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BRET TESTS FOR T&T

Columnists - 3 hours 59 min ago

For all the air-conditioned, carpeted comfort of the Parliament, certain residue of Tropical Storm Bret found its way into the Chamber yesterday.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi instructed rain-soaked fellow MP Randall Mitchell on rules for suits, “Shake, shake, shake—never wipe.”

Mitchell obeyed, with brush-off help from Al-Rawi, on his shoulders and back.

UNC MP Roodal Moonilal displayed leather-shod feet after days of “tall boots,” assisting Bret-struck constituents.

Government MPs were all a-chatter. Slightly less so, were Opposition MP’s whose constituencies continued awash with yesterday’s showers.

“...We don’t even know if we’ll be getting home tonight - highway lane closed, more rain,” Moonilal said, adroitly steering even the Motor Vehicle legislation debate around to storm issues.

Earlier, the Opposition had peppered Government with queries on management of citizens’ post-Bret problems. Flood. Loss. Damage. Displacement. Expense. Assistance.

In the wake of watery destruction, the Local Government Ministry’s preliminary tolls yesterday included:

• Hardest hit residents—in corporations of Penal/Debe/Siparia, Mayaro, Tunapuna/Piarco, Sangre Grande, Couva/Tabauite/Talparo, Princes Town.

• Preliminary estimated costs: $20 million plus and counting, for fallen trees and walls, lost roofs, flood and road damage. Princes Town corporation’s estimate ($850,000), Tunapuna’s ($3.5m).

• Approximately 2,000 incident reports from eight corporations and counting, including 737 (Debe), 225 (Sangre Grande), 234 (Couva/T/T).

• Grant claims to Social Development, so far 1,074.

• Agriculture sector loss claims may approximate $10m, Minister Clarence Rambharat estimated, “based on past experiences.”

UNC’s Suruj Rambachan said Opposition estimates, “...Total losses at $150m plus and over 100,000 people affected.”

Yet to be totalled are food cost hikes following ruined crops, drainage projects to prevent further damage, school repair costs and lost manpower hours. The T&T Chamber and Employers’ Consultative Association (ECA are compiling figures on the latter. The T&T Manufacturers’ Association is prioritising victim relief.

The Opposition—as in the property tax matter—appeared to have beaten Government out of the box on Bret, issuing warnings last Sunday, mobilising and advising Government on contingencies.

Government’s public imaging though, stalled with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in Tobago, moved behind-the-scenes with ministerial preparations.

The PP government’s selling point was being hands-on, people-centric. Rowley’s PNM prefers arms-length, delegation of responsibility—in Bret’s case, primarily to municipal corporations.

Thus the face of Government’s management effort largely involved Local Government’s Kazim Hosein and Works’ Rohan Sinanan, whose public savvy have made them—and several others - PNM’s national outreach experts.

Rowley surfaced Wednesday, unbothered about wrong leads that Tobago would have been hardest-hit (and appearing to volunteer too much information in replying to media queries on his whereabouts for three days).

Unfortunately, in some areas he’d toured, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had already been there, done that—and blasted Government for lack of presence.

Despite preparations, the worst still occurred for areas where the combined weight of the elements, with less than solid infrastructure and traditional basin landscapes besieged by high tide, made—literally—for the perfect storm. Heart-wrenched neophytes viewing the flood-plains may not understand the gutsiness of people who’ve coped with this for years. UNC Caroni Central MP Bhoe Tewarie said, “Some constituents looked at it, said ‘Alright’ and picked up brooms and started pushing water out.”

It will continue as a perennial problem until permanent solutions- drainage and other infrastructure—are implemented. Bret left a clear map of what needs to be done, where, how much and by when. It remains to unfold when the requisite plans, finances and political will arise.

If the Opposition or others have capitalised on Government’s Bret-management shortcomings, the public will ultimately judge between engineered optics and earnest outreach. And on the question of leadership and presence, key to crisis-handling.

On Wednesday, the Housing Ministry’s release promoting management of its Housing Development Corporation communities included pictures of mattress distribution to smiling recipients. But Thursday, UNC MP Rushton Paray said 50 constituents were awaiting mattresses and lacking repair supplies from Government, so he’d sourced materials from contractors himself. UNC Cumuto MP Christine Newallo-Hosein slammed neglect of her area, including being given sand bags without sand. PNM’s Hosein, acknowledging a similar sandbag report in Penal, conceded, “That was unacceptable.”

If some PNMites are examining Government’s leadership/management post-Bret, leadership and management will also be key in today’s Opposition’s performance review retreat.

Apart from planning regarding the external challenge concerning Government, brainstorming will—if not today—also have to grapple with internal challenges concerning some MPs’ view of the helm and a loyalist hierarchy.

Conversely, loyalist MPs believe Persad-Bissessar has returned the UNC to fighting form. Leaders of both parties have a year to display respective skills before 2018 leadership elections in each party.

More immediately, the political outreach post-Bret, will hopefully be more genuine than the optics. All round.

Categories: News

A DELUGE OF SCORN FOR FLOOD VICTIMS

Columnists - 4 hours 1 min ago

As Tropical Storm Bret loomed, Trinis scrambled to ready their households for this menacing weather system. Groceries and neighbourhood shops did a roaring trade of bottled water, canned goods, batteries and dusty torches that weren’t really moving otherwise.

As night fell and winds laden with sideways rain howled fiercely, Trinis battened down the hatches hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. The following morning there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief that the country was spared the worst of it. Well, that’s all relative. For many citizens who agonised as flood waters rushed through their streets and eventually into their homes, this storm did everything but spare them.

Frequent video updates on social media showed the extent of the devastation which was most prevalent in Central and South Trinidad. An unhappy confluence of excessive rainfall and high tide the following day meant swollen rivers hemmed in by the tide were just beginning to do their worst. Murky water invaded homes and stubbornly stayed, as there was no path to egress in already overflowing drainage. One video showed a night visitor to a central resident’s home, a confused-looking caiman pressed against a front door.

Flooding triggered by the passage of Bret, though, threw up something far meaner than a displaced caiman. Some comments on social media portrayed all those affected as irresponsible citizens who got their comeuppance because they chose to settle in flood-prone areas. Cavorting in wild assumptions, naked ignorance and toxic political bias, social media commentators broadly characterised residents of drowned communities as shifty characters draining the teat of the treasury by deliberately building their homes or planting their crops in harm’s way, then going cap-in-hand to the Government for a bailout. This sort of perverse commentary was ably abetted by well-known personalities who set aside their presumed intelligence to join the donkey-bray fray. In the wake of the storm, there was a deluge of mean-spiritedness and a lack of empathy.

