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There are rumblings in the trade union movement, with a warning coming from the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) of an impending fallout if decisions concerning workers continue to be made without social dialogue and consultation.
“Natuc is being left out of conversations on how the economy is carried forward. You are going to have a fallout with the general population,” Michael Annisette, general secretary of Natuc, the umbrella body of 13 trade unions, said.
“This (lack of consultation) would contradict statements about the Government being all-inclusive.”
Annisette further noted: “To date, there is no labour representative on any of the state boards. I am advised they are now looking at it.”
He was responding to questions from the T&T Guardian on a decision by the board of the National Gas Company (NGC), a state entity, to freeze its workers’ salaries.
The NGC’s decision was made in light of the company’s position because of low gas prices and was described by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as a sensible move.
Annisette said several union colleagues have expressed to him concerns about the lack of consultation and social dialogue concerning decisions affecting workers.
Unions under Natuc include Bank & General Workers Trade Union, Seamen & Waterfront Workers Trade Union, National Union of Government & Federated Workers and Transport and Industrial Workers Union.
Some of these unions are part of the Joint Trade Union Movement which signed a memorandum of understanding with the PNM before it won the September 7 general election. The details of that MOU have not been made public.
Annisette also completely rejected suggestions by economist Dr Roger Hosein that, as a necessary economic adjustment, wage freezes be implemented across the board in the public and private sectors.
Charging that Hosein does not understand the real world of work, and challenging him to a public debate, Annisette said an economy’s survival is based on a thriving, working middle class.
“If the working class does not purchase goods and services, the economy cannot strive. The economy is not about magic. It is not about inanimate figures. It is about people. If you leave people out of the equation you will end up with a serious crisis.”
He asked, “Why don’t they freeze prices too? When you freeze a worker’s wages but prices keep going up, what position are you putting him in? Wage freezes will have to be decided upon on a case-by-case basis.”
Annisette said the NGC issue is not about freezing wages but about benchmarking its operations according to the international benchmark.
Concerns are being raised by president of Arrive Alive Sharon Inglefield that neither the speed guns nor the new Motor Vehicle Authority have been put into use, especially as the carnage on the nation’s roads continues.
However, Inglefield said the speed gun was absolutely necessary as it was a preventative measure to save lives.
“This, coupled with a complete revamp of the Motor Vehicle Authority to include the speed detection not only by the guns but also by the cameras, point system in the revoking of driver’s licence... all of these elements are vitally important as preventative measures to save lives.
"We are extremely disappointed these measures have not come into effect," Inglefield said in a telephone interview yesterday.
She said Arrive Alive, a road safety lobby group, had gotten no feedback from Transport Minister Fitzgerald Hinds regarding the organisation's concerns but was hoping to hear from him soon.
"Each one of us is responsible for our own safety and we need to ensure we are obeying the speed limit and adjusting the speed to adapt to the road conditions," Inglefield said.
Calls to Hinds' cellphone went unanswered yesterday.
But John Victor, corporate communications manager at the Ministry of Transport, said he was told by the ministry's legal department that the procurement process for the speed guns was ongoing.
He said a company was working with the Police Service regarding the finalisation of the matter but no time frame could be given as to when the issue would be completed.
Victor added that there was a possibility that the 400 speed guns as previously proposed by the former administration might be reduced as there might not be the need to have so many.
Legislation governing the Motor Vehicle Authority lapsed in the last Parliament and has not yet been re-introduced.
The road death toll currently stands at 135 as compared to 146 for the same period last year.
Speed guns coming
Public Information Officer of the Police Service, ASP Michael Pierre, assured that the speed guns would in fact be put into use.
"I know that process is ongoing but it is not in the back-burner. The Police Service is working on it," Pierre added.
However, he could not give a definite date or the number of guns which would be used.
Co-ordinator of the Police Service's Strategic Road Safety Project, Brent Batson, was also unaware of when the guns would come into effect.
When contacted ACP in charge of Mobile, Deodat Dulalchan, said he did not wish to comment on the matter.
Five road deaths
On Tuesday three people — Anthony Marcano, 54, of Pierreville, Saliesha Ali, 41, of Foodcrop Road, Bristol, and Sherwin Constantine, 54, of Pierreville — died in a crash at Bristol Village, on the Naparima/Mayaro Road, at around 11.30 am.
The crash was similar to an incident on the M1 Ring Road, Princes Town, on Monday in which a father and son died when their car crashed into a truck.
In 2013, former Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz had promised that the speed guns would come into effect by February of 2014 in a bid to curb reckless driving.
Cadiz had made the announcement at a post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, in which he said police would be trained to use some 400 speed detection devices, which were expected to be made available in all divisions.
But in July this year Cadiz had said an administrative flaw in the procurement process had forced the Vehicle Maintenance Company of T&T (VMCOTT) to terminate its previous tender for the guns and reopen a new tender.
Cadiz had also said he was “upset” and “disappointed” that the long-awaited speed guns had been further delayed.
Lisa Martinez, the programme associate of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations country office in T&T and Suriname, says the world is facing a major challenge to feed its expanding population.
