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Updated: 24 min 48 sec ago

PNM wants Commission of Enquiry into deal

2 hours 22 min ago

The Opposition PNM is insisting that nothing less than a Commission of Enquiry must be appointed to investigate the award and execution of Petrotrin’s South West Soldado project.

This point was made by St Joseph MP Terrence Deyalsingh during his contribution to yesterday’s House of Representatives debate on a private motion on the project. It was presented for debate by Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon.

The motion called for an immediate investigation into “allegations of impropriety” in the project, which allegedly involved “the illegal advance payment of US$1.25 million that was not in accordance with the terms and conditions of the contract.”

The motion also claimed “there was a transfer of US$750,000 into two private bank accounts at Scotiabank, Maraval.”

Deyalsingh said the Opposition would not be satisfied with a forensic audit into the project “but an independent audit or a full-blown Commission of Enquiry.”

He said if a Commission of Enquiry was held witnesses would be able to give evidence on issues such as:

• Who authorised the payment of US$1.25 million?

• Why did Petrotrin bypass its own procurement rules?

• Who authorised a mobilisation fee when the contract provided for none?

Deyalsingh said while the Opposition would like the Petrotrin board to be removed, that was not expected. He said apart from crime and unemployment, the issue of institutional failure was one of the major problems facing the country.

He said that observation was based on recent resignations from certain boards across the country.

Deyalsingh said, “We are seeing it with resignations from the Integrity Commission. No institution in T&T is standing tall and proud. None.”

Labour Minister Errol Mc Leod said the Government was committed to an investigation into the matter and to taking action against anyone guilty of wrongdoing if such recommendations were made.

Wrongdoers will face the courts

2 hours 27 min ago

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is expected to submit its report next month on its forensic probe into alleged impropriety at Petrotrin’s Southwest Soldado project involving breach of Petrotrin’s rules, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine says.

“And if wrongdoing is found, those persons who have done wrong will face the courts and the justice system,” he told Parliament yesterday.

Responding to an Opposition PNM motion by MP Paula Gopee-Scoon on the issue, Ramnarine said a note to the Petrotrin board with recommendations on the alleged issue was signed by Ken Allum, who was president up to February 29, 2010, and the note had been seconded by Steve Baldeosingh. 

Both of them have since retired, Ramnarine said.

Gopee-Scoon said Petrotrin breached rules by giving advance payments to the Mexican company of Maritima Mareska. She also cited an alleged illegal advance payment of US$1.25 million which was not in accordance with the contract, and an alleged transfer of US$750,000 into two private bank accounts in Scotiabank, Maraval.

She alleged Petrotrin chairman Lindsay Gillette was the “mastermind” behind the alleged breach and that there had been concerns at Petrotrin board level about it. She called for Gillette and Petrotrin’s president Khalid Hassanali to be suspended pending probe of the matter. She suggested the transaction be probed by parliament’s Energy Committee.

Ramnarine, accusing the PNM of inconsistency and “bipolarity,” said the PNM didn’t want to wait for the police report on the Petrotrin issue, yet wanted to wait for the police report on the Emailgate issue.

He said the Petrotrin matter came to the knowledge of Cabinet only after reports in the media in March. He said it was reported to the police on April 17, and PwC was also engaged to do a forensic investigation of the issue.

Ramnarine said the PwC report would go to Petrotrin’s vice president in June and the minister instructed that copies be sent to him, the ministry’s permanent secretary and the finance minister.

He pointed out that on March 6, 2012, when the event was said to have occurred, Hassanali had come into office just a few days before on February 29, succeeding former president Allum.

Gopee-Scoon, in her argument, accused Gillette and Hassanali of operating Petrotrin in an unorthodox way. She claimed officials “duped” Petrotrin’s vice president of finance into signing for payments. She said that the Mexican company hadn’t qualified and had obtained a “sweetheart of a deal.” She claimed instructions to pay the US funds into the private bank accounts came from one Jeff Clark whom Petrotrin later said was not a company agent.

“This is theft of public funds,” she said, adding that the police should have been called in a long time ago.

Gopee-Scoon called for scrutiny of Petrotrin’s Dexter Daniel, NP chairman Neil Gosine and the head of the Bankers’ Insurance.

She said the PNM’s boycott of Parliament didn’t mean they weren’t representing constituents and she promised the PNM would “run dem (PP) out of office, run-off (proposal) or no run off.”

Emailgate motion turned down

Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner tried unsuccessfully to debate a motion in Parliament yesterday on the “cloud” over the Integrity Commission following the resignation of its deputy chairman Sebastien Ventour. Warner wanted to debate if the IC had the ability to probe issues independently. House Speaker Wade Mark said the motion didn’t qualify under Standing Order 17 and advised him to refile it under Standing Order 35.

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, replying to queries from Warner, detailed the latest mosquito-borne virus, the zika, whose symptoms are mild headache, rash, fever, malaise, conjunctivitis, joint, back and eye pain. It lasts five days and there is no vaccine for it.

$90m for 60 apartments

2 hours 35 min ago

The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) paid $89,996,389.80 for 60 habitable units at the Las Alturas housing development in 2010.

This, even after the original contract between the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) and contractor China Jiangsu International Corporation (CJIC) agreed on the construction of 134 units at a cost of $65 million VAT exclusive, said architect Deon Campbell yesterday at the Commission of Enquiry, at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street, Port-of-Spain. 

He said the contract was varied in July 2008 for the construction of 132 units at a cost of $59,171,051. 

Campbell, of Civil Engineering Management and Services (CEMAS), was responding to questions from the commission’s lead attorney, Pamela Elder, SC, regarding the cost of the housing project at Lady Young Road, Morvant, which was expanded to include buildings H, I and J.

