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Man on 105 wildlife charges gets $50,000 bail

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:52

An 18-year-old unemployed man has been granted $50,000 own bail on 105 wildlife charges.

Ricardo Hospedales is accused of having several protected birds, two turtles and a South American capybara in his possession.

He, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges before Princes Town Magistrate Nalini Singh.

Hospedales was arrested on Saturday during an anti-crime exercise by officers of the Moruga Police Station and game wardens from the Forestry Division.

It is alleged that the police executed a search warrant at a house at Lanse Mitan Road, Moruga where they found 30 white eyed parakeets, 12 blue and gold macaws, one Hans macaw, eight black headed parrots, two red footed tortoises and a capybara which is the largest rodent in the world.

He was charged by senior game warden Steve Seepersad with 54 charges of possession of a protected animal and 51 charges of clipping the wings of a protected animal.

It took the magistrate about an hour to read all the charges to him.

Singh, who went to the car park to view the animals which were in cages in a vehicle, ordered that they be handed over to the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division. The matter was adjourned to July 26.

Categories: News

Work begins to stem ruptured oil well

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:28

Two weeks after the Couva Marine 2 oil well ruptured spewing high pressures of gas and oil into the Gulf of Paria, engineers have begun preparatory to contain the emissions.

Under the guidance of senior well-control engineers from the Texas-based company Boots and Coots, an abandonment strategy was agreed upon and works commenced.

A team from Petrotrin has been containing and recovering the spilt hydrocarbon material that is being emitted by the well.

The team has been corralling the wax-like, foam mousse and before vacuuming it into intermediate bulk containers stored on the vessels which are part of the clean-up operations. Members of the Oil Spill Response Limited, one of Petrotrin’s external partners for oil-spill response, has been working on the project. Since the pre-abandonment works started, Petrotrin and the T&T Coast Guard have been doing regular patrols to ensure that marine craft operators stay about three nautical miles away from the ruptured well.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Energy said the works started on Sunday following completion of an appropriate well control strategy, risk assessment and the fabrication of the necessary fittings and equipment to allow for safe operations.

“Developing the strategy required analysis of historical data from the well and other wells in the area, an assessment of the current conditions and the sourcing of the required materials and equipment, some of which had to be specially designed and fabricated,” the Ministry said.

Well-control specialists from Boots & Coots Services have been providing technical advice and support for the Petrotrin team involved in the emergency response. The abandonment works are expected to last for two weeks. The Ministry said the prohibited area has been reduced by the Maritime Services Division from the original radius of five nautical miles from the leaking well to three nautical miles. Additional warning buoys have been deployed at the request of fishermen.

“Both the Coast Guard and Petrotrin security vessels will maintain patrols in the area. Petrotrin vessels engaged in corralling and recovery activities,” the Ministry said. It is uncertain how much gas has already entered the environment or how much the abandonment works will cost the Ministry of Energy.

Boots & Coots Services is one of the leaders in the global energy industry for well control services.

The company boasts of over 40 years’ knowledge and experience in addressing the industry’s most challenging well control problems—onshore, offshore and subsea.

Categories: News

47 more prisoners opt for fast trials

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:23

More than a dozen women were part of a group of 47 remand prisoners who yesterday indicated their willingness to plead guilty to their crimes.

The prisoners, who are on remand for serious offences including murder, robbery and fraud, appeared before High Court Judge Gillian Lucky in the Port-of-Spain High Court as part of a special initiative by the Judiciary to help reduce the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system.

The initiative was launched last week when a batch of 55 inmates signed on to the new programme. The accused are either seeking to plead guilty or want a Maximum Sentence Indication (MSI) (where a judge indicates the possible sentence ahead of the guilty plea) to assist with their decision.

During yesterday’s hearing, Lucky sought to determine the status of each person’s case and whether they had legal representation.

In most of the cases, Lucky was informed that delays due to issues with the filing of indictments against them.

The procedure is required to have the case listed for trial before a judge and jury. The inefficiency usually stems from delays in the transferring of evidence from accused persons’ preliminary inquiry to the DPP’s Office, which is required to file the indictments.

As she assessed each case, Lucky informed the accused that High Court Registrar Nirala Bansee-Sookhai was participating in the initiative as her office would contact staff at the magistrate’s courts, where their preliminary inquiries were heard, to ensure that the process is completed.

A handful of the cases were almost ready to proceed with and Lucky said they could be dealt with in the fast-track court initiative, which will operate next month during the Judiciary’s annual vacation, between July to mid-September.

Several of the accused awaiting trial for murder were informed that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will have to decide if their cases fell under felony murder category. In cases of felony murder, judges are allowed to waive the mandatory death penalty in cases where death resulted in the commission of a lesser criminal offence, which in most cases is robbery.

As many of the accused on robbery and sexual offence charges complained of not being able to access bail while awaiting trial, Lucky said she would consider their applications for bail variations at a later hearing.

However, she was careful to note that she could not guarantee that the applications would be approved.

The accused were ordered to return to court for a next status hearing on October 18.

Categories: News

‘A wake up call to UNC, PNM’

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:21

The results of Monday’s by-election should not be one to celebrate for either the United National Congress (UNC) or People’s National Movement (PNM).

It should serve as a wake-up call to both parties.

That’s how political analyst Prof John La Guerre summed up the outcome of the by-election which saw the UNC capturing the Barataria seat, while the PNM retained Belmont East.

La Guerre said the result was not something to celebrate for both parties since it showed that ancestral loyalties were shifting and people are more concerned with pressing issues affecting the country.