Martinez said the world population stands at 7.2 billion and to nourish the additional two billion people in 2050, food production must rise by 60 per cent. She said, however, the way food is produced must not be done at the expense of the planet. She was speaking at Tuesday’s opening ceremony of US$30 million to Improve Forest and Protected Area Management in T&T Inception Workshop at Petrotrin. The project is a venture of the Ministry of Planning and Development.
Martinez said the FAO’s mission is to eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition while promoting sustainable development.
“Yet, at the same time, just four—rice, wheat, maize and potato—of the 30,000 edible plants provide 60 per cent of the world dietary energy intake.”
However, she sounded an alarm that, “these are farmed in a manner that takes a heavy toll on the environment. Products of these crops represent a significant value in the Caricom food import bill of over US$4 billion. The crucial message is the way we produce more food cannot be at the expense of the planet.”
She said the FAO has five strategic objectives of which objective two is to make agriculture, which encompasses forestry and fisheries, livestock crops and natural resources, more productive and more sustainable.
“FAO promotes evidence-based policies and practices to support the agricultural sectors (crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries) while ensuring that the natural resource base does not suffer in the process.
“Its vision is one of a world in which food is nutritious and accessible for everyone and natural resources are managed in a way that maintains ecosystem functions to support current as well as future human needs.
“In this vision, she said, the resource users, including farmers, fisherfolk, foresters and others, are empowered to actively participate in resource decision that results in equitable benefits, decent employment conditions and jobs in a fair-price environment.”
Consider teaching as a profession to contribute value to society.
This was the advice given by principal of Presentation College, Chaguanas, Gary Ribeiro as he spoke to students who recently sat Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (Cape) and the Secondary Entrance Assessment examination.
Ribeiro was speaking on Wednesday night at the Excellence in Education award ceremony hosted by the Chaguanas Borough Corporation.
The ceremony took place at the borough’s offices on the Chaguanas Main Road.
While addressing the students, among who were 21 primary school graduands and 47 Cape graduands, Ribeiro said students needed to find a way to give back.
“We are in need of good teachers and if you are the brightest please come back to your schools and teach. Consider teaching as an option,” Ribeiro asked.
Ribeiro’s call to give back was echoed by the mayor’s office who called on awardees to volunteer in their communities by assisting in painting a children’s home during the holidays.
In his address, Minister of Education Anthony Garcia said Government policies were key to the quality of education of T&T’s citizens.
He said parents, religious organisations and the business communities were key stakeholders in ensuring successful students.
He encouraged students to continue to succeed in their pursuit of educational goals.
“You will be assets to your communities and your country but also to the Caribbean and the wider world,” he said.
The minister also reiterated plans to hold a national consultation on education next year.
Another 600 children have been sent home as yet another primary school has been closed because of sewer problems.
Officials at the Ragoonanan Road Government Primary School began sending its students home from September 19, ten days after the opening of the new school term.
They were unable to attend school because the boys’ and girls’ washrooms had to be closed due to a clogged sewer line and an unbearable stench.
Concerned parent, Camille Warrick, whose ten-year-old son is in Standard Five and preparing to write the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination in May next year, said the boys’ toilet was closed at the beginning of the school term.
“They were made to use the infants’ toilet but the problem escalated when the girls’ washroom also became unusable.
“By September 19, the school started sending the children back home, sometimes from as early as 9.25 am. There was an unbearable stench from the sewer plant,” she added.
Warrick said school officials attempted to rectify the problem on their own by using chemicals but the problem persisted.“The children were sent home on Wednesday around midday,” she added.
Warrick said she did not bother to send her son to school yesterday.
“They keep telling them to come to school and then sending them home,” she explained.
She said school officials have reportedly been writing letters to the Education Ministry about the matter and requesting permission for the closure of the school until the problem is rectified.
“We understand they have not been getting any response and so is unable to close the school,” she said.
Sources at the Education Ministry said the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL), the state entity in charge of school maintenance and repairs, was contacted on the matter and is reportedly working on it.
Vice president of the school’s Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA), Prakash Mahabir, said yesterday they finally got a commitment from the Water and Sewerage Authority to visit the school today to assess the problem.
The school’s 600 students have joined another 547 from the Chaguanas Government Primary School who were also sent home on November 9 because of an overflowing sewer plant.
After several delays, the school’s PTA was finally told the EFCL had awarded a contract to fix the problem.
“Yes, work has started but we don’t know when it would be completed,” PTA president, Lyndon Mohammed, said.
Ministry sources said the sewer tank had already been pumped and work should be completed by the end of this week.
“The school should be reopened by Monday,” it was stated.
A number of schools which were not being maintained have been closed and the students sent home. The new EFCL board has been reportedly reviewing all contracts after the alleged discovery of documents at its offices pointing to contractual impropriety.
The new board was appointed after the PNM won the September 7 general election.
The closure of the schools has been having a ripple effect with parents being forced to take extra leave to stay home with their children. This has been affecting productivity at workplaces.
Others have to find extra money to pay people to watch their children while they went to work.
