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Although two of his six children grew up and became fire officers, fate brought a cruel end for Petrotrin retiree Leroy “Javay” Walters, 72, as he was killed in a fire that destroyed his Gasparillo home on Saturday.
Derek Walters, a fire officer in the Central Division, said he was on his way to Chaguanas when he learned that a fire broke out at his father’s home along the Bonne Aventure Road. By the time he returned to his father’s home, which is located next to his, Mon Repos firefighters were extinguishing the fire and had just found his father’s remains.
A police report stated that around 7.30 pm, Derek’s brother, Dariel, was at his downstairs apartment located at their father’ house. Dariel told police that he heard an explosion that came from the upstairs apartment and when he ran outside, he saw the upstairs apartment ablaze. With fire consuming the wooden and concrete structure within a few minutes, Dariel could not reach to his father’s bedroom.
At his home yesterday, Derek told Guardian Media that it appeared his father, who suffers from severe glaucoma, was against the wall as his body fell outside when the structure came crashing down.
He said neighbours and limers at a nearby bar went across to help, breaking the windows to free the smoke but the fire was too much for anyone to enter. Investigators from the Fire Prevention Unit had not yet determined the cause of the fire and are expected to return today.
Derek said that as a fire officer, he also looked around for possible signs of what might have claimed his father’s life but could not find anything.
“After 21 years in the service and seeing this much, it is surreal that this time, it is my father. I see so many people grieve in this situations but...” was all Derek could say about his father’s death. His sister Desire, also a fire officer, 34th birthday celebrations were cut short by the tragic news.
Obliquely opposite Walter’s home, several of his former colleagues at Petrotrin, where he worked as a plant maintenance foreman, sat down and reminisced about his life.
Apologise to all women as well as the Hindu community.
That’s the view from several quarters including Hindu community leaders, on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s apology to Hindus for a controversial PNM skit two Sunday’s ago.
“The Prime Minister still owes the women of T&T—not just the Hindu community—an apology since that skit portrayed violence toward women,” said Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha general secretary Satnarayn Maharaj yesterday.
Maharaj was among those responding on the PM’s recent apology to the Hindu community regarding the skit which showed men dressed as gorillas unravelling a sari from a woman.
It was performed by PNM’s Tabaquite executive two Sunday’s ago at the PNM Family Day in Chaguanas.
Following protests from Hindu sectors and women’s groups, Rowley apologised to the Hindu community during last Saturday’s PNM Malabar meeting. He praised SDMS Maharaj’s stance on the issue.
National Security Minister Stuart Young, who also came under fire for saying the skit was a “lil bit of fun”, also followed Rowley. He apologised yesterday primarily to the Hindu community plus “any and all” offended by the skit.
But Maharaj added, “My take on this is that it wasn’t a Mahabharata (Hindu scripture) scene. This was a scene regarding T&T where women are being raped and murdered. Some people tried to say the garment in the skit was a sari. But the only people in T&T who wear a sari all day are the Catholic nuns of the order of Mother Teresa. The sari isn’t Hindus’ own, alone.
“So the Prime Minister still owes an apology to females who were killed, who survived attacks and women in general. I don’t need praise,” Maharaj said, adding he wasn’t among Hindu leaders whom Rowley said he would meet with on the issue.
UNC activist Devant Maharaj said neither Rowley’s apology to Hindus nor Young’s apology to “all and any” sufficed.
Maharaj added, “While the Prime Minister must be commended for—finally—apologising, he didn’t apologise to T&T’s women since the skit portrayed violence toward women.
“Cafra, Womantra and other organisations protested. Even if Young apologised to ‘all and any’, the Prime Minister is the ruling party’s leader and should have set the example, taking the lead on this,” he said.
“After digging in on the position that allegations of religious, racial and gender intolerance about the skit was ‘foolishness’, Rowley did a complete, unexpected flip. But he still denied the skit portrayed violence toward women and— exhibiting his trademark belligerence—no apology was offered there.
“Refusal to acknowledge that women were offended reinforces the view that ‘PNM’ stands for the People’s National Misogynists. Even Sat Maharaj, who the Prime Minister praised, said the skit was about violence against women,” the former minister said.
Querying who in the Hindu community Rowley consulted on the matter, Maharaj asked why he couldn’t have consulted women’s groups also.
“It’s amazing a 60-something-year-old man in T&T is ignorant about the Hindu population’s culture and ignorant about issues that offend T&T. What’s scary is, this man is the Prime Minister,” he said.
PM dismissed women’s concerns—Womantra
While the Prime Minister’s apology was a step in the right direction, his dismissal of the concerns expressed by Hindu and other women sends a clear message that those concerns aren’t important, says Womantra founder Stephanie Leitch.
She added, “The sign of a good leader is one who can admit they’ve made a mistake.”
“It’s disingenuous to reduce women’s call for an apology to political mischief based on the participation of the Opposition Leader and we are frankly tired of our leaders using our lives as political mileage.”
“In a time when women are on high alert about attacks on their person, our government cannot afford to be tone deaf to how a re-enactment of a woman being undressed by gorillas as a form of entertainment can be insensitive and triggering.”
“The Prime Minister had an opportunity in his apology to acknowledge the hurt his party’s action caused and to admit that he may not understand women’s reaction, which is steeped in fear of our current climate where women’s lives are disposable. It will serve our Prime Minister well to spend more time listening to women. This alone can bring about revolutionary change.”
Apologise to women too—analysts
Former public service head Reginald Dumas said, “This situation went beyond religion. To me, it was more a question of women’s rights and the decent way one should act toward women. So an apology to the Hindu community isn’t sufficient. It should have been made to women in general.
“I was very surprised to hear the Prime Minister say he’d never heard of the Mahabharata. But I agree our education system’s at fault. Society talks about ‘all ah we is one’ and ‘every creed and race find an equal place’ but people don’t know much about one another. Education must be geared to teaching about each other’s culture and religion. If people know more about others, they may not hurt them,” he said.
