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With eyes wide open

Columnists - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:50

Disinformation and propaganda disguised as truth constitute more than a minor threat to social and political stability. This has been found to be so everywhere such practices are evident.

Responsible authorities and non-state institutions have been keeping a sharp eye on this, within the context of the use of new and social media, for about two decades now. Free expression rapporteurs from the United Nations, Europe, Africa, and the Americas have issued more than one joint communiqué on the subject. There is also a lot of literature on traditional propaganda campaigns and how they work.

In the meantime, there is a growing body of direction on how this problem can be significantly dealt with– particularly when it comes to addressing the quality of traditional and new media audiences–without substantially threatening free expression.

The basic modus operandi behind the most recent versions of this phenomenon are now well known and understood and the direction flows of such information are becoming easier to track.

We know that both elements supportive of governments and those in opposition are routinely co-opted to facilitate and to enhance flows of disinformation.

There are also non-state private actors that may for a number of reasons attempt to sway public opinion on a variety of matters, some criminal in nature.

I have repeatedly argued in fora examining such issues that a primary, durable intervention would be to focus on improving the discerning eyes and ears of receivers of news and information. “Media and information literacy” is the fancy term employed by development people nowadays.

Let’s break this down a bit and assume someone in a Whatsapp group, for example, posts a social media message ostensibly emanating from a senior police officer. 

Let’s also say there is reference to a “Home Affairs” department of government and “upcoming elections” in the country.

What we would need are people to start asking some basic questions and to apply a more naturally sceptical pre-disposition. Firstly, do we have a “home affairs” department in T&T? Secondly, what “upcoming elections”?

Then, armed with an abundance of scepticism, portions of the message from your inbox can be entered into a search engine or one of several websites now used to identify “fake news.” Snopes.com is an easy one to use.

Voilà! “Home Affairs” and “upcoming elections” together with other key terms used in the Whatsapp message will yield an October 17, 2017 missive from South African officials regarding ANC leadership elections there last year–replicated almost word for word in the Whatsapp message. Takes a few minutes.

The next, slightly more difficult exercise, would be to work out ‘who’ might be behind what appears to be a coordinated effort to generate panic and concern about a visitation from some “home department” to verify elections-related information.

Many times, the person who innocently posts clearly bogus information on the group would try to later diminish the potential harm by stating that such information can serve as a useful warning about the possibility of fake state operatives making the rounds.

Inquisitive sceptics (a condition to which some journalists are prone) would then position the finding alongside prevailing disinformation on, let’s say, the application of the property tax—to cite one possible, non-exclusive lead—and a variety of complementary online resources, including shady “news” outlets and supportive Facebook groups and pages.

Now, be clear, there is an essential difference between misinformation and disinformation. What online propaganda campaigns do is promote intentionally false (and often malicious) information through the use of people and channels that have the potential to innocently disseminate false information to wide and diverse audiences.

Additionally, one of the other main features of coordinated campaigns of disinformation is the effort to weaken the value of countervailing, authoritative sources of authentic information, of which the so-called “mainstream” mass media are but one.

It is therefore not surprising to often witness a high level of hostility toward and slurs directed at journalists and their media houses by politicians and their surrogates. This has been proven to be the case up North.

It’s almost axiomatic that disinformation campaigns embrace attacks on journalism and individual journalists. What is needed is a mainstream and social media consuming public that more readily diagnoses some pretty self-evident symptoms. Keep your eyes wide open!

Categories: News

Five securities advance on TTSE

Business - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:46

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 12 securities of which five advanced, three declined and four traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 65,479 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $683,518.63. GraceKennedy Limited was the volume leader with 23,000 shares changing hands for a value of $69,000, followed by Sagicor Financial Corporation Limited with a volume of 21,144 shares being traded for $168,166.42. LJ Williams Limited B contributed 10,000 shares with a value of $7,000, while National Flour Mills Limited added 4,000 shares valued at $7,200.

Massy Holdings Limited registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.14 to end the day at $47.40. Conversely, ANSA McAL Limited registered the day’s largest decline, falling $1.00 to close at $58.

On the Mutual Fund Market 7,330 shares changed hands for a value of $143,908. Clico Investment Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 6,340 shares valued at $128,068. It advanced by $0.01 to end at $20.20.

