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Chevening scholar to local students: Follow your dream, not the money trail

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 23:14

When making a choice about your career, you should always follow your dreams. Never follow money, and if money is your dream, then you are lost.  This was the advice from Chevening scholar, and winner of the Queen’s Young Leader Award, Teocah Dove, 26, yesterday to students attending the UK Higher Education and Skills Fair at the Raddison Hotel, in Port-of-Spain. 

The annual fair featured representatives from 30 universities from the UK who provide information on undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the UK. “The income will come, don’t worry about that. You will always find finances follow what makes you happy,” Dove said. Dove’s goal was to inform the students about going to school in the UK and the many benefits. She said aside for being in a culturally diverse group of students and having tremendous student support from the university, the best thing about a UK education is the critical skills a student will learn.

“A UK education encourages critical thinking. You are not asked to regurgitate information, but explain how you able to manipulate knowledge,” she said. Dove advised the prospective university students not to chose schools that have “great reputations,” like Cambridge or Oxford, but to choose schools that offer diverse programmes and a holistic university life. That way the students can find healthy ways to cope with stressful situations.

“If you centre your life around academics, you will have no release. Extra hobbies are ways to distress. Look at what interests you in the school, look at the activities, your academic life should be fun,” she said. Dove encouraged the students to actively become involved in volunteer work. She said volunteerism not only looks good on resumes, but teaches important skills and provides many opportunities.

“Most people have a Bachelor’s degree and many also have a Master’s degree. What sets them apart is your contribution to society. Get involved and add to your resume. “In the real world academics is not going to carry you. Volunteer experience adds to it,” Dove said.  She said she has been volunteering since 2004. Her volunteer work has taken her around the world to more than 10 different countries to attend conferences and present papers.

 On June 27, Dove will be awarded the Queen’s Young Leader Award because of her many contributions to society.  

State’s main witness: Police pressured me

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 23:08

The State’s main witness in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial, who claimed on Monday he never gave police a statement, changed his testimony yesterday, saying he was intimidated by police into making statements implicating the 12 accused men. Keon Gloster was grilled for several hours by lead State prosecutor Israel Khan, SC, and has now been deemed a “hostile witness” for the State. On Monday, Gloster, at the start of his testimony, denied making the statements and signing a transcript of a police interview in June 2007.

Khan spent much of yesterday’s hearing identifying individual sentences from the hand-written statement and asking Gloster to confirm or deny if he had made them to police in the interview. Gloster, who is related to all of the accused by either blood or marriage, is alleged to have seen Naipaul-Coolman being held captive at a house in Upper La Puerta, Diego Martin, for several days after she was kidnapped on December 19, 2006 from her  home at Lange Park, Chaguanas.

 He told police he was present when Naipaul-Coolman was killed, dismembered and her body buried. During his cross-examination, Khan was able to get Gloster to admit to providing peripheral information to homicide detectives on the names, addresses and family backgrounds of the accused men . Khan appeared to hit a brick wall when he picked out statements, which obviously incriminated the accused men.

With many of those questions, Gloster took lengthy pauses before he eventually denied making the statements. “She (the interviewer) was frightening me and telling me what to say,” Gloster repeatedly claimed. But as Khan persisted with his questioning Gloster began to periodically fold under the pressure.  

Khan: Did you tell police that Madman Marlon (Marlon Trimmingham) end up cuffing she (Naipaul-Coolman) on she hand and asking she where the money girl, we ain’t kidnap you for nothing?
Gloster: Yes
Khan: Did you tell the police that while Buffy (Shervon Peters) and Raphael (Raphael Williams) was asking she for money and she was saying help, help?
Gloster: Yes. Maybe when I was frightened.

Gloster’s answers constantly contradicted each other as he accepted and denied a series of scenarios involving Naipaul-Coolman’s murder. In answer to one question, Gloster denied saying he saw the accused men cleaning a pool table where Naipaul-Coolman was allegedly killed. However, when asked if he said he saw the table placed on its side to dry, Gloster said: “I tell them (the police) that because they (the accused) did scrub down the pool table.” 

As Khan continued to probe Gloster, he pleaded with presiding judge Malcolm Holdip to intervene. “Tell him to cool heself nah. I catch the fits this morning,” Gloster, who is epileptic, said. Before Holdip could address the issue, Khan said “i will cool down,” before he continued his line of questioning in a softer tone. Khan will continue his cross-examination when the trial resumes this morning.  

Who’s in court

The dozen men before the jury and Justice Malcolm Holdip are: Allan “Scanny” Martin, twin brothers Shervon and Devon Peters and their older brother Anthony Dwayne Gloster,, siblings Keida and Jamille Garcia, brothers Marlon and Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong, Antonio Charles, Joel Fraser and Lyndon James. A 13th man, Raphael Williams, was charged with the crime but died in prison in 2011 of complications from sickle-cell anaemia. 

Legal team

Their legal team includes Ulric Skerritt, Joseph Pantor, Selwyn Mohammed, Lennox Sankersingh, Ian Brooks, Wayne Sturge, Mario Merritt, Richard Valere, Colin Selvon, Vince Charles, Christian Chandler, Delicia Helwig and Alexia Romero. The prosecution team includes Senior Counsel Israel Khan and Gilbert Peterson, who are being assisted by senior state prosecutors Joy Balkaran and Kelly Thompson.   

Armour vs Jairam for law body head

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 23:06

Law Association president Seenath Jairam, SC, is going up against Reginald Armour, SC, and is seeking re-election to the post when the association’s elections are held on March 20. The notice of the association’s election was issued yesterday. It will be held  at the Convocation Hall of the Hall of Justice. The notice confirmed posts unopposed are vice-president (Gerry Brooks) and treasurer (Lydia Mendonca). 