Confirming that J was never constructed, which left the housing scheme 24 units fewer than originally planned, Campbell said the final amount paid ought to have been much less as the units were further reduced to 108.

Continuing to press Campbell for confirmation of certain information, Elder said with buildings H and I not being habitable, another 48 units were lost, thus reducing the number of units to 60, to which Campbell agreed.

Unable to say exactly how much was actually paid to CJIC, Campbell said this figure would only be for works that were carried out.

Meanwhile, the team of attorneys representing Geotech Associates Limited (GA)—which has yet to file a witness statement in the matter—led by Justin Phelps reappeared yesterday and objected to a former Udecott director being allowed to take the witness stand in his personal capacity as they claimed that his personal interpretation of a Udecott board meeting contained language that painted their client in a negative light.

Revealing that attorney and former founding board member of Udecott, John Mair, had prepared and tendered a witness statement after being contacted by the commission, Elder said Mair was prepared to be cross-examined by any of the attorneys appearing in the enquiry.

Mair was instructed to read his statement into the record by commission chairman Mustapha Ibrahim.

Among the items listed in his statement were condensed versions of two Udecott board meetings which took place on March 31, 2004, and March 24, 2005, respectively.

During the first meeting, Mair revealed, Udecott had agreed to award CJIC the $67 million contract for the construction of 297 housing units, whereas they expressed concerns during the 2005 meeting about the information provided by GA regarding geotechnical testing at the controversial site.

Although Mair was not called as a witness by Udecott's attorneys and is testifying in his personal capacity, Ibrahim said his testimony could prove to be valuable to the enquiry as Mair was employed at Udecott from July 2002 to December 2005. 

Questioning Mair, Udecott’s lead attorney Richard Mason produced minutes of the two meetings mentioned by Mair.

Confirming that during the March 2004 meeting the board had considered two issues including the provision of 297 units and the award of the contract to CJIC which had submitted the lowest bid, Mair said he did not recall the criteria used to determine property acquisition. Mair is expected to return for further examination when the fourth evidentiary hearing gets underway on June 15.

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 include 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. 

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’ money.

388 squatters get 199-year leases from state

2 hours 45 min ago

For the first time in T&T, some 388 squatters have been granted 199-year leases for their land.

The former squatters, who were already given certificates of comfort by the State, collected their leases from the Ministry of Land and Marine Resources at a function at Centre Pointe Mall, Chaguanas, on Thursday evening.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who was listed as the feature speaker, did not make it to the event after she fell ill.

Land and Marine Resources Minister Jairam Seemungal said this was only the first stage, and assured thousands of other citizens who had been squatting on state lands that they would be given leases.

Addressing the new land owners, Seemungal said thousands had been squatting on state land for decades, not because they wanted to break the law but because they had no choice.

They lived in forested areas without paved roads, electricity or pipe-borne water.

Stories have been told of people walking along muddy tracks in tall boots, taking their children to school on their backs.

Seemungal responded to critics of his land distribution programme.

“They have been coming down on me and my ministry saying we are giving away all the land in the country.

“But I want them to say who is more deserving than needy citizens who lived all their lives in the most vulnerable situations.

“What should have been done 15 years ago started only in 2010,” he said, adding that some squatting communities has already been regularised and have their own schools, paved roads and electricity.

“The last administration stifled the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) for ten years so no squatter could receive entitlements to lands,” Seemungal said.

He recalled an intense period of demolition of squatters’ houses between 2006 and 2008.

“Before the cock crowed, they would come and break your house and put everything by the road.

“Instead of giving you security of tenure, they chose to put you out on the streets with your baby.”

Seemungal said in 2008, Persad-Bissessar went to court to represent 100 squatters whose houses were broken down.

The court ruled the LSA acted outside of its jurisdiction.

He said under the present administration 8,000 squatters were given certificates of comfort. 

Of those, 7,000 investigations have been completed.

The 388 who were given leases can use them to get grants and loans to construct or reconstruct their houses, Seemungal said.

Deputy DPP crossed the line, says PM

2 hours 49 min ago

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has made a formal request to Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Joan Honore-Paul to recuse herself from involvement in the investigation into the Emailgate case.

In a letter sent to Honore-Paul through her lawyer Israel Khan, SC, yesterday, the Prime Minister told Honore-Paul that she had breached her constitutional remit when she issued a press release last week, in which she criticised Persad-Bissessar and government ministers for claiming that the thread of controversial emails raised by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in Parliament two years ago were fake. 

Khan said, “One would expect that statements emanating from your independent constitutional office would, by their timing and tenor be fair and politically neutral, to avoid any perceptions of partiality in this politically sensitive matter. You have apparently crossed the line and have entered the political arena.” 

As he accused Honore-Paul of being biased against the PM, Khan described the contents of her lengthy statement as irrational and prejudicial. 

“It is simply confounding and irrational to say the least, to investigate allegations contained in an unauthenticated series of documents in order to verify and authenticate the very said documents!” Khan said in his six-page letter. 

Khan also criticised Honore-Paul for failing to acknowledge the government’s stance that the emails were a fabrication designed to assassinate the character of the PM. 

“That you will discount this very real possibility and refuse to request the police to investigate with equal passion and fervor the source of these documents is alarming. It now appears from your statement that this is an assumption of guilt and my client is expected to prove her innocence,” Khan said, as he noted that it was his client who called upon acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams to initiate the investigation. 

Khan also said the PM was within her rights to initiate a private investigation and reveal the findings of it in the public domain.