One person made the sweeping accusation that farmers (read as all farmers) have become millionaires by claiming compensation for crops, which, in some instances, were never planted to begin with.

People were conflating illegal riverine pollution, squatting and settlements in flood-prone areas, fusing separate issues into an unholy confirmation bias best suiting their warped political narratives. So the flood victims got what was coming to them because they all dumped garbage into rivers, on the banks of which, they built their homes. This is the sort of oversimplification we do best, a wobbly argument that is also totally ignorant of historical context.

Towns and villages across this country are vestiges of colonialism; residential areas in Central and South Trinidad are no different. At the end of indentureship, many East Indians accepted land grants in lieu of return passage to India. These were often the poorest allotments, in many instances, labourers had to tame marshlands to eke out a living. Additionally, in these areas where agriculture was the first economy of Trinidad, settlements sprang up around sugar plantations. People had to live near to where they worked. Subsequent generations inherited these lands because, among a demographic with sparse finances, land was the only “wealth” they owned. So it’s a simpleton’s supposition that these citizens chose to live in flood prone areas.

Do people recklessly build homes on riverbanks? Yes, that is a nationwide practice. Do some farmers defraud the state by filing false claims for crop damage? Surely some do. But to tar everyone with the same brush is nonsense.

Many years ago, I investigated allegations of farmers taking advantage of state compensation and discovered that while some farmers filed outlandish claims for flood damage, many of them were paid sums as little as $400-$600 by the state; nothing to support the accusation that a large number of farmers were hitting the flood compensation lotto with every downpour.

Even as bloggers and Facebook posters amped up their politically poisoned rhetoric, on the east coast, something rare was happening. Mayaro MP Rushton Paray and Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat, victor and vanquished in the 2015 general elections, got together to gear up for Tropical Storm Bret. I understand the pair established a WhatsApp group with T&TEC workers, regional corporation crews, Ministry staff and others to provide quick relief and assistance to anyone affected by the inclement weather. This, in turn, inspired other Mayaro residents to get involved, preparing hot meals for Bret victims and the first responders.

There were also images of some big-hearted citizens hard at work, cooking large cauldrons of piping hot food to provide comforting meals to flood victims at their wits end. Unlike others, they dedicated their time and resources to helping people in distress, rather than actively compounding it.

The quality of a people is often laid bare in times of disaster. We can only hope the actions of helping hands on the ground in Mayaro and elsewhere to offer relief and comfort to poor souls in need outweighed the harsh words of vipers who could only lift a finger to type out their contempt for the suffering.

Categories: News

Witco down by $0.35

Business - 4 hours 6 min ago

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 260,123 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $5,038,844.15.

Guardian Holdings Limited was the volume leader with 147,000 shares changing hands for a value of $2,381,400, followed by Grace- Kennedy Limited with a volume of 64,890 shares being traded for $175,221.45.

JMMB Group Limited contributed 25,000 shares with a value of $31,500, while The West Indian Tobacco Company Limited added 17,000 shares valued at $2,142,000.

Clico Investment Fund enjoyed the day’s sole price increase, climbing $0.01 to end the day at $22.51.

Conversely, The West Indian Tobacco Company Limited suffered the day’s sole decline, falling $0.35 to end the day at $126.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 247,575 shares valued at $5,572,669.25. It advanced by $0.01 to end at $22.51.

Categories: News

Cocoa gets attention in Tobago budget

Business - 4 hours 9 min ago

A concerted effort will be made to link Tobago’s agriculture sector with the school feeding programme.

Seed funding is to be provided to encourage more people to undertake agricultural ventures.

As he presented Tobago’s budget request for fiscal 2017-2018, Secretary of Finance and the Economy in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Joel Jack said human capital development is “central to the developmental strategy” of the current administration.

The 2017-2018 expenditure estimates include a development request of $1.71 billion and recurrent estimates of $ 3.2 billion, totalling $4.91 billion. Under recurrent expenditure, the school feeding programme will cost $50 million and the Agricultural Incentive Programme $4 million. The development programme estimates include an Agro-Park at Friendship Estate at a cost of $10 million and the Agricultural Access Roads Programme at $80 million.

Jack said the THA will initiate financing mechanisms to benefit the economy. This will include a cocoa rehabilitation programme through the Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries.

“We are cognizant of the fact that fine flavoured cocoa is in high demand and fetches premium prices on the international market. We are also mindful of the historical importance of cocoa to the Tobago economy. The Division proposes to utilise agricultural lands to develop an effective value chain in cocoa and chocolate production,” he said.

Priority will also be placed on facilitating youth involvement in agriculture, through training and a revision of the Youth Apprenticeship Programme in Agriculture (YAPA), Jack said.

“During the next fiscal year, the Division of Education in collaboration with Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) will begin construction on five early childhood centres in Roxborough, Courland, Adventure, Bon Accord and Belle Garden,” he said.

Jack noted that the requested amount is a reduction of just under $22 million from last year’s request.

In addition to agricultural initiatives, the THA will review potential Public Private Partnership proposals to develop innovative solutions to housing needs in Tobago.

“As we seek to address our current and emerging challenges, our success will depend on reasoned collaboration, mutual trust, and reliance on our sense of patriotism,” Jack said.

The budget debate begins on Tuesday.

Categories: News

CWU demands report on TDC

Business - 4 hours 14 min ago

With the shut down of the Tourism Development Company (TDC) expected by month end, Joseph Remy, Secretary General of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), has renewed his call for the Tourism Ministry to make public the report which influenced that decision.

The report was done by Cecil Miller, former head of the Barbados Tourism Authority, who was hired by the T&T Government to prepare a document on the TDC and what actions should be taken with regard to its operations.

At a media briefing at CWU headquarters in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Remy said Miller was contracted do the in depth investigation into the TDC without the knowledge of the workers and union.

“It is only fair to know what was the information that guided the Cabinet in making that decision.

In the early stages, the minister indicated that it was confidential information and it was going to be laid before Cabinet and she could not provide a copy based on the initial request,” he said.

Remy said the CWU has made a request through the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the report which contains several recommendations, including re-classification of work and restructuring of the TDC.