Hundreds of students writing the SEA exam next year and those who have begun doing the Continuous Assessment Component aspect are being affected with the closure of their schools.
After nursing her son back from the doorway of death, Princes Town mother Mohenee Rampersad was left heart-broken on Wednesday night when she learned of his death as she sat sewing a pillow case for his hospital bed.
Chaitram Rampersad, whose life was changed forever when he was run over by four cars in March outside Grand Bazaar, Valsayn, died at the San Fernando General Hospital around 8.45 pm on Wednesday.
No one was ever arrested or held in connection with the accident.
Rampersad, 31, whose plight was first highlighted in the T&T Guardian in October, was warded on November 11 at the San Fernando General Hospital for a chest infection.
As a result of the accident, Chaitram was paralysed from the neck down and could not walk, talk, eat or breathe on his own.
His mother said she visited him on Wednesday but left soon after as he was crying non-stop.
She said she found courage and hope after reading about the success of another accident victim, Ryan Rampersad, who was crippled after an accident in Sea Lots last year and can now walk again.
“I went to see him, normally I stay and spend time with him, massaging his body, talking to him but yesterday (Wednesday) he was crying from the time I got there to the time I left.
“I was in pain watching him like that and I stayed with him for some time but not as long as I usually stay.
“I was sewing his pillow case when I got a call around 8.45 pm telling me he had passed away. I didn’t think he would die, even after all the doctors told me about him,” Mohenee added.
In an interview yesterday at her home at St Julien Road, Princes Town, she clutched photos of Chaitram throughout the years and recalled the moment he saved her life.
She said: “He came home one day... he was about 18 and saw his father beating me. He held his father back from me and told me to run... that moment I made up my mind and I never put myself in that situation again.
“I don’t know what would have happened to me if he didn’t intervene, if he didn’t give me the courage to leave all those years ago.”
She lamented though that her son never got the assistance he really needed.
“We tried everything to get resources to hire two nurses to come home and take care of him. We went to the Ministry (of Health) a lot of times but we never got a response.”
Recalling the sacrifices she made to take care of her son after he was released from the Mt Hope Hospital in October, she urged parents to never give up on their children.
“To anyone out there who ever has to go through this with their child, please don’t give up on them. I believed in him and despite everything the doctors said since he got into the accident, he held on for so long and he was doing better,” she said.
An autopsy is expected to be done today to determine the cause of death.
Along with Russian and Chinese hackers, jihadists like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are the major perpetrators of cybercrime in the world today, says American cyber security expert Dr Darren Hayes.
He was the feature speaker at a seminar hosted by the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA) and the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce. It was held at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business yesterday.
He is regarded as a leading expert in the field of digital forensics and cyber security and is the director of Cybersecurity and assistant Prof at Pace University, New York.
In respect to terrorism in T&T, Hayes focused on the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, saying they had 20,000 members and had confirmed links to al-Qaeda.
“Islamic fundamentalists have understood for many years the importance of the Internet for spreading their message,” he said.
ISIS, he noted, had even written their own encryption protocol. Hayes blamed that development to former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor Edward Snowden, who had leaked confidential documents from America’s National Security Agency showing the extent the US spied even on its allies, for that.
“Snowden taught the bad guys that they needed to improve their encryption. That’s the bottom line,” he said.
ISIS was actively recruiting hackers and other technology experts, Hayes said, noting that jihadist leaders “are very often well-educated, have lived in the West and only became radicalised later in life.”
He added: “ISIS is a very structured entity, almost like a country. They even have a Minister of Energy.”
In his general overview of cybercrime around the world, Hayes said China was responsible for 96 per cent of State-sponsored hacking.
T&T, he said, was not exempt from such threats with cybertheft, online fraud, terrorism, network and energy sector breaches being the main areas to focus on. He also noted the new threat of drones, with Mexican drug dealers now using these unmanned craft to deliver their shipments.
“Cyber security needs to be taught at the university level here,” Hayes recommended, “so the country can have people locally to protect against these future threats.”
Homicide officers have taken over the investigation into the death of Moruga resident Brian Smith, who was found floating off Chaguaramas on Sunday.
His family claims soldiers beat Smith unconscious and dumped his body into the sea after an argument.
The homicide probe comes on the heels of new information following an independent autopsy commissioned by Smith’s relatives.
The autopsy, done by forensic pathologist Dr Hughvon des Vignes, has so far found that Smith, an experienced swimmer, suffered blows to the face and head. More tests are being done to determine if he drowned.
The pathologist found trauma to the head which was probably inflicted by several blows with a fist or an object and broken skin under the chin, probably caused by a fist. The final tests, which are expected today, will conclude if the blows contributed to the drowning.
The Homicide Bureau took over the investigations from the Carenage Police Station, where officers only began investigating the matter on Monday night after Smith’s relatives staged a fiery protests along the Western Main Road, Carenage, and called for justice.
On Monday, pathologist Dr Eastlyn McDonald-Burris during a first autopsy at the Forensic Science Centre, St James, concluded Smith drowned.