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath agreed Rowley needed to apologise to women also. He noted women’s groups as well as Hindu protested the skit. Ragoonath added, “As opposed to the leadership’s earlier position (on the skit), they’ve now recognised they should apologise and do damage control as there was probably political backlash brewing within the party. For example, a PNM Diego Martin councillor and PNM’s Tabquite vice chairman distanced themselves from the skit.”
Ragoonath said Rowley is now being forced to act on issues—for his personal leadership’s sake—since, in the past, he had been perceived as remaining silent and condoning transgressions like the Tobago PNM’s ‘Calcutta ship’ remark.
Young sorry to ‘any and all’
In a Facebook post yesterday, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, National Security and Communications Young, noted the Prime Minister had apologised for the skit performed by a PNM constituency and “its negative effects.”
Young added, “I’d like to apologise to the Hindu community for the insensitivity of the skit which I was completely unaware had serious religious connotations and was disrespectful to the Hindu community. I admit that I’m not versed in Hindu community and I wasn’t aware of the story of the Draupadi from the Mahabharata.”
“I hereby offer my sincere and unreserved apology to any and all who were offended by the said skit, in particular to the Hindu community, and also for my description of the skit as a ‘little bit of fun’ when confronted at a media conference the day after the skit was performed.
“I have never and will never condone or accept any act of violence to women or children nor do I see race and religious differences as negative issues. I truly believe every creed and race should find an equal place in T&T.”
The new T&T Young Adult novel Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini will be included in a national secondary schools book tour from September-December.
Home Home’s manuscript was awarded in the 2017 CODE Burt Awards for Caribbean Young Adult Literature at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port-of-Spain. It was first published in the Caribbean and UK by Dominican publisher Papillote Press in June, 2018. The rights to the book have since been acquired by US publisher Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Delacorte’s North American edition is scheduled for publication in Spring of 2020.
“Home Home is “the story of a Trinidadian girl’s journey to recovery from a mental illness after she is sent to live with her estranged, lesbian aunt and removed from anything and everyone she knows to be home,” said the Publishers Weekly rights report on August 6.
According to a release, The Bocas Lit Fest will co-ordinate a tour of T&T schools by Home Home author Allen-Agostini and other Burt Award winners in the coming term.
Allen-Agostini is an award-winning journalist, fiction writer and poet, and the author of three other books.
In partnership with CODE, the Ministry of Education and the Educational School Libraries Division of Nalis, Home Home and other Burt Award books will be distributed to the libraries of 26 secondary schools around the country.
“This culturally-relevant and engaging YA novel will also be a required reading text for Form Three students of San Juan North Secondary School as part of a pilot project of introducing Burt Award winning books to the English Literature syllabus,” said tour co-ordinator Anna Lucie-Smith of Bocas Lit Fest.
The Bocas Lit Fest and Papillote Press will co-host a Home Home reading and discussion at the Writers Centre, St Clair, in September. The book is available online and from Metropolitan Book Suppliers, Paper Based Bookshop and other retailers.
A bookstore worker got the shock of his life on Friday evening when he returned to his car to find the body of a man lying on the floor.
The man was not identified up to late yesterday and investigators said no preliminary cause of death could be determined as there were no marks of violence or signs to suggest how he died.
Police reports stated that around 6 pm, they were contacted by the owner of Richie’s Bar, which is located along the Point Fortin Main Road.
The owner reported that she observed someone lying unresponsive in a silver Mitsubishi Lancer that was parked along the main road. Sgt Sobie and PC Maharaj of the Point Fortin CID went to the scene where they interviewed the car’s owner, Dean Joseph, who said that he parked the car there around 8.20 am and left for work.
He told police that he locked the front doors using the key alarm system but forgot to manually lock the back doors. When he returned that afternoon, he found the man lying motionless behind the driver’s seat and did not know who he was.
The body was still warm when the officers’ checked and the man was taken to the Point Fortin hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Police said the man appeared to be an Afro-Trinidadian in his 70s whose hair was greying. He was wearing a red T-shirt, is six ft tall, slim built with dark skin tone.
n Anyone with information can contact Point Fortin police at 648-2426 or call any police station.
The murder level in T&T continues to be a source of great concern to most of the population. At August 8, 2018, the murder level was 332 as compared to 296 people the same time last year.
That is a 12.1 per cent increase above last year and therefore, if we project this 12.1 per cent increase for the entire 2018, one would arrive at a murder level close to 554.
The highest murder level for the period 1956-2017 was in 2008, with a murder toll of 500.
With a projected murder level of 554 for 2018, it means that policy makers will have to overhaul the existing menu of strategies as they have failed. It must now become business unusual.
Figure 1 (at right) shows the relationship between the murder level in T&T for the period 2008-2018 and the index of productivity or output level for the same time period.
It indicates that the murder level increased while output level fell—assuming 2018’s productivity level was the same as 2017.
There can be a number of explanations for this.
One could be that workers became less enthusiastic as the murder level increased or workers left work earlier to reach home within certain hours to try and avoid being the target of crime during particular periods of time.
In terms of actual manufacturing capacity utilisation, which is an indication of the proportion of the manufacturing sector in use at any one time, Figure 2 (on next page) indicates that after 2014 when the murder level began to increase, there was a decrease in the manufacturing capacity utilisation rate from 70.8 per cent to 65 per cent.
This is not a sharp decline but it is the type of decline we would want to reverse.
There may be several reasons for the inverse relationship between manufacturing capacity utilisation and the murder level.
It may be that some workers may no longer be willing to work the 11 pm -7 am shift (a third shift for the manufacturing sector) simply because of the risk associated with the climate of crime existing in the country at this point in time.
The relationship between tourism inflows and the murder level is definitely an inverse one for T&T, as well.
When travel advisories go out from the relevant embassies, in particular the UK, Canadian and the US, there is the possibility that random tourists searching for a sun, sand, and sea location would not come to T&T but instead go to another Caribbean island, eg Barbados or Antigua and Barbuda, where there is a perceived lower level of crime (see Figure 3 on next page).
Meanwhile, Figure four, shows that as the unemployment rate in the economy increased (data is only available for the third quarter of 2017 for the unemployment rate and this was used as a proxy for 2017 on the whole), especially after 2014, the murder level in the economy also tended to increase.