Calls for police to probe interference in case by officials

2 hours 51 min ago

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner are calling for an immediate police investigation into whether there was a conspiracy by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to pervert the course of justice.

This comes on the heels of the resignation of two Integrity Commission members—retired judge Sebastian Ventour and Dr Shelly Anne Lalchan—48 hours after the commission’s statement that it had terminated its Emailgate investigation.

Lalchan claimed she resigned for personal reasons, but Ventour said the commission had misled the country on the Emailgate issue.

In a statement, Maharaj also called on President Anthony Carmona to dismiss the commission because it “has quite obviously at a minimum been placed under a dark cloud of suspicion.”

Additionally, Maharaj also called on the Prime Minister to tender her resignation and take immediate steps to dissolve Parliament and hold the general election.

“These events have shown that public office was misused and abused and that the Parliament and public office were used to promote the governing party’s political interests and not the public interest of T&T.”

He said the revelation by Ventour that the commission had not completed its work in the Emailgate matter and the rush by the commission to send a letter to the Prime Minister was “not only worrisome, but it is frightening and it brings the Integrity Commission into disrepute.”

Maharaj said he was left with no choice but to call on the police service to immediately launch a probe into whether the Prime Minister (acting with others) had interfered in the commission’s investigation and interfered and/or attempted to interfere in the police investigation.

“These matters amount, if proven, to the criminal offences of conspiring to pervert the course of public justice and/or attempting to pervert the course of public justice,” he said. 

He also urged the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and police service to continue their investigations into the matter.

Warner, meanwhile, said the ILP “is strongly of the view that something scandalous is afoot in this matter.”

Alluding to the suspension of Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley from Parliament and government’s alleged violation of the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (MLACM) Treaty with the United States, Warner said, “These matters must be completely and thoroughly investigated, as must the Emailgate affair in which additional information is still being awaited by the TTPS investigators from Google Inc and other email service providers.

“The actions of the Prime Minister and others, by behaving in a wanton and immature fashion, has now compromised this investigation and has given rise to fresh concerns with respect to breaches of the law.

“The ILP calls on the TTPS to do two things: first to caution all persons to refrain from further comment on this matter, and secondly, and unfortunately, to launch an investigation into whether the Prime Minister and other persons have conspired to pervert the course of public justice in this matter.

PP unmoved by Ventour’s claims

2 hours 53 min ago

Housing Minister and Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal is adamant that statements made by former Integrity Commission member, retired justice Sebastian Ventour, has in no way diminished statements made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that she had been vindicated in the matter.

Moonilal was fielding questions from reporters after a key distribution ceremony held at the Housing Development Corporation’s (HDC) Port-of-Spain head office, yesterday.

Following the commission’s termination of its investigation into the Emailgate matter, the PM had declared herself vindicated and said the termination was proof that Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley was unfit to lead the country.

In a letter dated May 19, 2015, the commission’s registrar Martin Farrell wrote to the Prime Minister’s attorney, Israel Khan, SC, stating that pursuant to Section 34 (6) of the Act, the commission was “satisfied that there was no or insufficient grounds for continuing the investigation” into Emailgate “and accordingly this investigation is hereby terminated.”

However, after tendering his resignation on Thursday, Ventour stated that he had made his decision because he disagreed with the commission’s statement on the probe since the investigation was not yet completed. Another member, Dr Shelly-Anne Lalchan, had also resigned on Wednesday.

Yesterday, however, Moonilal said as far as the People’s Partnership (PP) Government was concerned the matter was concluded, adding that Ventour was entitled to his opinion.

He also knocked Ventour for making statements to journalists rather than taking his concerns to President Anthony Carmona.

Addressing Ventour’s comment specifically, Moonilal said, “I think he (Ventour) gave an interview in the press and it was a bigger interview than any candidate appointed so far for the 2015 general election. 

“I was a bit caught by that because he saw it fit to go to the public and not the President. I thought that being a member of the commission first and having a grave concern, he ought to have taken that to the President who appointed him and, I think, who appointed him twice.” 

He said the workings of the commission were peculiar to that organisation. “We operate on official information and the Integrity Commission has indeed terminated their investigation.

“Whether they did that by unanimous decision, a consensus decision, a split decision, a knockout decision...the matter has ended as far as the Integrity Commission is concerned.”

PP unmoved by Ventour’s claims

2 hours 53 min ago

Housing Minister and Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal is adamant that statements made by former Integrity Commission member, retired justice Sebastian Ventour, has in no way diminished statements made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that she had been vindicated in the matter.

Moonilal was fielding questions from reporters after a key distribution ceremony held at the Housing Development Corporation’s (HDC) Port-of-Spain head office, yesterday.

Following the commission’s termination of its investigation into the Emailgate matter, the PM had declared herself vindicated and said the termination was proof that Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley was unfit to lead the country.

In a letter dated May 19, 2015, the commission’s registrar Martin Farrell wrote to the Prime Minister’s attorney, Israel Khan, SC, stating that pursuant to Section 34 (6) of the Act, the commission was “satisfied that there was no or insufficient grounds for continuing the investigation” into Emailgate “and accordingly this investigation is hereby terminated.”

However, after tendering his resignation on Thursday, Ventour stated that he had made his decision because he disagreed with the commission’s statement on the probe since the investigation was not yet completed. Another member, Dr Shelly-Anne Lalchan, had also resigned on Wednesday.

Yesterday, however, Moonilal said as far as the People’s Partnership (PP) Government was concerned the matter was concluded, adding that Ventour was entitled to his opinion.

He also knocked Ventour for making statements to journalists rather than taking his concerns to President Anthony Carmona.