In Tuesday’s trading session the following reflect the movement of the TTSE Indices:

•The Composite Index declined by 2.32 points (0.19 per cent) to close at 1,236.52.

•The All T&T Index declined by 4.46 points (0.26 per cent) to close at 1,720.82.

•The Cross Listed Index declined by 0.02 points (0.02 per cent) to close at 101.14.

Categories: News

Rambharat: Food safety policy coming

Business - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:45

After extensive consultations, a food safety policy is being finalised for submission to Cabinet, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said yesterday.

Responding to calls from President of the Poultry Association Robin Phillips to implement the Poultry and Poultry Products Caricom Standard which was passed in 2012, to prevent substandard meat from entering the local market, the minister said meetings had been held with all stakeholders in the industry.

“We are familiar with the proposals of the local poultry sector. Most of what has to be done requires legislative changes. Those changes are in various stages of development,” he said.

“On the policy side, a food safety policy is being finalised for submission to Cabinet after extensive consultation.”

Phillips had said that T&T produced 800,000 birds a week for domestic consumption and imported an estimated 200,000 birds. He called for introduction of proper importation standards because of the numerous discrepancies in T&T Customs export records from the United States.

Last month, the USA Poultry and Egg Council ramped up its campaign to send millions of tons of chicken, turkey and duck, and billions of eggs into the Caricom market. It was met with fierce resistance from the Caribbean Poultry Association which expressed concern that US poultry and poultry products did not conform with specifications developed by CROSQ, the Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality.

Regional producers said they were in discussion with the US Department of Agriculture about adoption of CROSQ standards, including labeling of poultry and poultry products with the date of slaughter so that substandard products did not enter the region.

Last week, Rambharat warned that more than 15,000 jobs would be lost if the local poultry industry was decimated by the foreign imports. According to Phillips, more than 27,000 people were employed in poultry farms and pluck shops.

Categories: News

Contractor to return 13 seized vehicles

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:40

A construction company has been ordered to return 13 vehicles which were seized from the Cepep Company Limited to recoup a $1.5 million debt earlier this year.

Appellate Judges Peter Jamadar, Gregory Smith and Prakash Moosai granted the order at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain on Monday, as they ruled in favour of the State-owned special purpose company in its appeal against Tora Bora Construction and Contractors Limited.

In its oral judgment, the appeal panel ruled that High Court Judge Nadia Kangaloo was wrong when she refused to set aside the default judgment granted to Tora Bora last month.

The company had obtained the judgment against Cepep in December last year after it failed to meet a preliminary deadline for the filing of its defence to the claim. The appeal panel ordered the vehicles which were seized by High Court marshals as they levied on Cepep’s Ste Madeleine office on February 16 be released within seven days.

However, the judges refused to order the company to repay the $500,000 paid by Cepep to stop the levy action. They ruled that the money constituted partial payment of the initial $2 million debt which the company claimed it is owed.

The judges also ruled that Cepep had raised a defence with a realistic prospect of success and was able to justify its delay in seeking to set aside the judgment through reasonable explanations provided by its general manager and legal officer.

In the event that the company does not decide to appeal the decision to the Privy Council, the lawsuit will proceed to trial.

The lawsuit centres around a contract awarded to Tora Bora to do remedial works on the St Joseph Health Centre. The company claimed that it was not paid since completing the work in April 2015.

In its defence, the Cepep company is alleging that the company is complicit in acquiring the contract through improper means as it allegedly knew that the proper procedure was not being followed. Cepep is asking the court to deem the contract void and illegal. Tora Bora has denied any wrongdoing and has stated that the contract was legitimate.

Cepep is being represented by Elton Prescott, SC, Philip Lamont and Farai Hove Masaisai. Tora Bora is being represented by Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh and Desiree Sankar.

Categories: News

Recycling thrust should be part of our culture

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:33

As she advocated for a change of mindset when using and disposing of the plastic waste that often finds itself clogging watercourses, President Paula-Mae Weekes said that citizens take too many things for granted.

Addressing students and attendees at the Environmental Management Authorities’ (EMA) Green Leaf Award at the Southern Academy for Performing Arts yesterday, Weekes said that while leaders must ensure that there is environmental awareness in all sectors of society, it was not just for the business community where manufacturing has an impact on climate change. The responsibility to guard against pollution was for all.