He said the collapse of the seabridge, the delay in the arrival of the Galleons Passage, crime, murders, unemployment and the flagging economy could have contributed to the PNM votes going into the UNC’s hands.

“The leadership of both political parties need to assess particulars at polling stations levels what is going on. This would give them an indication of how people are reacting.

What we are witnessing is a preamble to the 2020 general elections.”

La Guerre said the PNM’s leadership would now have to reassess its approach to policies in going forward.

“The results would certainly give the Prime Minister an idea how people are thinking and reacting to the policies of the PNM. Dr Rowley has to play an increased role in the administration of the country. He would have to hold his ministers to account, either in Cabinet meetings or otherwise. It’s clear they are not performing as the electorate expected.

There is dissatisfaction on the ground with the Government’s performance.”

It was evident, La Guerre said, that the Prime Minister’s stocks have begun to further decline.

“The PNM needs to get its house in order because they are going to face a general election in two years’ time.

So I expect there would be some internal discussions in the way the Government is performing.”

While La Guerre was critical of PNM’s poor performance, he said the UNC should not blow its trumpets just yet as they need to be more serious in the way they portray themselves as a possible alternative to the PNM.

“The result of the by-elections is a wake- up call for both parties,” La Guerre said.

Political analyst Maukesh Basdeo said the PNM would now have to take into consideration that voters can swing their allegiance back and forth at the drop of a hat.

Basdeo said Rowley would have to re-strategise, as voters’ behaviour was beginning to change.

“The Prime Minister would have to take stock of the results. You cannot write it off as a by-election and it has no bearings.”

He said while the UNC has demonstrated that they had all systems in place to topple the PNM in Barataria, they still have a lot of work ahead with little time on their hands.

Basdeo also held that view that the PNM would have to rethink its policies and positions and go back to the drawing board before next year’s local government elections and general election are called to woo voters.

He said a lot of pressing issues could have resulted in votes being swung.

While Rowley stated in his concession speech that the PNM did not stir up racial and religious acrimony, Basdeo said he wondered if the Muslims in Barataria voted against the PNM.

Basdeo said the fact that several people were detained by police concerning the terror plot to disrupt Carnival 2018 and the Nur-E-Islam mosque in El Socorro being searched played a role in the votes shifting.

“All of these things would have been factored. These things would have been a factor. It may have influenced how people voted.”

Categories: News

Vessel looks like ‘value for money’

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:18

The Galleons Passage is worth the US$17.4 million paid for it and with minimal retrofitting works already completed, so far looks like “value for money.”

This sentiment was shared by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan at the end of yesterday’s tour of the vessel, which is currently docked at the Cruise Ship Complex, Port-of-Spain.

Both ministers expressed pride in spending less than the TT$2.35 million estimated for retrofitting.

Some of the minor upgrades and improvements initially identified for the vessel were a canopy over the vehicle deck, a full canopy over the sun deck, an additional female wash-room on the sun deck and remodelling some rails in the passenger area.

However, one of the major planned modifications, covering of the sun deck which accommodates seating for 100 passengers, was not done. But Sinanan said this was intentional as they thought some passengers, especially tourists, would enjoy the “open-air experience.”

“We will send the boat out to service the seabridge as is and we will await the feedback from the passengers and if they don’t want it well then we will carry out retro-fitting works after the July/August period,” Sinanan said.

With tickets going at the same cost, passengers are expected to experience “a cruise ship-like experience” with an improved standard of service, Sinanan promised.

In the main air-conditioned cabin, which accommodates 600 passengers, some of the seats were still in plastic and there was luxury seating in the vessel’s business lounge. The wash-rooms, which include specially outfitted ones for the handicap, were squeaky clean.

Sinanan offered passengers some advice, “Respect the vessel, it would service longer.”

Just outside the main cabin on the first deck is an elevator for the handicapped.

During a tour to the vessel’s engine room, Imbert declared to the media: “Doesn’t this look new to you? It’s brand new…I do not know where all this talk came from? This could not have been so overnight? Or with magic.”

Regarding a document fixed on a part of the vessel “Date of Bill 2015,” Imbert said it represents the date when the steel was cut for its hull.

“There are stages in building the vessel. First thing you do is cut the steel for the hull and then start to fabricate the hull, then you fabricate the deck, then install the engines.”

Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Galleons Passage Master Valerij Rogac said there were “no problems…no issues…the vessel is in good working order and condition.”

Rogac also denied the vessel stalled off Venezuela, hence the reason for its late docking on Monday.

Pointing to the charts, he explained: “As seen on the charts it was the Equatorial Currents which are very strong and we cannot ignore because its environmental so because it was very strong we had to decrease speed.”

The real test to Scarborough, through the Bocas, in two to three weeks time will tell.

More details on Galleons Passage

Purchase Date: February 8, 2018
Key Dates (New Build)
Steel Cutting: March 4, 2015
Keel Laying: April 21, 2015
Launching: September 16, 2016
1st Sea Trial: November 30, 2016
Final Sea Trial: October 20, 2017
Delivery: February 2018
Delivery Voyage
Departed from Guangzhou, Guandong, China Date: March 1, 2018
Distance: 12,479 Nautical Miles
Delivery Company: International Maritime Services, Perth, Australia
Contract Value: US$811,800 – Service & Bunkering

Categories: News

Galleons Passage weeks away from service

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:15

The Galleons Passage is finally here but it will be another two to three weeks before it is servicing the seabridge, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said during a debut tour of the vessel yesterday.