The meeting will also confirm several people elected as ordinary members of the association’s council and to invite nominations from the floor and elect one further senior ordinary member. Those elected are Ronnie Bissessar, Ravi Heffes-Doon, Soraya Nanan, Joan Byrne, Nadine Nabbie, Lynette Seebaran-Suite, Hyacinth Griffith, Lesley-Ann Lucky Samaroo and Natasha Lamy-Ramsden.

Attendees are also expected to confirm as elected junior ordinary members of council Shankar Bidaisee, Trevor Clarke, Cindy F Daniel, Robert Vincent Charles, Kirk Bengochea, who are all unopposed. Members will cast ballots at the San Fernando High Court and Scarborough High Court. The association stated lawyers can tune in to discussions at the annual general meeting  via video conferencing but will be unable to contribute to the discussions at the Hall of Justice due to one way audio-visual communication.

 The council recently came under fire from members following the release of a statement in January calling for then attorney general Anand Ramlogan to resign following witness-tampering allegations by Police Complaints Authority Director David West.  Subsequently Ramlogan resigned on February 3. Former association secretary Donna Prowell had criticised the association’s executive for not consulting members.

 Attorney Wayne Sturge said he had received signatures of 25 members, which would have allowed for a special meeting to discuss the matter. That was put on hold. Sturge said members may wait until a new executive was installed to deal with the West issue.

ON AGENDA

The upcoming meeting will also consider the report of the association’s committee to consider elevation of Senior Counsel. On the agenda as well is a resolution calling for immediate repeal of Section 4 of the Finance Act (2015) which increased the limit of the Petty Civil Court from $15,000 to $50,000. 

Evicted by thugs from HDC home 6 years ago, Desperate mom seeking shelter

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 23:05

Six years after thugs drove her out of her Housing Development Corporation (HDC) apartment in Couva, Mary Paria is still homeless. The ailing woman is now desperately seeking a place to live so she can be reunited with her 20-year-old son. When she is not playing cat-and-mouse with the security guards at the San Fernando General Hospital, three chairs at this institution are converted into a bed for Paria to rest her head at nights. During the day she roams the streets as she has nowhere else to go.

“I am desperate. I need a home. I am calling on people to pray for me to get a home. Only God could make a miracle happen,” the soft-spoken woman said in an interview yesterday. Paria, 57, was employed as a domestic helper up until a few years ago when she fell ill and qualified for a disability grant. Her problems began in 2007 when her home, in a squatting settlement at Claxton Bay, was destroyed by a freak storm. 

Paria said then minister of planning, housing and the environment, Dr Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde, offered her and other affected residents the option of materials to reconstruct their homes or HDC units. She opted for the latter and entered into a rent-to-own arrangement, paying $100 a month for an apartment at Pelican Avenue, Couva. However, she was forced out of that home by thugs, who stole all of her belongings when she fled.

A letter to this effect was penned by legal officer Hazel Castro on behalf of the director/chairman of the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority on August 11, 2014. It was addressed to HDC managing director Jearlean John. In the letter, Castro wrote that Paria was given a licence in February 2009 to occupy the premises. She said shortly after taking up occupation, Paria was threatened, harassed and victimised by persons unknown to her. 

“She (Paria) alleges that she would find strange things in the apartment whenever she went out and returned home. On one occasion, she found a bag of what appeared to be marijuana and on another occasion, a metal object which she believed to be part of a gun. “She made several reports to the Couva Police Station but nothing materialised from those complaints,” the letter stated, referring to attached copies of receipts of police reports.

Castro wrote that Paria maintains that she did not abandon the apartment but was forced out and was in dire need of a home so she could be reunited with her son. She asked John for favourable consideration but to date Paria remains homeless. In December 2014, Paria received an acknowledgement to a letter sent to the ombudsman about her problems. The ombudsman’s letter, dated December 19, 2014, indicated that the HDC, by letter dated November 27, 2014, had informed that matter was receiving their attention.

Contacted on the matter, John said she was not in her office at the time and could not access Paria’s files. She said it was an unfortunate case and promised to look into the situation and assist Paria if she could.

Pollster on proposed EBC report: Electoral changes key to election

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 23:01

One of this country’s leading pollster said the proposed changes to the electoral boundaries could be the single most important factor in determining the results of this year’s general election. Principal consultant at Solution by Simulation, Nigel Henry, was responding to the likely voting patterns, using information from previous elections, to predict the changes in the latest Elections and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) report which is expected to be laid in the House of Representatives today. He told the T&T Guardian yesterday the process to alter boundaries was a simple one. 

According to Henry, any constituency with more than ten per cent of 25,000 registered voters “will lose polling divisions and any constituency that has under ten per cent of 25,000 voters will gain polling divisions.” He said there was no mystery about the EBC report as the law provided for it to be done every five years. Henry said polls showed the contest would be close. He said the proposed changes may be more important than how people vote.

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of the boundaries report as the simple fact is that under the current environment of a ‘neck and neck’ race, the contents of the report will decide who will form the next Government,” he said. He said a situation similar to what happened in St Kitts could happen here, where the then Government had lost the polls because it attempted to change the boundaries and was challenged in the Privy Council. He said the Government lost the legal battle and also the election.

“We will see a similar situation in T&T, depending on what the report says,” Henry added. He said changes were expected to Chaguanas East, which may gain polling divisions. He said “depending on how the EBC chooses to give Chaguanas East more voters, it will most probably become more UNC leaning.”