“Here in Trinidad and Tobago, we take so many things for granted. The air that we breathe, the water that we use for our everyday needs, the heat of the sun, pleasantly cool evenings and a particular pleasure for me, the welcome rains after the dry season as they instantly transform our arid landscape into many shades of green. These are but few of the elements that make up our physical environment that we share in Trinidad and Tobago. Many of us are so hurried with our day to day activities that we do not take the time to look around and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings,” Weekes said.

She said that the development of a country is not to be measured only in economic terms, such as foreign exchange earning, average income, employment rate or tertiary level graduates, but by the quality of life. The environment, she said, has a direct bearing on that quality.

“Who can doubt the positive effect of a pristine environment on the human psyche. Within recent times, we have been hearing much about the deleterious effects of plastic on our ecosystem so the theme of World Environment Day 2018, Beat Plastic Pollution, is on point.”

Weekes said that beating plastic pollution was not solely about washing plastic containers or disposing of them in recycling bins, but also to understand waste as a resource. She said the reuse and recycle thrust should become part of our culture.

She lauded the EMA’s iCARE project and investment in youth, which is aimed at establishing a recycling culture in T&T, calling it visionary.

She also congratulated the students of the schools that participated, telling them that while some were awarded prizes, they were all winners. She then gave them a mission to inspire other children, their parents, friends or other adults into being environmentally conscious.

Categories: News

Do more to protect environment

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:25

Two environmental groups yesterday felt that Government was not doing enough to protect the environment, as they called for the ban of styrofoam and plastic bottles to save the environment.

The call was made in observance of World Environment Day yesterday by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) and Wildlife Environmental Protection of T&T (WEPTT).

Secretary of FFOS Gary Aboud felt that the Government was not doing enough to protect the environment and educate citizens about environmental issues.

He said in some countries, an environmental right is a human right.

“Trinidad and Tobago has a long way to go especially in educating our leaders to be sensitive and to understand the meaning of the word sustainable.”

Aboud said past and present governments have turned a blind eye to critical environmental reports that outline the impact developmental projects have on the environment.

He said when bad decisions are made by people at the top, citizens live with a lifetime of regrets.

“We have serious problems with the food we eat…with cancers and diseases. There is cancer in plastics and yet we are addicted to styrofoam even though we have environmental friendly health options,” Aboud said.

Styrofoam, which is non-biodegradable is dangerous to humans, animals and the environment.

Aboud said the banning of styrofoam should be a priority of this Government, while the two-decade old Beverage Containers Bill should be on Parliament’s agenda, as there was a need for curbing plastic pollution at our beaches.

President of WEPTT Kristopher Rattansingh said the Government has not been doing enough to fight against air and water pollutions, littering, waste reduction, oil spills, soil erosion and global warming.

Rattansingh said while the recent cutting of mature Poui trees along the Churchill Roosevelt Highway was required for the development of the Curepe Interchange project, he wondered if a fresh crop of trees would be replanted when the interchange is completed.

Rattansingh said his group was also standing in solidarity with farmers who are against the development of government housing projects on lands near the St Augustine Nurseries. He said the nursery is one of the largest green spaces along the East-West corridor which should be protected.

“The fact that Government wants to cut down (diseased) trees was not well thought out it since farmers and horticulturalists used the nurseries for grafting and seeding purposes. This area should be protected at all cost,” he said.

He said some citizens contribute to flooding in the rainy season by their indiscriminate dumping of garbage in watercourses and rivers.

“The problem is that while there is a fine for littering there is no enforcement. It’s about time we enforce our litter laws and have litter wardens out there doing their jobs. We should not have clean-up campaigns at rivers and beaches. No one should clean another person’s garbage.”

Rattansingh also took the Government to task for not banning styrofoam and plastic bottles.

“There was a lot of talks about this and then it subsided. The issue should be brought to the fore again. This should be a priority of this Government. We are polluting our country with plastic bottles.”

He said T&T has no plan in sight to recycle plastic bottles into useful materials.

In January, Government took the decision to roll back a plan to ban the use of styrofoam products to allow business owners to clear incoming goods, Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis had said. Robinson-Regis said then that a committee which had been formed to look at the styrofoam ban was given a one-year deadline to submit a report, but it was moved up to mid-year.

