the ground, Abdulah said at the MSJ’s media briefing in San Fernando yesterday.

“Not condoning it, but it is going to happen again unless we change our system of governance,” Abdulah said.

Following long and heavy rainfall last Monday and Tuesday, the Beetham Garden’s in Port-of- Spain was left with several metres of flood waters in their community.

Hinds, the acting Attorney General, together with the councillor for Picton/Beetham, Akil Audain, were chased away by the Beetham Garden residents, who kicked and threw floodwaters on them.

“We have to recognise that there are some underlying problems in many of our communities and we have spoken about this before. About two years ago when residents blocked the road on Beetham.

It came up a year ago again and we made the point quite clearly that there are underlying trauma, stress and problems in some of our communities.

“Given our failed governance system, which does not allow people to be involved in decision- making and to see their problems being resolved in a timely way, tensions, trauma, stress, frustration and anger tend to build up and it will explode in ways that we don’t find acceptable but we can understand why it happened,” Abdulah said.

He said while the residents’ action was unacceptable, it was the same kind of frustration that residents of Penal and Barrackpore felt when they block roads for water and other issues.

He said although Hinds was correct to criticise those deviant residents, describing them as ignorant and illiterate was not helpful. All it did was to further alienate the young men involved in the incident and does nothing to help in gaining their respect.

Abdulah said this type of behaviour was common among politicians as he recalled Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal referring to women of the Highway Reroute Movement women as “bags of aloo” when they protested at an Indian Arrival Day function which then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had attended.

Categories: News

Mourners seek justice at murdered doctor’s funeral

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 23:00

Mourners at the funeral of murdered family doctor Sinanan Lutchman yesterday appealed to new Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith to find the killers and bring closure to the case.

Scores of people turned out at Lutchman’s funeral yesterday at Belgrove’s Crematorium in Tacarigua.

Many of Lutchman’s colleagues said they were confused about the murder and questioned why anyone would kill a man whose interest was for providing service to the poor and needy.

They described him as an honest and down-to-earth man, who had no enemies.

Lutchman, 79, was shot in the head after two men stormed his office at Paul Street, Sangre Grande, last Thursday. Police said the gunmen escaped with the doctor’s licenced firearm.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, who attended the funeral, said he too was confused as to why anyone would want to kill a humble, respectable doctor, who was the longest- serving doctor in the East Trinidad.

Police reported that the father of one was at his Sangre Grande office around 2 pm when two men wearing bandanas entered his office.

He was shot once before the men escaped. The injured doctor died in hospital while undergoing emergency treatment.

Inspector Lawrence, PC Mc Queen of Homicide Bureau, are continuing investigations.


Categories: News

Men shot outside Tarouba party

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 22:59

Two men were shot following an argument with a group of men outside the We Summer Festival at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba yesterday. While Kevon Martin remained warded at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex last night, the other victim left the hospital.

A report stated that around 4 am, Martin, 26, of Longdenville, was liming with friends outside the stadium when they had an argument with another group. One of the men pulled out a gun and fired several shots in their direction, striking Martin and Rakesh Deolal, in the face. The gunmen then left the scene, leaving Martin and Deolal bleeding on the ground.

Martin and Deolal were taken to the Chaguanas District Health Facility by their friends, where they were treated and transferred to the hospital at Mt Hope. Ste Madeleine police responded and interviewed a few people, however, no one was arrested up to late yesterday.

Also in the Southern Division, a 52-year-old Marabella man was arrested after assaulting an officer attached to the Marabella Police Station on Saturday. A report stated that officers responded to a report an intruder at a Gopaul Lands, Marabella around 10.45 am and found the suspect on the compound.

When a constable approached, the suspect struck him on his neck with a piece of broken glass.

The suspect was eventually subdued with the assistance of another officer and he was taken to the Marabella Police Station. The injured officer was taken to the San Fernando General Hospital where he was treated and discharged.