Relatives claimed Smith, 30, of Penal Rock Road, Moruga, was killed by a group of soldiers who were doing repair works to a house in Carenage which was damaged several weeks ago by a low-flying National Security helicopter.
Smith was visiting his mother who lives in the community. Relatives said he was liming with the officers, attached to the Engineer Battalion, last Friday when he got into an argument with them over the disconnection of electrical wires.
Relatives believe Smith was beaten, struck on the head with a shovel and thrown into the sea in an unconscious state. His body was found on Sunday by prisons officers near Alice Point on their way to Carrera Island Prison.
The T&T Defence Force, through its civil affairs officer, Major Al Alexander, has denied any wrongdoing on the part of its officers.
Alexander maintains the soliders’ innocence and claimed the Regiment had eyewitnesses who saw Smith swimming at St Peter’s Bay. He added that the military would offer any assistance to the police in their investigations.
No cover-up. That’s the assurance from acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert to the family of deceased Carenage fisherman, Brian Smith, whose death is currently under probe by various authorities, including the T&T Regiment.
Speaking at yesterday’s weekly Government media conference, Imbert, who is acting in the absence of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, said he had asked National Security Minister Edmund Dillon to ensure that a high-ranking Regiment official visit Smith’s family and assure them that there would be an independent, impartial investigation of Smith’s death.
The 30-year-old fishermen’s death sparked protests in Carenage earlier this week, following conflicting claims about his death by family members.
Smith, from Penal Rock Road, Moruga, was visiting his mother in the community when he reportedly got into an argument with soldiers he was allegedly “liming” with last Friday.
Smith’s body was later found at sea. Relatives allege Smith was beaten unconscious and drowned by the soldiers. The Regiment has denied any wrongdoing on the part of the officers.
A government autopsy showed he drowned. However, a second autopsy, reportedly commissioned by relatives, found he had trauma to the head and face which may have contributed to his drowning.
However, the family yesterday said they were still awaiting a further test to determine whether he drowned.
Commenting on the matter yesterday, acting PM Imbert said: “I want to assure the family (of Smith) that the Minister of National Security (Edmund Dillon) has been instructed to take this matter very seriously, ensure it is done properly and in accordance with procedure and there is no cover-up and there will be an independent, impartial probe of the matter.”
Imbert said he had also asked Dillon to see if a copy of the second autopsy could be obtained to assist Regiment enquiries and that the police should also make efforts to get a copy.
But for the sake of the family, he said: “I think they need to be assured there will be no cover-up and there will be an independent, impartial enquiry.”
Imbert said he did not know if anyone had seen the second report.
“I can’t say who did it, under what circumstances it was done, how credible it is. I don’t want to make a comment at this point in time, especially in view of the source. I wouldn’t want to create any emotion where it is not required at this point in time.”
Contacted subsequently, Dillon told the T&T Guardian the Chief of Defence Staff was sending a senior Regiment officer to interface with Smith’s family on the issue and to ensure the Regiment did its own internal probe on the matter.
Dillon said the Regiment had tried to interface with Smith’s relatives before but was unsuccessful and was making a second attempt to meet with the family and assure them of efforts being made on the issue.
On another matter, Imbert said he expected whatever recommendation the Police Complaints Authority had made in the issue of the former head of Special Branch and an alleged “cover-up” in the matter regarding a ganja find at the private home of the former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, would be taken seriously and the appropriate action would be taken.
The PCA has recommended the former Special Branch head, retired Snr Supt Gary Gould, be charged for his role in the alleged “cover-up” of the discovery in 2013 of a quantity of marijuana in a gazebo on the grounds of Persad-Bissessar’s Palmiste, San Fernando, residence.
A High Court judge will hear an application from the State today seeking to deem a US convicted national a terrorist and pave the way to freeze his assets.
The lawsuit, the first of its kind, is set for hearing before Justice Nadia Kangaloo in the Port-of-Spain High Court at 9.30 am.
The Office of the Attorney General is yet to identify any local assets, including bank accounts, attributed to Kareem Ibrahim, 70, formerly of Cane Farm Road, Tacarigua, which could be seized through its application under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
According to court documents filed on Tuesday, checks by the T&T Police Service’s Financial Investigation Branch revealed that Ibrahim was not an account holder or signatory with any local financial institution.
Checks in relation to any potential real estate and business interests are still ongoing, the results of which are expected to be presented to the court while the AG’s application is being heard by Kangaloo.
Section 22(b) of Anti-Terrorism Act provides that the AG’s office apply to have the terrorist’s assets frozen, provided that there is sufficient evidence proving that he/she was involved in terrorism either locally or internationally.
The application is to be heard ex parte. Ibrahim may apply for a review of Kangaloo’s eventual decision, 60 days after she delivers it.
Central to the application is evidence used to secure the conviction of Ibrahim and his two Guyanese co-conspirators, which was provided to the AG’s office by the United States Department of Justice.
In a press conference following the closing ceremony of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF) plenary meeting at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi noted Ibrahim’s application was the first of several being considered by his office and the National Security Council.