Henry said changes were expected in the boundaries of the marginal seat of Barataria-San Juan which has less than the required amount of voters. He said that constituency was set to gain polling divisions. He said if the new polling divisions come from the St Ann’s East “it will be tipped towards the People’s National Movement (PNM) and become more marginal.” He said possible boundary changes in San Fernando West could also have a significant effect on which party won that seat, which is now occupied by a People’s Partnership MP. 

“Depending on where the EBC has decided to move voters from to San Fernando West, it will be very significant. Henry said if “voters” were taken from San Fernando East the PNM would benefit and if they were moved from Oropouche East the United National Congress (UNC) will benefit. Henry said St Joseph could be the game changer in the election, which is constitutionally due by September.

“If the Elections and Boundaries Commission choose to fix the situation in Barataria/San Juan by moving voters from St Joseph into Barataria-San Juan that could have a decisive impact on the electoral map,” he added. Opposition MP Colm Imbert raised concern over the proposed changes earlier this week saying it was going to give the incumbent party the advantage.

London wants Baker fired

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 22:59

Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Orville London is again calling for the firing of Minister of Tobago Development and Tobago West MP Dr Delmon Baker over a statement he made in a weekly paper recently. In an article in the Mirror on February 11, Baker was quoted as saying: “Persons are more likely to be shot dead in Tobago than in Trinidad.” London had previously called for an apology and retraction of the statement from Baker who has refused.

Speaking at a news conference at the Administrative Complex, Calder Hall, yesterday, London called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to revoke immediately Baker’s appointment. “I want to make a public call on behalf of the people of Tobago to the Prime Minister to revoke the appointment of Dr Delmon Baker as Minister of Tobago Development and for the people of Tobago West and the rest of Tobago to reject him as their representative. 

“In fact, Dr Baker has demonstrated that he is neither interested in Tobago nor its development,” London said. He added statistics from the Police Service contradicted Baker’s statement, noting the Tobago Division was awarded for outstanding performance in the reduction of serious crime in 2014. He said the confirmation of the figures came from former national security minister Gary Griffith, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security Carl Francis in recent months.

London said Tobago had already started feeling the pinch from the negative effects on potential visitors who may have read Baker’s statement. He said Baker responded to his request to retract his statement by returning correspondence he sent to him in an envelope to the Office of the Chief Secretary. London said he had not written to the PM on the matter but hoped a response would be received following the public request. On Wednesday, Baker defended the statement and promised to make further comments to support what he said.

Opposition Leader on West: I had no idea Al-Rawi had sourced him as witness

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 22:59

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has accused Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of having double standards in the handling of the David West witness-tampering controversy. He was speaking at a political meeting in Marabella on Tuesday night, hours after he walked on the crime-riddled Marabella Trainline seeking votes. During the walk, Rowley said he met families affected by incest and poverty. 

Addressing hundreds of supporters, Rowley questioned why Persad-Bissessar fired former national security minister Gary Griffith but not Communication Minister Vasant Bharath, who were both embroiled in the controversy. He also denied having a personal or professional relationship with West. He said: “Prime Minister, I had no idea who my witnesses were. I left it to my lawyer Faris Al-Rawi. I had no idea that he had sourced a staff member of the AG’s office who could give personal information on how Ish and Steve escaped extradition.

“I never spoke to West except to say hello to him at social functions.” While the crowd cheered, Rowley added: “We have no relationship, either social or professional, so Prime Minister you are barking up the wrong tree.” Saying Persad-Bissessar’s justification for firing Griffith was that he was embroiled in the West matter, Rowley asked: 

“Isn’t Vasant embroiled in it too. Isn’t the PM embroiled in it? The PM had the constitutional duty to appoint David West. If the situation is that you will get fired if you are embroiled in this matter then I ask who is going to fire the Prime Minister?” A member of the audience shouted: “We will fire her the day she calls election date.” 

Rowley also made fun of the controversy surrounding his infamous wine with teenager Ravina Rampersad on Carnival Tuesday, saying: “You saw me for Carnival in San Fernando? They tell me I should have kicked away the lady when she come and wine back on me... ah not doing that!” The crowd laughed and clapped. Rowley added: “I like women, yes, that’s why I married a lovely one and produced two more.” He said the Government was trying to stop him from educating the public about Government’s wrong doing and pilfering of State assets.

Rowley also said he would mount massive protests to protect the pilfering of State lands in Chaguaramas, noting that the Chaguaramas Convention Centre and hotel was being disposed of by a corrupt government. “A property worth over $100 million is being leased. I also asked if any lands are being disposed of to a candidate of COP. Seventy-five acres of prime land is given away,” Rowley said. He added that the next big march would take place in Chaguaramas.

“We are not willing to accept the thievery and pillage,” Rowley said, adding it was time to fire the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar because she had failed to address social needs. 

Ramesh ‘not in bed with PNM’ but says: I am ready to defend Rowley

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 22:57

Despite accepting Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s offer to head his legal team for the impending lawsuit to be filed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is assuring he has no political arrangements with the People’s National Movement (PNM). “It’s simply a lawyer-client arrangement. I have no intention of serving in public office,” Maharaj said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I appeared in many political cases. It does not mean I have the political views of any clients or groups.”

Asked why and when the decision was made, Maharaj said: “Dr Rowley called me on Wednesday and told me that he wants me to lead a team of lawyers in anticipation of the legal action announced by the Prime Minister and I accepted. It is my duty as a lawyer to provide legal representation and I can accept a brief.” Maharaj said he had no qualms about his decision, saying he has represented several politicians, including prime ministers and leaders of the opposition, in the past. This is not the first time Maharaj will in fact be representing Rowley.