Categories: News

OPM pays tribute to Kofi Annan

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 22:55

Late former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan championed issues at the UN including promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women which are aligned with the priorities of UN members, including T&T, at the multilateral level.

The Office of Prime Minister stated this yesterday in a release on the passing of the former UN secretary general and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

He was a described as a champion of humanity. The UN’s first black Secretary General, Annan, 80, died in Switzerland after a brief illness on Saturday. The OPM noted Annan’s priorities also included peace and security, development, poverty reduction, combating climate change, preventing the spread of infectious diseases, combating terrorism as well as the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

“His legacy includes agreement to the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations’ confrontation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Mr Annan played a significant role in advancing the ideals of the United Nations through the promotion of an agenda of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.”

“T&T not only shares the loss of Mr Annan with the world but particularly with the African region and countries of the Global South. It is a source of pride Mr Annan was a prominent African multilateralist of Ghanaian descent who rose through the ranks of the United Nations to lead the organisation for two terms from 1997 to 2006.”

“Kofi Annan infused his service to the world as UN Secretary-General with selfless commitment to the empowerment of all people, equality, the promotion of human rights, justice and peace. During his tenure, he met the challenges of the Office boldly, addressing various issues and crises facing the world with diplomatic acumen and compassion, bringing to bear his experience within the UN system to yield the best possible outcome in every situation.”

Categories: News

Hindu leader lauds Rowley’s apology

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 22:49

Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s apology to the Hindu community concerning the PNM’s controversial sari skit should be copied by all PNMites including party social media activists, says Pundit Satyanand Maharaj.

Maharaj led last week’s Hindu community protests on the skit, calling on Rowley to apologise.

Maharaj reacted yesterday after Rowley apologised during last Saturday’s PNM Malabar meeting.

Following the furore over the skit showing men dressed as gorillas unravelling a woman’s sari, Maharaj led a group of protesters from all over T&T—wearing saris and other East Indian traditional wear—outside of Rowley’s office last Thursday.

They believed the skit was a simulation of violence toward women, a mockery of Hinduism and depiction of political violence.

Yesterday Maharaj said: “I wish to unreservedly thank the Prime Minister for his unconditional apology.

“This apology is an about-turn from the description of ‘foolishness’ by the Prime Minister of those who expressed disgust with the skit.”

“National Security Stuart Young who indicated the skit was ‘a bit of fun’ as well as PNM social media activists need to make similar acts of contrition. One can only hope the Prime Minister’s apology will be also copied by the followers,” he said. Young, the Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Communication and National Security, apologised in a Facebook post stated yesterday.

Maharaj said: “The Prime Minister boasted his government was half Indian and those Indians had no issue or problem with the skit.

The silence or concurrence of the Indian/Hindu voices in the PNM who had advised the Prime Minister that the skit wasn’t offensive, what of their advice and counsel now? Were they simply “yes men” telling the Prime Minister what he wanted to hear? These types of advisers are perhaps the most dangerous.”

Maharaj noted the Prime Minister indicated that he was ignorant of Hindu culture.

“This insularity of the PNM, I recently was confronted with, from Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who indicated similar ignorance of mandirs at homes where property tax was concerned,” he said.

“How can the PNM feign to govern and make laws for the plural country of T&T when it’s disconnected to segments of the population? The Prime Minister, with this statement, has only underscored that the PNM is chiefly governing for one segment of the population. The Prime Minister gave no indication what steps were to be taken to address this serious deficiency,” he added.

PM took too long to say sorry —UNC Tabaquite MP Suruj While the Opposition UNC will be responding on the apology at tonight’s UNC Chaguanas meeting, UNC Tabaquite MP Suruj Rambachan says Rowley took too long to “come around” to apologising.

“He only did so when faced with rebellion inside the PNM and he realised how serious the consequences were. If it wasn’t detrimental to PNM, he wouldn’t have apologised,” Rambachan added.