Categories: News

Beverage Bill back on front burner—Camille

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:23

It’s been almost two decades since the Beverage Containers Bill was first conceptualised but has never been passed as law.

However, with growing environmental consciousness among citizens, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis says the proposed legislation is now engaging the attention of the Government.

Responding to questions about the status of the Beverage Containers Bill during World Environment Day, Robinson-Regis said, “The legislative framework to make this a reality is currently engaging the active attention of the Ministry of Attorney General and Legal Affairs and the Ministry of Public Utilities.”

Explaining the need for proper disposal of beverage containers, Robinson-Regis said the impact of non-biodegradable plastic containers was devastating to the environment.

“One obvious example of the negative impact of irresponsible beverage container disposal is flooding, resulting from the clogging of our waterways,” Robinson-Regis said.

“Mechanisms have to be put in place to encourage the reuse and/or recycling of container waste and to discourage the wasteful, unsanitary and environmentally degrading practice of disposing of empty beverage containers into the environment.”

She said tackling plastic pollution by regulating the use of beverage containers was important.

“One such mechanism for managing beverage containers waste is to place an economic value on the waste to encourage environmentally friendly practices. Such an instrument is deposit-refund systems which is what was contemplated under the Beverage Containers legislation,” she said.

In 2015, Robinson-Regis said the then People’s Partnership had proposed the establishment of a Waste Recycling Authority to implement the deposit-refund system on beverage containers.

“Upon assumption of office, the current administration examined this proposal and determined that the Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL) will undertake the function envisioned by the proposed Waste Recycling Management Authority,” Robinson-Regis said.

Saying waste is a valuable resource, Robinson-Regis said, “It will also stimulate the development of lucrative downstream waste recycling industries nationally, encouraging entrepreneurs, creating jobs and protecting human health and the environment.”

Asked whether she was satisfied with what is taking place at the level of Government as well as NGOs and the private sector the reduce plastic waste, Robinson-Regis said, “Through the Green Fund funded, Recyclable Solid Waste Collection Project (RSWCP), known as ICARE, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has jump-started recycling. The project has been engaged in a number of activities including the successful creation of a network of some 70 public recyclable collection sites where members of the public can deposit their clean recyclables and three pilot depots for the collection, sorting and data capture of recyclable materials deposited across Trinidad. This means that the diversion of plastic materials fit for recycling from the landfills is continuing through the EMA’s programme.”

She noted that the ICare project on its own is not the only element of the Government’s strategy for national waste recovery and recycling.

“It is one element of a wider network including both public and private sector players, each having equally important responsibilities in the broader push to achieve a recycling culture throughout T&T.”

She also noted that SWMCOL which operates depots and material recovery facilities is the entity responsible for recycling at the end of the ICare Project which is set for 2020.

She noted that individual households were responsible for waste segregation and deposit at public collection sites, adding that schools were important for the introduction and promotion of recycling as part of the school curriculum.

Asked what more can citizens do to reduce plastic waste, Robinson-Regis said, “Plastic is found in virtually everything these days. However, there are simple steps anyone can take that will dramatically decrease the amount of plastic waste generated. These include reducing the use of single use plastics: straws, plastic cutlery, reducing the use of plastic bags (carry a reusable bag to the supermarket); use produce from boxes instead of bottles, reuse glass containers, use reusable bottles and cups and choose environmentally friendly food and beverage packaging.

As to why it was taking so long for citizens to adopt proper waste disposal practices, Robinson-Regis said, “Citizens are showing a greater level of environmental consciousness than was seen in the past, and there is still a lot more that can be done.”

MORE ON THE BILL

The idea of regulating the use of plastic containers was conceptualized under the Basdeo Panday administration but it was under the Patrick Manning administration that the then Environment minister Penelope Beckles laid a Bill in Parliament. When the People’s Partnership took office, then minister Ganga Singh said 342 million beverage cases were produced annually in TT. The government made changes to the Bill and laid it in Parliament but it was never passed.

Former minister Ramona Ramdial said the Bill was debated in the Upper House but the Opposition had issues about who will benefit.

The bill lapsed and never came back. Ramdial said this was because private sector did not support the Bill.

“Large manufacturers of soft drinks and plastic containers felt it was not in their best interest to have this recycling initiative and the Bill was shelved,” Ramdial said. Based on the Bill’s provisions, people could get refunds when they bring in plastic bottles for recycling.