“We felt that it would have been prudent for all of us to be privy to that information. That would have guided us as to if the Government’s decision was the most rational,” he said.

Commenting on the Ministry’s claim that the report cannot be released publicly as its sensitive contents could be used by competitors, Remy said: “The competitors that they are talking about in this instance are not any local competitors. They are talking about regional competitors in the tourism industry. The irony of this is that Cecil Miller is a Barbadian tourism expert and a former head of the Barbados Tourism Authority which is a direct competitor to T&T, yet he is privy to all the information relative to operations of TDC.”

He said the CWU’s next step will be to seek judicial review.

“In circumstances like these, where grave injustices have been meted out to individuals as citizens of T&T, where certain rights have been denied, then there is an obligation to provide justifiable means of taking this decision,” Remy said.

Categories: News

T&T not importing Brazil beef

Business - 4 hours 16 min ago

Local consumers need not be concerned about the recent decision by the US Department of Agriculture to suspend imports of fresh beef from Brazil citing food-safety concerns. The Ministry of Agriculture is reassuring the public that T&T does not import fresh beef or any other fresh meat from Brazil.

The Ministry said in a brief statement that it is “actively monitoring all developments out of Brazil related to food safety and will take immediate precautions should it determine there are credible or potential health risks to Trinidad and Tobago consumers.

“As it relates to this latest suspension in the US of fresh beef imports from Brazil, Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat is collaborating with Ambassador Amery Browne in Brazil on any developments which may impact Trinidad and Tobago.”

The United States on Thursday announced the immediate suspension of all imports of beef products from Latin America’s largest nation because of safety concerns.

The decision by US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue came three months after a major scandal into allegations of bribed meat inspectors shook Brazil’s meat industry and prompted several countries to temporarily halt imports.

Categories: News

EOC, Maha Sabha gets ok to provide views

News - 4 hours 26 min ago

The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) and religious group— the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha— have been given permission to provide their opinions on a lawsuit brought by Trinidad-born gay rights activist challenging this country’s homophobic laws.

The two organisations were granted permission to file written submissions in the case brought by Jason Jones, when the case came up for hearing before Justice Devindra Rampersad in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday morning.

The Council of Evangelical Churches made a similar application yesterday, however its lawyers informed the court that their client was reconsidering their position on the application and would inform the court of its decision by the next hearing on July 25.

The T&T Guardian understands that the religious groups are contending that Jones’ claim offends the tenants of their respective religions and would impact negatively on the country’s morality, if he is successful.

The commission is a State run organisation mandated to work towards the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity for citizens.

In the lawsuit, Jones is challenging Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalises buggery and serious indecency even between consenting adults.

Jones is also claiming that the long-standing legislation contravenes his constitutional rights to privacy and freedom of thought and expression in addition to being in direct contradiction to this country’s international human rights obligation.

His lawyers are also contending that the legislation opens his client to public prejudice and ridicule as it labels him and other homosexuals as criminals.

Jones’ lawyers are seeking to side step the “saving clause” feature of the Constitution which precludes a court from striking down and reviewing legislation which were in existence when the Constitution was drafted and that have been marginally changed since.

They claim that the controversial legislation amended in 1986 and 2000 repealed and replaced pre-Independence sexual offences legislation, covered by the savings clause, and thus is open to review.

Jones’ lawsuit is one of several landmark cases filed by Caribbean LGBT activists challenging regional homophobic laws.

Last year, Jamaican Maurice Tomlinson challenged T&T and Belize’s immigration laws which allow for refusal of entry to regional homosexuals visitors. While the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) dismissed his case, both Governments admitted that the laws were not enforced.

In August, last year, Belize’s Supreme Court struck down that country’s sodomy laws, after a case similar to Jones’ was filed by a local activist.

Jones is being represented by Richard Drabble, QC, Rishi Dass and Antonio Emmanuel, while Fyard Hosein, SC, is leading the State’s legal team.

Categories: News

Gun, ammo seized in South

News - 4 hours 27 min ago

Southern Division police believe they may have prevented a number of murders when they arrested three men and seized three guns with over 100 rounds of ammunition, during two separate incidents on Thursday night into Friday.

In the first incident, police in responding to a domestic violence report in Golconda, arrested the alleged abuser, who was seen entering his victim’s premises with a loaded pistol.

Around 11 pm on Thursday, constables Smith, Figaro, WP Boodram along with Sgt Sankar went to a house at Golconda Settlement, Golconda, following a report that a woman was being abused by a male relative.

The man fled before the police arrived. Officers continued to monitor the scene and around 5.30 am, on Friday, saw the man entering the premises where the woman lived. He was nabbed by the cops who, upon searching him, found a loaded .23 pistol, aong with 51 rounds of ammunition and a ski mask.

Inspector Don Gajadhar, commended the officers for their dedication to duty, saying that they may have prevented a murder. The perpetrator, a 37-year-old construction worker is expected to appear before a San Fernando Magistrate on Tuesday.

Police may have also prevented multiple killings in the La Romaine district when they arrested two men and confiscated a Taurus and Baretta pistol along with 85 rounds of ammunition during a special exercise conducted between 3 am Thursday and 9 am Friday.

Police received information that two men, one of whom was discharged from hospital after being wounded in a shooting incident which claimed the life of a male relative last week, may have purchased the weapons to to avenge his death. They were nabbed before they could carry out their act.

During that exercise which included Sen Supt Mohammed, Gajadhar and Sgt Ramroop, six other people were detained for robbieries and other crimes.

Categories: News

Plea for hot meals for flood victims

News - 4 hours 30 min ago

An appeal has been made for hot meals to be provided to those still grappling with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Bret.

It came from founder of Is There Not a Cause (ITNAC) Avonelle Hector-Joseph.

She described the situation as “dread”.

She also appealed for more volunteers to come on board to help bring relief to flood victims.

“We have been to places like Haiti and Florida but to see this in your own country...it really hurts my heart. I got a call from a single mother this morning (yesterday) that her 10-year-old son is sick because he drank contaminated water ... it is really sad.

“We need companies to encourage staff to donate. We want to provide hot meals over the weekend and we are asking for vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals,” she said.

Hector-Joseph said medication for diabetes and hypertension is also needed as well as canned food, toiletries and building supplies.

ITNAC is currently on an awareness drive to foster a sense of caring throughout the country.

“We need to send a message to the rest of the population that while there may be people who were not affected by the storm there are many people who need help and we need to care about them and we need to provide some comfort to them.”