Policy makers would want to pay careful attention to this and may want to introduce strategies that would improve the employment situation in the country, perhaps by simultaneously improving manufacturing capacity utilisation with the hope that a rise in employment could in turn lower the murder level."
The way forward
With a rising murder level, the business sector will definitely incur additional costs as they try to protect both their businesses and themselves.
For example, business people can incur the cost of having a security on staff and putting up a superior burglar proof system.
They would have to buy steel, employ a welder to install the burglar proof etc, and other expenditures along those lines.
This increases costs for the business person.
In an environment in which the consumer already has a decline in their incomes due to a higher unemployment level, passing on any part of this increase in cost to the consumer can result in a reduction in spending by consumers.
The high murder level has also forced many firms to employ immigrant labour as security. Generally, these “security” officers typically cannot stop an armed robbery, but they add to costs and firms employ them to give customers “a sense of safety.”
After 7 pm, some business establishments such as supermarkets and quick shops tend to lose business because customers are afraid of being out late.
Meanwhile, the appointment of Gary Griffith as Commissioner of Police may signal a change in the Government’s intentions and a deeper sense of purpose by bringing in a brighter, more charismatic person.
Griffith has promised the population “less talk and more action” and said one of his main mission was to reduce crime and the fear of crime, and regain the public’s trust and confidence in the Police Service.
If we don’t see change with this move, there is the possibility that “crapaud go smoke we pipe.”
DR ROGER HOSEIN
Senior economics lecturer at UWI, St Augustine, and co-ordinator of the Trade and Economic Development Unit
Charges could soon materialise against the handful of Beetham residents who created a “sideshow” involving their MP, Fitzgerald Hinds last Tuesday as he intends to fully cooperate with the ongoing police investigation.
Speaking during the media briefing which followed the People’s National Movement (PNM) General Council meeting at Balisier House yesterday, the Laventille West MP said despite the ridicule it had generated, he continued to be impressed by the overwhelming support he has received from constituents.
He said many people had expressed embarrassment, disappointment, and even shame over the incident which had tarnished the area’s reputation “yet again.”
He reaffirmed his commitment to the area and its’ residents.
“I heard from the police yesterday (Friday) and they have told me their investigation is well afoot and that they are proceeding to take the legal action that police are trained and paid to do.”
Asked if the matter had formed part of the General Council’s discussions, Hinds confirmed it did.
He said: “Several constituencies expressed condemnation of what they saw.”
Pressed to say how concerned the PNM was about the kind of message this act could send to other constituencies and by extension the treatment meted out to MPs, Hinds said: “The members expressed concerns about that today, precisely that point about the implications and they called on the Government to do whatever it can, particularly through the Ministry of National Security.”
He said other ministries were involved in the effort to address all the issues affecting T&T.
Also asked to comment on whether the action could be interpreted to mean that the party was losing support in what was has always been considered a PNM stronghold, Hinds said: “From the discussions yielded today, members seemed very clear that the vast majority of people on the Beetham and in the constituency are decent, ordinary, law-abiding, hard-working people like you and I.”
He said the party would not be deterred from serving the people despite the economic straits the country is facing.
Despite kicking him out of her Cabinet back in 2015, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she is giving newly appointed Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith a “bligh.”
However, Persad-Bissessar said she was concerned about the relationship between Griffith and recently appointed National Security Minister Stuart Young.
She said there seemed to be a concerted effort to attack Griffith, linking her concerns to a newspaper article published last week.
The article stated that Griffith did not rank first among the candidates who interviewed for the post. Griffith officially took charge of the Police Service yesterday. His appointment has been debated due to the selection process used.
Speaking to the media in Penal yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said: “I was very disturbed to see that when Captain Griffith’s name came forward and he was approved, there was this whole story in the newspapers about whether he was first, second, third or fourth. It seemed to be an orchestrated and concerted effort to attack him and where does it come from?
“You are in the media and I will ask you, where in the media that story came from and who is the Charlie’s Angel of Minister Stuart Young with respect to that story?
“It is that they already want to set up CoP Griffith with Minister Young, who has to be the minister of everything and will not want to see Gary Griffith succeed? I want to see him succeed, we want to see him to succeed because we want safety and security.”
Despite the war of words between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget, the two are scheduled to meet this Tuesday to discuss the anticipated restructuring of Petrotrin. Based on correspondence between the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the OWTU, Rowley and seven members of the union are expected to meet at the Prime Minister’s office in St Clair.
During the PNM’s Family and Sports Day in Chaguanas last week Sunday, Rowley responded to a call by Roget for Petrotrin workers to gather outside the Prime Minister’s official residence in St Ann’s next Sunday to kneel and pray for the debt-riddled Petrotrin. “Don’t threaten me,” was Rowley’s response, adding that he had no quarrel with Roget, whom he had invited for talks.
“He refused to speak to me as Prime Minister. He preferred to stand on the pavement and shout, and I understand he is coming to kneel down outside the Prime Minister’s residence and to march,” Rowley said.
But this caused major contention for the OWTU as Roget accused Rowley of being a liar, saying that the PM never invited him for talks.
The OWTU leader, in a media conference last Tuesday, described Rowley’s remarks at the Family and Sports Day as “the ranting of a desperate man” who was unqualified, incompetent, and inexperienced for the job he has and was desperate, deceitful, ungrateful, and lazy”.
“I challenge him to tell me the date and time he had spoken and requested to meet with me,” Roget said. Based on correspondence sent to the media yesterday, five days after Rowley’s statement, Permanent Secretary in the office of the Prime Minister Maurice Suite sent a letter to Roget under the subject:
Request for a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss matters related to the restructuring of the Petroleum Company of T&T. The letter stated: “I have been asked by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley to invite you and up to six members of the OWTU to a meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister, 13-15 St Clair Avenue, Port-of-Spain on Tuesday, 21 August 2018 at 10.30 am.”
In a response written on the same day, addressed directly to Rowley, Roget accepted the invitation and informed that the names of his accompanying officers would be submitted by tomorrow. Calls to Roget’s phone yesterday were unanswered.
