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Updated: 6 min 17 sec ago

Baptists to share votes among political parties

10 hours 5 min ago

The Baptist community can no longer be perceived as being totally committed to supporting the People’s National Movement in a general election. Rev Dr Hazel Ann Gibbs De Peza, assistant professor (Centre for Education Programmes) at the University of T&T, said the Baptists vote was now shared among all the political parties and even though they supported the PNM in the past, they were given promises which never came to pass. She said Baptists, who will observe Spiritual Baptists Liberation Day tomorrow, were now more educated with a greater degree of political awareness.

Q: Dr De Peza, are Baptists better off today than they were one year ago?
A: (Breaks into an ironic laugh seated in room 102 at the Corinth Campus of the University of T&T, Thursday afternoon) That is a difficult question to answer for the simple reason that yes, there are some things that have improved and there are some things that have not improved.

Ok, let’s take the good news first.
Very well. I think that the Baptist communion is more aware of the need to function together so that you have a bigger celebration, more unified so that people are coming together.

Well this is good news isn’t it, given the history or at least a major part of the Baptists’ history is one of division and so on?
Yes, and that history was a result of the structure of the faith and the way the faith was born in T&T. Remember, whereas all the other religions have an external source which would have planted their religion here, in the case of the Baptists it emerged from among the people.

Indigenous?
Yes, it was never one person leading or one place, there was never a definitive leader as such, it grew out of our situation back in those years where the spirituality was just blossoming and therefore, people were just coming up at various points and who would have been called to ministry...

In days gone by, one got the impression that anyone who was a Baptist felt they could have just opened up a building and presto, a church simply came into being. Is that a wrong perception, Dr De Peza?
I wouldn’t say anyone could have done that, but people were called to ministry and they would have been given spiritual instruction to lead a flock and therefore, in some cases, they would have been given instructions where to build a church and where to place it.

But in the absence of a central authority as it were, how would this instruction have been given?
The instruction was a spiritual instruction, so that persons would have been given spiritually the instruction to build a church and to lead a congregation.

Has that proven to be beneficial to the Baptist communion?
Yes, it has and it still works, because the way the church was formed in separate units and what the faith had to endure in those days, specifically with the Prohibition Act, the police beating and arrests, nobody knew who the leader was and members just followed. It was never easy for the powers that be at that time to get rid of us completely. It’s a kind of replicating the early Christianity when Christ had left and the apostles were having their churches in houses and different places (a broad smile).

So that the annual Spiritual Baptists Liberation Day celebrations which began in 1996 is now seeing a closer co-operation among the faith?
Yes. You have a number of church and dioceses who are coming together to hold events so that the attendance is better in most places...right? While people still complain about several celebrations, we can’t all fit in one venue, there are too many of us to be kept in the same location resulting in more people attending the various celebrations.

Is it your belief, “Teacher” De Peza, that there should be one voice for the Baptists as is the case with some of the major religious bodies in the country?
Yes. We should and we have made some attempts to do that. Do you remember the situation with the Baptist primary school in Maloney, where a number of us came together and we actually called ourselves “The  United Voice” (chucking) of Spiritual Baptist Church?

Dr De Peza, how is that school progressing today?
Well, that school is a ticklish issue in that while it carries the name Spiritual Baptist school it was given to an individual and not to the body of the faith, so that when it was being handed over the major body of the faith was not called in, they are not part of that institution.

There was an issue with the principal who has since retired and promised all her benefits from the Ministry of Education and we were able to get that under control, but the whole management of the school is being investigated. Clevon, it is a thorny issue and as the matter is in the court, I will not go there at this time because we are mainly interested in the welfare of the pupils and their education.

OK, moving on. Dr De Peza, in years gone by not so long ago, it was the perception that the Baptist church needed to come together and, in fact, a former prime minister chased away a delegation of the faith and he told them to get themselves under one umbrella and come back to him as a united group for assistance from the Government.
Yes, and that was just a way not to give us anything, that was a ploy, because if we look at the religious landscape of T&T, other denominations have more than one representative group so why try to pin us down on such a non-essential request?

Why is it you were demanding that we as a people, who in the first case did not start off as one, didn’t have one leader? That said, “Okay, we are going to establish the Baptist church,” but it started with persons getting their spiritual calling in different places and planting their churches, growing their respective community.

We see the need for coming together but you must understand there are those who would be of a different persuasion. When you have these differences in fundamental doctrine, you will have differences in the organisation and in uniting of the organisation. We are Spiritual Baptists, but we do not all believe in the same things in the first place, alright?

Dr De Peza, it is no secret that the Baptists were perceived as strong supporters of the now Opposition PNM and I could distinctly recall demonstrations by your faith in support of that party. Did that result in any particular benefits from the PNM?
Aligning ourselves with politicians is not a good thing and it has not worked for us. It has not helped us. What has happened over the years, from very early, we recognised we were being used all the time, that people saw the Baptist community as a good catchment area for votes and for the most part, Baptists of yesterday were poor people in the depressed areas of the country, they were not professional people.

And as a result of their socio-economic standing the politicians were able to fool them and have them follow them with the promise of a dream…the dream never came to fruition.

Dr De Peza, with a general election on the horizon, do you believe it would be possible for Baptists to be so used this time around?
Well, I think all the political parties have a share of the Baptist community now (another round of laughter) so that image of one party support has definitely gone, and I guess we are more independent and have a greater understanding of politics. There are those who will support whatever party they feel they would get some benefit from, and religion is not supposed to be put into a corner politically.

The bad news…?
The main issue in this regard is that in spite of our freedom to practice our faith, Baptists are still being stigmatised especially by some employers...those in the public and private sectors.

Penny top choice as Rowley’s successor

10 hours 14 min ago

​Six months after being elected Prime Minister of T&T, Kamla Persad-Bissessar named Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal as her successor. Praising Moonilal’s contribution to her administration, Persad-Bissessar said, “If anything should happen to me, God forbid, I see Dr Moonilal as being my successor.” Persad-Bissessar, political leader of the United National Congress (UNC), made the announcement as she spoke at a private function in Moonilal’s honour at San Fernando Hill.

 The PM did not elaborate on what prompted her decision. In paying tribute to the Oropouche East MP, Persad-Bissessar said, “Dr Moonilal is a very important man in this Government. Our Government is very proud of you and very proud to have you in this Government.” Moonilal said he was grateful for the confidence and faith the PM had placed in his potential for leadership. 

However, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has named no one as his successor since becoming leader of the People’s National Movement last May. Last month, Penelope Beckles-Robinson, who challenged Rowley for leadership in the party's internal election, was rejected as a candidate for the Arima constituency in the 2015 general election. Beckles-Robinson's supporters claim she was victimised by the party’s screening committee.

In a recent survey, respondents were asked whom would you support as successors to UNC leader Persad-Bissessar and PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley? The results for the UNC showed that 54 per cent stated “don’t know,” while ministers Vasant Bharath and Roodal Moonilal each tied with eight per cent.

Ministers Larry Howai, Errol Mc Leod, Suruj Rambachan, Prakash Ramadhar and former AG Anand Ramlogan each got two per cent. Capturing one per cent were Winston Dookeran, Stacy Roopnarine, and former UNC leader Basdeo Panday. Former national security ministers Jack Warner and Gary Griffith, as well as Ministers Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan each received less than one per cent.

Thirteen per cent of the respondents gave a “no response,” answer. With regards to a possible successor for PNM leader, 39 per cent of the respondents replied “don’t know.” However, the person who obtained the highest rating as Rowley’s successor was Penelope Beckles-Robinson with 18 per cent. Faris Al-Rawi got 15 per cent, while Colm Imbert captured four per cent.