“He displayed insensitivity to the matter initially. I hope he now realises T&T’s a very diverse country where respect must be promoted by leaders if they want respect to pervade society and ensure social peace.

“The PNM has used a wave of subtle derogatory remarks to reinforce their base, from Eric Williams referring to the ‘recalcitrant minority’ and MP Fitzgerald Hinds’ ‘alligators from the lagoon’ to PNM Tobago’s ‘Calcutta ship’ reference. This establishes more than artificial divisions in society,” Rambachan said.

“I’m glad he said he’ll be more sensitive to the existence of other cultures and practices. Let’s hope for genuine follow-up.

“But while PNM got more votes—last election—in many areas including Tabaquite, people there are disappointed PNM used their religion in this derogatory way and they’ll express this at the polls.”

PNM Tabaquite chairman silent after Rowley’s apology PNM Tabaquite chairman Curtis Shade whose unit had performed the skit at PNM’s recent Family Day and who defended it, didn’t answer calls yesterday after apologies by Rowley and National Security Minister Young.

Shade had claimed the skit showed how PNM was winning UNC support.

He didn’t explain why people seen unwrapping the woman’s sari in the skit were dressed as gorillas, or addressed concerns this might infer PNMites were gorillas.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar said the situation was an abuse of black males, continuing to portray them as apes.

Last Friday, Shade had refused to respond on calls for an apology, cut off calls and didn’t answer further after asking Guardian Media if an apology was being sought because PNM “was getting” UNC support in Tabaquite.

However, PNM Tabaquite vice chairman Julian Adams who had distanced himself from the skit last Friday and apologised in his personal capacity, said yesterday:

“I’m very grateful for my Prime Minister standing up to do the right thing as I know he does.

“I maintain if people are hurt over something, you must be able to do the right thing and apologise. The prayer ‘Our Father’ speaks to this.”

“I also stand by my view that anyone who felt hurt over this issue—whichever communities, religions or sectors—I apologise.

We’re all one T&T,” he said.

Categories: News

Man held at bar with loaded gun

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 22:44

Less than a week and a few kilometres away from the scene of a mass shooting at a San Fernando bar where pensioner Stephen Pope was killed, a man was caughtwhile trying to slip away from police’s detection with a loaded firearm.

San Fernando CID and Southern Division Task Force spent most of Friday night into Saturday morning manning Cipero Street, where there were reports of fights and bottles being thrown outside bars.

A report stated that around 5.20 am, Sgt Dinoo, PC Dookie, PC Griffith and PC Narine went into Bartender’s Bar and while making a routine check, they observed a 28-year-old Pleasantville man suddenly get up from the table he was drinking on and walked towards the door. The officers stopped and searched the man and found on him a .9 mm Luger pistol loaded with 12 rounds of ammunition.

Investigators believe that they stopped a serious crime from being committed by the suspect.

Officers said that legislation should be implemented for bars to close their doors between by midnight to assist in reducing the amount of alcohol-induced lawlessness that occurs during these hours. They said their time would be better spent protecting citizens who want to rest safely in their homes.

On August 12, Pope, 65, was shot in his the front porch of his home when gunmen opened fire on patrons in the Hashtag Lounge along Cipero Street, which was located under his home.

Four others—John Charles, 23, John Mark Ashford, 27, Anthony Mitchell, 32, and Elon Chatterpaul, 25, were also injured during the shooting.

Crime scene investigators recovered 35 spent shells were recovered from the scene of the crime.

Categories: News

18,000 removed from food card system

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 22:24

There are currently more than 3,000 people with food cards in this country that the Government has been unable to confirm actually exist, Minister of Social Development and Family Services Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn has said.

Crichlow-Cockburn made the statement as she addressed the People’s National Movement (PNM) meeting at the Upper Malabar Community Centre on Saturday night.

She said advertisements have been placed in the newspapers calling for more than 3,000 people, who they have been unable to contact, to come to the ministry to have the process of recertification undertaken.