The vessel docked at the Port of Port-of-Spain around 11 pm on Monday – a nine-hour delay from the initial estimated time of 2 pm. The National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) said “strong currents” forced the crew to reduce the vessel’s speed.

Imbert, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and NIDCO chairman Herbert George led a contingent of ministry and Port Authority of T&T officials and media personnel on a detailed tour of the vessel from its engine room to its bridge.

Imbert said the “most difficult challenge” now was assembling a crew.

“We have already engaged a ship manager who brought it from China and he is the one who is now assisting in assembling a crew. The biggest challenge is mobilising a crew, but it’s already in progress,” Imbert said.

He said there could be a further delay for the vessel to be put on the seabridge but “barring unforeseen circumstances” they were hoping to deal with final refurbishing issues in two to three weeks and get in on the seabridge thereafter.

“Again, we never know what would happen with the Ferry Terminal (referring to ongoing dredging works) and the Port Authority because they are the ones dealing with this…but it should be complete in two weeks and in the interim the boat will be berth here (Cruise Ship Complex, Port of PoS),” Imbert said.

Once servicing the seabridge, Sinanan said the vessel, which accommodates 600 passengers in its main cabin, 100 more on its sundeck, along with 100 vehicles, will take an estimated four-and-a-half hours on the journey to Tobago.

However, Imbert explained that the Galleons Passage was initially purchased for servicing the Toco Port to Scarborough Port route when Government completes the Toco port project. Sinanan added that its voyage estimate time from there would be about 90 minutes.

Asked how soon construction will start on the Toco Port and how much it will cost, Imbert replied: “Barring unforeseen circumstances and lawsuits, because you know Trinidadians like to sue, construction should begin next year, 2019…$700 million.”

Sinanan said the Toco Port is already in its designing stages.

“We are in negotiations with the EMA to have all approvals…once that is done tenders will go out. The road is in the stage of full designing and we expect to see something happening there shortly,” Sinanan said.

Imbert added that by the time the Toco Port is completed the Galleons Passage will be re-located there along with an additional vessel similar to it.

Categories: News

Body exhumed, jewels in coffin

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:12

Officials of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation were forced to perform the first exhumation of a body in the region yesterday. However, the reason was an extraordinary one.

The move was initiated by the family of deceased Chanroutie Boodoo, who sought permission to exhume her body over fear that robbers had looted her grave to steal the heirloom jewellery she was buried with and her coffin, which was gold-plated.

Boodoo was buried on March 2 at the cemetery at Foster Road, Sangre Grande. She died in England on February 4.

However, since then relative had been receiving reports that several people had been seen around the grave site in the early hours of the morning and on more than one occasion. As such, they feared her grave may have been dug up, her coffin tampered with and the items, worth thousands of dollars, stolen.

Armed with a licence for an exhumation, under the Burial Grounds Act. Chapter 30:50, Section 12, Boodoo’s husband Cornelus O’Donell, of England, sister Dassie Martin and niece Belinda Martin turned up at the cemetery yesterday on a fact-finding mission to ease their concerns.

They were accompanied by Insp Sawak Baran, PCs Bosland, Ali, Thomas and Deles, of Sangre Grande Municipal Police, Chief Medical Officer Health Rodell Mohammed, Public Health Officer Nesha Manick, County Superintendent Satnarine Singh, SGRC CEO Dianna Lakhan and later on SGRC chairman Terry Rondon.

Cemetery keeper Jameel Joseph joined in to witness as gravediggers Wendell Samaroo, Junior Garcia began the exhumation process, as he ( Joseph) was keen to find out if such an act had been carried out on the property under his watch.

Samaroo and Garcia started the digging around and finally finished the process hours later.

However, the grave diggers encountered water at the bottom and a sewage truck was called in to siphon out the muddy contents.

But when Boodoo’s coffin was taken out and its contents examined, everything was found to be intact. Relatives verified everything before the coffin was returned to its resting place and the grave filled back up with earth. Afterwards, SGRC CEO Lakhan confirmed all the necessary documents were submitted and the cost paid by the family to conduct the exhumation, adding the licence was granted by Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein.

She added that an exhumation was very unusual and interesting but was happy they were able to do everything to the satisfaction of Boodoo’s relatives and nothing was missing.

Rondon also told the T&T Guardian it was the first time he had heard of and witnessed an exhumation in the region.

RALPH BANWARIE
 

Categories: News

Hope fades for woman

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:09

Grimacing in pain, Gloria Nicome broke down in tears yesterday as she related her daily ordeal of toting a 160-pound tumour growing on her back, buttocks, hips and legs for several years.

The tumour, which started growing on her buttocks in 2011, has made 52-year-old Nicome, who tips the scale at 310 pounds, a prisoner inside her Malabar apartment.

Nicome yesterday recalled being a free-spirited and independent person earning her own dollar as a production supervisor at a meat shop. But all that changed in 2011 when she took a tumble and landed on her buttocks.

Shortly after, she noticed a lump on her rear but paid no attention to it.

When the lump began to grow at a fast pace, she visited the Port of Spain General Hospital where she was diagnosed with plexiform neurofibroma. Doctors told her surgery was the only option to remove the growth, which was not life-threatening.

“During the operation, I started to bleed profusely. The doctors could not continue. The tumour was butchered like a ham leg, which never healed.

“In the last seven years, the tumour has grown from my waist to my knees. It now weighs 160 pounds. It’s heavier than I am. I have become a prisoner in my own home. I can’t go anywhere.