Former prime minister and San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning obtained three per cent, followed by MPs Amery Browne and Marlene McDonald with two per cent. Chairman Franklin Khan, MP Terrence Deyalsingh and “other” each received one per cent, while Donna Cox and Fitzgerald Hinds each got less than one per cent. Overall, 13 per cent gave no response. 

These were the findings of a T&T Guardian poll conducted and supervised by Prof Derek Chadee, director of the ANSA McAL Psychological Research Centre, University of the West Indies, St Augustine.  The poll, a nationwide survey held from January 29 to February 3, interviewed 507 respondents over the age of 18 selected by a random digit dialling method. The intention of the survey was to assess popular opinion on a number of major issues.

Overall, the sample was made up of 35 per cent Afro-Trinidadians, 39 per cent Indo-Trinidadians, 25 per cent mixed race citizens and one per cent other groups. Of the sample, 53 per cent were females. The margin of error is plus or minus four per cent.

Whom would you support as successor to Keith Rowley as leader of the PNM?  
Analysing responses by ethnicity showed that of the respondents who said they would vote for Penelope Beckles, 38 per cent were Indo-Trinidadians, 32 per cent Afro-Trinidadians and 28 per cent Mixed race persons. Of those stating they would support Faris Al-Rawi as successor to Keith Rowley, 41 per cent were Afro-Trinidadians, 37 per cent Mixed race persons and 22 per cent Indo-Trinidadians. Of the respondents who said “don’t know,” 46 per cent were Indo-Trinidadians, 29 per cent Afro-Trinidadians and 25 per cent Mixed race persons. 

Examining responses by sex, 52 per cent of those who said Penelope Beckles were males and 48 per cent females. An equal number of males and females indicated that they would support Faris Al-Rawi. Of those who said “don’t know,” 56 per cent were females and 44 per cent were males. 

Whom would you support as successor to Keith Rowley as leader of the PNM?
Don’t know    39 per cent
Penelope Beckles    18 per cent
Faris Al-Rawi    15 per cent
Colm Imbert    4 per cent
Patrick Manning    3 per cent
Amery Browne    2 per cent
Marlene McDonald    2 per cent
Franklin Khan    1 per cent
Terrance Deyalsingh    1 per cent
Donna Cox    < 1 per cent
Fitzgerald Hinds    < 1 per cent
Other    1 per cent
No response    13 per cent

 

PoS South: Bring it on!

10 hours 25 min ago

Bring it on! That was the response of some constituents of Port-of-Spain South, two days after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar waved a thick file labelled “Marlenegate” and threatened to expose People’s National Movement (PNM) MP for the area Marlene McDonald. Last Monday, while addressing supporters at a United National Congress (UNC) political meeting in Debe, the PM said she would expose the Opposition for their hypocrisy, double standards, and incapability to govern the country.

The PM threatened to expose a file on McDonald months after the Integrity Commission, in a December 23, 2013, letter, cleared the MP of breaching the Integrity in Public Life Act. The letter, which was published in a Sunday Guardian article last December, did not specify what issue was brought before the commission. But one action group, TnTWhistleblower, took offence and raised questions about a $375,000 cheque made out to the Calabar Foundation on May 12, 2010, some ten days before the local government elections.

The cheque was made payable to the Calabar Foundation which was established some months later in August 24, 2010, and, according to the documents, was cashed in September that same year. Though constituents of the PNM stronghold shared mixed views about McDonald’s performance over the last five years, they believe as the general election draws closer the UNC is on a witch-hunt to sully their MP’s name and character.

At Sea Lots, constituents Shane Jackson, Lenore Adams aka Althea, and Jennifer Ramcharitar had nothing but praises for McDonald, who they claimed helped improve their depressed community. The trio said McDonald was instrumental in getting the newly-built Sea Lots Community Impact and Homework Centre opened last year. They also received box drains and pavements, and 20 residents were the recipients of indoor bathrooms and toilets. The residents had previously used latrines and crudely built galvanise shacks as their bathrooms outside their homes.

“Little by little we are seeing things done,” Jackson said. He also boasted that crime had dropped significantly in the district. “We don’t have a problem with Marlene. I will vote for her again,” Ramcharitar interjected, outside her Pioneer Drive home. “I think the Marlenegate file Kamla promised is just a red herring. They are trying to bring down our MP, but they will not succeed. Bring it on!” Althea said.

Plying his DVD trade near the lighthouse, Elijah Mitchell said McDonald really had done a lot for the people of Sea Lots, but felt “she could have lobbied a bit more for the community to get a children’s play park and to help the unemployed youth get jobs.” “I think this Marlenegate file is a ploy...a distraction by the UNC. If a file is produced, like everything else, I feel nothing will come out of it,” Mitchell said.

Tricks
Resident John Wellington described the Marlenegate file as “tricks by the Government.” He said every five years politicians from the Opposition and the Government made allegations against each other, but nothing came of them. 

Four months after capture of most wanted man: Violence strikes Brasso Seco again

10 hours 42 min ago

Four months after the capture of Azmon Alexander—the country’s most wanted man—fear and panic have gripped the community of Brasso Seco once again following the shooting of villagers Alexis Hernandez and Jerone Charlerie. The shooting took place just when residents had begun to regain some normalcy in their lives and come to terms with the deaths of fellow villagers Irma Rampersad, her 14 month-old-granddaughter Shania Amoroso and family friend Felix Martinez who went missing last October.

Rampersad’s abducted teenage daughters Felicia and Janelle were also rescued by police last November. Alexander who was deemed a person of interest in the disappearance of the five individuals was captured by police shortly after. Yesterday, president of the Brasso Seco/Paria Village Council Anthony Marchan held an emergency meeting at the Brasso Seco Community Centre with residents to discuss their safety.

Marchan said he intended to write acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams for a mobile police post in the community. He said days after the three victims were buried the police packed up and left the community centre, which they had occupied for weeks when they were hunting for Alexander.

Self-imposed curfew
“Everyone is feeling uneasy as a result of the shooting. We thought when the police captured Azmon the village would have returned to normalcy, but we are reliving the fear and panic again. No one is feeling safe,” Marchan said. “We need the police to return to the community to ensure law and order,” he pleaded. Marchan said villagers had imposed a curfew on themselves by locking windows, wrought iron gates and doors by 6 pm. They are also avoiding going out at nights.

“Once again villagers are living like prisoners in their own homes and running scared,” said one resident, who requested anonymity. Community elder Norma Cooper-Duntin expressed concern that the village was being overrun by strangers, some of whom were destroying their community. “I am fearful because you don’t know what next will happen,” 84-year-old Cooper-Duntin said.

On March 20, Charlerie said, the peace on Madamas Road was shattered when someone fired a shot at them while they were leaving a birthday bash. Charlerie said seven of the shotgun’s slugs pierced his legs, while Hernandez was struck multiple times on his hands and legs. Villagers rushed both men to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, where they were kept overnight and discharged the next day.

Unsolved murder
“The gunman ambushed us from the back and pulled the trigger. All I felt was a burning sensation in my right leg and when I looked down I saw blood gushing from a wound. I realised I was shot. I never expected this,” Charlerie said. “I am trying to keep a low profile. I would feel a lot better if this person is apprehended. It is not a nice feeling to be looking over your back all the time.” Both men told investigating officer Cpl Boney of the Blanchisseuse Police Station they did not see their shooter, who escaped in the bushes.