“There are several we are looking at right now. Once the evidence has been nailed down and when everything is gelled together the applications will be made. Due process must be observed, hence avoiding pre-trial publicity by revealing names and addresses,” Al-Rawi said.
Questioned on whether the Government intended to introduce legislation preventing locals suspected of involvement with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from re-entering T&T, Al-Rawi said the move was being considered.
“If T&T were to do a knee-jerk reaction without thinking it through by amending the Immigration Act with regards to the power to bounce a T&T national at the airport, this will create an immediate issue of statelessness.
“Who takes the people you bounce? Which airline takes them back and to where?” Al-Rawi said, as he claimed local terrorism laws which criminalised terrorist activity in foreign territories could be used to prosecute nationals suspected of returning from fighting in the Middle East.
Ibrahim was convicted on May 26, 2011 of conspiracy to launch a terrorist attack at the John F Kennedy Airport in Queens, New York, in 2007.
He and Guyanese nationals—Russell Defreitas and Abdul Kadir—were accused of plotting to explode fuel tanks and the fuel pipeline under the airport.
The evidence at the trial established that Ibrahim, an imam and leader of the Shiite Muslim community in T&T, provided religious instructions and operational support to a group plotting to commit a terrorist attack at JFK Airport.
Ibrahim and his co-conspirators believed their attack would cause extensive damage to the airport and to the New York economy, as well as the loss of numerous lives. The trio was arrested in Trinidad in June 2007 and were eventually extradited to the US to face trial.
He was found guilty after a four-week trial and was sentenced to life in prison. He is currently serving time at a prison in Missouri in the US.
The specific charges Ibrahim was convicted of are: Conspiracy to attack a public transportation system; conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive; conspiracy to attack aircraft and aircraft materials; conspiracy to destroy international airport facilities and conspiracy to attack a mass transportation facility.
A Ministry of National Security vehicle this morning slammed into a house in Bristol Village, Mayaro causing major infrastructural damage. The house was home to a family of five.
Around 6.45 a Toyota Hilux, which was heading east along the Naparima/Mayaro Road, began to swerve out of control.
The vehicle ran off the road, skated through the yard of a private resident, and slammed into a house next door. It hit the side of the house breaking down the walls. It eventually stopped inside the living room.
Catherine Mohammed, a mother of three, is now demanding that the Ministry of National security swiftly compensate her for the damages to her home.
Mohammed said she and her children were “very traumatised” by the event but she was thankful that none of them was injured.
Aside from the driver, whose identity was not divulged, there were four NESC students in the vehicle. No one was hospitalised.
Works and Infrastructure Minister Fitzgerald Hinds yesterday accused former attorney general Anand Ramlogan of being “thin skinned” with regards to political criticism.
He made the suggestion yesterday as he mounted the witness stand at the Port-of-Spain High Court to defend against Ramlogan’s defamation lawsuit related to a political speech he made in Sangre Grande in May last year.
“This is a rough business we are in. I have had worst said about me and I did not run to the court,” Hinds said as he claimed he was still in shock that Ramlogan would sue him for statements made on a political platform.
Responding to Hinds’ claim after he had completed his evidence, presiding Judge Vasheist Kokaram questioned whether a new defence for defamation by politicians should be introduced by the court.
“Political discussion is not a traditional defence. Is it not time that it is made one or is there a good reason for this?” Kokaram asked. He suggested that attorneys for both politicians file submissions on the issue, which would be considered by him in his eventual judgment in the case.
Ramlogan’s claim centers around Hinds’ speech in which he alleged of a rift between Ramlogan and former solicitor general Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell over a letter she sent to the prime minister, in which she alleged of fraud and corruption in litigation against the State by prisoners who claimed to have been abused by prison officers.
Donaldson-Honeywell eventually resigned and has since taken up a post as a High Court Judge. Hinds yesterday repeatedly denied he intended to defame or malign Ramlogan in his speech.
“I did not act with any malice or to destroy anybody’s reputation. I sought to address an issue so the public could make its own informed decision,” Hinds said.
Quizzed by Ramlogan’s lawyer Avory Sinanan, SC, over the basis of his speech, in which he claimed that Ramlogan misled the public on allegations allegedly leveled against him by Donaldson-Honeywell, Hinds stated that he relied on media reports and on information from key members of staff in the office of the AG.
Hinds admitted that when he made the statements, he only had Donaldson-Honeywell’s initial letter to the prime minister from August 2013 and not a subsequent correspondence sent months later in which she said that the PM’s office did not need to investigate the allegations commonly refered to as Prisongate, as investigations had been set up by the Inspector of Prisons, Law Association and the police by then.
Sinanan also interrogated Hinds on part of his speech in which he claimed that former Independent Senator Dana Seetahal, SC, was murdered days after she stated she had sight of Donaldson-Honeywell’s correspondence in her weekly newspaper column.
“You linked her death with her sight of the letter and in so doing you were implicating Ramlogan in her murder,” Sinanan said.
“Absolutely not! I was explaining that if she was still with us, I would have spoken to her to get information on this matter,” Hinds said as he shook his head.
Kokaram is expected to deliver his judgment in the case next April 22.