So far, Crichlow-Cockburn said the Government has been able to remove 18,000 people from the food card programme who were not eligible to be a part of it.

She told of the personal experience of two police officers being upset with her and threatening to withhold their votes for having their names removed from the programme.

Crichlow-Cockburn said last week 1,376 people were removed from the programme because they had not utilised their food cards since Christmas last year.

“The food support is intended to be short-term assistance. So every six months we review the clients to determine if they have moved from the state where they were and can now stand on their own,” Crichlow-Cockburn said.

“This food support also targets individuals and families who are in need and who are in vulnerable situations and experience difficulty in meeting their nutritional needs and that inability is due to limited or no income,” she said.

“So I want you to understand very clearly, the food card or the food support was not intended for anybody who just wanted it,” Crichlow-Cockburn said.

She added that detractors were trying to paint the Government as uncaring for ensuring the food card system was properly coordinated.

“We have the (former United National Congress) UNC government who is trying to convince this country that we are uncaring but this is the same government that, during their tenure, would have implemented a biometric system to support the food card that cost this government $97 million, was never fully implemented, and supported only 3,158 persons out of a total of 42,000 persons. Do you consider that to be caring?” Crichlow-Cockburn asked.

“We had that government spending $2.7 million coming down to the end to pay $1.7 million to two per cent of the people who were in receipt of the food card,” she said.

Crichlow-Cockburn said due to the financial state of the country the Government had to ensure it was getting value for money from the food card programme.

“We decided to engage in a revalidation and recertification exercise of all who were in receipt of the food card.

“Approximately 13,000 people did not come. So when the UNC and the detractors say to you this government is wicked and it is uncaring they take back people food card, we have not taken back any food card,” she said.

“What we have done is sought to ensure that the persons who are in receipt of food support are persons are eligible for it and persons who are in need and cannot feed their families.

“We have dropped off from the system approximately 18,000 persons what this meant we have been able to save approximately $150 million annually,” Crichlow-Cockburn said.

Categories: News

Maloney shining stars

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 22:20

Two years ago a group of young men in Maloney made local news when they celebrated New Year’s by shooting guns in the air. This time around a group of young men in Maloney is making news for a completely different reason. Instead of guns, this group was armed with the most powerful weapon; education.

Friends Taliq Singh, Shakir Solomon, Tijani Veronique and Kristoff Taitt, of Trinity College East, are being lauded for the 27 passes they attained collectively in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) after a photo of them was posted on social media.

On Friday, Manu John went to his mother’s Maloney home when he saw his nephew, Taliq, and his three schoolmates there.

The young men were there to tell her of their CSEC results.

CSEC results were released in T&T on Friday. Impressed by the success of the young men John said he decided to take them outside to take a photograph while he bought a round of Malta Carib for them to celebrate.

John then posted the photo on his Facebook page with the intention of sharing the young men’s success with his group of friends.

The post has now taken on a life of its own, John said. As of yesterday, the post was shared more than four thousand times.

“I was just sharing it for my friends to show them a positive side on Maloney,” John said.

John said he hopes the post being shared now will help other youths in Maloney and other areas in the country that are affected by crime to be motivated to overcome whatever challenges they face.

“This is the kind of things the youths should strive to be in the news for,” John said.

Trinity College East secured 82 per cent full certificates at CSEC.

Singh, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday, attained six passes in CSEC.

Solomon achieved eight passes while Veronique attained six and Taitt attained seven.

On Friday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said this year’s CSEC results was the best this country has seen in the last decade.

Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan said the ministry had recorded the highest CSEC pass rate with five and more subjects in the last ten years.

Seecharan said 60.78 per cent of students who wrote the examination obtained five and more subjects, while 56.47 per cent got five and more with Mathematics and English.

Seecharan noted that 51.93 per cent of boys who wrote the CSEC examination in 2018 “got five and more (subjects) with Mathematics and English, compared to last year’s 47.88 per cent.

Categories: News