But villagers say the shooting is linked to a woman and the death of villager and farmer Phillip Noreiga. “It’s no secret Phillip shot a well-known criminal in his arm over the woman, who was also in a relationship with one of Phillip’s friends. While the criminal who frequents the village was recovering from his injuries he kept sending death threats to Phillip and three of his friends, one of whom is Hernandez. But they never reported the matter to the police,” one villager said.

Last August, Phillip was gunned down while on his way to his field. “The police did not do enough in bringing Phillip’s killer to justice. It became another unsolved murder,” another villager said.

Archbishop Harris: Get away from tribal politics, name-calling

10 hours 50 min ago

Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris says he is appalled by the behaviour and conduct of some politicians in Parliament. He was speaking to reporters during his meet and greet with residents of Beetham Garden which commenced at the All in One Child Development Centre, yesterday.

Asked for his comment on the state of the country as well as Minister of State in the Ministry of the People Vernella Alleyne-Toppin’s remarks about People’s National Movement (PNM) leader Dr Keith Rowley, Harris said, “As I have said, I am appalled not only by what the minister may have said but by what has been going on for a long while. Once we begin in that area, name-calling, people will just go on seeking the worst thing that they can find. “They are trying to outdo each other in name-calling and that does not get us anywhere.” 

Harris said we really need to demand of our political leaders what are their plans, “...don’t vote just because of tribe or anything else, but we seek to put in place the Government that will do the best for the nation.” He said that meant getting away from tribal politics such as “I am PNM till I dead.” Harris said he would love to see a decrease in violence and crime and the political culture of the country. 

‘T&T intelligence dropped the ball’

10 hours 52 min ago

Intelligence failure on the part of government’s law enforcement agencies is to blame for not detecting and preempting last Monday’s police roadblocks that trapped thousands of commuters in crippling traffic and gridlock throughout the country. This was the view of former national security minister Gary Griffith, Senator Helen Drayton and criminologist Darius Figueira. Speaking to the Sunday Guardian on Thursday, Griffith said, “The intelligence agencies and NOC (National Operations Centre) fell flat, the ball was dropped badly.

“Several persons in the media heard chatter the Friday before that this massive police operation was going to take place, yet there was not a word from the NOC and the National Security Minister Carl Alfonso. “He himself stated that he was made aware of the situation at 7.30 am which was over two and a half hours after the operation commenced.

“Information wasn’t being passed on to the public in real time to explain what was happening. This can cause an escalation in the perception of fear and when panic steps in it exacerbates the situation creating a domino effect leading to further problems.” He said this was reminiscent of the July 27, 1990, coup in which the law enforcement agencies were not aware of what was happening until the Red House was under siege and the coup rebels had taken over Trinidad and Tobago Television.

‘Tantamount to mutiny’
Griffith said the incident was a ticking time bomb waiting to happen and there were indicators weeks ago that had not been picked up on. He said it was a massive police operation and was the largest in the history of T&T, other than the 2011 State of Emergency, executed without the knowledge or authorisation of division heads which was tantamount to mutiny.

Griffith condemned the actions of the law enforcement personnel that orchestrated the roadblocks, although he understood their frustration over their inability to take industrial action. He said another coup was impossible, but the 500 acres of land in Felicity that was previous­ly earmarked to house a milita­ry hospital and support batta­li­on for the T&T Regiment which is now earmarked for rice production by Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj might breed resentment among the military. 

Figueira: National emergency scenario overlooked 
Criminologist Daurius Figueira said that with millions of dollars spent on an annual basis on T&T’s national security apparatus it was expected that operators on the ground would relay to their superiors news of impending action. He said if the relevant security agencies had received that type of intelligence they could have pre-empted the action. Figueira said while motorists and commuters were trapped in the bumper-to-bumper traffic they were vulnerable to bandits on foot who could have preyed on them.

He said one major issue that was not raised was the scenario of a national emergency in the midst of the gridlock should a rupture or massive explosions occur in the natural gas supply line, resulting in fatalities and injuries.
 
Drayton: Dangerous lockdown staged without detection 
Senator Helen Drayton in today's Sunday Guardian column said the issue was not whether the police used their powers to obstruct and inconvenience the public in an attempt to force certain collective bargaining outcomes, but dangerous that they had the ability to stage a national lockdown without prior knowledge or detection by the police executive, the Government, and all intelligence agencies whose job it was to protect citizens. 

PTSC mechanic crushed to death

10 hours 56 min ago

The death of PTSC mechanic Ravi Maharaj, who was crushed between two buses on Friday evening, has prompted an investigation into the health and safety practices at the state-owned company. PTSC General Manager Ronald Forde told reporters that a full investigation would be launched into Maharaj’s death and the health and safety personnel of the corporation would also seek to determine whether additional training was required to avoid a recurrence.

Maharaj, 35, of Belleview Drive, Plum Road Manzanilla, was killed instantly around 6.15 pm in Valencia when he was trapped between the two buses. He was attached to PTSC Sangre Grande Maintenance Department. Media reports stated that on Friday a PTSC bus, registration HCR4964, took a group of children from the Heavenly Jewel Child Care of Sangre Grande on an excursion to Hollis Water Works and De Freitas Park in Valencia.

When the group was about to embark on the return journey the bus experienced mechanical difficulties and the PTSC Sangre Grande Maintenance Department was contacted. A second bus, registration HCK 3017, driven by Roger Baboolal of Tamana, arrived to convey the passengers. Around 6.15 pm, HCK 3017 was in the process of towing HCR4964, driven by Anthony Chandass of O’Meara Road, Arima, when both buses experienced difficulty climbing a steep incline in Valencia. Both vehicles stopped on the hill.

Maharaj disembarked and went to the rear, whereupon the tow chain snapped and the first bus rolled backwards, crushing Maharaj against the second bus. He was rushed to the Sangre Grande hospital by ambulance but was pronounced dead on arrival. Forde extended sympathy to the bereaved family and said the PTSC stood ready to assist in their time of grief. He said Maharaj was a dedicated and experienced worker and a role model to other employees.

Deputy General Manager - Marketing and Communications, Carl Ramdeo, also extended condolences and described Maharaj as one of the better mechanics who had great knowledge and experience in his field. Woman PC Felix of the Valencia Police Post is continuing investigations. RR

Lawyers: AG’s office inflated our bills

10 hours 59 min ago

A legal battle is brewing over the financial information provided to Parliament last week about payment made to attorneys by the Ministry of the Attorney General for legal and other technical/professional services between 2010 and 2014. This is as attorneys, some of whom have been paid millions by the State, signalled their intention to take legal action against the AG’s ministry over alleged discrepancies and duplication of payments listed in a document provided to Parliament outlining fees paid to them by former AG Anand Ramlogan.

They contend that the fees document, which formed part of a written response to a question raised by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, contained deliberately duplicated payments to inflate payments for certain attorneys. Permanent Secretary at the ministry, Marlene Juman, when contacted about the allegations, refused to comment. Juman, when asked if she was aware of the pre-action letters being sent, said, “I am sorry, I am not going to comment on that.”

When pressed on whether the alleged discrepancies were going to be investigated, Juman said, “I am not going to comment on anything,” and promptly ended the call. She then refused to answer subsequent calls to her cellphone. AG Garvin Nicholas, when contacted on the matter yesterday, said he was not aware of the pre-action protocol letters “if sent.” However, he said, he has asked the PS “to verify all sums supplied for the parliamentary answer.” He said that exercise commenced on Thursday and a report was expected early next week.

Nicholas added, via text message, that he would only be able to say if there were discrepancies after he had reviewed the report. On Wednesday, former AGs John Jeremie and Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj called for a criminal probe into the payment of fees under Ramlogan’s tenure. Avory Sinanan, SC, Kelvin Ramkissoon, and Gerald Ramdeen are demanding an apology from the AG’s ministry for the alleged discrepancies.