She said ITNAC will provide meals and supplies to flood victims in Sangre Grande on Saturday, Oropouche on Sunday and will also be dealing with individual cases.

The next phase will be assisting in reconstructing homes, Hector-Joseph said.

Co-ordinator of Sewa International TT (Sewa TT) Revan Teelucksingh said the response from the business community has been “really good” as many supermarkets are steadily donating foodstuff. Sewa has been providing ready.

He said Subway has agreed to provide vegetarian six-inch sandwiches at a cost of $10 each. From Tuesday to Wednesday 1,114 sandwiches were distributed to people affected by the storm along with 700 cooked meals in affected communities.

Teelucksingh said even before the storm struck Sewa TT had formulated a four-point plan.

“The first phase was to prepare and distribute cooked food because we did not know how long the storm was going to last. Then we looked at reducing the risk of water-borne diseases by providing bottled water.

“Next was to help with clean up operations and provide groceries and lastly to do an assessment of the communities to ensure there are no outbreak of diseases like gastroenteritis and leptospirosis,” he said.

Teelucksingh said Sewa TT is also promoting awareness since with the flood waters there could be an increase in vector borne diseases like dengue.

He said people willing to support the group’s efforts can make cash deposits to Sewa International TT’s Republic Bank account 870 801 107 401.

Although there have been numerous reports of damaged homes, Habitat for Humanity T&T said it is not yet overwhelmed with calls for help.

Tracy Hutchinson Wallace, communications officer for the organisation, said people are still cleaning and assessing the losses.

“By next week we expect a lot of calls to be coming in. Right now we have community officers in the field talking to residents,” she said.

“Right now it is not as overwhelming but once the clean up has finished we expect many more calls by early next week and by then we will definitely need help from engineers, construction companies and land surveyors,” Hutchinson Wallace said.

She said the organisation is asking for donations of building material, including galvanise, nails, hurricane straps, windows and doors.

Donations to Habitat can be made at any branch of Republic Bank to account 180 482 534 101.

Categories: News

No help for flood victims—Moonilal

News - 4 hours 32 min ago

Prime Minister Keith Rowley didn’t bring residents one assistance grant or even one hamper when he recently toured flood-ravaged Southern areas, Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal declared yesterday.

“He (PM) just fly past and his Prado (SUV) wet up people,” Moonilal said in Parliament yesterday.

He made the complaint as he spoke in debate on amendments to the Motor Vehicle legislation. Moonilal said proposals for red-light cameras to penalise speeding drivers, should be reconsidered since motorists can get killed or robbed when stopping at red lights late at night in T&T.

Focusing on damages following the recent passage of Tropical Storm Bret, Moonilal said, “As of now, I’ve not heard of one person who’s gotten an assistance grant for this from any agency.”

Moonilal said if there had been a proper drainage plans for rivers and drains “we wouldn’t have had this week’s catastrophe.”

Moonilal said if Government raised $2.1b from the proposed motor vehicle fines, “I suggest 50 per cent of those road and traffic fines be used to clear drains and fix roads...(as it is ) we have a $1.3 billion (Lara) Stadium whose opening ceremony cost $2.3 million.” (See box)

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was successful in obtaining agreement for Parliament to debate Government’s handling of storm issues as a definite matter of urgent public importance.

A motion on the issue which she raised cited Government’s “failure to provide adequate resources and relief in a timely, effective and efficient manner to alleviate the hardship, suffering, anguish and distress of the population.”

House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George agreed to allow debate on the motion last night.

Persad-Bissessar had said many areas were affected and Government had failed to address issues amid the devastation.

She said people “were suffering hardship, unable to provide food for families; homes in entire areas have been destroyed; others have been flooded out and people remain marooned in some areas without any assistance from Government.

“There is an urgent need to provide water and basic food supplies to persons living in these areas. Families need urgent help to clean their homes and drain it of contaminated water. Rivers, drains and waterways need to be immediately cleared and cleaned to provide flood relief.”

Persad-Bissessar said: “Men, women and children who live in these flooded areas are at risk of contracting diseases because of the contaminated water entering these areas. Tens of thousands of families are presently suffering—Bret has transformed the affected parts of our country into virtual disaster zones.”

Categories: News

New lawsuit filed over decade old Piarco case

News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 22:47

Businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson and a group of former government officials have yet another lawsuit to avoid prosecution on corruption charges arising out of the construction of the $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport.

The group has filed a new lawsuit challenging the decision of Magistrate Ejenny Espinet to dismiss an application made in their protracted preliminary inquiry, in which they claimed that the charges should be dropped as the State failed to prove its case against them.

In their lawsuit, which came up for hearing before Justice Frank Seepersad in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday, the men and the companies are claiming that Espinet overstepped her boundaries when she ruled on their no case submission on February 10.

They claimed that while she is only empowered to determine whether there was a prima facie case made out against them in the inquiry, in her ruling on the submission, she made numerous statements on their alleged guilt. They claimed that her decision pre-decided the case and showed the “apparent bias” of the inquiry.

They are also contending that she relied on the hearsay evidence of former co-conspirator American Ronald Birk, who was implicated in the inquiry before he agreed to testify as a State witness and the charges against him were dropped.

In their no case submission, the group claimed that the State had failed to prove that there was unlawful conduct and means in the award of the contracts.

During yesterday’s hearing, the accused men’s attorney Edward Fitzgerald, QC, asked the court for a adjournment, as they are awaiting Espinet’s ruling on a recusal application made after she dismissed the no case submission. The decision is expected to be given on July 7.

Fitzgerald admitted that the case before Seepersad would be rendered academic if Espinet eventually agrees to recuse herself.

If she makes the decision, the over decade-old case would have to be restarted as it cannot continue before another magistrate.

In response, Gilbert Peterson, SC, who represented the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) questioned the accused men’s basis for the lawsuit.

“We have an unusual situation in which they are trying to judicially review a decision which is yet to be taken. I have never encountered such a case before,” Peterson said.

Deputy Solicitor General Neal Byam, who is representing Espinet, also said he needed additional time as he had only been briefed on the case on Thursday.

Seepersad agreed with the need to delay the case and adjourned it to September 21. The group is also being represented by Fyard Hosein, SC.

ABOUT THE CASE

The members of the group include former government ministers Sadiq Baksh and Brian Kuei Tung, former Airport Authority chairman Tyrone Gopee and Galbarasingh’s former employee Amrith Maharaj.