Asked whether he was suspicious of Rowley’s motives to appoint him, Maharaj said: “I do not question my client’s motives. It is not my duty to do that as a lawyer. I am concerned about legal issues and I have to assist the court to determine it.” He added: “I am familiar with E-mailgate and West-gate and any action filed by the PM against Rowley. I am confident that it will not have any legal basis because the law of defamation gives rights to media and members of the public and politicians to severely condemn and criticise public officials, even if it is not based on accurate facts.

“In Rowley’s case, what he said is not inaccurate so there is no basis for the case. He has an unanswerable defence to any claim brought by the Prime Minister. Any claim filed by the Prime Minister is frivolous.” He said he looked forward to working with all lawyers in the team, including former prime minister Basdeo Panday. However, Panday has not confirmed whether he will represent Rowley as he is currently vacationing in England and did not respond to queries. 

Opposition Leader defiant 

On Tuesday night, Rowley announced he had expanded his legal team to include Maharaj and possibly Panday. “She (PM) intends to sue me over E-mailgate. This morning, in preparation for the lawsuit that she going to file, I expanded my legal team because Faris (Al-Rawi) and the other lawyers have six lawsuits from the former attorney general who take me to court saying I have tarnished his pristine character,” Rowley told the Marabella audience who cheered loudly.

He added: “The Prime Minister tells me that I have more to come from her so I expanded my legal base this morning. I have called Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj. I have engaged him as my senior lawyer to respond immediately when I receive the writ from Kamla Persad-Bissessar and tomorrow I intend to call Basdeo Panday, to ask him if he is busy and if he is minded to take a piece of the brief.” Rowley said the reason for the plethora of lawsuits was to silence him. 

In response to calls that he should apologise to Ramlogan and Persad-Bissessar, Rowley said: “I have no apology to give anybody. I did my job and I did it without fear or favour. “In the e-mails that were read in Parliament were allegations of bugging in the Office of the DPP. Sue me, my witness is the DPP,” Rowley said. 

Second case for ex-AG

The Opposition PNM is using Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj’s services for a second time, PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi said yesterday. He said the PNM had used Maharaj’s services in 2013 when Sr Supt Surajdeen Persad sent PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley a pre-action protocol letter on alleged defamation, seeking an apology letter after Rowley spoke about a police officer at a PNM public meeting in connection with the Reshmi Ramnarine matter. 

Al Rawi said he replied to the letter with a letter of his own and Maharaj had rendered senior counsel assistance on that. Al-Rawi claimed the PNM “never heard back” on the issue after his reply. Yesterday, attorney Kelvin Ramkissoon, who represented Persad, declined comment on the matter.

5,000 homes in 8 months

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 22:53

Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal has unveiled an aggressive plan by the Government to distribute close to 5,000 homes over the remainder of this year, at a pace of 100 homes a week until year’s end. This, however, if achieved, will still not make a substantial dent on the over 160,000 applications for Housing Development Corporation (HDC) homes. Since Moonilal announced the plans yesterday during an interview on CNMG, social media critics have labelled the move as an election gimmick. 

But Moonilal has denied the housing drive was part of any election plan, saying that the HDC had been operating “under the radar” and out of the media glare while handing out keys over the past year. “I wanted to start earlier but there were financial delays and some issues. We finally got the okay from the Minister of Finance and we are going to start distribution from next Saturday.” Moonilal said his ministry and the HDC were working “quietly” over the past three years to have close to 5,000 homes ready to distribute this year.

“We have been working out of the glare of the media, just quietly putting things together,” he said. Moonilal dismissed critics who questioned the timing of the distribution. “We gave out 1,000 homes over the Christmas season, was that an election ploy too?” he asked. “If this was a ploy, then we could ask all the people who will be getting homes if they rather wait until after election and see how that works. Makes no sense to say it’s an election gimmick.”

During last year’s budget statement, Finance Minister Larry Howai pegged the amount of HDC home applicants at 160,000 and according to Moonilal that figure grows every day. In fact, at a key distribution ceremony last December, Moonilal said applicants stood at 272,000 and said since 2010 his ministry had handed out 5,200 keys. If he keeps with his new plan, Moonilal will distribute close to that four-year total figure in a matter of months.

Yesterday, Moonilal said construction has been going on "quietly" over the past three years in order to prepare homes for distribution on this scale. He claimed that as a "major success" for both his ministry and the HDC, saying that both the HDC and State-run Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) has been “cleaned up” during his tenure. “It is a major success, I am very happy we are able to do this,” he said.

How houses were distributed:

• Between 2011-2012, Moonilal said the HDC gave out 3,600 units.
• For 2012 to 2013, a total of 1,977 individuals were recipients of new homes, while in 2013 to 2014 the figure jumped to 2,141.
• Moonilal said for 2014 to 2015, an additional 2,280 would become new home owners and by 2015 to 2016  approximately 2,728 units to be handed out.
• He said Union Hall will have the largest distribution with 1,080 units over the next two years. Trailing behind is Couva, with 515 units. Enterprise is third with 429.

The houses were distributed from developments in the following areas;
Greenvale Park, La Horquetta.
Oropune Gardens, Piarco.
Cleaver Heights Housing Development, Arima.
Tarodale Gardens, San Fernando.
Edinburgh South, Chaguanas.
Golconda Housing Development, Golconda.
Cypress Hills, San Fernando. 
Union Hall, San Fernando.
Fairfield Housing Estate, Princess Town.

PNM projects—Rowley

People's National Movement (PNM) leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday labelled the move an “election distribution,” but said that he too was “very happy” for those who would be receiving houses. “I am very happy for the many recipients who are finally able to benefit from the PNM housing policy,” Rowley said in a text response to questions yesterday. He hinted that all the home construction projects were actually initiated under the PNM prior to the 2010 general election.