While the OWTU had not admitted that it supported the PNM in the 2015 election, Roget was adamant that the People’s Partnership government had to be voted out. In 2015, the OWTU met with Rowley, then opposition leader, and signed a Memorandum of Agreement with regards to labour policies. The OWTU also met with the Independent Labour Party. In 2016, the OWTU’s vice president Carlton Gibson was the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (Fitun) representative on the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC). However, labour leaders soon withdrew from the NTAC, claiming disrespect by the Government.
Since then Roget has been criticising the Government, especially Rowley, for their handling of the country. During this year’s annual Labour Day Rally in Fyzabad, he gave the Government a failing grade for its handling of crime, the economy, labour, health, and education.
Stolen equipment, threats, and demands for large sums of money from contractors are the reasons behind the continuous disruption in routine dredging of the two major rivers that run through the Beetham.
These obstructions have contributed to the flooding issue in Beetham Gardens. So said Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and recently assaulted MP for Laventille West Fitzgerald Hinds.
Yesterday as work resumed on the waterways by contractors V&V Contracting Ltd, now under the watchful eyes of the Police Service and Defence Force, Sinanan and Hinds told the media as recently as August 10, prior to the flooding at Beetham Gardens on August 13 and 14, contractors were chased out of the area by “certain elements”, forcing them to abandon the dredging exercise which led to the flooding.
“While the contractor was mobilising to do the dredging certain elements would have moved in and told the contractor he had to stop. However, with the cooperation of National Security this morning, the work has started back and we intend to continue this work, which would help with the flooding in the Beetham and Barataria areas,” said Sinanan.
He said the work, which began in January, would have been completed already if that incident had not occurred on August 10. He subsequently noted that as a result of these ongoing interferences, taxpayers are feeling the brunt as contractors arguably ask for more because of the risks involved in working in these specific areas. He said if that continued, a job that should cost $100,000 in certain areas would now cost $200,000, because very few contractors would bid for the job and when they did, they would want to cover all the risks involved.
‘A few misguided, illiterate miscreants’
Hinds, who was doused with flood waters by a few residents last Tuesday on a visit to the area where he hoped to bring relief to flood-affected residents, said obstruction of routine dredging by “miscreants” of the community dated as far back as the 90s when the PNM procured the services of Carl King Company Ltd to do dredging of the entire drain from Morvant Junction right down to the Citrus Growers, in order to clean and pave the murky drain that ran alongside the Priority Bus Route in the Beetham.
Fearing for his life and that of his workers as well as the safety of his equipment, after equipment was stolen and $400,000 was demanded of the contractor to return it, the job was abandoned.
Hinds noted the drain remained unfinished up to today.
In another instance, Hinds said, Lutchmeesingh’s Transport Contractors Limited, one of the contractors hired during the rebuilding of four culverts which had become clogged, feared for his life after some miscreants of the Beetham Gardens again approached that contractor demanding $400,000 or else he and his workers would meet trouble. He said the contractor did not concede to the demand and shots were subsequently fired from the Beetham, injuring one of his supervisors. Following that incident, he said, $200,000 of taxpayers’ money had to be spent in security.
He also highlighted a similar occurrence during the reconverting of the Laventille Technology Centre where workmen were robbed of their valuables on the first day of the job.
Hinds said the dredging exercises were of grave importance as the waterways must remain clean to prevent flooding issues, but there were those who insisted that it must stay this way.
“We have an understanding as to why they want it to stay this way but we also understand why it cannot remain this way because the water will not flow out,” said Hinds.
Taking the opportunity to address his unfortunate encounter last week with a few of his constituents, Hinds said what was displayed was “the share ignorance of a few misguided, illiterate miscreants whom many from that constituency found to be gravely offensive but many of them cannot outrightly say it as they will come under serious threat”. He said he could confirm this from the knowledge he has from past events.
Hinds said he held no malice against the people, but wanted the handful of troublemakers to know that when they behaved like that they were causing their entire neighbourhood to be stigmatised and marginalised as a consequence. He said the many comments from the public regarding the entire community worried him to a degree as not all residents of Beetham Gardens were like the few who engaged in the act.
“So don’t blame all of Beetham, it is a handful of misguided people who feel they could bully their way through everybody in this society,” Hinds said.
He said he would address the national community about Laventille soon. (See Pages A6, A7)
Suspended People’s National Movement (PNM) member Harry Ragoonanan is considering legal action against the PNM political party and possibly its leader Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for trying to bring his name into disrepute.
“Of course, I will be taking legal action because the prime minister is out in the public domain saying that I am the worst the country has to offer and then I cannot have a trial...I must have the man who made the tape in the same room with me so that he can be cross examined by my lawyers.
They are not taking natural justice seriously,” Ragoonanan told the Sunday Guardian in a telephone interview.
“My lawyers will deal with what it is, they told me to say nothing and just hold on and wait,” he said.
On Tuesday, two days before the PNM’s disciplinary committee found Ragoonanan guilty of three charges of alleged corruption and bribery involving the procurement of Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) buses, Rowley described him as the worst this county has to offer.
Ragoonanan appeared before the party’s disciplinary committee chaired by Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis with his attorney Mario Merritt on Thursday.
Ragoonanan has been suspended since October last year.
He has followed the PNM since 1956 and had been the PNM’s Oropouche constituency chairman for 17 years before his suspension.
Ragoonanan called for full disclosure from the disciplinary committee and was told they would get back to him on the issue.
Among the evidence the committee is said to have had in its possession was a telephone recording between Ragoonanan and another individual.
Ragoonanan said while he was denied access to the recording, he heard it being played on a radio station yesterday.
“The whole process was contaminated,” Ragoonanan said.
He said the chain of custody of the recording was unknown and its authenticity was therefore questionable.
The alleged conversations were said to take place in June, July and September 2016.
The special PTSC tender involved was aborted.
Ragoonanan said the laws of natural justice dictates that he would have been given full disclosure and also be able to cross-examine the whistle-blower.
The PNM disciplinary committee said it was not reopening the investigation into the matter, Ragoonanan said.
On Monday acting Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds said the PNM had received information and a complaint from a citizen “about a most untoward conversation that was electronically recorded between Mr Ragoonanan and a bus supplier to the PTSC”.
Hinds said he found the contents of the recording to be “troubling”.