If it wasn’t for God I would have given up. He has been my pillar of strength.”

From 2016 to now the tumour, which is black in colour, has increased by 30 pounds, restricting Nicome’s movements.

Nicome’s case was previously highlighted by Guardian Media in November 2016. Since then the tumour grew by 20 pounds and her life has not improved. With each passing day, Nicome said she has unbearable pain from her neck, back, shoulders and waist.

“Many days I am unable to get off my bed even to change my bedsheet or to tidy myself. The tumour is such a burden.”

While a plastic surgeon has reached out to Nicome, she said the public health system has been making her life a living hell, as she is unable to get dressings for the tumour, which oozes daily.

Last year, Nicome said nurses at the Arima District Health Facility began visiting her home twice weekly to attend to change the dressing.

“I used to pay a taxi $300 to take me to the clinic to get the tumour dressed but the nurses started coming to my home. So it was easing me up financially and otherwise. It was a big help out.”

In January, however, Nicome said the nurses stopped coming.

“They said they were short on nurses and began delivering the dressing at my home instead.”

The dressing consisted of several packets of gauze, rolls of cotton, antiseptic and surgical tape that lasted for a week.

But recently, Nicome said the nurses have been cutting back on supplies, as she only receives seven small packs of gauze to last 12 days, which is insufficient.

“Yesterday, I ran out of dressing.

I had to cut up an old dress to bandage the tumour. Using old clothes is not sterile. It can infect the tumour. Every day I have to dress it twice because it constantly leaking liquids. I can’t understand how a simple thing like dressings the health facility is short on. Why people have to suffer so? All this is frustrating me,” a tearful Nicome said.

Of the $1,150 public assistance and $410 food card she collects monthly, Nicome pays a rent of $1,000.

“I can barely survive with the money I am getting. I am not accustomed with this kind of living,” she said.

“I was an independent person who never depended on anyone for anything. In the blink of an eye my life change. Every day I does ask God when will I get over this ordeal. This is too much. This can happen to anyone…anyone.

Now I have to depend on friends to see after my needs which is paining me inside out knowing what my life has become.”

Last night, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh advised the T&T Guardian to call North Central Regional Health Authority CEO Davlin Thomas concerning Nicome’s issue. However, calls to Thomas’ cellphone went straight to voicemail.

Plexiform neurofibroma is a benign tumour of peripheral nerves arising from a proliferation of all neural elements, pathognomonic of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). It involves single or multiple nerve fascicles that arise from major nerve branches.

Categories: News

Drug suspects held following chase & shootout with police

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 18:14

Two men opened fire on police in a desperate bid to flee with drugs and guns at Aripero Village, Rousillac on Tuesday afternoon. 

Shortly after 3 pm, the police received a tip-off that the men were transporting guns and drugs in a green Tuscon. 

Officers from the South Western Divisional Task Force set up a roadblock along the Southern Main Road in Rousillac and attempted to intercept the van. 

However, the driver accelerated and a chase ensued. 

Upon reaching Aripero, the men attempted to flee using a side road. 

Officers called for backup and as they tried to intercept the van, a shoot-out occurred. 

The van ran off the road and the two suspects were later arrested. 

An undisclosed quantity of narcotics and weapons were found inside the vehicle. 

Police said the two men will appear before ID parades on Wednesday before they are charged. 

Investigations are continuing.

Categories: News

Murder suspect discharged from hospital

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 18:04

The key suspect in the fatal stabbing of Dillon Lucas outside the Cloud 9 nightclub in Debe last Sunday has been discharged from the San Fernando General Hospital.

Homicide investigators went to the man's home yesterday where they recorded a statement from him. 

He denied killing Lucas saying it was Lucas who attacked him. 

An autopsy conducted on Lucas's body at the Forensic Science Centre revealed that death was due to shock and hemorrhage, consistent with multiple stab wounds to the neck, chest, and stomach.

So far, officers have taken statements from over a dozen people who witnessed the fight which led to Lucas's death last Sunday. 

Lucas, of Douglas Trace, St Mary's was a father of five. His third common-law wife Shantal Roysam, 21, with whom he had no children, said Lucas died protecting her and her sister after a stranger began harassing them at the nightclub.

The accused also stabbed Lucas's friend Kailash Seepersad on the hand before he allegedly attacked Lucas.

Seepersad, who has been discharged from the hospital, also gave police a statement.

Police said once investigations are complete, a file will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions who will give instructions on whether charges will be laid. Homicide officers are continuing investigations.

Categories: News

Crab catchers begin feeling the pinch

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 17:14

Local crab catchers are feeling the pinch of poor sales after the government issued a ban on the importation of processed crab meat and live crabs from Venezuela.

Since the ban, the crab catchers from Woodland, Oropouche, Moruga, and Embaccadere complained that their sales had dried up.

Vinod Ramsawak, who sold crabs from Mayaro said after waiting for six hours in the heat, all he sold was $100.

"Things are tough. I want to sell these crabs so I can make up money to buy my children's school books and uniforms. I have two sons who are still in school and I have bills," Ramsawak said. 

He added that his crabs came from Ortoire, Mayaro and were not imported from Venezuela but even after pleading with potential customers, no sales were forthcoming.

Asked to differentiate between local crabs and Venezuelan crabs, Ramsawak said both crabs look the same. However, he said the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries must do a detailed investigation on the crabs before issuing a ban.

Another vendor Gobin Maharaj who sold crabs on Gulf View Link Road said his crabs came from Moruga.