Ramdeen sends letter to PS
Ramdeen, in a March 26 letter addressed to Juman, expressed concern over the document. He outlined 12 items that were duplicated and identified as payments. The duplicated items amounted to $4,190,000 which carried his total earned from the AG to $15,541,423, a figure which he contended was inaccurate. He pointed out that he never billed the AG for $408,000 for a pre-action protocol letter for the Cheryl Miller matter.

“This is a serious error on the part of the Ministry of the Attorney General and as the accounting officer for the ministry it must be a disturbing matter that this kind of error can occur and be the subject of information being provided to the Parliament,” Ramdeen wrote. He informed Juman that the figures in the document provided by the ministry as payments allegedly made to him contained “serious and substantial inaccuracies.

“I cannot accept that the errors contained in this document are not deliberately contrived for an ulterior motive. To accept otherwise would be an afront to common sense,” Ramdeen wrote. Ramkissoon, in his letter, pointed to 13 duplications amounting to $2,716,884.32 in the record of payments issued to him. The duplication carried Ramkissoon’s alleged earnings to $9,723,399. 

Sinanan, in an interview with Sunday Guardian on the matter, said his staff was gathering his invoices and documents which would be dispatched to the PS on Tuesday with his letter of concern. He said there were incorrect figures and incorrect matters listed next to his name on the document. He also took issue with the publication of the figures. The list indicated that Sinanan earned some $10,406,925.

Fees under question
The Sunday Guardian obtained a cabinet e-mail correspondence which indicated that some $179,340,539.63 in fees paid out by Ramlogan, over the last four years, were fees he had been constrained to pay. Some $80,991,644.03 of those fees were cabinet-sanctioned fees for forensic audits and probes, $73,237,110.97 comprised inherited bills from Jeremie’s term and $25,111,785.63 were fees paid for the Director of Public Prosecutions office. 

The correspondence pointed out that the document presented in Parliament was riddled with errors, one of which was a $10 million difference in the total amount paid versus the total fees invoiced columns. The amount paid was listed as $353,734,620.38, while the total fees invoiced were listed as $343,378,699.78. Ramlogan, when contacted by Sunday Guardian about the concerns raised, declined comment. He said questions about that matter should be directed to current AG Garvin Nicholas. 

However, Ramlogan contended that the payments he made were within his budget and he did nothing untoward. 

Concerns over publication of fees
Israel Khan, SC; Russell Martineau, SC; Jagdeo Singh, and Larry Lalla, in brief interviews with the Sunday Guardian, expressed serious concerns about their fees being made public. Khan told the Sunday Guardian that he did not look through the report and he was not in a position to say if his fees were duplicated. However, he did not mince words over the publication of legal fees attributed to him.

“I am a bit angry that they left me open to having my son kidnapped, my wife, my family. People are not taking into consideration that 25 per cent of those fees are paid in income tax and 15 per cent is paid in VAT (value added tax.) I was briefed by Jeremie long before the PP (Peoples’ Partnership) came into office. It was under the PNM, I was briefed,” Khan contended. Sinanan questioned why fees were being disclosed when precedent was set by previous PNM AGs who said they would not disclose legal fees since it compromised attorneys’ safety and privacy.

Martineau said he did not review the document outlining the fees that were paid. He said since his fees were published friends have been begging him to be careful. The senior counsel defended his fees as reasonable. It is also tradition that junior attorneys are paid two-thirds of the senior counsel’s fees. “What I worked for I earned. I certainly do a lot of work; it is long hours and hard work. My fees are very modest compared to others. The Government still owes me money. Every AG could attest that I do a lot of work and gave advice that I did not charge for,” Martineau said.  

Code of conduct doesn’t stop ‘dirty political games’

11 hours 9 min ago

Despite political parties having twice signed the Code of Ethical Political Conduct, their war of words has been marked by dirty political games in the lead-up to the 2015 general election. The code, which sets out to regulate the behaviour of political parties, was signed last September and again on Wednesday but has done little to stem the venom. As the mudslinging reached a new level, one MP is forced to defend himself in the face of accusations that, if proven, could lead to criminal charges. While another is promising to resign if allegations against him are found to be true.

Independent Liberal Party leader Jack Warner found himself on the defensive after a video recording was produced by the People’s National Movement in which Roselyn Alleyne, mother of Dr Keith Rowley’s son Garth Alleyne, stated that she was offered money to say Rowley raped her years ago. In the video, though certain names were edited out,  Warner could hear what sounded like his name being called as the alleged financier willing to pay Alleyne for her testimony against Rowley. Warner immediately distanced himself from the allegation.

Warner: It wasn’t me

 Warner said he did not make any financial offer to Alleyne. Warner could hear what sounded like his name being featured in the video recording of Alleyne refuting allegations that she was raped by Rowley some 46 years ago. The video was released by the PNM Women’s League to defend Rowley against allegations made by Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, during a motion of censure debate brought against Rowley last Wednesday. 

Though Alleyne-Toppin has since offered a qualified apology, the PNM continues to call for her resignation. In the video recording, Alleyne (Roselyn) claimed a “very close relative” and Alleyne-Toppin visited her family offering money for her to sign an affidavit in which it was claimed that she was attacked by Rowley and it resulted in the birth of his son. There was an attempt to edit out Warner’s name, but Alleyne (Roselyn) could be heard saying that she was told (what sounded like) Warner had money and was willing to pay.

This, Warner said, is “outrageous” and “dirty games” being played in the political arena. “Imagine this recording was in August 2014. I had already left that Government and not only had my own party but had already won the Chaguanas West seat with my own party. Why in God’s name would they be using my name?” Warner said. Warner said he also had an idea of who was the real “money man” behind the offer.

“Like Garth Alleyne said, this tells you a lot about the character of the people using my name in this,” Warner said. The Sunday Guardian understands that the people named in the seven-minute recording could face charges of criminal libel. One PNM insider confirmed that the party was “not letting this end here” and while they did not want to distract the country from the important national issues, the party was not prepared to let matters be swept under the rug.

Moonilal: Rowley’s accusations scandalous, irresponsible

Meanwhile, another MP facing allegations on the campaign platform, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, is seeking to eradicate all speculation that he is linked to the construction and ownership of a mall in the Netherlands. In a text interview with the Sunday Guardian on Thursday, Moonilal was so confident of having no connection to the mall that he promised to “resign from all public offices” if Rowley could prove a link.

Moonilal has come under fire after it was alleged that he constructed and owned a mall in the Netherlands. “I am willing to resign from all public offices if Rowley can find five per cent truth in such scandalous and irresponsible accusations,” Moonilal said. He said the long-running rumour was started by Independent Liberal Party chairman Jack Warner and he challenged both Warner and the PNM to make the accusations in public. “They take basket from Jack and can never say that in public,” Moonilal said.

“This proves my case that Rowley is unfit for high office by making such allegations without not even fabricated evidence. How can we trust a man who accuses people without even the lies to back it up?” he said. Moonilal also said he could not possibly afford a mall since he was trying to purchase an executive townhouse in Woodbrook and could not afford that. 

Analyst: It could get better if they adhere to Code of conduct

One political analyst, Bishnu Ragoonath, said yesterday the political landscape could improve if the politicians adhered to the Code of Ethical Conduct. After the sequence of events following Alleyne-Toppin’s debate contribution last Wednesday, including her qualified apology and the video recording of Rowley’s son and the son’s mother, Ragoonath said things might become more “restrained.” 