Galbaransingh and Ferguson’s companies Northern Construction Ltd and Martime General Insurance are also implicated as parties in the inquiry.

They along with several others were implicated between 2004 and 2005 for alleged corruption and bid rigging in the airport project between 1995 and 2001.

In 2011, High Court Judge Ronnie Boodoosingh quashed proposed extradition of Galbaransingh and Ferguson to the United States to face similar charges. Boodoosingh ruled that the inquiry before Espinet was the best forum for the prosecution as the substantive crimes were alleged to have occurred in this country.

The following year, the businessmen along with all other charged for corruption in the project applied under the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act. The legislation gave people charged with specific offences who had waited over 10 years to be tried to apply for their matters to be dismissed.

The group challenged the State after the legislation was repealed with their applications still pending. However, their claim was rejected by the High Court, Court of Appeal and eventually the Privy Council.

Categories: News

I still love T&T

News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 22:45

Father Clyde Harvey has been appointed by the Vatican as the new Bishop of the Diocese of St. George’s, Grenada. However, he is insisting he is not running from T&T is the wake of the recent attack against him by four men.

Harvey made the comment yesterday after new of his appointment was made during a mid-morning press conference at Archbishop’s House, St. Clair, yesterday, by Papal Nuncio Archbishop Nicola Girasoli.

“I am going to Grenada not because I don’t love Trinidad or that somebody is trying to kill me,” Harvey said.

Declaring his pride as a Trinidadian, Harvey sought to assure local parishioners that he would always, “love this country, have no doubt about that.”

However, he advised, “My life has been guided by what God calls me to do and on the day when I was asked, although I wanted to refuse, it was clear that was not what God wanted.”

Although he felt he had not yet completed his work with troubled youths in high-risk communities in T&T, Harvey cautioned those after him to beware that, “the work that has to be done cannot be done in a single day or by a single person.”

He said while no one was able to forecast what T&T will look like in years to come, there were some hard-hitting problems such as drugs and guns which need to be addressed.

“Unless we get politicians to deal with that with the strength and purpose required and a community that stands behind them, we will continue to have trouble,” Harvey said.

He again admitted the events of the last week had left him shaken, but said he was hurt that many of the young men who continue to approach him daily on the streets were mentally unstable and the authorities were not doing much about it except to administer medication. Harvey appealed to citizens to find one such deserving person and foster that kind of care and love.

To the grandmothers left to care for youngsters whose fathers had been killed and mothers whose lives had been lost to drugs, Harvey said it was unfair they had to prove to the State they had the right to care for these people before they could receive any kind of financial assistance.

Hopeful the appointment would benefit both T&T and Grenada, Harvey urged local Christians and non-Christians to demonstrate their love for humanity by joining together to help those affected in Central and South Trinidad by Tropical Storm Bret.

Best man for job

Girasoli congratulated Harvey as he presented him with a purple zucchetto and a wooden cross as he said, “This is the best choice for Grenada.”

Reminding Harvey that a bishop was called to serve rather than rule, Girasoli said Harvey, the former parish priest of St Martin de Porres Church in Gonzales, Belmont, was someone who had come from and walked among the people and therefore understood the people.

Adding that a simultaneous announcement was made in Grenada yesterday, Girasoli said although it had taken more than a year to announce a replacement following the death of Bishop Vincent Darius in April 2016, it was worth the wait as no better choice could be found.

Harvey, who appeared somewhat emotional during his address, admitted to being uncertain about the appointment when he was first approached several months ago.

However, he said God has been guiding him and that although his navel-string is buried in T&T, it was time to minister to others in the region.

Thanking Archbishops Joseph Harris and Girasoli for their guidance and perseverance in what they considered to be the best course for Grenada and the Caribbean, Harvey said: “In saying yes to the suggestion that I allow myself to be considered for St. George’s, I saw that if it happened, it would be an affirmation of the work of some of the giants of the modern Caribbean church as she struggled to discover and reaffirm our Caribbean identity within our Catholic fold.”

Categories: News

SWRHA must pay family for boy’s death

News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 22:42

The South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has been ordered to pay compensation to the parents of a three-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who died while being treated at the San Fernando General Hospital in 2009.

Appearing before Justice Carol Gobin in the San Fernando High Court yesterday, attorneys for the authority accepted liability for the death of Evans Massiah.

Gobin did not quantify the damages Massiah’s parents, Guy and Shaheeda, should receive, as she ordered that it be assessed at a later date by a High Court Master.

Gobin also ordered that the SWRHA pay the couple’s legal costs for bringing the lawsuit against it.

In the lawsuit, the Princes Town couple claimed that Massiah was born at the hospital in March 2006 and developed the mental disability due to negligence by doctors and staff in delivering him, as when he was born the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.

Evans was visually impaired, unable to swallow, talk, or even walk. Seeking expert medical care for her son, the couple migrated to the United Kingdom shortly after his birth. His condition reportedly improved and he returned to Trinidad in 2009 for a vacation with his parents.

While the the toddler was here, however, he developed a respiratory tract infection and was taken to the same hospital he was born at for treatment. He subsequently.

His parents later sued the hospital for negligence as they claimed that his death was caused by the negligence of staff at the institution.

Contacted yesterday, a close friend of the family said while they were happy with the outcome of the case, the parents were still too traumatised by their son’s death to be interviewed.

The couple was represented by Shastri Persad and Keshma Sankar, while Winston Seenath and Alyson Cudjoe represented the SWRHA.

Categories: News

Businessman gunned down

News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 22:41

Customers at Ernie’s Auto Electrical Shop were sent scampering for cover when a gunman entered the business and shot the owner, Mahendra Ramlogan, dead yesterday.

One suspect was later held when Couva police cornered a gold Nissan Bluebird Sylphy within minutes of the shooting. However, two others escaped by running into nearby bushes.

A police report stated that around 11 am, Ramlogan, 43, was in his shop along the Exchange Ext Road, Couva, when a gunman walked up to him and shot him three times. The gunman then ran into a awaiting car which sped off.

At Ramlogan’s Indian Trail, Couva home yesterday, his employee Anil Rambaran said they were both repairing vehicles when a man wearing a three quarter pants and a bandana over his face walked up to Ramlogan and shot him. He said by the time he looked out, he saw the getaway car speeding off. At the time of the shooting, he said there were about six people waiting for vehicles who ran off the property as soon the the gunman left.

