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President of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (T&TCB), Azim Bassarath, says that the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is reaping the fruits of the hard work which has been accomplished over the recent past by the local administrators. He said while this is being done, the nursery which has bought forth the talent is being undernourished.
At the TTCB’s third quarterly meeting on Wednesday, Bassarath said the Red Steel team was justly rewarded for an impressive run in the competition, under the outstanding captaincy of Dwayne Bravo. He extended congratulations to the franchise for winning competition. The home team beat last year’s champions Barbados Tridents by 20 runs in front of a packed Queen’s Park Oval crowd on Sunday.
Bassarath said the CPL organisers completed a successful season as evidenced by the large crowds which the matches attracted across the Caribbean and especially at the Oval, which staged several matches including the marquee semi-finals and final. He acknowledged statements by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who attended the final and pledged continued support for the tournament next year.
The CPL, owned by Barbados-based merchant bank Verus International and with its main sponsors Irish telecommunication provider Digicel, and Hero Honda, headquartered in India, received over US$4 million (approx TT $26m) to stage the matches in T&T under the initiative by the ministries of Tourism; Sport; and Trade, Industry, Investment and Communication.
Bassarath called for assistance to local clubs and the communities which form the basis of the infrastructure which has cultivated and nourished the cadre of cricketers who have established themselves among the best in the world in the shortest form of the game. He made special reference to a recent budget proposal for the 2015-2016 local cricket season which has been approved by the TTCB executive and submitted to the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company of T&T.
The comprehensive programme which involves development in all aspects of the game from the primary school level to the senior national team, and includes the women’s federation and Tobago, is estimated to cost $31 million.
“The cricket board needs these resources to maintain their ascendancy in identifying and nurturing the talent that abounds in the country which allows for the T&T cricket brand to command the international limelight and provide these abundant opportunities for our cricketers,” said Bassarath. He said that the provision of the funds will guarantee the continuation of the successful programmes executed by the cricket organisation over the past years which culminated in last Sunday’s triumph.
Bassarath said $9 million of the $31 million requested will go directly back to the board’s 192 cricket clubs and their respective communities, for support, training and incentives to raise overall standards and improve their level of play. The cricket chief also outlined plans for the continued upgrade of the NCC assets in Balmain, completely owned by the TTCB, for which $3 million is being budgeted to rehabilitate the outfield; and $2 million for a modern digital scoreboard.
Bassarath said he has no objection to government’s US million dollar incentive to the CPL in their sports tourism thrust, but called for unqualified equity in the allocation of state funds. He said while the CPL demands are being addressed, the request of the national sports organisation which religiously execute their mandate despite the overwhelming challenges, has to be entertained in the context of national development and youth empowerment.
“If there are no cricketers, who we develop and cultivate day in and day out, there will be no finished product to sell to the CPL, so it’s just common sense to maintain the factory which churns out the world class players before they are packaged and marketed to the highest bidders,” said Bassarath.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night said she does not smoke marijuana.
She made the comment in response to a final question by panellist Isha Wells during the leadership exchange hosted by state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) at its Maraval Road, Port-of-Spain studios.
The issue was raised by former national security minister Jack Warner, after he claimed the substance had been found on the Phillipine, San Fernando property of the PM in 2013. The claim was subsequently corroborated by the police and the matter in still being investigated.
But as the debate was wrapping up last night Wells, in her final question asked the PM the direct question “PM do you smoke marijuana.”
“The answer is no, definitely no,” Persad-Bissessar responded.
Earlier, Persad-Bissessar said her lawyers were taking note of the allegations of corruption and otherwise being made against her by Warner and promised an avalanche of legal action following the general elections.
She said all were free to make statements as they wish now during the election campaign because they were seeking to make her Government look bad. But she said she would not be “distracted by those scandalous and totally false allegations being made by the gentleman (Jack Warner).”
“Right now, I was elected to run a country, I am still doing that and I have the mandate from the people to so do until September 7,” she said.
In response to another question on the issue of corruption, the PM said, “I would not say there is corruption in the Government but there is corruption in the systems of Government in T&T.”
Persad-Bissessar said her five-year-old PP Government had attempted to deal with this in several ways. She said one of the major changes was the passage of new procurement legislation, adding many of the allegations of corruption related to issues of procurement.
She said she was committed to either a partial of full proclamation of the new law as soon as possible.
Former Government minister and radio-talk show host Dr Morgan Job, political analyst Derek Ramsamooj were the other panellists on the programme.
Job asked the PM what plans she has to deal with the issue of corruption. She said it would be addressed through education and training.
“If you do not have that you will have corrupt officials then who seek to gain more than they need,” she said, adding legislative measures are also to be used to address the issue of corruption.
Last night’s debate was arranged after the T&T Debates’ Commission could not schedule one of its two national leadership debates in July, as was desired by the PM.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley declined a CNMG invitation to participate in last night’s event, saying he had given a commitment to the debates proposed by the TTDC.
Citizens were also allowed to submit their questions prior to the commencement of the two-hour event.
Moments before being shot dead with his own gun on Wednesday night, prison officer Robert Seecharan was seen beating, kicking and dragging three females outside a convenience store along the Penal Rock Road.
Police believe one of them grabbed Seecharan’s licensed .9 mm pistol and killed him in self-defence. The three, including Seecharan’s wife Sherry-Ann and a 16-year-old girl, were in police custody up to late last evening.
Seecharan, 37, of Rochard Douglas Road, Barrackpore, joined the T&T Prison Service ten years ago.
Officers said they were hoping video footage obtained from a nearby business would bring clarity to the incident as residents who witnessed the shooting have not come forward.
According to reports Seecharan was shot dead around 6.35 pm on Wednesday during a fight with his wife, Sherry-Ann, two stepdaughters, ages 16 and 17, and 12-year-old stepson.
They were returning from an outing at Quinam Beach and relatives said the couple were arguing for most of the trip. Eyewitnesses said Seecharan stopped at L&L Convenience Store at Rock Road where he began beating Sherry-Ann and one of her daughters.