“If they adhere to the Code of Ethics they have to restrain themselves and their party members,” Ragoonath said. Ragoonath said in his opinion, Alleyne-Toppin’s apology was “insufficient” considering the allegations she made against Rowley. “But whether genuine or not an apology came in a short time after the statement,” he said. Ragoonath does not think this latest political battle would have an impact on the general election, but only because the actual election is some months away. “I’m sure other issues are coming and in the final weeks this may be forgotten,” he said.

Bail reduced for ‘ropeman’

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:43

Gardener Sunil Ramcharan, the man who allegedly tied a woman with a rope and walked her along a garden road in Gasparillo, has been charged.

Thirty-seven-year-old Ramcharan appeared in the San Fernando Magistrates Court on Thursday, where he pleaded not guilty to assaulting Zaheeda Mohammed by tying her with a rope.

He was granted $15,000 bail with surety or a cash bail alternative of $8,000.

The charge arose out of the incident three weeks ago which was captured on video and posted on Facebook showing a man walking Mohammed, who was tied to a rope along a road.

Ramcharan, of Rahaman Drive, Bonne Aventure Road, Gasparillo was arrested and charged by WPC Bassarath on Tuesday. 

When he appeared before Sixth Court Magistrate Natalie Diop the charge, which alleged that he assaulted Mohammed by tying her with a piece of rope on March 7 at Massy Lands, Gasparillo, was read to him.

In asking for bail, Ramcharan’s attorney Shaun Teekasingh told the magistrate that when Ramcharan heard the police were looking for him he went to the police station and assisted them with their inquires.

And when he found out on Tuesday that a warrant had been issued for his arrest he gave himself up at the Gasparillo Police Station. 

He said the justice of the peace who signed the warrant had endorsed bail in the sum of $15,000 with clerk of the peace approval. 

However, Teekasingh asked the magistrate to grant his client who was still in police custody a cash alternative of $5,000.

Prosecutor Sgt Gordon Maharaj objected to bail, saying that the police were yet to conduct a trace to determine if he had previous convictions or pending matters. Teekasingh, who was appeared in the matter with attorney Lester Charriah, said his client was a first time offender. The courtroom was packed with Ramcharan’s relatives. Mohammed was not in court.

The matter was adjourned to April 8.

Pastor: Learn from tragedy

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:42

Two of the four men killed last weekend in Felicity were given a Carnival-like send-off with tassa and music trucks blaring, during a street procession to the Felicity cemetery where they were laid to rest on Thursday.

The procession from Cacandee Road was led by a tassa group and accompanied by two music trucks which played songs such as I’ll be Missing You by Faith Evans/Puff Daddy and Fallen Soldiers by DeMarco.

Cousins Suresh Rishi Nanan, 34, and Luke Walters, 23, were killed along with Ajay Gosein, 23, and Premnath “Scientist” John, when John lost control of his Nissan Cube and crashed into a concrete wall at Cacandee Road shortly before midnight on Saturday.

Several mourners were seen drinking alcohol and dancing in celebration of the cousins’ lives as they made their way to the cemetery.

During Nanan’s service at his Cacandee Road home, Pastor Aziz Abidh called on the Felicity community to learn from the tragic accident which claimed the lives of four young people so that their deaths would not be in vain.

Abidh said: “Something sad has happened. The whole village is in mourning. If you all don’t learn something from this then it’s a very sad day for all of us.”

Recounting how he changed his life at the age of 15, Abidh appealed to young people to take stock of their lives and take advantage of the free education and vocational opportunities available to them.

“Rishi has gone. No one can do anything to change what happen. But, learn from it, don’t repeat the same thing.”

Following the services, the hearse bearing Walters’ body pulled up in front of Nanan’s home and mourners from both funerals then followed the two hearses on foot to the cemetery. 

The funeral services of the other two crash victims were held on Wednesday.

Young Rowley won’t disappear

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:39

“They can come with whatever they want—but young Rowley will not disappear.”

With that response yesterday, People’s Partnership House leader Dr Roodal Moonilal said he was the one who sanctioned the statement on Opposition People’s National Movement leader Dr Keith Rowley made by Tobago East MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin during debate of the no-confidence motion against Rowley. 

The PNM walked out of the Parliament during the motion, saying it was “foolishness,” but Moonilal warned that the walkout could have dire consequences for the party.

“So they should put their tails between their legs and return to the Parliament on April 8 (when debate continues), since I’ll have more to say on Dr Rowley and the David West matter concerning new information just come to light. They should return, confess their sins and defend themselves for the parliamentary record,” he said.

Alleyne-Toppin’s statements seeking to probe Rowley’s character and what may have shaped it—in which she related an incident of a young girl being raped and alleges the offspring now aspires to lofty office—have ignited controversy. 

The PNM subsequently confirmed Rowley had a son Garth, now 45, prior to his marriage. Yesterday, the party showed a video to the media in which Garth and his mother Roselyn Alleyne alleged Roselyn was offered a bribe last year to say she was raped when she was younger.

On Thursday, Communication Minister Vasant Bharath said Alleyne-Toppin’s statements might have been discussed by government members prior to delivery. Works Minister Suruj Rambachan said he was not among those present at the discussion. 

Yesterday, however, Moonilal said he as PP House leader had allowed her to proceed with the matters she’d planned to raise. He also said the Prime Minister was not part of the discussion on Alleyne-Toppin’s planned speech.

“I’m very proud of her (Alleyne-Toppin), she has risen in my estimation,” he added.

Moonilal said her speech content was well within the confines of the motion, which was a substantive one on Rowley’s conduct. In this sort of motion on someone’s conduct, he added, the House Speaker could not have pulled Alleyne-Toppin up, since she was speaking on the conduct of the person who was the subject of the substantive motion. 

Earlier in the session, House Speaker Wade Mark, responding to PNM complaints about PP statements in the debate, said that for this debate all “gloves seemed to be off.”

“Her contribution was appropriately couched in the context of a motion of this type; had she spoken of this at any time she would not have been allowed to continue,” Moonilal said.

Saying he felt her statements were applicable for the substantive motion, Moonilal added, “When we had that discussion prior to her delivery, I had no idea then that Dr Rowley would have left the parliament chamber not long after I piloted the motion.

“I had expected that after she spoke, Dr Rowley would have gotten up and refuted her statements and I had told Mrs Alleyne-Toppin that she had to be prepared for that. We assumed he’d have been present to speak about her statements.”

Pertinent questions

Asked his view on the controversial content and the possible backlash it could have on the Persad-Bissessar Government, he said, “The critics should read her speech or return to the audio/visual presentation. All she was saying was explaining a particular type of conduct which former Prime Minister Patrick Manning and PNM MP Colm Imbert had alerted us to in previous years and saying that behaviour could be the result of the situation she outlined.

“What we’re seeing is a response from some quarters without proper reading of her contribution and listening to it in full. Dr Rowley and Johnny Seukeran (Faris Al-Rawi) are only seeking to distract attention from the issue of character and conduct, which were the subject of the motion.”

He added, “She never cast aspersions, or insulted, denigrated or humiliated anyone. Dr Rowley is not a victim in this. Had it not been for her presentation we would never have known he had a 45-year-old son. Why did he hide that fact for his 25 years in public life?”

 

Chief magistrate bows out in Lerbz matter

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:38

Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar yesterday agreed to step aside from hearing the preliminary inquiry against former LifeSport co-ordinator Rajaee Ali and five others after both the State and defence requested that she do so. 

Ali, his brother Ishmael Ali, Keshon Dempster, Brandon Borneo, Brent LaCroix and Donna Dyer are all accused of conspiring to murder radio DJ Kevaughn “Lerbz” Savory on November 27 last year in Port of Spain. 