Addressing Ventour’s comment specifically, Moonilal said, “I think he (Ventour) gave an interview in the press and it was a bigger interview than any candidate appointed so far for the 2015 general election. 

“I was a bit caught by that because he saw it fit to go to the public and not the President. I thought that being a member of the commission first and having a grave concern, he ought to have taken that to the President who appointed him and, I think, who appointed him twice.” 

He said the workings of the commission were peculiar to that organisation. “We operate on official information and the Integrity Commission has indeed terminated their investigation.

“Whether they did that by unanimous decision, a consensus decision, a split decision, a knockout decision...the matter has ended as far as the Integrity Commission is concerned.”

CXC probing Cape exam leak

3 hours 26 sec ago

A secondary school teacher is currently under investigation by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) for allegedly leaking examination questions to students writing the 2015 Cape examinations via the social media site Facebook.

Several parents and teachers have raised concerns to the Guardian over the past few days that the teacher has been hosting discussions with a group of students on an online platform on Facebook involving over 3,000 students late at nights.

One secondary teacher in south Trinidad said in an interview that teachers, like herself, are stressed over the situation.

“This has caused mental disturbance. It is like a nightmare for us to know that we work so hard to teach our students and work with them and our students are burning the midnight oil studying and cramming and just so on Facebook other students liaise with this teacher and come out the exam room saying it was easy like a breeze. 

This is so unfair. We are having sleepless nights worrying over this and nobody seems to be taking this serious. I wonder why?”

One concerned parent, Marlene Summers, said the situation was brought to her attention by her daughter, who is currently sitting the Cape examinations.

“This pertains primarily to the compulsory Caribbean Studies exam and also other subject areas such as Communication Studies, Sociology, Economics, Management of Business and Entrepreneurship,” Summers said.

“A startling realisation has been made by not only myself but other parents and teachers of what seems to be online discussions that directly pertain to the questions that appear on the Caribbean Studies paper this year in at least six out of a total of eight questions. I hasten to point out, after doing some research, that this is not the only year that this successful lessons teacher has been able to directly predict the content of papers,” she added.

Another secondary school teacher, when contacted, spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying, “Just imagine the teacher predicted a question that wasn't explicitly stated in the syllabus and it came for the economics exam today (Thursday).”

“This is too strange and too unusual.”

CXC investigating claims

​Cleveland Sam, assistant registrar, Public Information and Customer Services, Caribbean Examinations Council, in Barbados, confirmed on Thursday that an investigation into the allegations of a leak in the Cape examinations 2015 was still ongoing.

“CXC takes all such allegations seriously and investigates them fully. To date, CXC does not have any conclusive evidence that any breach occurred,” Sam said.

Sam added that CXC had contacted the Ministry of Education on the matter. 

Communications specialist at the Ministry of Education, Alicia Busby, said the ministry was aware of the allegations but noted that the ministry and CXC had completed their investigations and cleared the teacher in question. 

Busby added that both the ministry and CXC interviewed relevant people, including the teacher, as part of their investigation. She said checks were physically made of the packaging of the exam papers and these revealed that the seals were not tampered with before the allotted exam time, neither were the serial numbers on the packages altered.

Teacher claims no wrongdoing

Guardian visited the Facebook closed group page and saw that there were 3,288 members in the group.

There is a profile of the teacher saying that he has degrees in Economics (Hons) and Sociology (Hons) and a diploma in Public Sector Management from the University of the West Indies (UWI). The teacher also has, according to the description stated on the social media Web site, a Masters in Business Management and a Masters in Education (Curriculum) at UWI.

It added that the teacher has many years experience in teaching Form 6 at the secondary school level and is a lecturer at a tertiary education institute.

“Most of the ‘predictions’ are made within 12.15 am to 1.17 am of Tuesday 5th May, 2015,” the profile read.

On May 3, the teacher also held an eight-hour crash course at a popular secondary school in Couva.

Students posted praises on the page to the teacher for his exam predictions.

On May 4 at 11.05 pm, a student from Chaguanas wrote: “(teacher’s name) the obeah man, with the best predictions of what's coming for exams!”

When contacted on the allegations, the teacher told the Guardian, “The Ministry of Education cleared me of any wrongdoing. So I have no further comment on the matter. Thank you.”

Khan upset over media hounding

3 hours 6 min ago

Embattled chairman of the Integrity Commission Zainool Hosein last night broke his silence over claims that the commission issued an incorrect statement announcing the termination of its investigation into the Emailgate matter, saying he did “nothing wrong.”

Questioned about the strong and uncharacteristic statements made by former deputy chairman Sebastian Ventour, a former High Court judge, after his sudden resignation on Thursday, Hosein, a retired Appeal Court judge and former president of the Retired Judges Association, said, “I cannot speak on the issue of the (former) deputy chairman, I am unable to answer any questions because the Integrity Commission is not constituted.”

Ventour said on Thursday that the statement issued by the commission to the Prime Minister’s attorney Israel Khan, SC, on Tuesday, which stated that there was “no or insufficient grounds” to continue the probe, was misleading to the public because it was incorrect. He added that up to the time just prior to his resignation, the commission had not yet received all the information it sought from email service providers. 

Ventour said he had walked out of a meeting called by Hosein to discuss the matter before it ended, however, so he was uncertain whether the other commissioners had agreed to the release of the statement.

On Wednesday, another member of the commission, Dr Shelly Anne Lalchan, also resigned citing personal reasons. 

The Office of the President yesterday acknowledged receipt of the two resignations. However, the statement did not address the concerns raised among various sectors of the public yesterday about Ventour’s claims. 