In an extremity of rage, he even ripped off the trunk lid of his Royal Saloon car. It was during a scuffle that someone pulled the gun and fired at him. Police said Seecharan had given his wife the pistol to keep in her bag but information suggests that he may have taken it back on leaving the beach.
While in custody, Sherry-Ann complained of pains and was taken to the Siparia District Health Facility where she was treated and discharged.
Abuse not taken seriously
Speaking outside the Penal Police Station on Wednesday night, Sherry-Ann’s sister Veena Alladin said her sister had complained of being abused before but no one took it seriously.
Asked if the abuse was ever reported to police, she said: “I would not know because he is a lawman.”
She said the children lived with their father, Doodnath Ganase, at Kanhai Road South, Barrackpore, but went for the trip on Wednesday.
“Yes, she used to tell us but we never took it on. She used to say they had a little falling out and he hit her. Two or three times she came by me when they had now started off.
“How she happened to come is that when he went on shift in the prison, my son used to pick her up and bring her and I used to tell her ‘well gyul yuh done in it, you have to make it do,’” Alladin said.
She said she believed if Seecharan had not been shot, her sister, nieces and nephew could have been killed.
Ganase said he had told his children to tell police the truth about everything that happened.
“My children have to talk the truth about what happened. The three of them were right there so they said they are going to talk the truth about what happened.”
At the Seecharan’s home yesterday, his sister, Ria, said he and Sherry-Ann were together for four years and had been married for just over a year.
She said they had marital problems like most couples. She said Seecharan was supposed to work on Wednesday morning and his lunch was already packed when she left home.
It came as a shock to her when a passerby called her and told her that he had been shot. By the time she and other relatives arrived at the scene, he was already dead. Ria said her brother was planning to buy land to build a house for his family.
She added that Seecharan decided to get a gun after one of his colleagues was murdered a few years ago. She said inmates also threatened to have him killed.
Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner has been ordered to pay former attorney general Anand Ramlogan close $900,000 in compensation after losing defamation lawsuit.
Ramlogan received the significant payout today after Justice Robin Mohammed, presiding at the Hall of Justice, in Port-of-Spain ruled that Warner had defamed his former Cabinet colleague in a speech in October 2013.
In his 57-page judgment Mohammed ruled that Warner had failed to prove the four defences he raised in the lawsuit.
In his speech delivered on an ILP platform in the run-up to the local government elections, Warner claimed that Ramlogan was the owner of 51 properties which were purchased by corrupt means during his tenure as AG.
Ramlogan cannot claim his compensation for a month as he agreed to a stay of execution of the judgment to allow Warner to lodge an appeal.
Speaking with reporters outside the Hall of Justice afterwards, Ramlogan said he was happy to have his named cleared.
He also called upon Warner to act more responsibly when commenting against political opponents in the future.
Police officers have released a suspect they believed assisted the three men who broke out of the Port-of-Spain prison on Frederick Street last Friday.
The Aranguez man was yesterday detained by police for assisting three prisoners during their daring lunchtime escape from the Port-of-Spain prison.
The 38-year-old suspect, who police believe provided the Nissan Navara that was used by the prisoners as a getaway vehicle, was arrested at a mosque in Enterprise, Chaguanas, around midday yesterday by Guard and Emergency Branch officers.
Police sources said investigators had been searching for the suspect since the jailbreak, and were only able to make the arrest after they received an anonymous tip-off.
He is believed to have also supplied the weapons, which were sneaked into the prison, to the escapees.
The suspect was detained overnight at the Central Police Station on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.
He was questioned by detectives and released pending further investigations.
The three escapees were Allan “Scanny” Martin, Hassan Atwell and Christopher “Monster” Selby. Martin was killed by police after he was cornered at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital minutes after he escaped. Atwell was murdered in East Port-of-Spain the following day while Selby surrendered to the police last Sunday. Selby remains in police custody and has not yet been charged for any offence.
PC Sherman Maynard was shot dead as the escapees, who were all armed, ran from the prison.
So he had even more—possibly several thousand—reasons to break out into a full jump among the PNM “red-painted” Harris Promenade on Tuesday night.
If PNM leader Keith Rowley had broken into a “sorta” chip on stage following last week’s large Arima PNM meeting, then Tuesday’s huge San Fernando gathering would certainly have been more than enough for him to do the dance, full blown and with joy, as he did at meeting’s end. To Peter Lewis’ infectious music and other beats, he jog-jumped small distances in between other members on stage, working his arms and forearms to the beat and handclapping in between.
Even PNM chairman Franklin Khan, who often boasts of large numbers at meetings, seemed awed by the turnout. He expressed amazement that while he usually says PNM was “ready,” the absolute readiness demonstrated at Tuesday’s meeting blew him away.
The impressively huge showing at PNM’s south-central regional launch, five Sundays away from the September 7 general election (as San Fernando West candidate Faris Al-Rawi put it), gave the PNM the appearance of a confirmed edge over its competing PP rival.
The latter is still to produce a San Fernando West candidate (as Al-Rawi pointed out) among others and to “come out” with outdoor meetings as the PNM has in the last week. Displayed to full advantage by boom camera and overhead photography shots, the length of the promenade glowed red on Tuesday.
The PNM’s platform in reply to UNC’s “Kamla 2015” was dubbed “PNM 2015” with the name “Rowley” being threaded through an adjoining moving ticker tape. It was debateable whether the second, was a concession of sorts, perhaps, to mixed stocks the leadership might still elicit in some quarters.
In fact PNM chairman Franklin Khan described Al-Rawi as the “face and voice of the PNM for the last five years.” From the line-up of south-central candidates presented, the PNM’s 2015 offering has also attempted to make a broader pitch beyond the traditional in synch with Al-Rawi being its new “face and voice” over the term.
If so, that face appeared to have captured the support of some members of San Fernando West COP represented in Tuesday’s sea of red. “Take everything they give you! Take the T-shirts, take the money, take the promises (give nothing), vote PNM!” Al-Rawi thundered.