“All the various sites where this election distribution will take place are projects which were at various stages of completion in 2010,” he said. HDC managing director Jearlean John yesterday also dismissed all suspicion over the timing of the handover. She said the HDC had a "hard working team" and the administration was ready for the heavy task ahead. “We had almost a trial run last year when we handed out about 1,000 keys,” John said.

John said the handover was the simple part, as it was a manifestation of all the years of work that went beforehand to prepare the houses. “Keep in mind we have a certain standard of houses that we distribute,” she said. John also denied it was an election ploy, saying that the HDC has been “quietly” giving out homes outside of the glare of the media. “We have been serving the public quietly,” John said. There has been several publicised key giveaways over the part five years.

Zoo announces contest to name new tigers

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 16:57

A ticket to the zoo could get you a chance to name a tiger.

The Emperor Valley Zoo has invited the public to name its newest babies, two white tiger cubs born in January.

People wishing to participate can collect entry forms at the zoo on purchase of an entrance ticket. Anyone purchasing entry tickets to the zoo is eligible to enter. 

In a release yesterday, president of the Zoological Society, Gupte Lutchmedial encouraged patrons to visit the cubs, born to Bengal tigers earlier this year.

“There is one male cub and one female cub and they can be viewed thrice daily, every day.” 

The contest will run until the end of March after which a winner will be declared.

“In addition to the privilege of giving the two popular cubs their names, the winner will get a year’s free pass to the zoo,” Lutchmedial said.

Winners under the age of 17 will receive free admission to the zoo until their eighteenth birthday, he said

 

Questions remain over source of WASA contamination

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 16:12

The probe continues into the source of an oily substance that contaminated the Water and Sewerage Authority's Caroni Water Treatment Plant last week.

A release issued today by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) did not confirm the source of the contamination.

After several tests in the area, the EMA's response team did not find "any visible evidence of contamination" in the riverside vegetation and at the mouths of drains emptying into the Caroni River.

"The EMA however continues its investigations and is urging the public to come forward with any information on suspected illegal dumping of waste which may have led to this event," the release said.

The EMA will be taking "a zero-tolerance approach to both companies and contractors if proper certification and responsible handling of waste chemicals is not carried out," the release said.
 

Rowley hires Ramesh for E-mailgate defence

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 23:23

 

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley last night revealed for the first time his private conversation with former Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon in the E-mailgate affair.

He also said he had hired Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj to defend him against the impending lawsuit to be brought by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in the matter.

Speaking at a public meeting in Marabella, Rowley said after he had gotten a thread of e-mails bearing similar addresses as those of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, then attorney general Anand Ramlogan and two other politicians, Suruj Rambachan and Gary Griffith in 2011, he took them to then president George Maxwell Richards.

Richards, in turn, forwarded the e-mails to the Integrity Commission. After six months had elapsed, Rowley said he tried to find out the status of the investigation, but when he called for the chairman of the Integrity Commission he did not reach him.

He said while on the way to his home, Gordon returned his call and asked him if the matter he wanted to discuss was urgent.

It was in that scenario, Rowley said, that he went to Gordon's home and asked him one question.

Whether the matter was being investigated? He said Gordon's response was no.

In May 2012, Rowley referred to 31 e-mails in Parliament which outlined a criminal plot to bug the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, an offer of judgeship to the DPP and a plot to harm an investigative journalist who was probing the circumstances relating to the passage of legislation which favoured two political financiers in the Secton 34 matter.

Rowley said last night that Ramlogan and former sports minister Anil Roberts were among those who were quick to accuse him of fabricating the e-mails.

He said he would have been stupid to fabricate the e-mails and then take them to the President and ask for a probe.

Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams on Tuesday confirmed that the police service had received a "voluminous" file from US e-mail service provider Google Inc. and that they were in the process of analysing the information.

On Monday, at a political meeting in Brazil Village, East Trinidad, Persad-Bissessar signalled her intention to sue Rowley for defamation in relation to the E-mailgate allegations.

Rowley said last night he was prepared to defend himself and had only today retained Persad-Bissessar's political adversary, former attorney general Maharaj, to lead his legal team, and intended to call another, former prime minister Basdeo Panday, to see if he was willing to also represent him.

He said if the lawsuit becomes a reality he intends to call the DPP and the Chief Justice as his defence witnesses.

Rowley also called on the police to reopen the case involving official Judiciary documents being found in a lawyers’ office and launch a criminal probe into how judgment in default was entered against him in a defamation lawsuit filed by Ramlogan.​

 

 

No bail for 3 on robbery, attempted rape charges

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 23:02

Three St James men pleaded not guilty yesterday on charges of armed robbery and attempted rape. The trio—Leekemus Murphy, 20, of Isaac Terrace, Bournes Road; Jessie Walters, 19, of Bombay Street and Solomon Harridan, 19, of Brunton Road—were charged by PC Nicholas Nurse of the Western Division Task Force. They appeared before Port-of-Spain magistrate Halcyon Yorke-Young. They are charged with robbing a St James couple of $30,310 in cash and jewelry last Saturday. 

They are also charged with demanding $2,500 with intent to steal, possession of a gun and a knife and while in possession of the gun and knife robbery of the couple, using violence. Harridan has an additional charge of possession of an imitation gun, marijuana and assaulting PC Nurse. 

Murphy also is charged separately with attempting to rape the woman and possession of a Smith and Wesson pistol and ten rounds of ammunition. They are scheduled to reappear before a Port-of-Spain magistrate tomorrow for bail because their criminal records were unavailable yesterday.  The men were arrested on Saturday after police responded to a report in the area. 