Categories: News

Rambharat: Land fraud rampant across T&T

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:00

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat yesterday admitted that land fraud is rampant in T&T and that as line minister for land, he had to report land fraud to the police for an investigation.

He made the disclosure during his contribution to the Registration of Titles to Land Bill in the Senate

“I want to say you just have to Google land fraud in Trinidad and you will see. The Law Association has in fact put out information on land fraud,” he told the House.

“I can tell you Madame President, as a minister, I have referred matters to the Fraud Squad and I have referred matters elsewhere and it deals with fraud. And it is not something that should be taken lightly.”

Rambharat said the Red House was replete with cases where people went into the Search Room and using a razor blade, “cut out deeds from the books.” He said that the state of land administration was highly undesirable and needed to be fixed.

A prime example of where land fraud had been committed, Rambharat said, was with Caroni 1975 Ltd lands.

“You are dealing with a country where you have fraudsters, the impossibility of determining how many times somebody has gone around to people and offered a deed for sale.”

During his contribution, Opposition Senator Gerald Ramdeen asked about Alana Haynes, who wrote the Commissioner of State Lands last August asking for a parcel of land, after she was put out of her home in Morvant by a relative and rendered homeless.

Ramdeen said five weeks after Haynes submitted her letter, she received a response from the commissioner indicating they were prepared to grant her a licence to occupy lands in Arouca as a temporary relief.

Stating this bill will help in the fight against land corruption, Ramdeen said the issuance of such land to Haynes would serve as an injustice to thousands of citizens who have been waiting years to get title for their lands.

“A lot of work is needed in clearing up land fraud,” Ramdeen said.

In a Whatsapp message to the T&T Guardian afterwards, Rambharat said he brought Haynes’ matter to the attention of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in an April 2018 report and was awaiting feedback. Asked if the Commissioner of State Lands was asked to submit a report to him, Rambharat did not respond.

Categories: News

‘Give me CoP job’

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:00

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Deodat Dulalchan is calling upon Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his Government to support his nomination for the post of Police Commissioner.

In a seven-page letter sent to Rowley yesterday, Dulalchan’s lawyer Kiel Taklalsingh made the call as he also sought to clarify several allegations over his client’s suitability to hold the post that arose after the Police Service Commission (PSC) selected the DCP as its preferred candidate earlier this year.

Referring to the recent exoneration of three public servants who were being probed in relation to a land-grabbing matter, Taklalsingh said: “Having therefore treated with and comprehensively debunked all allegations and issues in relation to our client, we trust that the Government which you lead will act appropriately consonant with the needs of the Police Service and society at large and therefore support our client’s nomination for the position of Commissioner of Police.”

Addressing the land grabbing allegations raised by four farmers from central Trinidad and highlighted by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat in March, Taklalsingh pointed out that Rambharat and the Office of the Attorney General never responded to Dulalchan’s numerous requests to be apprised of the allegations and to be given an opportunity to respond.

The allegations related to a parcel of agricultural land at Chatoorie Street Extension, Felicity. The farmers claimed they were displaced by Dulalchan before he was granted permission to occupy the land last year. The land has since been seized by the ministry.

Taklalsingh noted that Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Angela Siew, Commissioner of State Lands Paula Drakes and her deputy Bhanmati Seecharan were suspended as the allegation was being investigated and have since been reinstated.

“The natural inference of this exoneration is that any allegation of impropriety by our client of illegally obtaining a licence to occupy certain lands no longer carries any weight for the purposes of public decision making and must be deemed devoid of merit,” he said.

Dealing next with a complaint made to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) in 2011, Taklalsingh questioned the PCA’s delay in recommending disciplinary action to the PSC as it related to how it affected his client’s running for the CoP post.

“Despite the vintage of this purported investigation into an alleged incident from an unnamed source, the PCA’s pursuit of the investigation resurfaced and found renewed vigour only when our client was being considered for the position of Commissioner of Police,” Taklalsingh said.

Taklalsingh claimed the PCA also failed to give a substantive response to his client’s requests for information on the complaint. He pointed out that the PCA elected to forward its recommendation to the PSC without giving Dulalchan a hearing to put forward his version of the events.