After the acerbic tones PNM presented at the Arima meeting, the San Fernando line was slightly less raw but still blistering on the PP and regardless of who was touted as the party’s face, Rowley made it clear to the South promenade who was really in charge and might be ahead. Khan, as he usually does, announced Rowley as the “next Prime Minister. Even PNM’s new theme music for his entry, a more solemn fanfare type beat, appeared to hint at what the PNM expects after September 7.
Dressed in full-blown PNM red, Rowley underscored what he believed the situation will be: “Madame, your term is up, you have made enough damage.” As for the proposed Caribbean New Media group (CNMG) July 30 debate: “I not going!” he declared, furrowing his brow in annoyance. Rowley’s main platform fodder extended to the issue du jour, the Dana Seetahal issue, the murder accused charged and their Carapo location, seeking to link it with the PP’s ill-fated LifeSport programme.
“This election, the choice will be the easiest ever,” Rowley remarked as the meeting’s climax before he started dancing.
Prison Officers’ Association (POA) president Ceron Richards says he has no faith in promises made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to fix the prison system. Richards said he had no faith in promises made by politicians because over the years each government had only talked about prison reform but none had done anything about it.
“Politicians choose the right time and moment to say things to create certain emotions. Based on experience, many promises never materialise,” he said. In the same breath, he said he was cautiously optimistic about the PM’s announcement to set up a commission of enquiry into the criminal justice system.
“The recommendations are sometimes not implemented,” he said. “All these things are good. There is nothing wrong with them. It’s the aftermath. You pay people millions to conduct the inquiry and after that nothing is implemented.” Richards also noted the problems in the criminal justice system were already well known, implying that millions did not have to be spent to find out.
Nevertheless, the POA had called for a commission of enquiry into the issue since 2013, he said. As for the government’s plan to expand the Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre and build a new remand centre at the Golden Grove Prison, Richards said he would always support any expansion of the prison system.
But, again, he expressed a lack of faith in politicians’ promises. “Politicians make popular statements. I have no faith in anything they say,” Richards said. Asked for his solution to the problems in the prisons, he said he had reiterated this numerous times. Persad-Bissessar, at the UNC’s Monday Night Forum at San Juan Secondary School, said a commission of enquiry would help devise ways to speed up trials and clear a backlog of cases.
Remand prisoners would get preference in the hearing of cases, she said. The expansion of the physical space of the prisons was to alleviate the horrors of overcrowding, she added. She said recommendations from a 2013 committee to look into prison reform were implemented, including providing more cameras and scanners at the prisons, as well as firearms and bullet and stab proof vests for prisons officers.
Business owners in Egypt Village, Point Fortin, are calling on Petrotrin to compensate them for the loss of business as one of the company’s contractors blocked off a portion of the roadway since Monday, costing them thousands of dollars in revenue. According to reports, the Southern Main Road was blocked off and traffic diverted away from the area after mud and water began bubbling up in the middle of the road on Monday.
The bubbling matter, resembling a mini-volcano, shot approximately three feet in the air and spanned a three-feet wide area, close to the Petrotrin Well FW 51. The business owners, some of whom live in the area, say residents have been told not to cook in their homes since Tuesday but they have been given no real indication of whether their lives are in danger.
The T&T Guardian visited the area yesterday and spoke to residents who said they have been kept in the dark for too long over what was taking place in their community. “We cannot do anything and we are not being informed on what is going on,” said business woman Nakasha Ramdhan. “We are at a loss in both instances. We cannot live our normal lives and we cannot run our businesses to support our normal lives because we don't know what is happening,” she added.
She said a few business people and several residents were given letters by representatives of Lease Operators Ltd on Tuesday and verbally warned to refrain from using open flames. The letter, which the T&T Guardian was able to obtain a copy of, informs residents that a production rig is being mobilised to conduct work on Well FW 51 on Wednesday.
The letter advised of the necessary evacuations procedures in the case of an emergency during the rig work. However, Ramdhan said the business community and residents were being treated unfairly. She added: “It is very unfair and unprofessional because you treating the business owners and residents like we are not important.
“They just sent people and lock down the main road to Point Fortin, yet you not giving us any information but you are telling us don't do this and that. “It is very unfair and it is affecting our livelihood because it is month end... we have rent, bills and workers to pay.” She said they wanted Petrotrin to give them a definitive statement on the situation.
“First of all we need an explanation as to exactly what happening and how long we need to go through this. “Tell us if we need to evacuate now, if we need to take health precautions if we need to close down and if they will compensate us,” she said. Fruit vendor Trevor George said he had lost thousands of dollars since the road was cordoned off. “The traffic block off in both ends and nobody passing through, so things will stay there and rotten,” said a distraught George. “I am losing about $2,000-$3,000 every day,” he claimed.
The father of four said with the school term re-opening in September, he will be hard pressed to provide for his children without selling his fruits. “Two of them in secondary school and two more in primary school. I don’t know what I will do to buy their supplies if they don’t open back the road soon,” he added.
Petrotrin released a statement yesterday, confirming a “watery/mud like” substance was seen bubbling from the roadway on Monday. The release stated that “temporary traffic management arrangements were put in place to ensure the safety of residents and to minimise the disruption of business activity in the community.”
The company added that the traffic arrangements would remain in place until the matter was resolved but did not state when this would be.
An Aranguez man was yesterday detained by police for assisting three prisoners during their daring escape from the Port-of-Spain prison last Friday. The 38-year-old suspect, who police believe provided the Nissan Navara that was used by the prisoners as a getaway vehicle, was arrested at a mosque, in Enterprise, Chaguanas, around midday yesterday by Guard and Emergency Branch officers.
He remained detained under tight security at the Central Police Station, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, up to late yesterday and was expected to be questioned by investigators between last night and this morning. Police sources said investigators had been searching for the suspect since the jailbreak and were only able to make the arrest after they received an anonymous tip-off yesterday.