National Security Minister Stuart Young also described the recording as “most troubling and suggests of corrupt practices and behaviours with respect to procurement at PTSC”.
Young said the State played no role in the electronic recording.
Ragoonanan said he believes he is being targeted for speaking out about the sea-bridge fiasco.
Ragoonanan appeared with former minister of the People’s partnership government Devant Maharaj and maritime attorney Nyree Alfonso during a media briefing last Sunday where they questioned Government’s decision to purchase two marine patrol vessels from Austal.
Maharaj yesterday said, “Interestingly these ‘recordings’ have only surfaced when the relationship between Harry Ragoonanan and the Rowley Administration soured over the lack of procurement process regarding the ferries for the collapsed sea bridge”.
Maharaj questioned whether the in-house PNM investigation would adversely affect any police investigation that may or may not be ongoing or may start.
Rowley slammed Ragoonanan for seeking company with Maharaj and Alfonso.
A police investigation into the recording involving Ragoonanan is said to have commenced months before the PNM invoked Article 26 of the party’s constitution which states that members under investigation could be suspended during that period.
When questioned about an update on the Ragoonanan situation during a press conference following the party’s General Council meeting yesterday, PNM chairman Franklin Khan said due process was taking place and that he did not want to say more on the matter.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last night unreservedly apologised to the Hindu community for a skit performed at the People’s National Movement (PNM) family day, saying the skit was disrespectful to that religion but it was done out of ignorance and not malicious intent.
Rowley gave the apology during a PNM political meeting held at the Malabar Community Centre last night. “Tonight, on behalf of the People’s National Movement and all concerned, I unreservedly apologise to the Hindu community,” he said.
Rowley said the party’s Tabaquite constituency put on the skit which saw a woman having her yellow sari being removed to highlight that constituency changing political allegiance to the PNM from the United National Congress (UNC).
However, Rowley said while that was the intention behind the skit, he now understands how it could be seen as mirroring the Mahabharata.
Rowley said he did not know of the story of the Mahabharata before, but loud chorus of opposition to the skit caused him to find out about it. Rowley said the Mahabharata “is a serious spiritual, religious expression” that is extremely significant to the Hindu community.
Rowley said he did not know this before and last week was a learning experience for him.
As such, Rowley said this country’s education system needs to ensure all aspects of the country’s diverse religious and ethical beliefs are taught.
Rowley, however, said while the skit was insulting the PNM were not advocating for either rape or violence towards women.
He said no one can disregard the hurt that was caused by the skit and said the situation needs to be a learning experience for all.
Rowley thanked Sat Maharaj for understanding that the PNM did not intend to disrespect Hindus and said all disrespect was unintentional.
He, however, slammed former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran for saying the skit was Rowley fantasizing about sexually assaulting Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Rowley said the skit was equivalent to someone having a skit around Christmas time and having someone pretending to be inebriated urinating on the crèche with Jesus Christ.
He said he had now problem apologising for the wrong that was committed.
DEMAND FOR APOLOGY
Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, founder of the Satya Anand Ashram Temple of Truth and Bliss in Aranguez, and Persad-Bissessar got their wish last night when Rowley apologised for the PNM’s controversial skit.
Maharaj and Persad-Bissessar, however, could not be reached for comments last night.
The two were joined by scores of people who took part in a placard protest in front the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair last Thursday. The protest followed last weekend’s PNM’s Family Day, when a skit was performed depicting a woman’s yellow sari being undone by men dressed as gorillas. This caused a firestorm of negative sentiment, though the Government rejected the criticism. National Security Minister Stuart Young said it was a “lil bit of fun”, while Rowley claimed people were “hell-bent” on creating racial, religious tensions and dismissed it as “foolishness”.
The group delivered a letter to the PM’s office last Thursday seeking an apology.
It noted the skit offended many as it was seen as simulation of violence against women, mockery of Hinduism, and depiction of political violence. Plus, they said, Young’s dismissal compounded Government’s insensitivity on the matter.
The letter warned, “Government’s hostile, belligerent and intractable position in this issue only contributes to stoking fires of division. It does no good to the PNM to attempt to victimise the victim further by labelling legitimate concerns as ‘foolish’ or ‘racial.’ “
—(reporting by Charles Kong Soo)
It takes Stacy Ann Parris, a 39-year-old paraplegic, at least two to three minutes to make her way down a very short flight of stairs to open the front gate to the severely dilapidated, colonial- styled structure she has called home from birth.
At the corner of Roberts and Gatacre streets, Woodbrook, the Sunday Guardian is greeted with Parris’s wide and bright smile. A man in a delivery truck, apparently known to her, stops to say hello and to briefly “scope out d scene,” as we were strangers outside her gate.
He only leaves with the words from Parris: “I’m fine.”
She said it was the norm for her neighbours and those around to look out for her.
Once we entered the premises, Parris, who depends on crutches to walk, began to apologise for the condition of the house, which is extremely unfit for human dwelling, let alone a person with a disability.
Once inside we immediately notice a sink in the wooden floor, which is covered over by a worn out looking piece of linoleum.
There is a dirty medium-sized mattress on the floor—situated left upon entrance. It’s covered in what looks like a pile of unwashed laundry.
Parris does not have a washing machine and even if she did, because of the electrical problem in the outdated shack, she cannot use any high voltage electrical appliance, as a fire can be easily sparked.
She struggles to wash with her hands—an almost impossible task.
She gets some ease at times from friends who would offer to do her laundry.
In her kitchen stands a makeshift wooden kitchen sink, an old refrigerator and stove, and a cluttered table bearing baking instruments from when she once baked bread for a living. She can no longer do so with financial constraints.
The most modern things in the room in which she sleeps are the Lasko standing fan and a variety of canned peas and beans lining a shelf protruding from the wall.
Her half brick, half wooden toilet and bath are situated outdoors to the back of the house, which poses a great challenge for Parris who has to climb down a flight of uneven stairs to get to them.
She said she has often soiled her clothing trying to get to the toilet.
The house has also been broken into twice with Parris inside.