Taklalsingh also sought to question the authority of the Special Select Committee of Parliament, which was appointed by Rowley in February to investigate the process of selection for the Police Commissioner and Deputies.

“It is a matter of record that these public hearings descended into a concerted attempt by some members of the committee to impeach, without any reasonable basis, the process adopted by the PSC which resulted in the nomination of our client to the post of Commissioner of Police,” Taklalsingh said.

He also pointed out that Dulalchan was denied the opportunity to appear before the committee and to make representations.

Noting that the PSC was the only body permitted under the Constitution to nominate candidates for the positions, Taklalsingh said: “At the end of the day, what remains unshaken is the fact that the PSC no doubt engaged in an assessment process which involved the sensitive weighing of information, impressions and qualifications; juxta-positioning same with the evolving needs of the priorities of the Police Service at this time, thereby lawfully nominating our client for the position of Commissioner of Police.”

Suggesting that there is an “undeniable” correlation between the crime situation and the absence of a substantive officer in the CoP post, Taklalsingh called on Rowley to address the situation urgently.

“Even further, the frustration of appointments to the top post with the Police Service is no doubt a lethal blow to the morale of the Police Service, which at this time craves leadership,” Taklalsingh added.

Dulalchan is also being represented by Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally, Vivek Lakhan-Joseph, Criston Williams and Stefan Ramkissoon.

MORE INFO

After Trevor Paul retired as Commissioner of Police in 2008, James Philbert, who was the most senior officer in the service after Paul, was appointed to act in the role.

At that time, acting Deputy Commissioner Stephen Williams, who was the PSC’s nominee for CoP in 2008 after being recommended by Penn State, had been rejected by the PNM in Parliament.

In 2010, during a search under the People’s Partnership coalition, Parliament rejected Canadian Neal Parker for the post, citing that he had been part of the evaluation team for the selection of the commissioner in 2008.

The last appointed commissioner, Canadian Dwayne Gibbs was the second-rated nominee on Penn State’s evaluation.

Categories: News

2 slain in Beetham Gardens drive-by

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:00

Two men died following a drive-by shooting in the Beetham Gardens on Monday night, an incident police believe was linked to the murder of reputed gang leader Kevon “Fish” Joseph who was murdered in Gonzales hours before.

One of the men killed in the drive-by, Abraham Quamina, was Joseph’s nephew and it is believed he was targeted as a result of this blood relation. The other man, Alvin Gyan, 37, was on his way home from work. Both men were shot in the back of their heads and died at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.

A third man, Derrick Huggins, was shot and wounded but he is currently warded at hospital in a serious condition.

According to a police report, at about 10.15 pm a car pulled up near a bar and its occupants opened fire before escaping in the vehicle.

However, Quamina’s relatives believe it was an unfortunate case of him being “at the wrong place, at the wrong time.”

Quamina’s mother was inconsolable at the Forensic Science Centre, St James, yesterday and had to be assisted to a waiting car. She kept asking relatives why her innocent son had to be killed like that.

A relative explained to the T&T Guardian that life seemed unfair for Quamina. Two years ago Quamina was on his way home to Carlsen Field when he was kidnapped and robbed. This year he also spent four months in hospital after one of his lungs collapsed.

“Now he was killed. One shot to the back of the head,” the relative said, pointing out that Quamina had gone to the Beetham to drop a female friend off when the incident occurred.

Another relative told the T&T Guardian that Quamina was an intelligent individual who pursued mechanical engineering at the MIC at O’Meara. He was also a mentor with a non-governmental organisation providing assistance to other students.

Earlier in the day, Joseph was in the backseat of a car travelling along Belmont Circular Road when he and the driver were ambushed by two gunmen who began shooting at the car. The driver turned into Hermitage Road, got out of the Toyota Corolla and left Joseph, who was wounded. Eyewitnesses told police the gunmen walked closer to the vehicle and shot Joseph several times at close range.

But Joseph’s sister told the T&T Guardian her brother was not a gang leader. Rather, she described him as someone who loved life.

A relative explained that Joseph was arrested last week for possession of a marijuana joint and was granted station bail on Saturday. The relative said he was going home from the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court where he had his case when he was killed. Relatives said the driver was unknown to them but believed Joseph hired him for transport.

Gyan’s brother, Simon, said Gyan worked at a mechanic shop in Petit Bourg and was on his way home when he was hit by a stray bullet.