"We go down there to catch them but since I came out at 7 am, I have not sold a single bunch," Maharaj complained.

As news of the ban spread, a group of crab catchers from Otaheite held a meeting with the president of the Crabcatchers and Oysters Association Robert Nandlal. In an interview, Nandlal commended the government on banning Venezuelan crabs but said some protection must be given to local crab catchers.

"If there are a bacteria we do not want those crabs contaminating ours. We want our local crab catchers to get a fair dollar when the day comes," Nandlal said, adding that local crabs sell for $100 per bunch. 

A bunch comprises of six to eight crabs depending on the size. Venezuelan crabs are sold for $20 for a bunch of six.

Nandlal said local crab catchers could not compete with the Venezuelan crab traders. However, he said over 50 crab catchers who earn their livelihood by catching crabs in the Oropouche swamp, are barely making a living since the ban was instituted.

Adesh Kariah of South Oropouche said he needed employment.

"If they are taking away our livelihood by banning Venezuelan crabs which is making us suffer, they should offer us some compensation," Kariah said. He added that during the recent oil spill and the construction of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension, many crab catchers were affected but were never compensated.

Arnold Buxo of Oropouche also said he got no crab sales yesterday because of the ban.

Contacted yesterday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said people must be cautious about whom they buy their crabs from.

Saying the US Food and Drug Administration had found a bacteria in fresh crab meat from Venezuela, which causes cholera, Rambharat said the crab meat referred to by the FDA is processed and packaged and the Ministry of Trade had stopped issuing licenses for the importation of the product.

Noting the ongoing illicit trade between Venezuela and T&T in the sale of live crabs, Rambharat said consumers must be mindful of the health risks.

Last week, the FDA reported that 12 people in the US had been sickened by the bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Categories: News

Cops destroy weed fields in Biche

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 00:19

Five marijuana fields containing 2750 fully grown marijuana trees and 20,000 seedlings were destroyed by officers of the Organised Crime and Intelligence Unit during a marijuana eradication exercise in the Biche district.

A statemeny from the Police Service said the exercise also included officers attached to the Air Support Unit of the Police Service. It said during the exercise, officers proceeded to Newlands, Biche, where they discovered the fields in a forested area.

The trees and seedlings, along with one camp, five pounds of seeds and 300 grammes of cured marijuana were subsequently destroyed.

The plants have an estimated street value of $2,750,000.

Investigations are ongoing.

Categories: News

Judge convenes court at Temple

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 00:18

A High Court judge yesterday convened court at a parcel of land next door to a Temple in Princes Town which is the subject of a legal battle over ownership.

Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh went to the location yesterday on the final day of the trial in which executives of Churkoo Village Mandir are claiming the right to the land which is owned by farmer Samaroo Raghoonanan.

The Mandir, led by Pundit Artma Maharaj, was granted an injunction against Raghoonanan by Justice James Aboud in the San Fernando High Court.

The Mandir members claimed that Ragoonanan had placed boulders and steel rods on the property to prevent temple goers from parking on land.

They are contending that although Raghoonanan has paper title to the land he has never asserted ownership of the land.

They further claimed that the Mandir has been occupying the plot for more than 50 years. However, Raghoonanan said he often visited and cleaned the land which comprises 408 square metres.

Under police guard, the judge, his staff, attorneys, Raghoonanan and Kelvin Jaggernauth, a member of the Temple executive, stayed at the location for about an hour.

Questions were asked of Raghoonanan and Jaggernauth who also pointed out certain area.

The judge is expected to give his ruling next January. The mandir is being representing by Anand Ramlogan SC leading Alvin Pariagsingh instructed by Alana Rambaran while Raghoonanan is being represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC leading Vijaya Maharaj instructed by Stephen Boodram.

Categories: News

Mason killed, friend wounded in Mount Hope attack

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 00:12

One man was killed and another wounded after being ambushed by gunmen while sitting in a car in Mount Hope. The dead man, identified as 24-year-old Jaleel “LimeLite” Stevenson, was shot 14 times.

According to a police report, at about 6 pm Stevenson and his friend, Jelani Husbands were seated in a car near a car wash at Riverside Avenue, off Maingot Street, Mt Hope, when they were approached by masked gunmen.

Police said Stevenson was first shot six times while Husbands was shot twice. Both men got out of the vehicle and attempted to run away but were chased after by the gunmen.

Stevenson fell and one of the gunmen stood over him and shot him eight more times. He died on the scene. Stevenson lived in Arouca and was a mason at a water systems company.

Husbands, 21, escaped, and is said to be warded in a serious condition at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. Police are yet to determine a motive for the fatal shooting.

Investigations are continuing.

Categories: News

Detained at President’s pleasure for killing baby

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 00:08

A mentally ill man who allegedly killed his baby nephew in 2005 was yesterday found by a jury to be unfit to plead to the crime.

As a result, Patrick Nash, 40, was ordered by Justice Maria Wilson to be detained at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital at the President’s pleasure.

Nash has a history of mental illness and last Thursday a 12-member jury was empanelled to hear evidence about his mental condition for the purpose of determining if he was capable of pleading to charge.

The charge alleged on June 20, 2005, Nash murdered his 14-month-old nephew, Josiah Mohammed, at his Caratal Road, Gasparillo home.

It is alleged that Nash climbed over a wall and entered the bedroom. He allegedly grabbed the sleeping baby off of the bed by his legs and began slamming him against the wall and the floor.