The man, who police said was behind the turf war in the Enterprise district last month, had gone into hiding. He is believed to have also supplied the weapons, which were sneaked into the prison, to the escapees. Meanwhile, Christopher “Monster” Selby, the last surviving escapee, remained detained at the St James Police Station up to late last night. Homicide detectives reportedly interviewed Selby for several hours yesterday afternoon.
A source close to the investigation said police were considering charging Selby with escaping lawful custody in addition to the murder of PC Sherman Maynard, who was shot dead by the prisoners as they bolted from the prison. However, Selby may be charged under the felony murder rule, under which accused persons are spared the death penalty in cases where death results from the commission of a lesser criminal offence, in this case escaping the prison.
Unlike traditional murder cases, persons charged with felony murder are also allowed to plead guilty before trial, in order to get a reduced sentence. Selby, Hassan Atwell and Allan “Scanny” Martin escaped from the Frederick Street prison around midday last Friday. Armed with firearms and a hand grenade, the men reportedly shot at Maynard and other officers who were driving past the prison. Maynard died shortly after at hospital.
The prisoners, who were on remand for separate crimes, crashed their getaway vehicle near the Port-of-Spain General Hospital and attempted to make their escape on foot. Martin, one of 12 men on trial for the murder of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, was cornered by police at a security guard booth at the hospital. He was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.
On Sunday morning, Atwell was found murdered in East Dry River. Hours later, Selby surrendered to police at the Barataria Police Station. Speaking during the weekly press briefing yesterday, public information officer ASP Michael Pierre said that the jailbreak was being investigated by ASP Jerry De Leon.
Investigations are continuing.
The Police Service Social and Welfare Association has been granted permission to challenge in the court a decision by acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams recommending that the Government buy out the vacation leave of several senior police officers in the First Division. During a hearing in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday, Justice Carol Gobin granted the association leave to file for a judicial review of the recommendation made by Williams to National Security Minister Carl Alfonso, last month.
The association is contending that Williams’ decision would have a negative impact on their members, whose chances of timely promotion would diminish if the senior officers were allowed to hold onto their post until their retirement.
“The settled practice in the service is that First and Second Division police officers who are eligible for and have accumulated vacation leave would proceed on leave and that the next senior officer based on seniority and the existing order of merit list would act in their position. This settled practice is also consistent with the regulations," the association said in its application for leave.
Presenting submissions on behalf of the association yesterday, Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said the association was also given a legitimate expectation that they would be consulted by Williams before he made his decision on the issue. Maharaj referred to the fact that between 2013 and last year the issue was discussed by the two parties (the association and Williams) with the commissioner agreeing not to make the recommendation to extend the officers’ leave.
Williams was not able to respond to the lawsuit as it was filed ex parte. He will be able to do so on the next hearing of the case. Asked yesterday if his clients were seeking an injunction stopping the Government from implementing Williams’ recommendation, Maharaj said no. Instead, he said, his clients would be serving the commissioner and Cabinet with notice of the lawsuit, to give them an opportunity to refrain from the move on their own, until the case was determined.
The association is also being represented by Ronnie Bissessar and Varin Gopaul-Gosine. The case has been adjourned to October 15.
Instead of a leaders’ debate, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar will now take part in a question-and-answer session hosted by state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG), tonight. After weeks of negotiations between Persad-Bissessar’s team and the Debates Commission there seems no compromise on the proposed dates of August 20 and 27.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Communication yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said she would not depart from the promise she made to the people of T&T “to participate in such a historic moment in the country’s political history.” CNMG’s CEO Ken Ali said previously that it had invited Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley to participate in the debate.
The television station stated Rowley had categorically refused to participate in the debate. Rowley told the Guardian on Tuesday that he had given a commitment to the Debates Commission to take part in a debate after nomination day, August 17. The release stated that Persad-Bissessar will take part in a separate question-and-answer session on the date and at the location which were proposed by the T&T Debates Commission.
The statement said moderators external to CNMG would preside over the event. It did not provide any information about the structure of the event, whether the Prime Minister would have had sight of the questions before or who prepared the questions. The event, which will be broadcast live at 8 pm tonight on CTV and carried on the sister radio station Talk City 91.1 FM, will be 90 minutes long.
On April 19, the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the People’s Partnership (PP) both officially accepted invitations to participate in this country’s first national leadership debates ahead of the September 7, 2015, general election. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley had written to the T&T Debates Commission agreeing to participate in the debates.
However, on July 11, the PNM rejected a proposed July 30 date for the election debate noting that the opposition party could not meet the criteria for taking part set by the commission itself until after nomination day on August 17. Persad-Bissessar had reportedly said that any date in August would not be good for her as she would be busy with her campaigning and respective functions.
The protective services were placed on high alert yesterday after a letter claiming that co-ordinated attacks were being planned by the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen to free the 11 men charged in the death of Dana Seetahal, SC, and those similarly accused in the ongoing Vindra Naipaul-Coolman trial began circulating online.
The memo, which was issued by Head of the Special Branch, came two days after the 11 men appeared in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court charged with Seetahal’s murder and being members of a gang. Following the death of accused Allan “Scanny” Martin during a daring jailbreak from the Royal Jail, Port-of-Spain, last Friday, 11 people remain before the court charged with the 2006 kidnapping and murder of the Xtra Foods chief executive officer.
A copy of the internal memo issued by the head of the Special Branch of the T&T Police Service on Tuesday, which warned of several terror attacks and threats to national security posed by the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, was leaked to the public yesterday. The memo claimed that members of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen were moving arms and ammunition to locations in north Trinidad and San Fernando and that planned attacks were to commence immediately.
There was also a claim that the private residences of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at Philippine and Siparia also would be targeted. National Security Minister Carl Alfonso confirmed that the memo, which began circulating shortly after midday, had gone viral and that “everyone has seen it.”
As the memo circulated via social media, members of the public again panicked and began to question if there was any truth to it. At the time it began circulating, Alfonso said acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and Deputy Police Commissioner (Crime) Glen Hackett had been mandated to ascertain if the document was authentic.