“He was walking home and that was the time he usually comes home. He has been living in the Beetham for the past 25 years. He was just killed innocently.”

The Beetham double murder took the murder toll to 244 for the year so far.

Investigations are continuing.

Man held with fake US in sting

A 24-year-old man was yesterday held for having US$1,700 in counterfeit bills in his possession during a sting operation at the Grand Bazaar’s food court.

According to a police report, at about 12.30 pm a team of plainclothes police tracked the man to the food court where they arrested him. The man is from Caparo and was up to last night assisting officers in their investigations.

The team of officers consisted of officers from the St Joseph CID and Crime Patrol Unit.

Investigations are continuing.

Categories: News

Man survives pit bull attack

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:00

A 64-year-old pensioner is thanking God for life today, after he survived an attack by a pit bull in front of his sister’s La Sieva Road, Sangre Grande home on Saturday.

Father of four Jairam Rampersad told T&T Guardian he was viciously attacked by a pit bull when he went to visit his sister.

Recalling the incident yesterday, he said the dog bit into his left hand and refused to let go, tearing away his skin in the process. He said he fell to the ground screaming in pain but began to wrestle with the dog in an attempt to get it off him. However, he said no one responded to his cries for help. Just when he thought the dog would overwhelm him Rampersad said the animal suddenly let go of his arm.

“I saw bottles next to the wall, I ran and grabbed the bottles with my right arm and began to pelt the dog. The dog ran into some bushes and disappeared,” Rampersad said.

Traumatised and bleeding profusely, he said he ran into his sister Dhannie’s house and she rushed him to Sangre Grande Hospital, where he was treated and kept for observation.

His sister later made a report to the Sangre Grande Police Station.

On Sunday the pit bull was seen on the road again and Dhannie Rampersad called the Sangre Grande police. They responded immediately and were about to put the dog down when they realised it had gone into a house on Factory Road, La Sieva. The police called out to the owner and asked him if he knew the dog had attacked someone the previous day. He told police he was unaware of what transpired.

Adding he hopes the police take action against the owner, Rampersad said, “I am looking forward for justice from the court. I thank God for being alive today. I am shocked and want to know why this vicious and aggressive dog was not silenced.”

Rampersad said although the dog’s owner was told of the incident he had not yet visited him up to yesterday.

WPC Meloney is investigating.

RALPH BANWARIE

Categories: News

Nieces, nephews traumatised

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:00

The 12-year-old nephew of Ashdale Mc Hutchinson, who died after an attack by a vigilante mob in Oropune, was sent back home from school on Monday and also kept at home yesterday, as he is said to be having a hard time dealing with his uncle’s death.

His mother - Mc Hutchinson’s sister Anika - told the T&T Guardian her younger son broke down in tears when he came home.

“He is very traumatised and he just couldn’t stay in school on Monday, he was crying and crying and so uncontrollable with the grief and trauma. I even kept him away from school today (yesterday) and until he can deal with it.”

Anika said she was a single parent to three children and her brother acted as a father to them.

“From baby my 12-year-old was with him right through, that is why he is crying so much. The older one turned 18 years and he is also having a hard time dealing with this. He saw the videos going around and couldn’t look at it because he became very angry over how they treated his uncle.”

Anika said the incident had also left her so afraid and traumatised she had not returned to her Oropune home since the incident, adding she may never return to her house. She admitted she was now thinking about moving into her mother’s place in Lopinot so she can better take care of her entire family now that her brother was gone.

“I am drained. I am afraid for my life. I am too frightened to go back there. My children so traumatised. I too. I have not slept since, neither eaten since…neither my children. My sister’s children in a mess too…nobody could function right now,” she said.

She explained that her eldest son will soon be graduating and was looking forward to his uncle’s attendance.

“Now, we not even sure if he will go through with it. My brother didn’t deserve to go through that, the kind and giving person he was, well loved by all.”

Mc Hutchinson had five siblings, four sisters and a brother, and 15 nephews and nieces.

An autopsy on Mc Hutchinson, 46, at the Forensic Science Centre yesterday found he died of blunt force trauma - his head was beaten as though it was an inanimate object.

Anika and her mother, Jeannette, 70, emerged from the centre “in a state of shock and disbelief.”