In an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Hosein admitted that the commission was no longer functional because of Ventour’s departure. He said according to the Integrity in Public Life Act there must be five sitting commission members, one of whom must be a deputy chair.

“Incidentally, there is no longer an Integrity Commission,” Hosein said.

Hosein said the word “collapse” had been bandied about already, but the fact was that with two of the five members gone, there was no commission until they were replaced.

Members of the media tracked Hosein for most of yesterday, which Hosein and his family strongly objected to.

“I feel like I was in some lynch mob. This is not right,” Hosein said.

He said because he was approached at his mosque by journalists yesterday, the Muslim community had become upset by reporters’ actions.

“I am going to protest this. I am going to report this to the Media Association (of T&T),” he said.

The prime minister’s attorney Israel Khan, SC, yesterday confirmed that Hosein worked in his private law chambers. 

He, however, denied all claims that Hosein acted with any bias when he issued the statement clearing Persad-Bissessar. 

But he said he respected Ventour’s right to his opinion.

“My view is that he is entitled to his opinion,” Khan said.

He said that while he did not know how the Integrity Commission operated, it comprised five members and there must have been a consensus before the statement was issued.

“If there is a claim of bias, then the decision could be taken before the courts and nullified,” Khan said.

He said, however, that any speculation that he and Hosein acted in cahoots was “ridiculous.”

“This is a small country and everyone knows each other or someone that knows someone. The man worked in this chamber but he is a man of impeccable integrity and character,” Khan said.

Khan said if there was sufficient evidence found against the Prime Minister, then even as her lawyer he would call for her to be “locked up.”

“If there is no evidence found on two of the four persons being investigated and all four of them were supposed to be talking to each other, then if no evidence is found on two, it stands that the conversation did not take place,” he said.

Ventour, Khan said, seemed to want the Integrity Commission to do the work of the police.

He said it was now up to the investigators to find out who was behind the creation of the thread of emails that Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley read out in Parliament on May 20, 2013, which formed the substance of his no-confidence motion against Persad-Bissessar.

The emails, which bore similar email addresses as those of the Prime Minister, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, Works and Transport Minister Suruj Rambachan and former national security minister Gary Griffith, discussed a criminal conspiracy to harm a journalist, spy on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), offer the DPP a judgeship to remove him from office, among other acts.

The commission had engaged in a lengthy legal battle with email service provider, Google Inc, in the US and had obtained email correspondence for both the PM and the former AG. It was yet to receive information relating to two other accounts.

A parallel investigation by the police service is ongoing.

Law body concerned

The Law Association is calling on President Anthony Carmona to immediately intervene in the affairs of the Integrity Commission, following the resignation of two members this week. The association’s vice president Gerry Brooks made the call in a press release yesterday, hours after the commission’s deputy chairman, retired Appeal Court judge Sebastian Ventour, suddenly resigned over the commission’s public comments on the termination of its Emailgate investigation. 

The day before, another commissioner, Dr Shelly Anne Lalchan, had also ended her tenure at the commission.

In his release, Brooks said Ventour’s statement that he decided to quit over an erroneous release on the investigation issued by the commission on Tuesday had caused his organisation “great concern.” 

He also called on the commission’s president, retired justice of appeal Zainool Hosein, to make an immediate public statement on the “serious allegations” made by Ventour.

Apology to Garth St. Clair

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 20:29

The Guardian acknowledges that the statement “St Clair served six years in jailfor his crime…”, which appeared in the daily edition of the Guardian on Friday 28 thJanuary 2005, was incorrect. Mr. Garth St. Clair had in fact duly served six monthsin jail. It is regrettable that this inaccuracy occurred. The Guardian apologises forany inconvenience caused.

Three men murdered overnight

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 16:24
Relatives of the Fulchan family believe that they are being targeted after three brothers of the family were killed this month in two separate instances the latest being last night. 

According to police reports the brothers Nisan, 29 and Suresh 19 had just pulled up to their Old Valencia Road home when their killer/s ambushed them around 9.50 pm.

On May 7 the brothers older sibling Cyrus "Fish" Fulchan was killed in a similar style. According to police reports around 1.30 pm police were called to Old Valencia Road, Valencia after the two, Cyrus “Fish” Fulchan and Francis “Ricky” Charles, were found dead outside’s Fulchan’s business-place, Top of the Hill Proprietor’s Club.

Police said Fulchan, the driver of a silver Nissan Tiida had just pulled into the parking lot of his business place when a gunman opened fire on the car shortly after appearing in court on drug-related charges. Fulchan, 31, died behind the steering wheel while Charles, 39, of Sierra Circular, Guayaguayare was shot, ran out of the car, and collapsed a short distance away.

In an unrelated murder police are looking for gunmen who stormed an abandoned house in Crown Trace Enterprise Chaguanas and killed one man and critically injured another.

Dead is Arnold Chadband, 29. According to a police around 11 pm Chadban and Rickie Tambie were in the house when two men opened fire on the duo.

Chadband died on the scene while Tambie is warded in a critical condition at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. The killing of the three men have taken the murder toll to 149 for the year while the comparative toll is 173 for last year.

Weak legislation in place

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 01:12

The average person in T&T generates approximately four pounds of garbage waste daily, each Port-of-Spain inhabitant generates 1.54 kg of garbage daily and every month in T&T, 50 million plastic bottles and one million glass bottles are dumped, according to Solid Waste statistics, Environment Minister Ganga Singh has said.

He spoke on Tuesday in Parliament, piloting a bill for the establishment of a waste recycling management authority and a resource recovery fund to facilitate the efficient co-ordination for the implementation of a waste-recycling system that would protect human health and the environment.