Ramlogan was taken to the Couva District Health Facility where he died while receiving attention. His body was taken to the mortuary at the San Fernando General Hospital. It will be transferred to the Forensic Science Centre, St James, for an autopsy on Tuesday.

Relatives were confused as to why he was killed, however, saying he had no enemies and would provide work for customers on credit. His brother, Prame Ramlogan, said the shop has been there for more than 15 years and there was only one issue with a resident of the area, which was eventually worked out.

Categories: News

Murder accused goes to court in wheelchair

News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 22:38

Sixty-year-old murder accused Jasodra Jagmohan was wheeled into the San Fernando High Court yesterday, where she is on trial for allegedly killing her husband.

The Penal woman is on trial before Justice Althea Alexis-Windsor charged with the June 2007 murder of her husband Jagindranan Jagmohan, 57, also known as Rex, who was strangled.

Jagmohan was transported on a stretcher from the Women’s Prison in a prison van. Upon her arrival and departure from the court, the stretcher was converted into the wheelchair.

She is charged with murdering her husband sometime between June 22, 2007 and June 26, 2007, at Clarke Road, Penal. Upon her arraignment on Thursday she pleaded not guilty. However, attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, who has a fiat to prosecute the case, did not lead any evidence before the 12-member jury and alternates. Instead, the jury was asked to return on July 3 to allow the court to deal with legal issues in their absence. Jagmohan is being represented by attorneys Prakash Ramadhar and Michael Rooplal.

Categories: News

Thieves reap flooded crops

News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 22:35

Tabaquite farmers Chadwick Ramlal and his brother Fedlis had added stress yesterday, after thieves struck and stole about 400 pounds of cabbage from their garden at the Navet Dam Access Road.

The brothers were already counting their losses, which ran close to a million dollars, when acres of cabbage and tomato crops were destroyed by flood waters on Tuesday in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Bret.

Ramlal told the T&T Guardian yesterday that he went to his garden at about 6 am only to discover his garden boots missing from the place he had left it. That’s when he thought to himself that something was not right.

“I say no I left my boots right here. When I do go in my garden and check I see that all my cabbages gone and they use my own garden boots to go in and reap it,” Ramlal said.

“This is so distressing, I already lost so much already and now this? These people have no heart.”

Ramlal, however, noted that the majority of cabbages, “if not all,” would not even be healthy for sale, noting he believes that the produce was stolen to sell on the wholesale market.

“With how the flood waters come and cover down the garden the cabbage would have collected mud inside of it and that is not good. It may be sold in the market, so people need to be careful and look out,” he added.

His brother Fedlis said in his 35 years of farming it was the first time that they had been robbed of produce.

“That never happen here and you could say it’s a lifetime I doing gardening. This real sad. People don’t know what they does do.”

Ramlal said he notified police officers at the Brasso Police Station.

An officer, who wished not to be identified, later told the T&T Guardian they had already received information that may lead to an arrest.

Millions in losses

Meanwhile, one of Central’s largest cucumber farmers, Timothy Baptiste, 25, said his entire cucumber and sweet pepper crops were destroyed. As he raised the dead vines in the air, Baptiste showed the devastation.

“I lost about $80,000 in vegetables and may need about $20,000 to start back up.”

Tabac Road farmer Martin Badal said where his garden was there are about 49 other farmers and altogether they had estimated their losses to be at $.5 million. He said the farmers lost crops such as hot peppers, sweet peppers, pimentos, tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, caraille, chive and pumpkin.

“It’s the fist time in 20 years we have seen flooding like this here. We all sell wholesale to mainly the Macoya market, Chaguanas and Port-of-Spain. We have been hit very hard,” Badal said.

On Wednesday, Agricultural Minister Clarence Rambharat met with the distressed farmers, where he outlined what needed to be done in order for them to get compensation.

The farmers said that whilst they hope for the speedy handout of compensation packages, they are bracing for more flooding due to the heavy showers experienced yesterday and feared that if they should be flooded again they “will lose more.”

“At least the compensation may not be the value of our produced lost, but it will help us start over but what happens in the event he are hit again? Then we will lose everything,” Badal said.

Categories: News

‘I need a home’

News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 22:33

Three days after a pregnant mother and her five children were rescued from rising flood waters and taken to a shelter, they were told to return to their water-logged one-room shack yesterday.

It had been all smiles earlier in the day for Ramrajie Chance’s five children, as they ate pastries and fruits and watched television at the La Costena Gardens’ Activity Centre in Penal. These were luxuries they would not have usually been afforded.

However, Chance told the T&T Guardian last evening that members of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC) later told them they would have to return home as the building was needed by the village council to carry out their usual activities.

Penal councillor Shanty Boodram confirmed this last evening, saying the centre is used to host various classes. While the family was there, however, she said no classes were taking place.

When Tropical Storm Bret passed over Trinidad on Monday, Chance, 31, her common-law husband Sameer Ali, 53, and her children were stranded for over 14 hours when the lagoon near their Sunrees Road, Penal home swelled.

Neighbours eventually rescued the family by using a floating stretcher to transport them to dry land.

Ali said when he went to the house yesterday, their outhouse was filled with water, the galvanise roof and walls were still shifting with the wind and their flooring made of discarded wood was still wet. He said while he could survive, he was worried about the children, who cannot use the bathroom and outhouse because of health reasons.

Chance said scorpions, caimans and snakes also posed a greater threat to the children in the wake of the storm.

The PDRC provided the family with three mattresses, water and groceries. But charitable citizens also sent clothes, food, stuffed toys and foods to the centre for them.

While grateful for the help, Chance now has nowhere to store most of the items as their one-room shack only has a table.

Speaking at a news conference in Port-of-Spain yesterday, the Ministry of Social Development’s chief technical officer, Vijay Gangapersad, said it was the ministry’s policy that grants for home repairs are not given to persons in squatting areas.

However, Chance said it was squatters who really needed help from the Government.

“They said they are not helping anybody on squatting land. What they don’t understand is that people on squatting land are the ones who really need the help.

“I have nowhere to put anything, my house is a galvanise home that is flapping in the wind. I have one table and I use that to cook. We have to go down a muddy track, there are creases in the floor and only two mattresses can fit in there,” a worried Chance told the T&T Guardian.

“At nights I have to light a deya for the children to eat, we have to fill jar litre bottles by the neighbour to drink and we have to use water from the pond to bathe. I am really worried about my children and I’m begging for a place to stay.