“All the kick and cuff they hit my brother on his head, the rope they tied around his neck, he got serious head trauma. This is not easy at all…he just didn’t deserve this,” Anika said.

She claimed the residents attempted to burn her brother to death in the bushes because of the fact that dead men tell no tales, and when he ran out they robbed him and badly beat him instead.

The incident occurred on Wednesday a few minutes away from her home but in close proximity to their cousin Mario’s house, where Mc Hutchinson was invited that day.

Mc Hutchinson was accused of attempting to lure a five-year-old girl away from a nearby playground. He was chased after by Oropune residents and attempted to hide in some bushes, but the residents lit the bushes on fire, causing him to run out. He was then held and badly beaten and hog-tied. Parts of the incident were recorded via cell phones and shared on social media.

DILLON CONDEMNS ACT

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon said yesterday that Mc Hutchinson’s death was caused by an illegal act and not vigilante justice.

In offering condolences to the family, Dillon said citizens have the power under the Criminal Law Act Chapter 10:04 Section 3 (2) to make a citizen’s arrest, but only if a person is in the act of committing an arrestable or serious offence, or was witnessed committing an offence.

“Anything outside of these parameters would be considered illegal, especially if assault is involved,” Dillon said.

In Mc Hutchinson’s case, Dillon noted that prior to making a citizen’s arrest, law enforcement personnel should have been immediately alerted rather than residents resorting to taking the matter into their own hands.

He urged citizens to “respect the rule of law when attempting to execute a citizen’s arrest in accordance with the Criminal Law Act Chapter 10:04 Section 3 (2).”

He also made the call for all citizens to work closely with law enforcement to police their respective communities in an effort to reduce crime and lawlessness.

Categories: News

Fallen coconut tree destroys San Fernando house

News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 17:04

Braving sea spray and chilly winds, a San Fernando family has been sleeping under the ruins of their home which collapsed on Monday afternoon after a coconut tree fell on top of it.

Crab catcher Munnilal Nagoo, 29, his common-law wife Amanda Ramnat, also 29, and Ramnat's brother Justin Ramnath, 14, of Embaccadere, San Fernando escaped death when the tree fell around 5 pm on Monday. 

The family yesterday walked from Embaccadere to the Social Welfare office on Cipero Street hoping to get help but without their identification cards, an official told them they could offer no aid.

Recalling the tragedy, Ramnat, a multi-linguist, said she was sleeping inside the ply-board house when her brother-in-law Dave Nagoo shouted to her to get out of the house.

"He said the tree cracking and to run out now. If I didn't run out  I would have died in there," Ramnat said. 

She added that Nagoo and a few neighbours tried to hold back the tree as it leaned towards the house by propping it with a piece of plank. 

However, the plank splintered and the tree came crashing down.

Saying this was the third tragedy to hit them, Ramnat said last August, a fire destroyed their home. Six years before that her mother Nowmattie Ramnat-Ramphal was killed in a fire at Avocat Village, Fyzabad in 2011.

Ramnat-Ramphal, 39, was a Guyanese national who worked as a domestic worker and her death was deemed a murder but no one was ever arrested for the crime.

Since then things have been tough for us, Ramnath said.

She added, "We had to go around asking for help and we got a few pieces of ply and some galvanize. We had to get permission from the owner, who has a deed to comfort to get a grant to rebuild it. Now that the tree has fallen destroying the house again, we do not know where to go for help."

Nagoo, who earns his livelihood selling dasheen bush, catching crabs and selling fish, said he was frustrated.

"Just yesterday I went up in the dump and I got a door which I installed. We were working hard to earn a little money to fix the house. Now we have to start from scratch all over again," Nagoo said.

Saying they spent a cold chilly night sleeping under the slanted floorboards, Ramnat said they were disappointed because even though they worked hard to earn a living, tragedy always befell them. 

He called on corporate T&T to help them in rebuilding their home.

"If we could just get some material, we will build it ourselves," Nagoo said. He added that an official from the Social Welfare Office told him to apply for help but he could not do so because he did not have an identification card. 

Contacted yesterday, Minister of Social Development Cherrie-Ann Crichlow said her team will contact the family and offer some assistance. Anyone wanting to help the family can contact Ramnat at 354-7974 or 333-9561.

Categories: News

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