Singh said: “A phenomenal growth in waste production in T&T, brought about by our increasing standard of living, has unfortunately not been mirrored in the advancement in waste management. 

“There exists no segregation of garbage, very little reuse and recycling of waste, limited landfill capacities, weak legislative and management systems, high costs and a lack of education of the general public relating to alternative waste management such as recycling.”

He said: “The solution to waste management issues must be initiated now. 

“A system of waste management that incorporates the principles of the four Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink.

“It looks at the aspect of waste diversion with different waste types and processes required for special collection, transportation and final disposal identified.

“Statistics for waste generation in T&T are alarming. The generation rate of garbage for the city of Port-of-Spain is 1.54 kg per inhabitant per day. 

“Every month we dump 50 million plastic bottles and one million glass bottles. That is 600 million plastic bottles and 12 million glass bottles each year.

“The average person generates approximately four pounds or 2.2 kilogrammes of waste a day which amounts to 1,548 tonnes of waste reaching waste-disposal sites a day. 

“Well over 80 per cent of residential waste is recyclable and the residential stream represents two-thirds of overall waste generated in T&T.”

 He said to prevent the problem assuming crisis proportions later, T&T needed to prolong the lifespans of landfills. 

One way of doing this is by reducing, via recycling, the amount of waste reaching landfills.  

He said landfills receive grass cuttings, food waste, plastic containers, old microwaves, car batteries and even hazardous waste, since there is no segregation of waste in households.

“People’s dump includes batteries, fluorescent lights, needles, cellphones, radios, computers and television sets via municipal waste-disposal systems, completely unaware they contain hazardous substances like toxic mercury, cadmium, nickel, arsenic and lead.

“I had initial discussions with the Minister of Science/Technology on a specific programme regarding electronic (e)-waste, similar to dealing with beverage containers.

“Discarded tyres, particularly, present environmental and public health risks. Tyres routinely end up in rivers contributing to flooding.”

 He said tyres in landfills did not deteriorate and provided breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rodents. Burning for the recovery of copper wire exacerbated fires, plus caused harmful emissions.

He said: “It’s critical an immediate short-term solution be determined for the environmentally-sound disposal of waste tyres.  

“Within this week, I’ll present for Cabinet’s consideration a proposed solution on the use of waste tyres in road-paving and use in the manufacture of rubberised asphalt.”

 He said the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) would soon initiate the Recyclable Solid Waste Collection Project to prepare T&T for the passage of the EMA Solid Waste Rules and this waste recycling management authority.

The project establishes drop-off collection sites and depots for sorting. 

Tyres and e-waste from the public will be collected. Primary and secondary schools will also be engaged in the collection initiative.

Through stakeholder consultation, the Government has also been able to develop the Beverage Container Regulations being subsequently laid in the Parliament.

Groups will meet with the Government today to further enhance the bill.

Alibi defence not investigated

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 01:09

One of the 12 men accused of murdering businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman provided an alibi to police which was not investigated before he was charged. 

The allegation was made by Joel Fraser’s lawyer, Ulric Skerritt, as he cross-examined the lead investigator of Naipaul-Coolman’s case, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Nadhir Khan, in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday. 

Skerritt claimed that Fraser, a former employee of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), was at work when state prosecutors contended that Naipaul-Coolman was killed.

While Skerritt stated his client informed homicide detectives of that when he was interviewed months after Naipaul-Coolman was abducted in December 2006, Khan said the message was not passed on to him. 

“I am aware he was working and playing football for WASA but no one told me he was working overtime. As far as I am aware football is a seasonal sport,” Khan said. 

Skerritt pressed Khan further on his failure to investigate the alibi as he revealed that two other men, who were initially charged for the crime alongside the 12 accused men currently on trial, were freed after their alibis were confirmed by police. 

Khan said he could not give any insight into the two former accused men’s experience as the power to discontinue criminal charges lay only with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). 

Skerritt also questioned the quality of evidence linking Fraser to the crime, as he said his client was only mentioned in a statement of the State’s main witness Keon Gloster, who has since recanted his evidence. 

Although Khan rejected Skerritt’s criticism of the evidence against Fraser, he could not point to any other statement which implicated him (Fraser), apart from Gloster’s claims.

When asked to give an overview of the documents and evidence gathered in his investigation which were presented to the DPP before the charges were laid against the accused men, Khan, who retired from the Police Service in 2010, admitted he had not read the case file in its entirety. 

“Because of the volume of documents in that file and the time factored for me to complete it, it was not possible for me to read every single document before I took it to DPP,” Khan said.

Naipaul-Coolman was abducted from her home at Radix Road, Lange Park, Chaguanas, on December 19, 2006. A $122,000 ransom was paid by her family but she was not released and her body has never been found. 

State prosecutors contend that the former Xtra Foods chief executive was held captive at a house in Upper La Puerta, Diego Martin, before she was eventually killed. 

Gloster, who claimed he witnessed the murder, testified in the trial and claimed he was coerced into signing a series of statements which implicated the accused men, most of whom are his relatives. He was deemed a hostile witness for the State and his statements were read to the jury.

Khan’s cross-examination will continue when the trial resumes on Monday.

Company in conflict of interest

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 01:06

Architect Dion Campbell yesterday admitted a direct conflict of interest had arisen during the second phase of the Las Alturas housing project after his company, Civil Engineering Management and Services (CEMAS), was subsequently hired by the contractor, China Jiangsu International Corporation (CJIC), as a consultant, while it was still under contract with the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) on the same project.

Testifying before the commission of enquiry at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street,  Port-of-Spain, Campbell said as a result the layout and placement of Buildings H, I and J in his master plan were done according to CJIC's instructions.