Rajaee Ali alone is charged with being a gang leader, while the others are accused of being members of a gang and possession of arms and ammunition. 

On January 18, Ali’s attorney Criston Williams submitted to Deputy Chief Magistrate Mark Wellington that Ayers-Caesar ought to recuse herself on the basis of apparent bias. Williams then argued that the Chief Magistrate was being guarded by officers attached to the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit (CGIU), the same unit that arrested his clients. 

Yesterday was the State’s opportunity to respond to the request by Williams. Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions George Busby told the Chief Magistrate that he was not in favour of the submissions of Williams, given that Williams lacked any evidence to support his claim. He added that he did not want to be hampered in any way from calling witnesses in the matter and since some of the security detail may be used as witnesses, he thought it prudent that Ayers-Caesar step aside.

“There are peculiar facts to this case...he (Williams) can’t know who are my witnesses. Bottom line is I agree that you should seriously consider recusing yourself,” Busby submitted.

Following the submission, the Chief Magistrate took a few moments and scrolled through her calender before saying she had no choice but to recuse herself given that both sides for different reasons wanted her to do so. 

She also requested at least two weeks to source a new magistrate to hear the evidence before adjourning the matter to April 28. Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar yesterday agreed to step aside from hearing the preliminary inquiry against former LifeSport co-ordinator Rajaee Ali and five others after both the State and defence requested that she do so. 

Ali, his brother Ishmael Ali, Keshon Dempster, Brandon Borneo, Brent LaCroix and Donna Dyer are all accused of conspiring to murder radio DJ Kevaughn “Lerbz” Savory on November 27 last year in Port of Spain. 

Rajaee Ali alone is charged with being a gang leader, while the others are accused of being members of a gang and possession of arms and ammunition. 

On January 18, Ali’s attorney Criston Williams submitted to Deputy Chief Magistrate Mark Wellington that Ayers-Caesar ought to recuse herself on the basis of apparent bias. Williams then argued that the Chief Magistrate was being guarded by officers attached to the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit (CGIU), the same unit that arrested his clients. 

Yesterday was the State’s opportunity to respond to the request by Williams. Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions George Busby told the Chief Magistrate that he was not in favour of the submissions of Williams, given that Williams lacked any evidence to support his claim. He added that he did not want to be hampered in any way from calling witnesses in the matter and since some of the security detail may be used as witnesses, he thought it prudent that Ayers-Caesar step aside.

“There are peculiar facts to this case...he (Williams) can’t know who are my witnesses. Bottom line is I agree that you should seriously consider recusing yourself,” Busby submitted.

Following the submission, the Chief Magistrate took a few moments and scrolled through her calender before saying she had no choice but to recuse herself given that both sides for different reasons wanted her to do so. 

She also requested at least two weeks to source a new magistrate to hear the evidence before adjourning the matter to April 28. 

Vernella went too far—Prakash

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:36

Congress of the People political leader Prakash Ramadhar and San Fernando West MP Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan were both critical of Minister in the Ministry of People and Social Development Vernella Alleyne-Toppin recent parliamentary statements.

In Parliament on Wednesday, during a Government motion of no confidence in the Opposition Leader, the Tobago East MP claimed Rowley was the product of a rape and that Rowley knew of a young girl who was raped and bore a child out of that attack.

Speaking at the COP’s fourth public meeting at ASJA Boy’s College, San Fernando, on Thursday night, Ramadhar said while Alleyne-Toppin’s comments were most unfortunate, they must be investigated.

“I felt it most unfortunate that Ms Toppin, our member for Tobago, as well meaning as she may have been, would have gone a little to0 far in what she would have said.

But to have avoided it altogether what she has said is a dangerous thing because no matter how a message is delivered we must see if there is an essence of truth in it.”

He also lashed out at PNM’s supporters who are criticising Alleyne-Toppin, but have not chastised their leader for his comments “demonising and attacking women.”

Interviewed afterwards about Alleyne-Toppin’s statements, Ramadhar said he thought it unnecessary for her to speak about the possible conception of Rowley. 

Former chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said Alleyne-Toppin did the right thing by apologising.

“I think it is important that we must appreciate and understand there are victims of rape and so on and the implications of her statement is not one that is nation building and not one that is really helpful of members of the community who may be in a similar situation,” Seepersad-Bachan said. 

“So I do not agree with her statement like many others who have said so. I think she went too far and I agree with her apologising and we will take it from there.”

$18 million ruling for Nunez-Tesheira

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:34

A private medical institution and a specialist doctor have been ordered to pay over $18 million in compensation to former finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira for their alleged negligence leading to her husband’s death after a prostate operation in 2004.

Nunez-Tesheira yesterday won quite possibly the highest ever payout in a medical negligence case in T&T’s history at the conclusion of an over decade-long legal battle with Gulf View Medical Centre and anaesthesiologist Dr Crisen Roopchand. 

Although she scored the major legal victory after overcoming numerous hurdles, including the dismissal of the lawsuit at a preliminary stage, Nunez-Tesheira will have to wait some time before she can claim the significant sum, as both the institution and doctor have indicated their intention to appeal.

An emotional Nunez-Tesheira repeatedly broke down in tears, and had to be comforted by her two children, as High Court Judge Vasheist Kokaram read excerpts of his 91-page judgment in a small courtroom at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain.  

Speaking afterwards, Nunez-Tesheira, currently a university lecturer, said her family was happy and relieved to finally get closure in the death of her husband, former Clico insurance executive Russell Tesheira. 

“There is just a sense of relief that this has come to an end. Although there is a possibility of an appeal, it is a happy day and I am going to enjoy it,” Nunez-Tesheira said.

In his analysis of the case, Kokaram identified Gulf View and Roopchand’s lawyers’ decision not to adduce their own evidence as a significant reason why their defence failed. He said as a result of the tactical manoeuvre, he was only able to assess the evidence of Nunez-Tesheira’s witnesses in determining the case, as lawyers for Gulf View and Roopchand were unable to discredit them. 

“Despite the rigorous cross-examination, their scientific knowledge was not questioned and they have sufficiently set out a reasonable body of medical opinion which suggests on a balance of probability that there was negligence on the part of both Gulf View and Dr Roopchand in the pre-operative and post-operative care of Mr Tesheira,” Kokaram said. 

As he left the court, an infuriated Roopchand criticised the judgment, as he suggested Kokaram over-stated the effect of the legal decision taken by Gulf View’s renowned British medical negligence lawyer Mary O’Rourke, QC, who opted to make a no-case submission at the end of a week-long trial in December last year. 

“Granted we chose to not say anything on the advice of our foreign attorneys, but this judge should seriously take a second look at this case,” Roopchand said in a brief interview before he was led away by his team of local lawyers.

As he spoke generally of the role of negligence lawsuits in ensuring proper medical care for patients, Kokaram acknowledged that doctors were expected to perform “superhuman procedures and miracles” even in risky situations. 

“Doctors faced with emergencies ordinarily will try their best to redeem the patient. However, they must, where it is within their power to do so, make reasonable attempts to prevent such emergencies from occurring in the first place,” Kokaram said, as he suggested his judgment should not serve as a mental impediment to doctors when called upon to make “life and death decisions” in the future.

Kokaram also criticised the defendants’ apparent lack of regret as shown by the allegedly “cold and unhelpful responses” Nunez-Tesheira received shortly after her husband’s death. 

Nunez-Tesheira was represented by Douglas Mendes, SC, Simon de la Bastide and Marcelle Ferdinand. Gulf View’s legal team included Anand Beharrylal and Winston Seenath, while Roger Kawalsingh and Ravi Mungalsingh appeared for Roopchand. 