“I need a house. It does not have to be concrete or anything fancy, but just somewhere where we can be safe.”

After spending most of her juvenile years in the St Jude’s Home for Girls, as her mother could not take care of her and all 21 siblings, she said she is afraid her children will inherit her life.

She said after her previous relationship ended with her being chopped and thrown onto the streets, 10 months ago a social worker brought the children to stay with her. Because she has no job, Chance cannot afford to send the children to school in Barrackpore. Only her youngest child attends a pre-school. She said when she tried to enrol the others in another school nearby she could not meet the principal.

Currently, the children receive no government grants. With the rains coming down heavily yesterday, Chance was praying her family survives in the dilapidated shack.

DAMAGE TO REGION SEVERE—SAMMY

PDRC chairman Dr Allen Sammy was yesterday non-committal on whether flood victim Ramrajie Chance’s family could be given more assistance.

Instead, he said the damage in the region was severe and there were many like Chance’s family who are suffering but have not gone to the media.

He said his councillors were meeting storm victims up to late yesterday to distribute aid to residents in villages that were blocked off for days. Additionally, he said farmers in Barrackpore reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in crop losses.
In the region, there were over 186 roofs blown off up to yesterday and trees severely damaged three houses.
Contacted last night, however, Penal councillor Shanty Boodram said after Chance raised concerns about the flooded outhouse, she had asked the PDRC to clean it before the family moved back home.
Boodram said the centre is usually used to host classes. Asked whether more assistance can be given, she said the family is requesting a house and that needs to be done through Central Government. She said although they are squatters, Government’s Emergency Relief Fund should be made available to everyone.

Categories: News

Assault on sovereign democracy

Columnists - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 06:59

Last weekend several media houses published statements by United States Ambassadors and Charges d’Affaires in the Caribbean, laying bare once again desperate and open intervention into the domestic affairs of Venezuela as deployed by the Department of State in an unprecedented and systematic strategy by the United States Government to intervene in Venezuela to install a tutelage in our Homeland.

The Department of State mobilised their diplomats in the region in order to attack Venezuela mere hours before the Organization of American States 29th Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs hosted in Cancun, Mexico on Monday. Using this occasion it made renewed attempts on the sovereignty and self-determination of the Venezuelan people employing this discredited consultation mechanism activated both arbitrarily and illegitimately by this multilateral organisation.

Imperialism continues to cling to its old coup d’etat interventionist manual which has been defeated every time it was applied against the Venezuelan people. It is unheard of that a country as morally and democratically bankrupt as the United States expects to school Venezuela while denying its people the possibility of direct participation in elections, favouring the maintenance of a corporate and intensely unpopular government, as the while suffering from selective memory, forgetting that it was their own former US President Jimmy Carter who recognised in 2012 the strength of democracy in Venezuela declaring that “considering the 92 elections which we have monitored, I would say the electoral process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

The principle of participatory and protagonist democracy is enshrined in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and includes the possibility of conducting popular consultations on most diverse topics of national interest, including the call for a Constituent National Assembly as established in the articles of the very Constitution and contrary to those that the United States Government intend to impose through their spokespersons.

The United States power system uses frequent and reiterated declarations, extraterritorial and unilateral sanctions, economic financing of opposition organisations promoting terrorism in Venezuela, economic blockades, threats of military intervention, psychological and media wars among other gruesome measures to mask an overt process of intervention. This process is marked by the violation of International Law under the false slogan of “Defending democracy with diplomacy” that is being used today by diplomats and their lackeys to attack a peaceful people. A people, who exemplify the struggle in defence of sovereignty and self-determination, represent an unusual and extraordinary threat to this corporate and warmongering imperial power.

This method of “Missile Diplomacy” already tested by the Empire in Western Europe and in the Middle East, is the one that today is to be applied in Venezuela using legalistic devices obtained from the shady cliques advocating hemispheric appeasement represented by the infamous Organization of American States and its notorious Secretary General, Luis Almagro.

President Nicolás Maduro has invoked the original constituent power by calling a Constituent National Assembly enabling the people as the historic subject to halt the acts of terrorism by the rampaging opposition by means of the universal, direct and secret vote as well as the defence of peace, democracy and sovereignty in Venezuela.

The United States Government is not in any position to instruct us. Venezuela has repeatedly expressed its grave concern regarding respect and guarantee for human rights in the United States, with escalating murders, violence and police brutality particularly against pto-Americans. Human rights are violated through the use of firearms, child labourers are exploited, there are grave displays of racial discrimination, threats are made to impose increased restrictions on health care services that would leave 23 million people without medical insurance.

There is wage inequality based on gender and migrants and refugees face marginalization, particularly those coming from Islamic countries while walls are to be erected to denigrate neighbours. There is also the withdrawal from international environmental preservation commitments intended to deal with climate change.

And so we believe that the United States Government ought to concern itself with its own complex social problems and implement a domestic humanitarian assistance plan to attend to its over 40 million poor persons instead of feeding its obsession to invade Venezuela under the pretext of an alleged humanitarian intervention while its real objective is that of appropriating the energy resources of Venezuela.

The extreme vandalism and violence afflicting Venezuela today is the outcome of the hostile and interventionist decisions adopted at the illegitimate session at the Organization of American States (OAS) last April 3, and which, fueled directly by the US Department of State, incited the most violent and antidemocratic factions in Venezuela and the Region. This escalation in violence was expected to be reinforced on June 19 at Cancun, Mexico with the intention of destabilizing Venezuela, once and for all. They will not be able to crush the spirit of the Venezuelan people.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela condemns the interventionist acts led by the United States Government and it overt call for violence and destabilization, disregard for law and order in Venezuela and its designs on appropriating the resources of our sovereign Homeland, while promoting sedition and coup d’état with the approval of mercenary gangs operating in Venezuela under the guise of political parties.

 

Coromoto Godoy Calderón

Ambassador of Venezuela in T&T

Categories: News

Forging ahead with global climate action

Columnists - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 06:56

With the Paris Agreement, the world decided to take responsibility for its present and its future, by committing to preserve the very source of life: our planet and its environment. The climate change deal is an unprecedented multilateral partnership between nearly 200 countries, supported by companies and communities across the world, to address a problem facing all of us. It’s a challenge we can only tackle together and, since the beginning, Europe has been at the forefront of this collective engagement.