Williams subsequently confirmed the memo was authentic at a press conference. Dated July 28, 2015, the memo was addressed to all field section heads and the subject read: “JAMAAT AL MUSLIMEEN - ACTIVITIES OF.” The four-paragraph memo read as follows:
“Information has been obtained that the JAMAAT AL MUSLIMEEN (JAM) is planning activities inimical to the State. They are said to be moving arms and ammunition to the north and San Fernando.
“Reportedly, they are planning to target the Prime Minister’s private residence at PHILIPPINE and SIPARIA. Moreover, they are also planning a series of co-ordinated attack and will attempt to free the 11 persons charged with the murder of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal and those charged in the Vindra NAIPAUL-COLEMAN case.
“Additionally, they will target police stations that have been carrying out operations against. These activities are likely to commence immediately.
“You are required to determine the veracity of this information and report your findings instantly.”
But in an immediate response as the memo was circulating online, Jamaat leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr issued a press release calling on the Police Service to clarify the authenticity of the document. The release said the Jamaat had received “unconfirmed indications that it did not emanate from the TTPS.”
Urging the TTPS “to act within the constraints of the law and to take every precaution to avoid discrimination against Muslims,” Abu Bakr sought to reassure the nation that his organisation posed no threat to the people of this country. He wrote: “There is no threat to the population of Trinidad and Tobago by the Jamaat-al- Muslimeen.
“Our issues are being dealt with legally. There appears to be persons spreading rumours with a view to causing mischief to destabilise our country. As a people, we need to stand united and to support each other.” Abu Bakr was detained by police around 5 am on July 20 in connection with the Seetahal probe but released two days later without being charged.
A release from the National Operations Centre (NOC) around 4.30 pm also indicated it was made aware of the memo which had been circulating via social media. Advising that the contents of the memo had been receiving the attention of Williams, the NOC said it is “not aware and has been reliably informed by the intelligence community that as of this time, there is no intelligence to corroborate the information contained in the said memo on social media.”
The NOC also assured that all arms of the protective services had upgraded their vigilance and were operating on a heightened state of alertness and ready and capable to respond to any situation that may arise. It urged the public to remain calm but vigilant and appealed that “if you see something, say something, and if you know something, do something about it.”
The NOC said in the event of any situation that threatens public safety or was likely to cause a breach of the law or disorder, people can call 999; 555 or the nearest police station.
Within 24 hours after receiving information that the life of the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was possibly under threat, the Special Branch Unit was able to process the information and determine it to be fake. While such swift work is usually commended, the officers from the unit are now being investigated as one of them leaked the details of their investigation, causing widespread panic after it was shared on social media yesterday.
Speaking at an impromptu media briefing yesterday afternoon, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams confirmed that the circulated memo from within the Special Branch Unit, which is tasked with high profile duties, including the protection of the Prime Minister, was genuine. However, he assured that after probing the allegations made in the document they were found to be false.
Williams said neither he nor the Prime Minister were told of the alleged plot within the 24 hours that the officers were investigating the claims. The Special Branch correspondence claimed that members of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen were transporting guns throughout the country and were planning to attack the PM’s private residence in Phillipine and Siparia and free 11 men who have been charged with the murder of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal and those charged in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial.
Williams said the memorandum circulating via social media was generated from the Special Branch and signed by an assigned superintendent and circulated on Tuesday around 6.15 pm to all field sections in Special Branch. He said the rumour which generated the memo was not supported by facts when the officers did their investigations and the Special Branch would not have communicated anything to either him or the PM until the information was verified.
He added: “It is nothing unique, it is the day-to-day functioning of the Special Branch. “What is unique in this particular instance is that a communique like that, which is limited to the unit, would have reached out into the public domain. That breach of confidentiality would have been done by a member of the Special Branch.
“Up to the point in time there is no support to the content of that rumour. I cannot speak about the future. I can speak to the point in time. I want to give you the assurance that this is an internal communiqué which reached the Special Branch that can be called in layman’s terms a rumour.”
Second bogus plot
Williams said an investigation had been launched into the leak and Hackett had been given an August 3 deadline to report to him on the matter. He said appropriate action would be taken against the officer who breached the unit’s confidentiality but did not specify what that would entail.
Asked about possible punishment for the officer, Williams said before the completion of the investigation it would not be “smart of him” to comment, adding that all offences and punishment are in the law books. He also said it was too soon to speak about transfering the officer/s responsible for the leak.
In 2011, the PM told the nation, via a media conference, that her life was in danger following a plot to destabilise the country. At least 13 men, including two police officers, were detained and later released without charge in the matter.
Police said that the men had pictures of then attorney general Anand Ramlogan with an “X” on his face and had also seized the book, “The Art of War”, from one of the men. At the time of their arrest, the PM had announced a limited state of emergency, which was then upgraded to a full state of emergency which ended on December 5.
Officials at the Ministry of National Security are alleged to have discovered a plot to destabilise the country. The plot involves the importation of a shipment of arms and ammunition worth well over $10 million, which was to be used to create havoc in Port-of-Spain ahead of last Friday’s jailbreak at the Frederick Street prison by inmates Allan “Scanny” Martin, Hassan Atwell and Christopher Selby.
The latest intelligence information revealed that the grenade found outside the Port-of-Spain Prison, which was said to have been used by Martin during the escape, was just one from a shipment of grenades and other high-tech arms and ammunition, including three rocket launchers, AK47s, M24 sniper rifles and Desert Eagles.
The T&T Guardian was informed by an intelligence source that the shipment entered the country several weeks ago in the name of two businessmen from central and south Trinidad. It is alleged the businessmen are linked to a top criminal organisation in T&T. Sources said they linked Friday’s prison break to the shipment because the grenade which Martin had was from that shipment and had allegedly been smuggled into the Port-of-Spain prison.
It is believed that after the trio shot their way to freedom in a well executed escape plan, Martin was supposed to throw the grenade over the prison walls, near the prison officers’ dormitory. The impact of the explosion was expected to cause severe damage to the dormitory, where prison officers who had worked the night shift would have been resting before making their way home.