A determined attitude
On a partially-broken down and littered space saver, two trophies are prominent, they are awards for Best Talent and Miss Photogenic, which Parris obtained in the country’s first staged differently- abled beauty pageant in 2012.
It’s not surprising though these accolades, as amid her struggle the former Bishop’s Centenary College student manages to continually smile and maintain a calm, cool, and collected disposition, not to mention her seemingly healthy appetite for life. Parris’s daily routine involves morning meditations followed by daily exercises and preparing for breakfast but not without a challenge.
Parris can only use the two front burners of her stove, as she is unable to reach the ones to the back.
She sits to prepare her meals as she said trying to stand makes her very tired quickly.
Prepping takes some time as multi-tasking is tough. But despite this, she does not let those challenges stop her from trying.
It’s this determined attitude that led to Parris living on her own.
After it was told to her mother, Ingrid Parris, that her daughter could not live without her, Parris took on the challenge and has been living alone ever since.
Asked why not live with her mother now, Parris said her mother also does not have her own home and is financially strapped.
She said she has never been a dependent person and never used her cerebral palsy related disability, sustained during a difficult birth, to dictate her dreams or even her mobility. But she does admit, there is only so much she could do.
Parris pays a rent of $200 per month but with no cash lately, she has missed payments amounting to $800.
She survives monthly on a disability grant of $1,800 and a food grant of $410 from the Ministry of the Social Development and Family Service’s public assistance programme.
But lately, she has experienced a run-around with the latter, she claimed, after the Ministry incorrectly dated the food cheque, to which they have not yet rectified even after many complaints.
Parris said the money was divided in paying rent, electricity, buying toiletries, medical supplies, and food. The money, she said, is finished before the middle of each new month.
In the middle of the interview, radio personalities from a nearby radio station, who became aware of Parris’s dilemma, showed up with a box of groceries, which made her very happy.
Parris has written several letters to the HDC and pictures of the house were even taken into the housing institution but to no avail.
“I got one interview on the second floor with someone and they told me I would be placed on the emergency list in 2016. It’s now 2018,” ‘Include us in decision making process’ It’s been ten years since Parris last worked. She job-hunted but gave up after never being hired for what she believes was as a result of her disability.
Parris, who is a spoken-word artist, has even performed for free hoping someone would see her and offer her a job.
“We are active people, we don’t sit home sulking and being sad because we are like this,” she says.
“Some of us cannot walk, some of us cannot even move, but we live our lives despite the situation.
I think it’s about time people take notice of what is happening to us.
The challenges are really disheartening.
The majority of us are disrespected and treated less than human.
Parris said differently-abled people aren’t really consulted in the planning and decision making process that involves them and it needs to stop.
Besides her long life dream to become a Paralympic competitive swimmer, Parris said for now all she wants is a house where she could recommence her baking and not worry about things falling on her head or the house collapsing on top of her.
To help Stacy Parris call 868-702-5684.
The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) is reminding citizens to take the necessary safety precautions to protect their lives and properties.
It said in light of recent heavy rains and subsequent flooding, and the expected reoccurrence during the rest of the rainy season members of the public must take the necessary safety precautions to protect their lives and properties.
The commission warned that people should exercise extreme caution when walking/standing in floodwaters as they could be at risk for shock or electrocution.
Members of the public are strongly advised to turn off any electrical outlet or connection that has been or is likely to be breached by water.
This can be done by turning off the breaker switch for that individual outlet.
The commission also warned that to not do so increases the risk of shock/electrocution, as water is a conductor for electricity and if there is electricity in the outlet/connection any person standing in the water will be in danger. Similarly, standing on a wet surface and handling electrical equipment such as cords, power tools, plugs, outlets exposes you to the same danger.
The commission is also warning the public to be extremely cautious and take every precaution to protect themselves from the life threatening danger.
In case of an electricity emergency, please call T&TEC’s 24-hour Call Centre at 800-BULB (2852) or make a report via the T&TEC mobile app.
The Police Service is seeking the assistance of the public in identifying the body of a man which was found on Tuesday along the North Coast Road, Maracas.
The body was that of a man, approximately 5 feet 7 inches. He was dressed in a pair of red three quarter pants and tall rubber boots.
It was found by a crab catcher in a forested area in the vicinity of Cyril Bay, around 5 pm in an advanced stage of decomposition. Anyone with information can contact the Homicide Bureau of Investigations Region Two at 640-1738 or 640-7815, the police at 999, 555, 911, any police station or call 800-TIPS.
Loaded gun found in Enterprise
Police have found a loaded revolver in the Enterprise district during a raid. During the raid, officers led by Sgt Allan Jodhan of the Central Division Special Crime Unit, went to Williams Street, Enterprise, around 5 pm on Thursday and searched a bushy area.
The search resulted in officers discovering one .38 Special revolver loaded with two rounds of ammunition, wrapped in plastic and hidden under a sheet of galvanise.
St James man held after revolver, ammo seized
A St James man was arrested after a revolver and a quantity of ammunition were seized by officers of the Western Division Task Force.
The lawmen conducted an exercise from 9 am to 9 pm on Thursday during which they proceeded to Dundonald Hill, St James, and searched the home of a 21-year-old man.
There, they found a Taurus revolver a magazine containing 14 rounds of 9mm ammunition and an additional 11 rounds of 9mm ammunition in plastic wrapping hidden in a Marvin Gaye hat, under a pillow inside a bedroom of the house.
The suspect was arrested in connection with the find and taken to the Four Roads Police Station pending charges.
Arrive Alive president Sharon Inglefield is urging victims of vehicular collisions on the highway to refrain from walking out onto the roadway when possible. She made the plea following the tragic deaths of Aarti Sarah Basdeo, 25, and her mother Lutchmin Rampersad, 52, yesterday.
Inglefield said that depending on how badly the person is hurt and based on the condition or location of the crashed vehicle, he or she should remain inside of the wreck and call for help.
Reports stated that around 4.30 am yesterday, Basdeo, of Rousillac was driving a white Nissan Wingroad along the south-bound lane of Uriah Butler Highway with Rampersad, of Penal, in the front passenger seat. While approaching the Chaguanas overpass, there was a collision with a black pick-up which was parked on the highway, close to Chaguanas exit.