HDC hired CEMAS in 2006 as the consultant for the second phase.

Planning Associates Ltd (PAL) was the consultant for the first phase, during which Buildings A and B were constructed. Campbell made the admission yesterday under cross-examination by HDC’s lead attorney Queen’s Counsel Vincent Nelson.

Providing an insight into how the project unfolded, Campbell revealed that CEMAS had proceeded based on the findings in Geotech Associates 2008 report.

Pressed by Nelson to say if any of the reports he used had warned of the large cracks and soil instability at the site, Campbell said they continued in spite of the warnings about the instability and recommendations for further testing to be done.

Although Buildings I and J were not constructed over the cracks at the site, Campbell said a part of H had been. Meanwhile, Campbell repeated earlier statements that the failure to provide reports and other pertinent information regarding the original design had resulted in the HDC’s interests not being properly protected.

According to him, no such information was ever disclosed by the HDC to CEMAS in 2006 when it was hired as the project consultant.

The hearing will resume at 9.30 am today.

Hospital visitor slaps doctor

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 01:02

Doctors at the San Fernando General Hospital once more are demanding a safe working environment following an attack of one of their colleagues, Dr Jason Diljohn, by a woman visitor on Wednesday evening.

Doctors say they have shown great restraint but find it unacceptable when they have to work in an environment that was clearly unsafe and becoming even more insecure.

They called for an emergency meeting with the CEO of the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) Anil Gosine and head of the security. Gosine confirmed that the relative of a patient reportedly slapped and shoved the doctor who is attached to the paediatric ward of the new San Fernando Teaching Hospital. 

He said security at the hospital held the woman who was subsequently charged and appeared before a San Fernando magistrate. (See story on page)

The San Fernando Hospital Doctors Association has since written to the SWRHA chairman, Dr Lackram Bodoe and Gosine, saying this was the latest in a series of security breaches at the hospital’s compound involving doctors.

It said a previous meeting with Gosine and the head of security a few weeks ago yielded little, if any, positive results.

Recalling two incidents in which a female emergency doctor was abducted in the carpark last year and another female doctor in the Opthalmology Department was issued a death threat, the association said the authorities must expeditiously address those serious and escalating incidents.

 “It is an established understanding there is a sacred covenant between the employer and employees whereby the employer undertakes to provide a safe working environment for employees,” a circular posted on the hospital notice board yesterday read.

Gosine responded: “They can say that but we have done quite a lot to improve security on the compound since those incidents some months ago.

“We have increased the security, both internally and private security. If doctors want security to escort them to their cars, we have put that in place. At every level of the teaching hospital we have security. 

“In fact, security was on the floor when that incident took place and when told what was happening the security dealt with the situation.

“If a patient slaps a doctor at that point in time, I mean we will do everything possible to deal with the situation but we can’t have security everywhere.

“We will do everything we can to deal with the situation but we cannot have security guards everywhere. What happened is just unfortunate. I have already met with the doctors but if they have further concerns I would be willing to met with them.”

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan also commended the security officer for taking charge of the situation.

Khan said often times the officers were criticised for their inability to handle situations at the hospital.

“I want to commend the officer for handling the situation in a very professional manner. 

“It shows that the customer service we are doing is really working,” he added.

He said it also showed security measures were working and did not expect that situation to escalate similar to what happened at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital recently when a Maternity Ward patient threw an object at a nurse.

Warner: ILP will contest 41 seats

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 00:53

 Jack Warner’s Independent Liberal Party (ILP) will remain independent and will be contesting all 41 seats in the upcoming general election, Warner said on Wednesday night.

 He told the T&T Guardian yesterday he still maintained his recent calls that all the Opposition parties should join forces to fight the People’s Partnership (PP) but in the absence of that he was contesting independently.

He said he would continue to hold talks with the Alliance of Independents (AI) and other groups. He said the politics in T&T was now so fluid that decisions had to be made on a 24-hour basis. 

Two weeks ago, Warner participated in the Chaguaramas march, on land issues, alongside People’s National Movement (PNM) leader Dr Keith Rowley, AI’s Nicole Dyer-Griffith and MSJ’s David Abdulah.

Speaking at a Pierre Road, Charlieville, meeting Warner said he never thought that after five years “Kamla” would have to fight to win a general election but, he said, “every Monday morning” the PP was turning the sod for schools and “building more hospitals than it have patients for.”

However the ILP will not be going to the Chamber of Commerce’s political debate.

Warner told supporters: “Instead of debating, we will be walking so put on your walking shoes, put on your green (ILP) shirt. On Sunday while other parties will be in Mandela Park (PNM) and Constantine Park (PP), we will be in church at an inter-faith service.” 

Contacted by the T&T Guardian yesterday on last year’s statement that he would not contest his Chaguanas West seat again, Warner said no decision had as yet been made by ILP on who would contest which seat.

On Rowley’s statement at a PNM forum last Sunday that he (Rowley) would not have any bargaining or “horse-trading” for positions in a PNM Government and would not want people seeking posts on the basis that their party was keeping the Government together, Warner said:

 “Any decision that has to be made has to be made long before election is held. I don’t call it horse-trading but it has to be done prudently so that after the election something like what happened with the COP won’t occur.”

Sharma quits PNM post over Emailgate affair

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 00:46

People’s National Movement (PNM) disciplinary committee member Dr Subash Sharma, who resigned from the party yesterday, had initiated legal action earlier this year against outgoing Integrity Commission member Dr Shelly Anne Lalchan.