An autopsy revealed the baby died from blunt force injuries. During the hearing in the San Fernando Third Criminal Court the defence led evidence from two specialists attached to St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospita—forensic psychiatrist Dr Dominic Nwokolo and psychologist Swayne-Leo Hosein-Cadogan.

The jury heard that Nash was diagnosed with suffering from schizophrenia in 2002. Nash, the jury heard, was not responding to medication and not likely to recover.

Nash’s attorneys Cedric Neptune and Anisa Sankar also called Nash’s sister Anna Nash as a witness.

The jury took about an hour to return with their decision that Nash was unfit to plead. The judge sent Nash to the St Ann’s Hospital for further care and treatment until the President’s pleasure is known. Wilson also ordered that the hospital send a report to the court by 2020 to say whether he is still in need of further care and treatment.

However, if the hospital determines at any point he is no longer in need of further treatment that also has to be reported to the court immediately.

However, if and when Nash is released back into society, he will have to be determined by the President.

Categories: News

PEP candidate on by-election: PNM, UNC violated electoral rules

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 00:06

Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) by-election candidate Christoph Samlal yesterday accused the People’s National Movement (PNM) and United National Congress (UNC) parties of violating the electoral rules by placing posters, stickers and paraphernalia within 100 yards of three polling stations in the Barataria district.

The matter was raised by Samlal, PEP’s Barataria by-election candidate outside St George’s College—a polling division in Barataria, where he showed reporters a white painted PNM sign outside the main entrance of the school’s compound, which had a trickle of voters.

Even at Don Miguel Hindu School, which had 2,010 registered voters—the highest number of electorates in Barataria, the voter turnout was slow. Approximately 10,207 burgesses were eligible to vote in Barataria— one of two districts being contested in yesterday’s by-election. Belmont East was the other.

The Barataria district became vacant following the death of PNM councillor Pernell Bruno on July 8, 2017.

Within hours of Samlal’s bringing the matter to the fore, PEP’S leader Phillip Alexander, in a press release, called on the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to launch an immediate investigation into the matter. Alexander stated that the matter will engage their attorneys for further advice as he demanded the EBC to do their constitutional responsibilities and safeguard all parties concerned.

Having traversed the 17 polling divisions in Barataria, Samlal who was not registered to vote in Barataria said he noticed posters and flyers, as well as painted UNC and PNM signs within the 100 yards of three polling stations which he brought to the attention of police officers and EBC officials.

At the Savio RC Primary School, Samlal said the police had to remove UNC and PNM posters stuck on an electricity pole while at Barataria Anglican School election officers told him that the posters fell outside of the 100 yards limit. He said this was contrary to the EBC’s rules which clearly advised voters that there should be no canvassing, congregating and assembling within 100 yards of any polling station.

The EBC warned that failure to comply with this can result in a $7,000 fine or three months imprisonment.

Angered by the turn of events, Samlal came to the conclusion that the posters and stickers were part of the UNC and PNM’s dirty politics and campaigning strategy.

Samlal admitted that while the UNC and PNM fought the Barataria electoral district on a well-oiled machinery, he said PEP had obtained the edge with its policies. PNM’s candidate Kimberly Small who voted at

Harmonites Pan Theatre said she experienced no problems with the election process. Small said she was confident of capturing the electoral district for the PNM.

“I am 100 per cent confident.”

Once victory comes her way, Small said she would hit the ground running to serve her burgesses.

UNC’s candidate Sharon Maraj-Dharam who was joined by a UNC posse, comprising Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, UNC PRO Anita Haynes and its chairman Peter Kanhai at St George’s College where she voted, said there were minor hiccups.

“There are a couple of names that may not be on the voting list. We are just verifying that. We are looking into that.”

Maraj-Dharam too was also optimistic of bringing the seat home for the UNC.

“I am very confident,” a smiling Maraj-Dharam said.

Several Barataria electors, who cast their votes yesterday, claimed the process went without a hitch.

Categories: News

NGC loses 1st round to SIS

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 00:03

The Privy Council has dismissed an appeal from the National Gas Company (NGC) seeking to overturn a decision to strike out a lawsuit against Super Industrial Services (SIS) and one of its subsidiaries Rain Forest Resorts Limited.

Delivering a 16-page judgement yesterday, five Law Lords of the Privy Council ruled that the local Court of Appeal was correct to apply the sanction to NGC after it (NGC) was found to have breached the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) which govern civil litigation.

The decision does not mean the automatic end of NGC’s lawsuit against the companies, however, as in March it made a relief from sanctions application under the CPR.

In a press release issued yesterday, NGC stated that following the judgement it obtained an injunction freezing the company’s assets pending the determination of the application. The application, in which NGC is claiming that the companies were not prejudiced by its procedural error, comes up for hearing on December 13.

NGC first sued the companies in December 2015 after it begun arbitration proceedings against them over the controversial Beetham Water Treatment Plant. While the project was estimated to cost US$162,055,318.77, NGC was seeking to recover $400 million which was advanced to SIS before the contract was cancelled in 2016. The arbitration is still pending and is unaffected by yesterday’s decision.

In the lawsuit, NGC was seeking orders setting aside four mortgages and a debenture between SIS and its subsidiary, which it alleges were done to siphon the proceeds from the project. It initially obtained an injunction freezing $180 million of the companies’ assets pending the determination of the lawsuit.

While the injunction application was being decided, the companies applied to have the claim struck out based on the fact that NGC failed to meet the deadline for applying for a case management conference of the substantive claim. NGC had initially made a relief from sanctions application but it was eventually withdrawn after High Court Judge Joan Charles dismissed the companies’ application.