The pick-up was said to have been left there after it was involved in a prior accident. Basdeo ran out of the vehicle after the collision but was struck by an oncoming pick-up and thrown forward. That driver stopped a short distance away.
Other motorists stopped to assist and the Chaguanas police and Highway Patrol Unit were contacted. When they arrived, they found Rampersad dead in the front seat.
Basdeo, who was on the roadside, was taken to hospital where she died hours later. Inglefield told Guardian Media that walking onto highways with four to six lanes is extremely dangerous and motorists and their passengers have to be careful when getting out on the highways during any situation.
She called for more patrols on the highway.
“Once again, we make an appeal to the police to be out in the night. We also encourage the Government to pass the speed legislation that will include ticketing by camera, wherein the cases where the police can’t be in certain places at nights, the cameras can pick up those who go above the speed limit and break traffic lights,” Inglefield said.
There have been several other survivors of road traffic accidents who have been fatally knocked over by passing vehicles. Just last month, businessman Javed Hassanali, 37, was killed when he was struck by a white wagon as he stepped onto the San Fernando Bypass. Mere seconds before, Hassanali had accidentally veered his Toyota Hilux into the median of the bypass. The driver that struck him never stopped.
Inglefield said that in many cases, accidents survivors who walk onto the highway are struck by speeding motorists. She said that anyone struck by a vehicle travelling at a rate between 50-60 kmph has a 50 per cent chance of survival while being hit at 80 kmph mostly ends in fatality.
“Motorists on the highway need to be driving within the speed limit and take road conditions into consideration. If it is wet, you do not necessarily drive at the speed limit, you adapt to the conditions. You do not speak on your cellphone and you stay aware of what is going on around you. At 4.30 am, you should be aware that the lights are very tricky and you need to make sure that the portion of the road you’re driving on is well lit and the road condition is good.”
She also said that utility poles are placed too close to the roadside and often times when people accidentally veer on the road, they crash into poles, which often results in death.
E-courier Web Source has advised its customers to think twice before purchasing sex toys online.
In correspondence issued to its customers yesterday, the company claimed that the intimate devices fell under the Customs and Excise Division’s list of prohibited items.
Other items include camouflage patterns, illegal drugs, cigarettes, honey, plants, seeds, soil and toy guns, including those with brightly coloured muzzles. Firearm holsters are also prohibited unless the importer has a valid firearm user’s licence.
It said: “Please note that Customs will be inspecting all packages to ensure compliance with the law. As such, they can and will seize the items listed below and any other prohibited items.”
It also noted that its shipping fees remain payable even if prohibited items are seized.
Despite the warning, sources within the division, who spoke to television station CNC3, said that not all sex toys are prohibited as only items which closely resemble actual sex organs would be barred.
However, they noted that the final decision on each item rests with the Customs officer, who is assigned to inspect that package.
The prohibition of sex toys falls under Section 45 (l) of the Customs Act, which barred 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”.
The Criminal Offences Act and Summary Offences Act also outlaws the distribution and sale of such illicit items.
Police sources said that while the items have been prohibited for decades under the legislation, some packages may slip pass Customs officials, who may just perform random searches.
Some people also elude the legislation by smuggling the items in the suitcases during overseas trips.
The 2018 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and CAPE examination results have been the best this country has seen in the last decade.
While this has been good news for Education Minister Anthony Garcia, it has also created cause for concern, as 1,486 of the 16,042 CSEC students in government and government-assisted schools who sat the examinations this year did not obtain a pass mark in any subject area.
At a press conference at his ministry yesterday, Garcia assured that his ministry has rolled out a number of initiatives that will bring better CSEC results in 2019.
Garcia attributed a number of factors for the unsuccessful students, ranging from students not being able to cope academically, abject poverty, lack of reading materials in some homes and weak family structures.
In giving a breakdown of the results, Garcia said 60.78 per cent of CSEC students obtained a full certificate, while 56.47 per cent of students were able to attain five subjects which included English and Mathematics.
In 2017, the ministry had recorded 1,725 CSEC students scoring a zero pass rate.
Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan said the ministry had recorded the highest CESC 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.
He said the pass rates in 14 subjects in 2018 were higher than last year’s.
Seecharan noted that 51.93 per cent of boys who wrote the CSEC examination in 2018 “got five and more (subjects) with Maths and English, compared to last year’s 47.88 per cent.
“This has been an improvement.”
“Both at CSEC and CAPE this year we had performances that exceeded the past ten years. In other words, we’ve had the best results in the past ten years this year,” Seecharan boasted.
Seecharan said a number of the 1,400 unsuccessful CSEC students also sat subjects in the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) this year.
“So many of those students not passing CSEC subjects may have been successful in the CVQ subjects,” Seecharan said, which would change the pass rate figures significantly when the CVQ results are announced.
Garcia said the results of the CAPE examination continue to be excellent.
This year, he said in Unit 1 of CAPE, 95.31 per cent of students achieved a passing grade, stating that this figure showed a slight improvement compared to last year’s figure of 95.06 per cent.
The 95.31 per cent represented “22,381 subject entries,” Garcia said.
In Unit 2, of the 11,128 subject entries, Garcia said 94.7 per cent of the received a passing grade. Last year, 94.44 per cent of the students had obtained a passing grade.
“Of the 32 subjects written by our students…26 of these subjects had students scoring more than 90 per cent,” Garcia said.
The Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) has instructed the Ministry of Education not to pay secondary school teachers for the marking of School-Based Assessments (SBA) papers, as this forms part of their responsibility.
Teachers who fail to comply with this directive can face disciplinary action.
The announcement was made yesterday at a press conference hosted by Education Minister Anthony Garcia at his ministry’s headquarters in Port-of-Spain.
However, in response, the president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai has promised to challenge the CPO and the ministry’s decision in court next month.
In April, Doodhai had warned Garcia that teachers would not be marking students School-Based Assessments (SBAs) at the beginning of the new academic year in September unless they are paid.
Garcia said when TTUTA raised the matter four months ago, the ministry sought advice from the Attorney General, who in turn referred the issue to the CPO for her opinion.