Copies of a final list of potential voters, numbering 95,244, were distributed yesterday to the three different slates and independent candidates contesting the December 5 internal elections of the United National Congress (UNC).
The three slates—Team Reconnect led by Vasant Bharath, Team UNC led by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and UNC Loyalists led by Dr Roodal Moonilal—spent the day yesterday going through the list.
Bharath and Moonilal earlier had concerns about the list, claiming their names and those of people on their slates were omitted. There were also concerns about people who were not UNC members applying for membership. Bharath yesterday said his name had since been reinstated.
“My name and Dr Fuad Khan’s were apparently on a master list which we had not earlier seen but we have been reinstated,” he said.
Asked if he had problems with the final list, he said: “We are trawling through the list today to check the names. There were people who were claiming to be UNC members and we want to see if their names are on the list or not.”
Moonilal has been repeatedly complaining about the veracity of the list, as well, but could not be reached yesterday.
Francis Joseph, former adviser to Persad-Bissessar when she was prime minister, now on Moonilal’s team, said they got the list yesterday and were still going through it.
UNC founder Basdeo Panday had declined offers from Moonilal and Bharath to join their slates charging the party’s elections would be rigged. He said the same people conducting the elections were the same ones contesting it.
UNC elections management officer, Dr Rampersad Parasram, said the names of both Khan and his wife, Dr Carol Bhagan-Khan, were on the list, as well as others who said they were omitted. He said he did not know from where the claims came.
Parasram said agents of the different slates and the independents collected copies of the final membership list on Tuesday night and yesterday morning. He said new people had applied for membership and were processed. He said they did not have a lot of new members.
“Up to this point, we have not had any official complaints or any issues raised,” he added.
Parasram said he was unable to give the T&T Guardian a copy of the final list of all the candidates yesterday because it was the final day for withdrawal.
“One person actually withdrew,” Parasram said, but did not provide details.
The grieving widow of the man who died on the streets outside the San Fernando General Hospital waiting on an ambulance said yesterday police officers refused to assist her husband as she begged them for help.
Radica Sitahal said on Tuesday she spent over half-an-hour pleading with police officers and members of the public to assist her husband of 34 years, Keith Sitahal, an amputee, before he was taken to the nearby hospital by the San Fernando City Corporation Disaster Management Unit (DMU) employees.
“I was begging the police officers on the scene to carry him to the hospital but they said that is not their job. They can’t move him from there,” a grief-stricken Radica said following the autopsy on her husband at the San Fernando morgue.
“Why they couldn’t put him in a van from right there? It would have taken them not even one minute to drop him,” she said.
The incident attracted national attention after San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein telephoned Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh to arrange an ambulance for the sick man on Tuesday. Hosein eventually instructed DMU employees to take the man to the nearby hospital where he died receiving treatment.
An autopsy done yesterday at the San Fernando mortuary showed he died as a result of a myocardial infraction (heart attack). Radica said she had taken her husband by taxi to hospital for a blood test and they were returning to their home at Riverside Drive, Williamsville, when he collapsed.
“We were going to get a taxi and he just fell down. I was asking everybody to help him and it’s only when the mayor came people started to act and helped him,” she said, before breaking down in tears.
The couple’s eldest child, Diana, said she was deeply hurt over the treatment meted out to her father. She said: “I don't like the response my father got. He was lying in the road just opposite the hospital. That is slackness. An ambulance couldn’t take five minutes to reach there and he had to die like that?”
Hosein has since revealed he will be writing Deyalsingh to request an ambulance service in San Fernando for the community.
Police rendered aid
The T&T Guardian contacted public information officer in the T&T Police Service (TTPS) ASP Michael Pierre yesterday for comment. He said: “I spoke to one of the officers who was on the scene. He said when he got on the scene there was a registered nurse rendering aid. They were seeking direction from her on whether the man should be moved.
“He couldn’t say how long the man was there but he did say there was someone in attendance when he got there. He said soon after that, the mayor called the DMU employees to take the man to the hospital.”
Pierre said while each circumstance was different, police officers were mandated to render aid to injured people.
“You treat each circumstance based on its merit but as police officers we are mandated to render aid to injured people. Contacting an ambulance or the Fire Services is also rendering aid,” he said.
The “ultimate deterrent” to discourage youths from joining terrorist groups would be to let them know if they go overseas to join such groups, they cannot return or will be blocked in other states en-route home, former National Security Minister Gary Griffith has argued.
He spoke yesterday following statements by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi that barring the return of T&T-born foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) would lead to creation of “statelessness” and one would have to ensure they went somewhere. On Monday the United States issued a worldwide alert extending up to February 2016, that “the likelihood of terror attacks would continue as Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) members return from Syria and Iraq.”
The alert noted extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets and aviation services.” Citing recent attacks in Europe and Africa, the advisory also noted the threat of “lone wolf” attacks by unaffiliated people inspired by terror groups.
On proposals to secure T&T, Griffith, noting that Australia and Canada have instituted regulations to foil returning FTFs, said: “If any T&T youths want to join terrorist groups, they must be prepared to stay (in Syria). You must be prepared to deal with the consequences. It’s not a simple situation.”