The source said there were other people strategically placed outside several key government buildings within the capital, including the Ministry of National Security and the Hall of Justice, allegedly armed with other explosive devices. These individuals were instructed to set off these devices once Martin’s grenade had been activated at the prison.
The sole purpose of these acts were to create massive panic and mayhem throughout the city among commuters, pedestrians, working community and national security personnel. “This information that we are gathering cannot be taken for granted. This is more serious than ever and should be taken seriously. It is in no way to cause panic among the citizens in T&T but it is the reality of the situation,” the source said.
The source added that it was alleged that there was an army of people, both women and men, who were linked to a criminal organisation and who were already given Middle East military-type training in using the high-tech weapons which were on T&T shores. “These people are just waiting for the green light to go ahead with this plan,” the source said.
It is alleged that prisoners Martin, Atwell and Selby, who allegedly brokered a million-dollar deal with senior prison officers to secure their freedom last Friday, were allegedly part of the bigger plot. It is also alleged that two senior prison officers, believed to have been directly involved in the prison break plot, were also privy to the bigger plot.
Last Friday at about 12.30 pm, Martin, Atwell and Selby shot their way out of the Frederick Street prison. PC Sherman Maynard was shot as the escapees targeted the vehicle in which he was sitting. Maynard subsequently died at hospital. Martin was later killed by police at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. Atwell and Selby escaped but Atwell was gunned down on Saturday night at East Dry River, Port-of-Spain. On Sunday, Selby surrendered at the Barataria Police Station.
Hours after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley criticised police for not investigating an $8.3 million bribery claim against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in connection with the Section 34 fiasco, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams assigned the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau to probe the allegations.
The claims, which were made by Independent Liberal Party leader and former People’s Partnership MP Jack Warner at a news conference on July 13, allege Persad-Bissessar received cheques from United National Congress (UNC) financiers—Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson—in exchange for their freedom on pending criminal charges.
Speaking by telephone yesterday, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime and Operations) Glenn Hackett said it was only yesterday that Williams received the correspondence relating to the alleged conspiracy. However, he said he had not read the details of the matter. “Only this morning the Commissioner of Police received that correspondence and he has assigned it to the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau.
“I was there with the commissioner when he received it but I did not read or see the details so I cannot comment further,” Hackett said. At the People’s National Movement’s regional meeting at Harris Promenade, San Fernando, on Tuesday night, Rowley demanded that Williams initiate an investigation into Warner’s claims.
At the new conference at the Hotel Normandie, St Ann’s, on July 13 Warner showed a sworn affidavit which alleged Persad-Bissessar received the cheques at the Tunapuna home of businessman Ralph Gopaul in May 2010. Warner claimed that Persad-Bissessar told him that the Ministry of Justice would “help our friends” and Section 34 was allegedly created to ensure both men walked free.
In response, Persad-Bissessar said the allegations were all lies and the process of law was followed with respect to Galbaransingh and Ferguson’s case. She added that Section 34 was passed unanimously with the support of all sides of the House. Galbaransingh and Ferguson were indicted by the US for conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bid-rigging in relation to the construction of the Piarco International Airport project between 1996 and 2001.
In 2011, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh threw out their extradition request and ordered that they be tried in Trinidad. Persad-Bissessar noted that was done a year before the proclamation of Section 34. On Tuesday night, Rowley said he saw an affidavit signed by a Justice of the Peace and even met a man in Couva last Wednesday who informed him he was present at the 2010 meeting with Warner and Persad-Bissessar.
“I ask you tonight, is that what you expect with respect to law enforcement in Trinidad and Tobago? Is it that some people are above the law in Trinidad and Tobago? “And if allegations are made against you or whatever it is, I can say I am not investigating that because it’s your name being called?” Rowley asked.
“Tonight, I want to demand of the Commissioner of Police that he begin an investigation into the conspiracy of Section 34, where Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, is alleged to have done certain things and only a proper investigation with witnesses, statements and thorough examination will determine whether it is true or not.”
The Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act was passed to abolish preliminary inquiries and replace it with paper reviews. This meant a Master of the High Court would review submissions in a matter and decide if there was sufficient evidence to take it to trial. Section 34 of the Act allowed those people who had matters before the court that were ten years or older to apply to a judge to have their case(s) dismissed, once the trial(s) had not begun.
This and five other sections were proclaimed by former president George Maxwell Richards on August 2012. However, a furore was created when Galbaransingh and Ferguson made an application to have their cases dismissed. Two weeks later and with mounting pressure from the public and civil society, an emergency sitting of the House of Representatives was called and Government repealed Section 34.
Former justice minister Herbert Volney, who had piloted the Bill in Parliament, was fired on September 20 and replaced by attorney Christlyn Moore. It was only in May 2014 that Volney accepted sole responsibility of the fiasco.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar wasn’t the only “star” spotlight of Monday’s UNC Forum in Barataria.
While none of the others were on the platform with her, they were still very much a part of proceedings. First off former St Joseph MP and dismissed Justice Minister Herbert Volney who sat in a front-row seat—though to the side—made it clear he was there to help.
Briefly with Jack Warner’s ILP and appearing on the Alliance of Independents’ first meeting in March, on Monday, however, Volney was back to his UNC roots. Sporting a lemon shirt with a UNC logo, Volney told the T&T Guardian: “The Prime Minister said all hands are to be on deck and I felt it is my duty to come back out to support her and do everything in my power to see the election of Vasant Bharath as my successor in St Joseph.”
“And to make sure Keith Rowley does not become the Prime Minister of T&T,” he stressed.
It also seemed clear another dismissed minister—Glenn Ramadharsingh—wants to be part of the effort. Nominees for his Caroni Central seat were screened last Friday. Hoping for announcement of success, a group of his Caroni Central supporters with large banners and a music truck had come to the forum, took up position in the centre aisle of the packed Barataria South Secondary School auditorium where supporters yelled, tooted, waved and wined their support (the latter, a Point Fortin group).