About the Case

Insurance executive Russell Tesheira died at age 54 after undergoing an operation for transurethral resectioning of the prostate at the Gulf View Medical Centre on April 13, 2004. 

During the procedure an instrument is inserted into the patient’s urethra to remove the section of the prostate that is blocking urine flow. Two hours after the procedure, Tesheira was found to be bleeding excessively, prompting doctors to perform a secondary operation and emergency blood transfusion. Tesheira died on the operating table. 

Six years later his widow, Karen Nunez-Tesheira, filed the lawsuit claiming her husband died because the hospital and the two doctors who did the procedure—anaesthesiologist Dr Crisen Jendra Roopchand and urologist Dr Lester Goetz—were negligent. 

In 2011, Justice Vasheist Kokaram dismissed the lawsuit at a preliminary stage after Nunez-Tesheira failed to meet two successive deadlines he set for filing her evidence against the three parties. 

While appealing the decision, Nunez-Tesheira came to an agreement with Goetz which saw him being removed from the lawsuit. Nunez-Tesheira eventually won in the Court of Appeal and the lawsuit was reinstated. 

In assessing compensation for Tesheira’s family, Kokaram considered the salary and benefits he would have accrued if he had continued to work at Clico, where his last bonus before his death was almost $4 million. 

The effect of government’s bailout of the cash-strapped insurance giant in 2009 did not have much bearing on the assessment, as Kokaram said he would have attained retirement age by then. 

 

Vernella: I never called any names

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:32

There is no question of removing Minister in the Ministry of Social Development Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, says People’s Partnership House Leader Roodal Moonilal.

“... Because T&T owes her a debt of gratitude, since until she spoke about it, T&T didn’t know for 45 years that the Opposition PNM leader had a son prior to marriage. The space on the birth certificate for ‘Father’ is blank, so the PNM cannot say that it was common knowledge that he had a son,” he said yesterday, moments after the PNM Women’s League aired a video in which Roselyn Alleyne denied claims that Garth Alleyne, Rowley’s son, was the product of rape.

Moonilal said yesterday he had a copy of the birth certificate.

“The issue is, as a youth he had sexual intercourse with this young lady of tender age and I wonder if this was approved of, since as we see on the birth certificate the space for ‘Father’ of the child is blank—dot, dot, dot, a denial.”

“We’ve not said Dr Rowley has committed violent rape. If the young lady was under age it might have been statutory rape, but she might have been a consenting adult. But we have no issue with the lady (Roselyn Alleyne), she’s not the issue in this. The issue is the man aspiring to Prime Minister of T&T was having sex with this young person and denying it until Mrs Alleyne-Toppin alluded to situations,” he said.

Yesterday, Alleyne-Toppin, who referred her detractors to the full contribution she made in the no-confidence motion against Rowley in the Parliament on Wednesday, remained non-responsive to calls from various quarters for her to resign.

She has also denied and taken issue with a number of points in an article quoting Roselyn Alleyne as saying the allegations were “all lies” and that she didn’t know Alleyne-Toppin.

Alleyne-Toppin said she never once mentioned the name of Roselyn Alleyne or any Roselyn in her presentation and an examination of the Hansard records would show this. She said she also never said that one Garth Alleyne is the son of  Rowley. “These were the words of Ria Taitt and the Trinidad Express,” she added.

Alleyne-Toppin said she had no knowledge of events which Roselyn Alleyne claimed happened in 2013 when she returned to Tobago for a funeral and claimed “someone came around, asking members of her family if she (Alleyne-Toppin) and they were close” and “they were trying to persuade other family members to get me to sign false documents.” 

Check Hansard

The MP said text messages which Roselyn Alleyne reportedly said she received about her parliamentary contribution “... do not reflect what was said in Parliament and this is borne out by the Hansard record. Therefore, Roselyn Alleyne has based her response seen in the Trinidad Express article written by Ria Tait on something that was never uttered.”

Alleyne-Toppin said she had never claimed or mentioned the name of “Roselyn Alleyne” and could not be referring to her, noting that Roselyn Alleyne herself said she was never a pupil of Roxborough Secondary School. She said she never claimed or mentioned that Rowley had taught Roselyn Alleyne since she never mentioned the name of Roselyn Alleyne. 

“The Hansard record will bear this out,” she repeated.

“The Hansard will bear out that the MP related a story that was told to her. MP Alleyne-Toppin never mentioned the name of the perpetrator nor victim.”

Commenting on Roselyn Alleyne’s claim of “fabricating stories,” Alleyne-Toppin said she was of the firm belief that “the author of the article, Ria Taitt and by extension, the Trinidad Express, did not exercise due diligence regarding facts surrounding the issue.

 

Policyholders won’t lose out

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:30

Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran has announced a five-point plan to settle outstanding debts owed by the Colonial Life Insurance Company (Clico) to the T&T Government and its policyholders.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Rambarran said the resolution plan “will bring closure to this deep financial wound inflicted on thousands of Clico policyholders and Central Bank is doing all in its power and more to ensure that such a financial trauma will never again be inflicted on you.”

He said the company is now in a position to make its first payment of just over $7 billion to the Government. This amounts to more than 40 per cent of Clico’s debt to Government, he said.

The development comes almost six years after the collapse of the insurance empire in 2009, which prompted the Government to embark on a rescue plan involving billions of dollars.

Rambarran said the Government, which is Clico’s biggest creditor, received $4 billion in cash yesterday, with settlement of the remaining $3 billion in lieu of cash through the transfer of three Clico assets—Angostura Holdings Limited, CL World Brands Limited and Home Construction Limited.

In addition, Clico’s 1,500 (short term institutional products) STIP policyholders will receive 85 per cent of their claims, totalling $950 million, in three months, with the remaining balance after the sale of Methanol Holdings International Limited (MHTL).

“These two payments are being made according to the terms of the Clico Resolution Plan developed by Central Bank and finalised last week Monday after consultation with the Minister of Finance and the Economy, as required under Section 44F of the Central Bank Act. 

“Central Bank’s Clico Resolution Plan was developed to repay all creditors and policyholders and to ultimately facilitate the transfer of Clico’s traditional insurance portfolio to a suitable buyer by ensuring that enough appropriate assets are put aside,” Rambarran said.

He said Clico’s December 2014 management accounts show that there are now sufficient assets to pay the company’s liabilities in its statutory fund. This is mainly due to the sale of its shareholding in MHTL last October, which added just over $7 billion in cash to the statutory fund.

Govt gets $4B Tranche

Rambarran said in the first phase of the payment plan, Government has been paid $4 billion in cash. STIP policyholders who did not take up Government’s offer to be paid through bonds and shares in the Clico Investment Fund, will be paid S950 million of the just over $1 billion owed to them.

“Government and these 1500 policyholders will receive first priority for payment as their policy obligations are accorded legal protection through assets held in Clico’s Statutory Fund. Of course, Clico’s 100,000 odd traditional policyholders have equal protection through the Statutory Fund and our process has ensured that sufficient assets are available to meet their obligations,” he said.

The second phase will cover the remaining 15 per cent of claims from Government and the balance of non-assenting STIP policyholders, and will be funded from the proceeds of the sale of Clico’s 57 per cent shareholding in (MHTL) for an estimated $2 billion.

The third phase will cover the company’s liabilities to non-government mutual fund holders and non-residential STIP policyholders. 

Rambarran said Clico’s obligations to the group that did not accept the Government’s voluntary offer would amount to about $410 million. This payout will be funded by the sale of Clico’s seven per cent shareholding in Republic Bank Limited and the sale of other assets. 