UNC rises, COP arises, PNM rolls

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 22:57

When the election bell is finally rung, this week will be remembered as the launch pad of the major players in their bid for certain political turf which will make the difference between victory and loss at the polls. That the general election is drawing nearer has also been reinforced by People’s Partnership (PP) House Leader Roodal Moonilal’s announcement in Parliament last Friday that tomorrow’s Lower House session will debate an Elections and Boundaries Commission order. This involves several boundary changes.

The order is expected to outline changes to some constituency boundaries in southern seats, Oropouche and surrounding San Fernando areas, and in Diego Martin and Port-of-Spain. In synch with expected changes, politicos from all sides hit the ground this week in outreach mode. The United National Congress (UNC) utilised resumption of its Monday Night forums to begin its lobby in La Horquetta/Talparo for the East-West Corridor—key for any party in capturing government—and especially so for the south/central-based UNC.

The sizeable crowd in Brazil Village heard Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar prime up for the polls, defending her Government from detractors, detailing PP achievements and dumping an attack on PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley. While the logo on PP shirts was “Stronger than Ever,” speakers, including PP MP Jairam Seemungal and Roodal Moonilal, telegraphed the need for effort, saying the upcoming election was one of the UNC’s biggest challenges and an organised effort was needed.

“Get in your section,” Moonilal urged, taking stabs (indirect) at Rowley’s South Carnival and (direct) stabs at Jack Warner. “Neemakharam...” Moonilal declared. The meeting introduced to the platform Sports Minister Brent Sancho, heightening speculation he is being prepped for candidacy. Sancho has warned that he played to win, “and I don’t intend to change that now.” On Tuesday, the COP’s constituency outreach drive, on leader Prakash Ramadhar’s turf, promoted its bid to bring members “back home” and shake off the stigma of political rigor mortis. 

“No death certificate for COP,” leader Prakash Ramadhar said at the St Augustine Girls’ High School on Tuesday night. “Get focused T&T” is COP’s current theme. The appeal for returnees was particularly directed at the most recent departures of last week, now bidding to become another political outfit of sorts and influence the election’s outcome. Any bitterness over the loss of members was tempered, however, in statements emphasising an open-door policy.

COP chairman Jamison Bahadur, saying detractors, “especially in the west,” were out to mash up COP and return the PNM, warned against vote splitting. Chairs at the St Augustine Girls’ High School hall venue were full at the start, with people drifting in and out during the meeting. Members came from various constituencies. 

The air of excitement was assisted by the tempo and lyrics of  2015 calypsoes and energetic presentations by speakers. Attendees included a couple who had walked out of COP’s council meeting recently, though they maintained stern countenance as officials spoke. Chairman Indra Maharaj said COP’s secretariat confirmed the party obtained 100 new members since last Sunday and 13 that night. Political guns on the PNM squarely targeted leader Keith Rowley. 

“What has Keith Rowley done to deserve the consideration of any of the 150,000 (COP members) to give him leadership of T&T?” asked PP’s Bhoe Tewarie. “Nothing,” the crowd replied. The PNM got its turn to reply to the UNC/COP at last night’s launch of PNM’s San Fernando West campaign in Marabella, both areas key to aiding a PNM victory,  particularly in the South, considered PP heartland.

San Fernando West campaign manager Terrence Beepath said PNMites planned a big debut of Sando West candidate Faris Al-Rawi with a parade of supporters walking along the Marabella trainline to the meeting venue at the Marabella Friendly Society lodge. The meeting was scheduled to feature Pointe-a-Pierre candidate Neil Mohammed, Mayaro contender Clarence Rambharath, Oropouche East’s Terry Jadoonanan and introduce San Fernando East contender Randall Mitchell.

Legal hurdle stumps QC

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 22:49

The commission of enquiry into the Las Alturas housing project adjourned early yesterday after the lead attorney Vincent Nelson, QC, representing the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) was unable to be heard as he had not yet been granted permission by the High Court to practise locally. Nelson arrived late to yesterday's hearing as he was delayed at the High Court, Port-of-Spain, as he attempted to secure the requisite permission.

Apologising for Nelson’s absence when the proceedings resumed at 9.30 am at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, attorney Larry Lalla who is appearing alongside Nelson blamed administrative matters for Nelson’s position. However, Lalla said they were hopeful that everything would have been sorted out this morning. Nelson is expected to lead off this morning’s session.

Although the HDC’s attorneys were unable to proceed, attorney Kathryn Denbow delivered her opening remarks on behalf of her client, the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott). In her short address, Denbow said they would be calling one witness, project manager Atiba de Souza. De Souza was assigned to the $40 million controversial project as a civil engineer between 2005 and 2006 before the project was handed over to the HDC.

Also delivering opening remarks on behalf of their client Geotech Associates Ltd (GA), attorney Justin Phelps told the commission that they were attempting to “weigh the legal responsibilities without the full benefit of the full contractual matrix.” Explaining that there were contractual relationships, the details of which had not been fully disclosed, Phelps said GA's legal team was unaware of the terms and references of some of these contracts. The commission’s chairman indicated they would be visiting the site later on.

AT A GLANCE

The commission of enquiry was set up to investigate “the entire process which led to the construction of the Las Alturas Towers at Lady Young Gardens, Morvant, and all other acts, matters or decisions done or undertaken incidental to and including the construction” of the project, which includes the procurement process. Two multi-storey units of the Las Alturas housing project began falling apart after construction and the $26 million towers were earmarked for demolition. 