Some Caroni Central members wore the hats UNC supporters have sported recently—but in black with a yellow band. At meeting’s end, they may have been disappointed. Some walked out before the finish, apparently having learned no candidate announcements were forthcoming although the PM had been announcing candidates at the end of recent forums. (UNC’s Rodney Charles said last Friday’s screening wasn’t completed, hence no announcements.)
The night’s other character, a yellow Chicken Little impersonator wearing a red PNM T-shirt gave a strutting contribution in the centre aisle, which turned into a brief scuffle—while the PM was speaking—when a UNC supporter tried to take his head off and reclothe him in a UNC jersey.
The audience’s guffaws at that, however came while the Prime Minister was lamenting the death of police constable Sherman Maynard in last Friday’s jailbreak. The television audience, unable to see Chicken Little being “converted” (strenuously), might have wondered why the auditorium audience seemed lighthearted.
Area MP Fuad Khan, urging supporters to ensure the East-West corridor was taken, did his own comparison of the two leaders in the election race. His personal favourite of naturally:
“What do you get with the Prime Minister? I know we’ll get a good-looking woman with a melodious voice and who knows how to go to the ‘ground” and give love. You ever see Keith Rowley kissing anybody or hugging them?!”
Shouted “Nos!!!’ in reply.
UNC campaign manager Rodney Charles took on and tossed back the attacks which had emanated from PNM’s Arima platform.
“Where can you find more bacchanal than on a PNM platform?!” he declared, accusing Rowley of encouraging it. In full Do-So-May-Not-Necessarily-Like-So mode and anyone had forgotten PNMite Camille Robinson Regis’ “credit card” spending woes, he provided a detailed dose of reminders.
The PM, in her turn, brought good news for security forces on settlement of wage negotiations and bad news for supporters in her claims that Rowley’s Rapid Rail and other pet projects might be funded by “increasing VAT and/or cutting in other areas.” She lobed that campaign missile ahead of PNM’s south meeting last night where PNM would have had to deny, clarify/explain.
Her declaration as on previous night: “It will be me or Keith Rowley....my plan or his lack of plan!”
Health Minister and Barataria/ San Juan candidate Dr Fuad Khan said for some nine years he was victimised by the former PNM administration.
Khan was addressing party supporters at a public meeting held at the Barataria South Secondary School on Monday night.
A senior neurologist, Khan said from 2001 to 2010 the PNM had refused to employ him while the party was in power.
“That is what I am showing you is the level of victimisation you will feel. And you tend to forget it when you in government. When we were kicked out of office in 2001 victimisation started down the line,” Khan said.
He also sent a clarion call to party supporters, urging that for the PP Government to remain in power, the marginal seats must be won.
Acknowledging that victory would entail hard work, Khan said: “If you want to see us back in office it is not going to be easy. Everything that we do is a movement towards victory on September 7, but it does not come easy.
“We need to get every single vote in our country.”
Zeroing in on the undecided voters, Khan said it was particularly important that they were targeted.
“We have to go out and bring in most of the undecided voters. Those voters who asking: ‘What have you done for me lately? What will you do for me tomorrow?’
“We are going to tell them, ‘Once we get back in office not only will you get your library but you will also get an expansion of the San Juan market,” Khan said.
He said a couple months ago when the market was opened the “PNM corporation” (San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation) kicked out most of the vendors who had been there for some 20 to 30 years and brought in their own people into the market.
“So that is what you are facing. That is the discrimination you will face if the PNM ever gets into office. It is something we have to be very careful about because when you walk around the country you hear that the election tight,” Khan said.
Also in attendance was St Joseph MP and Trade Minister Vasant Bharath who Khan said was also contesting a marginal seat.
“We have to take the corridor to get into office. Make sure that you call your families and friends in St Joseph to make sure Vasant become(s) the next MP for St Joseph. But it does not come easy,” Khan added.
Turing to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Khan said: “What do you get with the Prime Minister....you get a good-looking woman. You get somebody with a melodious voice...compare the other side. You get somebody who goes to the ground and kisses you and makes sure you are well taken care of. That is called love.
“All you ever see Rowley kissing anybody and hugging them up? I haven’t,” Khan said.
But in the same breath Khan described Rowley as his colleague, adding that he would “never bad talk him.”
The UNC’S campaign manager Rodney Charles has accused Rowley of being a hypocrite.
He said over the past few months the PNM was too detached from reality to realise that the UNC’s campaign was based on issues.
“In an attempt to acquaint them with the most important issue of all...the issue of accountability, we launched the Rowley accountability campaign. We have asked Rowley to produce the plan for the nation but thus far he is yet to respond. Instead he said he launched a hate campaign,” Charles said.
He accused Rowley of not only being unwilling to account but also a hypocrite.
“Where can you find more bacchanal than on the PNM platform? He himself is guilty of encouraging his supporters to look at everything else but that which is important,” Charles said, adding that on many occasions Rowley had made “vile remarks” about Persad-Bissessar.
He said there had been many “disgusting displays” by PNM members on the political platform including those from the PNM’s lady vice-chairman Camille Robinson-Regis.
“Who is really running a smear campaign? Keith Rowley has no plan. He is an angry man with a multitude of vanity projects that they want to use taxpayers money to finance,” Charles added.
In 2006, he said, Robinson-Regis used a Government-issued credit card for her personal purposes .
The five-year wait by hundreds of police officers for improved salaries, terms and conditions of service came to an end on Monday when president of the Police Service and Social Welfare Association Insp Anand Ramesar signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chief Personnel Officer Stephanie Lewis.
The historic signing ceremony, which was held at La Boucan, Hilton Trinidad Hotel and Conference Centre, St Ann’s, Port-of-Spain, is for the period 2011 to 2013.
Ramesar confirmed they had accepted the CPO’s latest offer of 14 per cent.