The Central Bank Governor assured that Clico’s 18,000 assenting policyholders “will not be made worse off” for accepting Government’s offer and Finance and the Economy Minister Larry Howai will announce arrangements for that group shortly.”

He said in the case of British American Insurance Company Trinidad Limited (BAT), there is a broadly similar payment plan but financial constraints within the company mean that some assistance is required. 

“As a result, Government will provide funding assistance to BAT to meet statutory fund and other creditor liabilities and to provide the necessary assets to enable the potential transfer of BAT’s traditional insurance portfolio to a suitable buyer,” Rambarran said.

Move pleases Permell

Chairman of the Clico Policyholders Group Peter Permell has described the plan to settle outstanding debts owed by Clico as a vindication of the policyholders.

“The fact that the Central Bank can now pay out $7 billion means Clico had real assets which have now appreciated in value,” he told the T&T Guardian after yesterday’s announced payback plan.

“Policyholders can now hold their heads high. They were stigmatised and they did nothing wrong.”

Permell said he welcomed the announcement made yesterday by Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran, which followed years of advocacy by the policyholders and their representatives.

“This means that the company is now solvent—their assets are now more than their liabilities,” he said.

Permell noted that the sale of Methanol Holdings Trinidad Ltd (MHTL) had been “a game changer” in their fight with the company.

“This is not taxpayers’ money, this is what the policyholders invested in Clico. The Central Bank has not monetised a lot of those assets,” he said.

Permell said he is now awaiting a statement by Finance Minister Larry Howai on the matter.

Company’s history

In January 2009, the CL Financial Group experienced a liquidity crisis that resulted in a “bail out” agreement by which the T&T Government loaned the company $7.3 billion to maintain its ability to operate, and obtained a majority of seats on the company's board of directors

At the time, CL Financial controlled more than $100 billion in assets in at least 28 companies across the region and the world and its financial interests covered several industry sectors, including banking and financial services, energy, real estate and manufacturing and distribution. The largest financial institutions in the group managed assets of over $38 billion, which was more then 25 per cent of T&T’s GDP. 

In addition to Clico, the group’s holdings included the British American Insurance Company Limited, one of the main insurance companies in the Eastern Caribbean. 

The collapse triggered the intervention of Government through the Central Bank, which signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreeing to take steps to correct the financial condition of Clico, and protect the interest of its depositors, policyholders and creditors. Then Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams assured depositors and policyholders their money would be safe.

According to the MOU, which was signed by then Minister of Finance Karen Nunez-Tesheira and Lawrence Duprey, in return for government protection of the interest of depositors, policyholders and creditors, CL Financial agreed to sell its Republic Bank, Methanol Holdings Trinidad Limited (MHTL) and CMMB shareholdings, and any other assets as required.

Founded as an insurance company, Colonial Life Insurance Company (Clico), by Cyril Duprey, it was expanded into a diversified company by his nephew Lawrence Duprey. CL Financial then became one of the largest local conglomerates in the region, encompassing over 65 companies in 32 countries worldwide.

Kamla sorry, but not going to sanction Vernella

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:26

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night added hers to the growing list of voices condemning parts of the statement by Tobago MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin during the vote of no confidence against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on Wednesday.

However, saying she had accepted Alleyne-Toppin’s apology on the matter, Persad-Bissessar said no action would be taken against her, despite the continuing calls for her removal.

Alleyne-Toppin incensed certain segments of society when she announced during her contribution that Rowley was a product of a rape and that he too allegedly fathered a child by the same means. Saying this was the reason for his aggressive nature, she questioned whether he was worthy of holding the office of prime minister.

The statement brought condemnation from several segments of society, including victims of rape, and even prompted the start of an online petition calling for her removal. 

Those calls increased yesterday after Roselyn Alleyne, the mother of Rowley’s son, Garth, denied the allegations and said she had been offered $25,000 by a UNC supporter to claim she was raped by Rowley when she was younger.

Speaking following an event honouring Hazel Brown at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, last night, the PM agreed that certain parts of Alleyne-Toppin’s statement were indeed offensive.

“I would like to add my voice to the voices of concern and condemnation for parts of the statement by the Hounourable Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin. I have expressed this to her directly, the minister has apologised and I have accepted her apology,” the PM said.

Asked if Alleyne-Toppin would face any sanction, given that Alleyne has denied the allegation, the PM again said while she had an issue with some of the statement, she had accepted Alleyne-Toppin’s apology.

Asked if the motion against Rowley had backfired, she said, “No, it did not backfire because we have the adjourned date to continue the motion.”

She added that when Alleyne-Toppin made the statement she was not in the chamber.

Told about Alleyne’s claim of being offered a bribe by a UNC activist to sign an affidavit claiming she had been raped by Rowley, the PM said, “I don’t know of which you speak.”

She said while the issue may have been raised on news casts last night, she was unable to see it because she was intransit to the venue at the time.

‘No truth to rape talk’

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:25

Roselyn Alleyne, the mother of People’s National Movement leader Dr Keith Rowley’s son, Garth, is claiming that an unnamed operative, in cahoots with Minister of the People Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, attempted to get her to confess that she was raped by Rowley 46 years ago. 

In a seven-minute video recording released yesterday, Roselyn Alleyne said family members living in Tobago were offered $25,000 to get her to sign an affidavit to this effect. 

The video, released during a press conference hosted by the women’s arm of the PNM at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, did not show who was conducting the interview and was edited to bleep out the name of the person who was allegedly willing to make the payments for the sworn affidavit.

“I am Garth’s mother. All the allegations that Vernella Alleyne-Toppin and (beep) are making right now are false,” Alleyne said in the video, which was shot last year. She said she would not be signing any affidavit since she was never raped by Rowley.

“I would not be signing anything because it’s not true. I was never been raped (sic), I was never been forced (sic) into anything, so everything that they have said is false,” she said. 

While laughing at first at the thought she could not recall her date of birth, Alleyne said she was born in 1952 and said she was “just shy” of 18 when she became pregnant with Rowley's child. Garth was born in 1970, she said.

The video was shown to PNM supporters and the media during the conference and the statement by the Alleynes. Their joint defence of Rowley triggered a loud round of applause and a call for an immediate election and the resignation of Tobago MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, who put the possibility that Garth’s birth was due to rape into the public domain during her contribution to the motion of no confidence against Rowley in Parliament on Wednesday.

Senator Camille Robinson-Regis, who hosted the media conference, confirmed that she did not see the affidavit, but in the recording Alleyne (Roselyn) said it just required her to ‘say yes’ and confirm that she was assaulted by Rowley decades ago.

“They are saying they have an affidavit to sign, just to say yes so they can put him in jail and they are offering money,” she said. 

She identified a “very close blood relative” and Alleyne-Toppin as the persons representing another person (whose name was edited out) who “had money” and was willing to pay for the signed affidavit. 

“So they could proceed to put Rowley in jail and I would be a happy woman with millions,” she said.

$500,000 daylight robbery at Tobago casino

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 18:38
$500,000 in cash and cheques were robbed from the Silver Dollar Casino in Shirvan Plaza, Tobago this morning.
  Casino general manager Biswajit Bakshi said he received a call around 11 am from his assistant, who informed him that there had been a robbery.   According to police, Bakshi said a masked male bandit, armed with a gun, escaped with five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) in cash and cheques in an awaiting vehicle.

The Guardian understands that assistant manager was held  at gunpoint and was ordered to open the establishment's safe. 

  A police source said that the incident was caught on internal and external CCTV cameras and an arrest is imminent, since the man is known to them.
  Old Grange Police are continuing investigations.

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