He added: “If you decide to join ISIS, obviously you should factor in what would happen if you wanted out and your future, such as it may be. If we give them a second chance and the right to freedom of movement, it will open the doors and encourage other youths to go also and become terrorists.
“But if they are aware they cannot return, it may be the ultimate deterrent since it will clearly signal if they go, it will be a one-way ticket and there’s no return. That must make some think twice.
“If no deterrents are in place they will always feel they can rely on returning. Government will ultimately have to make a decision and choose between the needs of the few people who join ISIS and the needs and safety of the majority of T&T who Government is obligated to protect.”
Griffith said Government had another option which would remove the responsibility for any blocking action from its hands. He said the United Nations’ resolution against terrorism allowed T&T to forward information on people suspected of having terrorist links to international allies to verify.
“If information is confirmed, their intelligence agencies would keep track of whether such culprits were passing through those countries en-route to T&T and could be halted. Griffith noted there was no direct flight from Syria to T&T.
Former National Operations Centre head Garvin Heerah noted T&T’s Anti-Terrorism Act pertained to acts of terrorism outside of T&T, people who incited/promoted commission of a terrorist act, those who have committed such acts and people who engage in recruiting others to commit such acts. He said over 140 countries have enacted/revised counter-terrorism laws but according to Human Rights Watch’s accounting, some revisions violated or undermined fundamental liberties.
In light of the horrific roads deaths, especially within recent weeks, the police are urging motorists to ensure their tyres are in good working order.
Public Information Officer for the Police Service, ASP Michael Pierre, made the appeal yesterday during the weekly police press briefing at Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain. The road death figure currently stands at 135 compared to 146 for the same period last year.
Three more people died in yesterday’s fatal accident in Mayaro. “But despite the decrease we do not wish to have an increase. We wish to have a further decrease in road deaths,” Pierre added, noting the current figure represented a ten per cent decrease in road deaths.
On Monday, Namdeo Harriman and his son, Lalchan Harriman, were killed in a crash on the M1 Ring Road, Princes Town. The men were front seat passengers in a Toyota sedan that crashed into a truck travelling in the opposite direction.
“We are urging all motorists to drive with caution. The country continues to experience heavy rainfall, resulting in wet, adverse road conditions,” Pierre said.
He also urged motorists to ensure their vehicles were road worthy and to make time to check tyres, with specific focus on tread wear, depth and inflation pressure, which were essential for traction and stopping. Drivers found operating a motor vehicle with a defective tyre, Pierre added, faced a fine of $1,000 in accordance with Regulation 44 of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act.
Regarding the use of cellphones while driving, he said that remained a cause of major distraction to motorists.
“Cellphones can take away your focus from the task at hand, which is arriving safely at your destination. We are asking you to avoid the use of cellphones while driving,” Pierre said, adding it was safer to invest in blue tooth devices instead.
“Also, avoid driving when tired and be aware that some medications may cause drowsiness and will make operating a vehicle very dangerous and always use caution when switching lanes,” he said.
An unidentified bandit was killed yesterday morning after his throat was slit when he was pushed through a glass window by the home’s owner during a fight.
According to police reports, the man broke into the Butu Street, Valsayn, home of the Gerauds around 11.30 am with a piece of iron. The man is believed to have passed through a window in the toilet of the couple’s home.
He was confronted in the kitchen by the patriarch of the home and then started to fight. Police said during the scuffle Geraud shoved the bandit into a glass door. The bandit was cut as the glass broke and he subsequently bled to death.
Residents said break-ins were unusual in the area but some expressed concerns for their safety now that one had taken place. Insp Siewdass of the St Joseph Police Station is continuing investigations.
Yvonne Webb and Alana Boodoo-Suraj
Police believe speed and a wet road may have led to another fatal collision between a car and a ten-tonne truck which claimed the lives of three more people in Mayaro yesterday.
Driver Anthony Marcano, 60, of LP 1028, Pierreville, postal worker Saliesha Ali, 41, of Food Crop Road, Bristol Village, and Sherwin Constantine, 64, of Lot 4 Pierreville, Mayaro, were killed in the smash-up.
Ali and Constantine were passengers in Marcano’s PH taxi. Another passenger, Sheronie Rampersad, of Chrysostom Trace, Mafeking Village, who was seated in the back seat, is warded in a critical condition at the Sangre Grande Hospital.
In scenes reminiscent of Monday’s accident on the MI Ring Road, Princes Town, which claimed the lives of father and son—Namdeo and Lalchan Harriram —the car Marcano was driving also skidded off the road and crashed head-on into the truck driven by Mano Churkoo. The Jaws of Life also had to be used by the firefighters to remove Marcano and the other occupants from the mangled wreck.
According to a police report, at around 11.30 am Marcano, the driver of a red Toyota Corolla, was heading west through Bristol Village near the village cemetery.
The car reportedly veered to the left and off the road, skidded on wet grass, then began to swerve uncontrollably on the road. He missed the first of two trucks which were proceeding east, but crashed head on into a second truck which was transporting asphalt.