Last year, the Court of Appeal delivered a majority judgement in which it overturned Charles’ decision.

In its judgement yesterday the Privy Council agreed with the Court of Appeal, as it ruled that the CPR, which was introduced to reduce inefficiency in civil litigation, should be strictly applied. SIS was represented by Peter Knox, QC and Robert Strang, while Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC and Tom Poole represented Rain Forest. Richard Brindle, QC, Rupert Allen and Jason Mootoo represented NGC.

Categories: News

Galleons Passage faces media scrutiny

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 00:02

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, Nidco officials and the media will finally tour the Galleons Passage this morning after it finally docked at the Port of Port-of-Spain overnight following unexpected delays on the way here yesterday.

Initially, the vessel was scheduled to arrive at the port at 2 pm yesterday but at about 11 am a release from the National Infrastructure Development Company said it experienced strong currents some 75 nautical miles off PoS and its captain had to reduce its speed accordingly.

Upon the vessel’s docking here, officials, including from Customs and Excise, were on hand to carry out a routine inspection and give it clearance.

The war of words between the two parties continued yesterday after UNC activist Devant Maharaj on Sunday claimed the vessel had stalled near Venezuela. On Sunday he claimed the vessel was adrift and had about 38 defects, adding a barge and tug was sent to refuel the vessel.

But this was denied by Nidco chairman Herbert George, who instead said the rough sea conditions had led to it slowing down. Maritime Services Inspector Ronald Alfred meanwhile said a report from Tsunami Marine Ltd which the Opposition used to allege the vessel had 38 defects was incomplete.

Alfred said the report was done in the absence of stability reports which were unavailable to its author. He added that Nidco had reports which show the Galleons Passage is “100 per cent safe for operation in T&T waters.”

Timeline

January 7: PM Dr Keith Rowley announces acquisition of a new boat in an address to nation.
January 18: Finance Minister Colm Imbert announces several rigorous checks were done to ensure the new US$17.4m Galleons Passage met all the requirements to operate on the domestic seabridge. He said the vessel is owned by Sea Transport Corporation of Australia and was built at the Nansha Shipyard in Guangzhou, China. Marine Traffic sites list the vessel as having been named as the Dona Mercedes by the Venezuelan owner. The name was changed to the Galleons Passage, the historical name of the route between Trinidad and Tobago.
January 20: Imbert announces Government is taking delivery of the ferry in China on or around February 9, 2018. Estimated arrival date in Trinidad was April.
January 24: Galleons Passage goes on drydock in China for final inspection prior to delivery to Government.
February 5: Imbert says Galleons Passage almost ready for delivery in China. Delivery is now set for February 7 and vessel is scheduled to sail for T&T on February 9, 2018.
February 6: Imbert tweets picture of name being painted on “our new RoPax ferry”.
February 8: Lloyds Register Classification Society issues the Confirmation of Class Certificate to the ferry as a 100A1 SSC passenger ship. Imbert explained “100” means the ship is suitable for seagoing service. “A” means the ship was constructed or accepted into Lloyds Register class and is maintained in good and efficient condition. “1” means she has good and efficient anchoring and mooring equipment. Government pays US$ 17.4 million, less 5% retention for Galleons Passage. Vessel registered in name of NIDCO.
February 15: Imbert announces that Chinese New Year celebrations delayed the process for acquiring required permits for trans-Pacific ocean travel and Panama Canal. CNY celebrations were to end in one week. Thereafter, the Galleons Passage would travel 11,000 nautical miles from Hong Kong to PoS.
February 23: Imbert announces Galleons Passage is classified for operation in significant wave heights of up to 4.5m (15 ft) and maximum wave heights of 6.7m (22 ft) and near gale force winds of 7 Pa. International crew arrives in Nansha, China, from Lithuania and Latvia, to start the process of getting the vessel fuelled, started up and loaded with supplies and ocean class safety equipment in preparation for departure to T&T.
February 24: Imbert announces Galleons Passage will travel from China to Honolulu, Hawaii, through the Panama Canal, with a stop at the Damex Shipyard in Santiago de Cuba for enhancements, including additional canopies and additional toilets for passengers on the upper sundeck and canopies for the vehicle deck. One hundred of the 700 seats were also to be upgraded.
February 27: Galleons Passage sets sail from Bonny Fair Shipyard in Nansha, China, en route to Hong Kong.
March 3: Galleons Passage approaches Taiwan on its way to Shanghai to install specialised fuel containers for trans-Pacific journey to Honolulu.
March 5: Galleons Passage arrives at the Port of Shanghai, where it was scheduled to be fitted with additional fuel tanks to facilitate Pacific journey.
March 7: NIDCO says vessel was unable to berth at the Port of Shanghai because of a backlog of commercial vessels as a result of poor weather conditions. Installation of fuel tanks delayed.
March 10: Galleons Passage sets sail for Yokohama, Japan, for the installation of fuel tanks and bunkering.
March 12: Imbert tells Senate that “barring inclement weather and other unforeseen conditions” the Galleons Passage will arrive in Port-of- Spain at the end of April.
March 13: Galleons Passage arrives in Yokohama, Japan. Bad weather again delays sailing of the vessel.
March 17: Galleons Passage departs for Honolulu, Hawaii. The journey of more than 3,000 nautical miles took just about two weeks.
March 30: Galleons Passage arrives in Honolulu, Hawaii.
April 10: Routine checks and inspections by the United States Coast Guard-Port State Control Department and Lloyds Register completed on vessel.
April 11: Imbert dismisses claims by Sea Transport that arrival of the vessel will be delayed until May as ‘speculative’.
April 12: Galleons Passage departs Honolulu for Acapulco, Mexico. En route to Mexico the raw water pump on the starboard side develops mechanical problems. This, coupled with unfavourable conditions, results in a reduction in vessel speed from 11 knots to 5.7 knots.
April 17: Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says vessel will arrive in T&T in mid-May.
April 28: Galleons Passage arrives at the Port of Acapulco 28 for bunkering.
April 30: Galleons Passage berths at the Port of Acapulco.
May 7: NIDCO advises a replacement for the raw water pump arrived in Mexico but did not meet specifications. The old pump was repaired for use.
May 10: Galleons Passage sets sail from Mexico to Panama. Prime Minister Rowley tells parliament after suffering a few delays vessel should arrive by end of May, good weather permitting.
May 16: Galleons Passage arrives in Panama. Vessel boarded by the Canal port captain, who identified the need for modifications to be made to the pilot boarding station for compliance with the Canal requirements.
May 17: A contractor boards vessel to assess modifications required. Imbert contradicts this, saying the vessel was delayed while passing through the Canal as it was given lower priority than other vessels such as commercial tankers.
May 23: Galleons Passage departs Panama.
May 26: Galleons Passage arrives in Santiago de Cuba to undergo retrofitting works. The duration of these works was to be confirmed at a later date.
June 1: NIDCO advises there was a setback in the retrofitting work arising from delays in the completion of designs and consequential issue of approved drawings by the seller. Shipyard also experienced delays in procurement of the requisite materials for these works.
June 20: Twenty-five days after Galleons Passage docked in Santiago de Cuba, Imbert tells Parliament the Government has decided to bring it to T&T because no retrofitting can been done because some of the equipment needed by the seller to complete the enhancement work agreed to in the contract for sale can’t be acquired from Australia due to the embargo against Cuba.
July 11: Galleons Passage leaves Cuba. NIDCO president Esther Farmer says there were no issues before it left on its journey to T&T.
NIDCO stated that weather permitting, the Galleons Passage was estimated to arrive on July 16 (yesterday).
July 15: Galleons Passage slows down after encountering rough wave conditions.