Garcia said the CPO advised that “the marking of SBAs form part of the duties of secondary school teachers. Failure to perform the said duties may result in disciplinary action under the code of conduct of the Education Teaching Service Regulations Chapter 39.01.”
He said based on the CPO’s response, the ministry meet with TTUTA and outlined its position.
“Their response was, well, thanks very much. In fact, it is interesting to note that one of the things we were told by TTUTA was that the Jamaican teachers will now be paid for writing the SBAs, but that decision was arrived at through negotiations between the union and the CPO in Jamaica,” Garcia said.
Garcia, however, offered a suggestion to TTUTA that they can put forward a recommendation for such payments when they engage in discussions for an increase in salaries for teachers.
In a telephone interview, Doodhai said they “very soon will be issuing a pre-action protocol letter, in the first instance, the Ministry of Education and CPO with respect to payment of teachers for the marking of SBAs. We intend to pursue this matter to the end under the legal system.”
“Teachers are only responsible for marking of internal examinations set by us,” Doodhai said.
He said before the end of September, TTUTA’s attorneys will take the matter to court.
Doodhai said TTUTA was in total disagreement with the CPO’s advice.
He said the markings of SBAs for CSEC and CAPE subjects are external examinations set by the Caribbean Examinations Council.
On August 30, Doodhai said TTUTA’s general council will also meet to discuss the matter further.
Questioned how much money the teachers were asking for, Doodhai said “it’s not really a question of the quantum. What we have been saying all along it is a very tedious task to do SBAs and teachers cannot do that during the school time. We are also saying it is not the job of the teacher.”
Doodhai said they are willing to meet with the ministry and the Caribbean Examination Council to discuss how much should be paid.
Residents of a San Fernando community are living in fear of a suspected serial arsonist whom they say is responsible for yesterday’s house fire in which a father and son were injured.
Cecil Phillip, 85, and his son Elvis, 55, narrowly escaped death after the arsonist succeeded on his sixth attempt to burn down their house at the corner of Rushworth and Harris Streets.
Their next-door neighbours, a family of five, were forced to jump through a window after the blaze spread to their roof and destroyed the upper floor of their house.
Residents suspect the arsonist is behind a string of fires in the San Fernando area. CCTV footage has linked him to at least three house fires in a four-block radius. Residents said the arsonist usually targets wooden vintage houses, strikes during the early hours of the morning and uses a flammable concoction to carry out his attacks.
The Phillip’s house was set on fire around 4 am. They hid in a concrete area to the back of their wooden home until the Fire Services doused the flames. The father and son suffered burns and were taken to the San Fernando General Hospital for treatment.
One of their relatives, who did not want to be named, complained, “This is the sixth time this happen and they keep making reports and nobody has been arrested. This person just keeps burning people houses,” she said.
Neighbour Bodnath Maharaj said he, his wife, two children, ages 12 and 7, and his mother, 79, jumped through a back window after the flames spread to their home. His wife received minor burns to her hands.
“I wasn’t seeing the neighbours, I thought they died,” said Maharaj, who complained that his neighbours made several reports to the police.
“Is five times they tried before to burn down the man house. There is a guy maliciously burning people houses and he always strike around 4 am,” he complained.
Another resident, Ian Chadee, said the arsonist made two attempts to burn down his parents home. He said the arsonist returned to his parents home early yesterday but went to Phillip’s house after he apparently saw the renovation work done to the house.
Following the second attack in May, he said his parents renovated the front wooden porch to an enclosed concrete board area.
“This morning he came with the concoction in his hand, his face covered, his gloves on, he watched up and realised it made no sense,” he surmised.
He said they have also installed security cameras, paid for private security patrols, installed wire mesh on all their windows and bought several fire extinguishers.
Chadee said the arsonist fit the description of the man captured on surveillance footage setting fire to the home and used bookstore of Merlyn Mohammed at the corner of Freeling and Rushworth Streets, last August.
Mohammed was hospitalised after she was badly burnt. Chadee said he and other relatives take turns staying with his parents, ages 77 and 68, and niece, in the event that the arsonist strikes.
He believes the police could identify and arrest the suspect if they obtain and sift through CCTV footage from the surrounding homes and businesses.
Police confirmed that both the Philip and Chadee families made reports at the San Fernando Police Station.
Newly-appointed Police Commissioner Gary Griffith will be under heavy scrutiny from the Arima Business Association (ABA) for at least the next three months.
Speaking to the T&T Guardian yesterday, president Reval Chattergoon, while congratulating the new top cop, he said members of the Association will be monitoring him closely as they are eager to get results.
“Certainly we welcome Mr Griffith. He is like a breath of fresh air and we would be looking on towards to see results and action. The ABA is definitely willing to work with him in any way that we can,” Chattergoon said.
Chattergoon, who also sits on the Arima Police Station’s Council, said he has first-hand information on the deplorable conditions that officers at the station work under and hopes that Griffith intervenes soon.
“Arima has been neglected for far too long and we expect more attention to be given to Arima and environs as crime is high in these parts.”
Chattergoon is also hoping that Griffith takes time to review and approve gun licences for several business people, “whose applications have been ‘gathering cobweb’ on the Commissioner’s desk for far too long.”
The Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GTCIC), led by president Surindra Maharaj, has also come out in full support of Griffith, “in his dynamic endeavours to annihilate the criminal element in our nation.”
Maharaj, who also extended heartiest congratulations and sincere best wishes to Griffith and acknowledged the specific skills and talents that Griffith can offer in the ongoing battle against crime.
“For too long now, our nation’s spirit lay dormant, silenced by the echo of gunfire,” Maharaj said in a statement issued last evening.
Maharaj noted Griffith’s 15 years military service, a military attache to former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, two years as National Security Minister, not to mention long-standing commercial interests as a defense contractor, portrayed the image of Police Commissioner capable of not only controlling but also eliminating the criminal pest that plagues our land.
President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Vishnu Charran wished Griffth the best of luck and expressed hope in having the current crime situation turned around in T&T.
“We have confidence that he will stand up against the criminals and lawlessness in this country and help bring back the peace in T&T.”
Charran said the chamber eagerly awaits Griffith’s visit to meet with the burgesses of Chaguanas.