He explained that this figure represented a 16.4 per cent market shift and that by way of settlement, the association had agreed to 29 per cent of that figure in the first year, with 57 per cent to be paid for the second year; by the end of the third year, officers would have received 85 per cent of the overall figure, totalling 14 per cent.
Revised allowances and other benefits will also be improved for both first and second division officers of the Police Service.
Declining to reveal any further breakdown, Ramesar said acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams had promised that the new salaries would be paid effective September.
Ramesar is also anticipating that backpay will be paid during the months of October to December, with active officers being among the first to receive their money, while retired officers will have to wait a bit longer.
Pressed to say what had caused the turnabout as the matter had been previously referred to the Industrial Court, Ramesar said, “It had become necessary, for T&T and the TTPS, that the issue of compensation be brought to a close as we move forward.”
Asked about the outcome, Ramesar said a decision could be reached although the matter had been referred to the court.
He said in this case, the onus was on the CPO to inform the court that a decision had been arrived at, following which the case would be withdrawn—as had been the case with their last salary negotiation.
Uncertain if this had been reported to the court, Ramesar said this would be done by today.
Ramesar admitted that the outstanding negotiations had had an impact on the commissioner’s strategic plan to fight crime across the country.
If the People’s National Movement (PNM) forms the next government, the Police Service may be demilitarised and allowed to focus solely on policing.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said he agreed entirely with that proposal which was put forward by retired Brigadier General Ralph Brown.
Brown made the proposal at an outdoor event billed “Conversations with Dr Rowley” at Windsurf Park, Westmoorings, on Monday night.
Brown said the entire Police Service had to be reorganised. He said “all that stamping of feet, shouting and raising of hands” (marching) had to stop.
De-emphasise the military aspect of the Police Service and let it focus on police work, he said.
“Police want to be soldiers and soldiers want to be police so that there are now poldiers and solice”, he added.
Rowley said he agreed totally with that and said he had a plan to augment the Police Service with more municipal police officers.
“This will free up the police from that kind of groundwork,” he said.
Participating in the conversations was Major General Edmund Dillon, recently retired Chief of Defence Force, and the party’s candidate for Point Fortin.
Speaking on the issue of national security, Dillon said over the last five years there had been a fragmentation in the national security framework and a dismantling of its institutions.
Someone very much unqualified for the job was put in charge of the Special Intelligence Agency and because of the cancellation of the offshore patrol vessels, T&T’s borders had been left unprotected for the last five years, he said.
“We have seen the effect of the absence of that protection over the last five years. We have seen the amount of guns and drugs coming into our T&T.
“I have just come from a funeral where four members of my constituency, in the area of Chatham, were murdered.
“The main weapon used was, of course, the gun. Statistics show that 80 per cent of murders are committed with guns,” Dillon added.
He said: “We have reached a stage now where not only small arms are being used. Police have discovered AK-47 assault rifles... Tec-9 guns.”
Dillon said if the PNM got into government, it would have a total, holistic approach to crime- fighting.
“It cannot be left alone to law enforcement authorities. Intervention must be made at different levels of the lives of young men by parents, the church, the school, the community,” he added.
The Congress of the People (COP) has selected five more candidates for the September 7 polls but has still not finalised any arrangement with the United National Congress as to which seats it would contest.
Deputy political leaders of the Congress of the People, Anirudh Mahabir and Lorraine Pouchet yesterday presented the five candidates at the party’s Port-of-Spain office during a news conference.
The COP is a member unit in the People’s Partnership Government.
Mahabir said negotiations between the member units of the partnership were still taking place but the COP expected to contest the six seats it now controlled and possibly more.
The seats named yesterday were not among the six it won in the 2010 election.
In 2010, COP won six seats: Arima (Rodger Samuel); D’Abadie/O’Meara (Anil Roberts); Lopinot/Bon Air West (Lincoln Douglas); San Fernando West (Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan); St Augustine (Prakash Ramadhar) and Tunapuna (Winston Dookeran).
Both Dookeran, the founder of the party, and Seepersad-Bachan, a one-time political leader candidate, have bowed out of the election race.
Earlier this month, the party announced that its political leader, Prakash Ramadhar announced that Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Lincoln Douglas, Diversity Minister Rodger Samuel and Ramadhar himself would be contesting seats in Lopinot/Bon Air West, Arima and St Augustine.
Former Arima deputy mayor, Patricia Cedeno-Metivier, was announced as a candidate to contest the D’Abadie/O’Meara constituency, once held by former sport minister Anil Roberts.
Ramadhar had signalled that the party wanted to contest at least 13 seats.
Mahabir said yesterday that the talks with the main coalition partner were “going well.”
He said: “We want to get (contest) as many seats as we can.”
Among the prospective candidates is former temporary Senator Ashaki Scott. She was selected to contest San Fernando East seat, which has always been controlled by the PNM.
The other four candidates named were former 1990 attempted coup hostage Wendell Eversley to contest Arouca/Maloney; Avonelle Hector-Joseph for Diego Martin West; former Port-of-Spain councillor Cleveland Garcia for Port-of-Spain South and radio talk show host Garth Christopher for Laventille East/Morvant.
If selected, Hector-Joseph, the daughter of former Diego Martin West MP Margaret Hector, will go up against the political leader of the People’s National Movement Dr Keith Rowley. The UNC has also announced Garvin Nicholas as its candidate for the seat.
She said she had no personal vendetta against anyone but just want to do what she can to improve the quality of life for the people of Diego Martin West, who have been neglected over the past decades.
She said if she was chosen to contest the seat, her battle would be similar to the Bible story of David and Goliath.
She is the founder of Is There Not A Cause, which assists people in securing some of the basic needs in T&T and other countries in the Caribbean and Africa.
She said that group was non-political. “There is a place for activism but when you want to get into real change some of us have to put ourselves in a place where the policies and decisions are being made,” she added.
Scott said she believed she “could bring that freshness to San Fernando East.”
She said constituents of San Fernando East felt they have been under-represented over the past years.
Eversley said if he was chosen as the candidate and he won the seat he would not want to be a minister but a MP to serve the people.