Categories: News

Piarco gets automated passport system

News - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 00:00

Long immigration lines in the arrival lounges at this country’s two major airports could soon be a thing of the past, after the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Works and Transport and the Airports Authority of T&T yesterday launched a new automated border control system at the Piarco International Airport.

The pilot project, which features 12 kiosks, is set to be tested on selected citizens arriving at the airport over the next two weeks, before being unveiled fully to travellers on July 28.

The system requires users to scan their machine-readable passports, have their fingerprints scanned and their photographs taken. Users who are cleared for entry are then issued with a slip with their photograph which is collected by a designated immigration officer.

Travellers will then be permitted to proceed towards duty-free shopping or directly to the baggage claim area and the Customs and Excise checkpoint. Those who have been flagged for a secondary immigration check will receive a slip with a cross over their photograph and will then be directed to an interview with an immigration officer. The entire process is expected to take a little over a minute from start to finish.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said the system was implemented to reduce inefficiency and to bring T&T in line with major international countries who have been using similar systems for quite some time.

National Security Minister Edmund Dillon meanwhile explained that the system uses state-of-the-art facial recognition software and collects users’ fingerprints. It also verifies the validity of a travel document by checking it against an international database of photos, passports and ID cards.

“When we hear these kinds of features, understand what this can do for us not only in the area of immigration but in the areas of crime and security,” Dillon said.

He explained that members of the protective services will also be able to access the data gathered by the system. He said the system will be first introduced at that airport before being implemented at the ANR Robinson International Airport in Tobago and other ports of entry. A similar system is also to be introduced for departures.

 

Categories: News

PM not deterred by close loss

News - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 23:58

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last night told supporters they could hold their heads high despite losing the Barataria seat to the Opposition United National Congress.

In his concession speech at the party Barataria office, Rowley said, “From all reports, we have lost this seat very narrowly. However, our efforts have been very worthy of this party and tonight I want to congratulate Ms Small and the campaign team.”

He said the result for them was still very encouraging because the defeat was narrow.

“The PNM lost by a few votes,” he said, adding the party also did not hold the seat by a large margin when they won in it 2016.

However, he said in the 2019 Local Government elections the PNM will put its best foot forward and expect a different result.

“Win, draw or lose this seat, we conducted ourselves with honesty, decency and integrity,” Rowley said.

He said although they had lost the seat the San Juan Laventille Regional Corporation remains in the hands of the PNM as they had 11 of the 13 seats prior to yesterday and that figure had been reduced to 10 now.

“We, tonight, can go to bed with a clear conscience that we paid no person to vote for us, we stirred up not pot of racial or religious acrimony,” he told supporters, adding the PNM will contest other elections in Barataria and will continue to provide the population with the best option in the political arena.

Before the PM gave his speech, however, Barataria supporters had believed they had won the seat.

“Kamla lose again. Kamla lose again,” they had been chanting in unison.

However, when the final votes were counted there were sad and long disappointed faces, with some openly crying over the defeat.

Small admitted she was disappointed.

“Unfortunately we did not get the number of seats we wanted but we will be back again. The PNM will continue to remain strong as ever,” Small told supporters.

Categories: News

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