The truck ended up off the road on its left side, with the front of the Toyota trapped under its enormous frame. The impact killed Marcano and two of his passengers instantly. Truck driver Churkoo, the lone occupant in his vehicle, escaped unhurt but not unscathed. Still shaken by the loss of life, Churkoo said Marcano would have been driving hard.
“While proceeding in an easterly direction I observed the red car coming from the opposite direction. He swerved and touched his left side of the road and the car lose control.
“It almost hit the truck in front of me. He missed that truck and I see him coming towards me. I slammed my brakes and started to skid myself and I pulled the truck as well but he collided with the front and I end up off the side of the road,” he said.
Asked about the speed at which Marcano was proceeding, Churkoo explained: “From the behaviour of the vehicle when it touched the road, it looked as though he was doing some numbers. When the tyres touched the wet grass it (the car) started to dance up and skid across the road.”
Fresh Arrive Alive appeal
In responding once again to the loss of lives through road accidents, president of Arrive, Alive Sharon Inglefield, yesterday appealed to the nation’s leaders to focus on preventative measures, such as speed guns, speed cameras and the point system through a revamped Motor Vehicle Authority to save lives.
She said: “Because people are just not listening. We need enforcement by technology. This system will save the carnage on the nation’s roads, just like it does in developed countries. We, therefore, need the political will to save lives urgently.”
While advocating for preventative measures, Inglefield said that did not remove the accountability from drivers, who needed to take their own safety and that of their passengers into their own hands by not speeding and by adjusting their speed to the road conditions.
She encouraged drivers, as well as both front and back seat passengers, to wear their seatbelts and for parents to ensure their children were buckled up in car seats.
Inglefield also expressed condolences to the family and friends of the victims.
An independent autopsy on the body of a 30-year-old Carenage man who was found floating off the coast in Chaguaramas on Sunday has revealed blunt force trauma, a broken jaw and several other signs of violence to his body.
While a first autopsy performed by Government forensic pathologist Dr Estlyn McDonald-Burris at the Forensic Science Centre on Monday showed that Brian Smith, of Penal Rock Road, Moruga, had drowned, a second performed on his relatives’ request yesterday appeared to show a more sinister cause.
The T&T Guardian understands that the second autopsy performed by Dr Hughvon des Vignes yesterday showed that Smith died from blunt force trauma to the head and was possibly already dead when he entered the water.
It also showed that Smith had a cracked skull and a broken jaw in addition to several other visible signs of violence about his body. In a brief telephone interview yesterday evening, Smith's emotional relatives said Des Vignes report had proved their initial suspicions.
"He (Smith) was murdered. Imagine that woman (McDonald-Burris) didn't even cut open his body and she say he drowned," a female relative, who asked to remain unidentified, said.
Like other relatives earlier this week the woman claimed that Smith was killed by a group of soldiers who were doing repair works to a house in Carenage that was damaged several weeks ago by a low flying National Security helicopter .
Smith, who visiting his mother who lives in the community, was reportedly liming with the soldiers last Friday when he got into an argument with them over the disconnection of electrical wires.
Relatives believe Smith was beaten, struck on the head with a shovel and thrown into the sea in an unconscious state. His lifeless body was found by prisons officers near Alice Point on their way to Carrera Island Prison.
The T&T Defence Force, through its civil affairs officer, Major Al Alexander, has denied any wrongdoing on the part of its officers. Alexander maintains the innocence of the soliders and claimed that the Regiment had eyewitnesses who saw Smith swimming at St Peter’s Bay.
Smith's death had sparked protest action from Carenge residents who burned tyres and blocked the Western Main Road earlier this week. The T&T Guardian understands that similar action was expected to be taken by his relatives in Moruga last night.
Police launched a criminal investigation into the death after the protest action.
Investigations are continuing.
Two police officers were granted bail totalling $300,000 yesterday after appearing in court charged with misbehaviour in public office.
Inspector Jerry Hosein was granted $200,000 bail by Senior Magistrate Nanette Forde-John after he appeared before her in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court charged with three offences. It is alleged that on November 11 and 16, Hosein corruptly sought to solicit a total of $50,000 from Marlon Dyette at the Chaguanas Police Station.
On a date unknown between November 16 to 21, Hosein and constable Naresh Deokaran are also alleged to have attempted to receive $15,000 from Sheldon Springer at Chase Village. The money was supposed to have been for them to drop criminal charges. Deokaran was granted $100,000 bail, but neither of them were able to secure bail.
The duo were represented by Orin Kerr and Thomas Cunningham, who requested that full disclosure be made available, inclusive of any statements made by the two men. The officers will reappear in court December 2 and the matter was transferred to the Chaguanas Magistrates’ Court.
The officers were allowed to use clothing to cover their faces from media cameras when they were leaving the court. The two were held last Saturday during a sting operation by members of the Professional Standards Bureau at the Chase Village, Chaguanas, flyover.
The police inspector was assigned to the Central Division a month ago to take charge of anti-crime operations. The inspector and the constable were allegedly under surveillance since last Thursday.