And there is a growing acknowledgment that there is no other way than acting together. Today, more than ever, Europe stands by this landmark agreement and leads the way on its implementation, through effective climate policies and strengthened cooperation to build strong partnerships. Also through continued support to the poorest and most vulnerable, we see more and more people on the move, or exposed to extreme poverty, due to droughts or floods linked to climate change. For Europe, dealing with climate change is a matter of political responsibility and multilateral engagement, and a matter of security, prevention of conflicts and even radicalisation.

That is why the European Union will not renegotiate the Paris Agreement. We have spent 20 years negotiating. Now it is time for action, the world’s priority is implementation.

And as we address climate change with an eye on the future, we create countless opportunities for the present, by setting up new and better ways to produce and consume, invest and trade and protect lives, assets and livelihood opportunities, for the benefit of all people as well as the planet.

To accelerate the global transition to a low-emission, climate-resilient future, we have started to strengthen our existing partnerships and to seek and find new alliances, from the world’s largest economies to the most vulnerable island states. Because from the Arctic to the Sahel, climate change is a reality today, not a remote concept of the future.

We expect all countries to uphold the Paris Agreement and put words into action by implementing their national climate plans and strengthening their efforts over time. Plans must be turned into concrete, actionable policies and measures—now.

The European Union is already working towards completion of the legislative and regulatory framework necessary to deliver our Paris target, to reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990. Our legislative actions cover all sectors of the economy, and we are putting energy efficiency first and boosting uptake of renewable energy across the bloc per cent since 1990, while total EU GDP has grown by 50 per cent. During this period, we have created new jobs, businesses and technologies. We are preparing our economies for the future and, at the same time, investing in making our societies more resilient to climate change, to reduce current and future risks.

We have more than two decades of experience in developing and implementing ambitious climate policies and we are ready to share our experiences and lessons learned. It’s not by chance that we have already established extensive climate policy cooperation with key partners across the globe. We will also continue to provide substantial funding to support climate action in partner countries. In 2015 alone, EU support totalled EUR 17.6 billion.

In just a few months, in November this year, countries will gather in Bonn for the next UN climate conference—COP23—to continue to flesh out the work programme for implementing the Paris Agreement. Next year, the facilitative dialogue to be held as part of the UN climate process will be the first opportunity since Paris to look at our collective efforts to limit global warming and assess what we have done concretely to deliver on the commitments made. These are key steps for turning the political agreement reached in Paris into reality.

Yet this is a challenge we can only overcome with the greatest possible involvement of civil society, businesses, local communities, cities and regions in parallel. And we are seeing an unprecedented breadth and scale of action by all of these actors. As institutions, we can plan and support the strategies needed to save our environment, but it is they that have the crucial role of turning policies into action and results on the ground. Our new EU Consensus on Development actively promotes this role. Enhanced cooperation and coordination among all stakeholders are key—we would say the key. Because only by working together will we be able to live up to the level of ambition we have set ourselves and reap the many benefits of concerted action: lower emissions, greater energy security and energy efficiency, innovation-driven growth, job creation, more resilient societies and a better environment.

Paris was a defining moment in the global challenge to safeguard the planet for present and future generations. The EU is determined to not only implement the Paris Agreement, but also build strong global partnerships to ensure that diplomacy and multilateralism bring real, tangible results for our people. The world, the planet, can count on the European Union.

 

 

Joint Statement for EU Climate Diplomacy Weeks

June 19—July 2, 2017

Federica Mogherini

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission

Miguel Arias Cañete

Commissioner for Climate Action

and Energy

Categories: News

HDC to pay $400,000 to relatives of woman mauled by pitbulls

News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 06:25

The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has to pay more than $400,000 to the family of security officer Denise Rackal who bled to death after being  savagely mauled by four pitbulls at its Edinburgh South Gardens housing development six years ago.

Delivering judgment against HDC yesterday, Justice Frank Seepersad found HDC was negligent as it failed to take steps to address complaints that the ferocious dogs were attacking people on the road, resulting in the woman’s  death.

The 47-year-old mother of two was killed by the pitbulls after they escaped from the policeman’s yard, through holes in a wire fence, on Flamboyant Avenue, on May 9, 2011.  Denise, who  was on her way to take up duties at  Edinburgh Gardens, bled to death on the road. Following the death of his wife and the mother of his two children, Lionel Rackal sued both HDC and the dogs’ owner, Darryl La Pierre, a policeman, claiming their negligence led to his wife’s death. However, last year,  judgment in default was  obtained against La Pierre and it was ordered that damages be assessed. Rackal had testified that his wife previously complained  to him about the dogs barking at her. Prior to the fatal mauling  another  resident, Scherade Rivas, was also attacked and bitten by the pitbulls. However, his mother, Susan, said she took no action  because La Pierre was a policeman.   

Christopher Brooker, then the HDC project manager at Edinburgh Garden, also testified he too had an encounter with one of the dogs and had received several complaints from angry residents which he reported to area manager, Allan Cunningham.

Seepersad said, “In the circumstances there was a duty for the HDC to implement systems by way of response to the said risk and it had an obligation to evaluate the magnitude of the risk, the degree of probability that the risk could lead to injury, and to consider that such dogs as those kept by the 1st Defendant (La Pierre) had the propensity to be dangerous and as they had previously escaped unto Flamboyant Avenue, it had an obligation to take steps to mitigate any such risk  that such a situation could have posed to persons who were using Flamboyant Avenue. 

“There were options available to the HDC which were not explored, it could have repaired the holes in the fence, or it could have taken steps so as to ensure that the first defendant effected the repairs or it could have taken steps to have the dogs lawfully removed. Although those options were available, the second defendant (HDC), failed to act. The HDC, through Mr Booker and M Cunningham, had knowledge of the threat that the dogs posed and though the risk of injury was foreseeable by a reasonable man, as a consequence of the failure to take action so as to prevent the presence of the dogs on Flamboyant Avenue.

     The HDC’s only witness Sherman Holder, manager of HDC’s legal team, denied HDC had knowledge of the danger created by the dogs. 

However, the judge said, “The court felt a degree of disquiet in relation to Mr Holder’s testimony as he appeared to have a very casual and cavalier approach to his evidence. 

Representing the Rackal’s family was  attorney Prem Persad-Maharaj while HDC was represented by attorney Shankar Bidaisee   Rackal who was present in court with his two children, refused to comment on the matter.

Categories: News

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