They were part of a larger project, which was originally budgeted at $65 million and then rose to $90 million. The commission is chaired by former Justice of Appeal Mustapha Ibrahim. The other members include civil engineers, Dr Myron Wing-Sang Chin and Anthony Farrell. Attorney Laraine Lutchmedial is the secretary. They were appointed by President Anthony Carmona last December. Last September, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar recommended an enquiry into the project after raising concerns about the two towers which had to be demolished. 

Persad-Bissessar said Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who was a former housing minister under the PNM, as well as Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde, who succeeded him, have distanced themselves from blame. Rowley said though he welcomed the probe, it would be another waste of taxpayers’ dollars.  

Moonilal on no-confidence motion: We need to expose Rowley

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 22:44

Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal says government is proceeding with its move of no confidence against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley despite criticisms that it will have no effect on his position. In an interview, Moonilal said the motion was not meant to remove Rowley as Opposition Leader but to “expose his serious lack of judgment in matters of State.” “The issue is not his removal. The people of Diego Martin will do that along with the PNM members. 

“The question is to expose his lack of fitness for office and his horrible lack of judgment in matters of state. The vote of no confidence is meant to highlight the lack of judgment of the Opposition Leader for high public office. We owe the citizens a duty to expose Dr Rowley,” Moonilal said Several political analysts and attorneys have said that moving a motion against Rowley was of little significance. 

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said even if the motion succeeded it would be null and void and of no effect. He said that there was no provision for any action, suspension or removal of the Opposition Leader in the Constitution. 

On Monday night, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said her party planned to file a motion of no confidence over Rowley’s failure to disclose that Police Complaints Authority Director David West was a witness of his in a defamation case filed against him by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan and Rowley’s decision to support West’s appointment was a conflict of interest.

One constitutional expert said yesterday there was no prohibition in the Constitution to prevent someone from filing a no-confidence motion against the opposition leader. The only part of the Constitution that deals with no-confidence motions is Section 77:1, which is in relation to the Prime Minister. The lawyer spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There is no provision in the Constitution that says you cannot file a no-confidence motion against the opposition leader.

“You can’t imply a prohibition. And if you can, how was the Opposition able to file no-confidence motions against the Speaker of the House, Wade Mark, and Finance Minister, Larry Howai?” he asked.  “I don’t know how anyone can say the Constitution prohibits a no-confidence motion against the opposition leader. “It’s difficult to see how it is prohibited,” he said, adding that whether it is politically wise to do so was another matter entirely. The senior counsel noted that the matter needed to be sifted through carefully.

Other legal sources recalled when the former PNM administration sought to have former Speaker Occah Seepaul removed, they searched the Constitution with a fine-tooth comb for justification.

PBR traffic jam adds to woes

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 22:37

A traffic pileup on the Priority Bus Route yesterday added to the woes of commuters who were forced to use maxi taxis as an alternative mode of transportation due to the industrial action taken by Public Transport Service Corporation drivers. Route Two Maxi Taxi Association PRO Christopher Serrette blamed the situation on a roadblock in Tacarigua and the fact that there were now too many vehicles being given authorisation to use the PBR.

“There are 1,150 authorised maxis on the Bus Route and there are 3,500 private vehicles authorised to use the Bus Route. The problem we have is the traffic jam because of the extra vehicles on the bus route. It defeats the whole design of the Priority Bus Route,” Serrette said. He said an early morning roadblock to check for overcrowded maxis also caused major problems. 

“I left home at 7.40 am and reached City Gate at 9.20 am. This is a trip that is supposed to take 40 minutes. This morning Licensing Officers were stopping maxis to see if maxis were over crowded. This kept us back so much,” Serrette said. He said both drivers and commuters were caught unaware on Tuesday when PTSC drivers initially took action and this caused long lines for maxis but said they had made the adjustment by yesterday.  

“When the public realised that the bus service would be suspended, there was a glut yesterday (Tuesday) and that is what caused the problem. The travelling community, they noticed what went on yesterday and came out earlier today,” he said. Nabeel Mohammed, a graphic artist from Trincity who works in Port-of-Spain, said he left home later than he usually does to get a maxi yesterday but still met a lot of traffic.

He added: “As late as 8 to 8.30 this morning the Priority Bus Route was near standstill with traffic headed west. Lots of people were just standing by the roadside making calls to their workplaces to let them know they were going to be late. “As soon as I saw the traffic, I knew I was going to spend two or more hours in it. I called my boss, told him I couldn’t make it in and turned back to head home to work from there.”  

A woman from St Joseph, who only identified herself as Charlene, said she got little problems to get a maxi. Charlene said she left home around 6.30 am and was able to get a maxi within five minutes of arriving on the PBR at Farm Road, St Joseph. 

Union queries disparity in wages: PTSC drivers want level field

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 22:36

Public Service Transport Corporation (PTSC) bus drivers are expected to return to work this morning but will continue their work-to-rule action until their demands for salary negotiations are met. The drivers agreed to return to work after word that Labour Minister Errol McLeod had agreed to meet with PTSC management and the workers’ union at his Duke Street, Port-of-Spain, offices today, vice president of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) Wendell Subiah said yesterday. The meeting is tentatively scheduled to start at 4 pm.

“The decision was taken after the minister agreed to meet with the union and management. However, the work-to-rule action will continue until our demands are met,” Subiah told the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview. He warned that thousands of commuters would still face some inconvenience as drivers will not be coming out in full force. Subiah said the drivers were upset because of the disparity in the wage and Cost of Living Allowance (Cola) and salaries paid to drivers of all other state entities compared to what is being paid to them. 