Sharma confirmed both developments yesterday. On his resignation, he said PNM leader Keith Rowley’s situation in the Emailgate issue was the last straw for him.

He is clinical co-ordinator/lecturer of the Optometry Programme at UWI’s School of Optometry/Visual Sciences. 

Sharma had initiated action against Lalchan, who is an opthalmologist, in February over alleged defamation in relation to the National Eye Survey of T&T (NESTT) project. Lalchan resigned as a member of the Integrity Commission on Wednesday.

Sharma has declined details on the matter which is still in court but it is understood that when the matter occurred it was conveyed to UWI officials and that also was communicated to the President’s Office. There was no comment from President’s House on this, however.

Sharma joined the PNM in 2006 and was a high-profile member under the Patrick Manning administration. He was PNM’s St Augustine candidate in 2010, St Augustine PRO, election officer at various points and co-ordinator of the party’s Chaguanas East and West areas.

His resignation, however, is merely an official parting of the ways since Sharma had been estranged from PNM since the 2014 internal leadership contest when he backed contender Penny Beckles-Robinson against Rowley as part of the “Preserve the Balisier” pressure group. 

Sharma was among several of her supporters who criticised Rowley’s leadership.

In his resignation letter to PNM general secretary Ashton Ford, Dr Sharma said: “I regret to inform you I have decided to resign from the PNM because the party does not represent the ideals that I hold very dear, which attracted me to become a member. 

“However, the latest blow to the party due to his irrational and cavalier prosecution of the Emailgate affair, where he attempted to mislead our sacred Parliament and defame its honourable members, in addition to other errors of judgment (Section 34, multiple “no-confidence” motions, running from Parliament), have shown he cannot be trusted anymore with the leadership of the party and definitely not with the prime ministerial responsibility of our country.”

Sharma also said Rowley’s ill-advised association with the “Roundtable” at this time was another cause for concern. 

“He must go now. I sincerely hope the party can overcome its present difficulties and take its rightful place again to offer our nation an honest option in our democracy,” he added. 

On his future, Sharma said: “I’m remaining very active politically and will continue having talks with various groups but I have made no decision. Ideally, I prefer an independent line to see how best to serve T&T.”

Cops seek more information

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 00:44

The T&T Police Service (TTPS) says it recently sought new information from Google and other email providers in its continuing probe into the series of emails which were purportedly shared between top-ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

So said acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams on Wednesday as he responded to questions from the T&T Guardian on whether the police would also wrap up their investigation soon in the wake of the Integrity Commission’s statement that its had ended. 

Noting the Integrity Commission never stated what information it had when it arrived at its decision to terminate its investigation, Williams said that in no way would impede the police’s investigation. 

In a media release yesterday, the service’s head of corporate communications, Ellen Lewis, said the two investigating bodies were not aligned in their investigations and that the service was still carrying out its investigations. 

It added: “The TTPS had made a request to internet service provider Google, through the Central Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, to provide certain information and to date the request has only been partially satisfied. 

“A renewed request was made to Google, via the Central Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, for the outstanding information and this is being awaited. In addition to Google, the TTPS has also renewed its petition, through the Central Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, to other email service providers with respect to an outstanding request for information.” 

Lewis added: “By virtue of the oath of office sworn to by police officers, there is an obligation for all police officers to function without favour or affection, malice or ill will and to discharge all duties faithfully according to law. 

“In these circumstances, the TTPS continues to be apolitical and focused on conducting its business in a professional manner with respect to Emailgate and any other police investigation. The investigation into Emailgate is not complete and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service will continue to pursue this investigation to completion.”

On May 20, 2013, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley read in Parliament a series of purported emails claiming them to be exchanges between Persad-Bissessar, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, former minister of local government Surujrattan Rambachan and then national security adviser to the Prime Minister Gary Griffith. 

The emails alleged a criminal conspiracy to harm a journalist, plant electronic spying devices in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, offer the DPP a judgeship and accept payment from an unnamed woman in exchange for the freedom of individuals involved in the Section 34 fiasco in September 2012.

PM ordered to rest after diabetes scare

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 00:42

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been ordered to rest after spending yesterday afternoon at the Cross Crossing Medical Centre, San Fernando, due to a high blood sugar level.

She was expected to give the feature address at the sod-turning ceremony for the Point Fortin Hospital but after falling ill checked in at the medical centre around 3 pm.

As she left around 6.40 pm, she reminded reporters she was a diabetic and was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados on May 21, 2012, with a complaint. 

At the time she was scheduled to return to Port-of-Spain after a seven-day official trip to Belize, the United States and Barbados.

Persad-Bissessar, 65, was also hospitalised for two days at St Clair Medical Centre, Port-of-Spain, in October, 2011, and later revealed she was a diabetic and suffered with high blood pressure. 

“I felt a bit unwell so I came in. What had happened is my blood sugar went very high so they gave me some medication and told me to get some rest. When you are diabetic it can happen from time to time.

“I don’t know if it is the workload or sometimes you forget to take your medication. I feel a little calmer, I feel good that is why I am going home. 

“This happened to me once before. I was in Barbados and I checked in the hospital because the sugar level had gone so high. I felt it would be safer so I came here,” she said.

Like 2012, her sickness comes days before the People’s Partnership anniversary rally on Sunday but she assured that she would be present for the celebrations at Constantine Park, Macoya. She said she would follow doctors’ advice to rest and would be fine.

“I will definitely not miss Sunday for anything. I am looking forward to it. In fact, our mobilisation efforts have been excellent. There is like a surge of people wanting to come and it has reached a point in certain areas that they can’t find any maxi taxis. They are all booked up. I am looking forward to it.”

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