He provided a copy of the breakdown in Cola and salaries paid to drivers at Petrotrin, TSTT, T&TEC, WASA, National Petroleum and PTSC. PTSC drivers are the lowest paid, receiving $152 a month in Cola and $44.50 an hour. Drivers at Petrotrin are the highest paid, receiving $1,817 in Cola a month and a minimum of $74.50 an hour. Sabiah asked: “If you look at the list, the second lowest Cola is $4.06, so why are PTSC drivers being paid $0.95? That does not make sense. 

“Secondly, if you look at the salaries, PTSC drivers are paid $44.50, which is the lowest wage in the listing.” On Tuesday, hundreds of unsuspecting passengers were left stranded when almost 2,000 bus drivers did not show up for work, choosing instead to attend a meeting between the union and management at the Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s, in a show of solidarity with the union. 

Yesterday, drivers decided to begin work-to-rule action, causing many passengers to opt to use the water taxi service and maxi taxi and taxi services from South and maxi taxis and taxis along the East-West corridor instead. Buses to rural areas and the San Fernando to Port-of-Spain coach service were not available for the past two days. The water taxi service responded by adding another sailing time to its schedule, making a total of 14 sailings to and from Port-of-Spain. 

Suruj, Gary hope for quick end

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 22:32

Works Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan and  former minister Gary Griffith said yesterday they hope the E-mailgate investigation can be concluded quickly. They said so yesterday after being contacted for comment in the wake of acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams confirmation that the Police Service had received information from Internet service provider Google Inc on the matter. Speaking to reporters at a business conference in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Rambachan said the police investigation was taking too long.

He added: “I think now that the police have admitted that they have the information they should come public with whatever they have. “I wrote to Google about a week after this happened and within six hours Google sent me back, from the legal department, a letter in which they cleared me completely. “I am just waiting on the Commissioner of Police to finish his investigation as quickly as possible. “ I hope they do this before the elections and not after the elections because this is something that they have tried to impugn the character of ministers of government with.

“I, like the Prime Minister, am also waiting to file my lawsuit in terms of what has happened in this matter.” Contacted by phone, Griffith too said he was anxious to see the completion of the investigation. “I hope this matter can be rectified as quickly as possible. I would not want to pressure the police as I am aware there is a process and they have to be very meticulous in compiling all the data and they cannot give piecemeal information.”

 Griffith said he also wished assurances were given that not only authentication of the e-mails was being done but that the probe would extend to authenticating the content of the papers as well. He said that would clear up any questions on that. Police said yesterday that the information they have received from Google in connection with the alleged e-mails were now being analysed to determine their authenticity. 

Ramlogan did not respond to calls for his comment on the information received by police. Sources close to him said he had returned to private practice. In May 2013, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar asked the acting Police Commissioner to investigate alleged e-mails which Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley produced in Parliament. The alleged e-mails were purported to have been written by the PM, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, Rambachan and Griffith. 

The allegations dealt with an alleged plot to tap the phone of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the intimidation of the T&T Guardian journalist who broke the story about the early proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.

PoS pawn shop heist: Pregnant accused cries in court

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 22:30

The cries of pregnant cancer patient Melissa Evans echoed throughout the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court yesterday after she was told she had to spend a night in prison after being denied bail in the multi-million dollar pawn shop robbery matter. 

Evans, her boyfriend Jevon Cudjoe, his younger brother Jude, Vishnu Lutchman and Anthony Hutchinson were all denied bail when they appeared before Magistrate Cheron Raphael charged with robbing More Money Pawn Shop of $23,693,055.49, $60,000 and electronic items worth $6,000. The five are alleged to have robbed the store sometime between February 21 and 23. Evans, 33, of Mt Hololo, Cascade, through her attorney Alexia Romero, told the magistrate she has to attend clinic every two months and since her arrest on February 27 she had to be rushed to hospital. 

Romero also told the court her client was deemed medically unfit to work and is the mother of two, including an asthmatic seven-year-old daughter. Romero, who also represented Jevon Cudjoe, said he was 28 and had one pending matter for gambling. She said Cudjoe, who was additionally charged with possession of marijuana when held on February 28 at his home, was a technician. Cudjoe pleaded guilty to the marijuana possession. 

After the duo, who appeared separately from the other accused, appeared and were denied bail, Evans began to cry. As she was led out of the court her cries turned to wails. Moments after the couple appeared their co-accused were brought to court to answer the charge for the multi-million dollar robbery. The younger Cudjoe, 25, of St Rose Hill, East Dry River, Port-of-Spain, was represented by Samuel Thomas. He and Lutchman are additionally charged with robbing Just CDs and Accessories of 160 sim cards, 19 cellphones, together totalling $19,138.74 and $1,000. 

Cudjoe, along with other unknown people, is further charged with stealing 46 Army Fete tickets; $7,608.03 and two tablets, valued at $2,849 from American Stores, Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, sometime between January 22 to 23. Sometime between February 9 and 10, Cudjoe, again with others, was accused of robbing Ellis Brown and Co Ltd on Charlotte Street of $15,056 in tools and $1,985. He is also charged with possession of marijuana to which he pleaded guilty.

Before denying the five bail, Raphael requested the medical records of Evans for considering bail. Court prosecutor Sgt Joseph objected to bail, however, noting that due to the nature of the offence he was convinced the accused are likely to abscond even if their passports were taken away. dded to that, he said the criminal records of all the accused were not available and they would have to re-appear today for bail application. 

According to police, the alleged thieves got into the store by cutting out slabs of concrete from the roof and using a drill to access the vault room. Using blow torches and other tools, they then cut the safes and cleaned out gold and other precious metals. The thieves also cut open a huge safe which protected the video surveillance equipment and stole that too. Police said the thieves allegedly had the floor plan drawings for the business and several others in the Port-of-Spain area. Police said $1.4 million worth of jewels have since been recovered.

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