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Updated: 2 hours 14 min ago

Plea to repatriate 76 Venezuelan nationals

15 hours 22 min ago

A plea was made in the Venezuelan Parliament earlier this week to have the 76 nationals currently held at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Aripo repatriated to Venezuela.

Deputy to the National Assembly for the state of Delta Amacuro, Larissa González called for the Venezuelan government to send a plane for them this week and ensure that their repatriation is expedited.

This plea came almost one month after several Venezuelan and Nigerian detainees staged two separate protests at the IDC in “hostage like” situations where guards were confronted.

On June 28, in the second protest, riot police and soldiers were called out. About 10 Nigerian detainees were subsequently arrested. The first protest occurred on June 26, where seven Venezuelan detainees protested.

On Tuesday, González demanded on behalf of the 76 Venezuelan citizens detained in T&T and their families that the T&T and Venezuela governments “accelerate the necessary procedures for the repatriation of those who today are in the Immigration Detention Centre.”

She disclosed that there are currently 29 women and 47 Venezuelan men at the IDC.

According to an article in Venezuela’s El Nacional, González noted that both the detainees and their relatives, with whom they are in constant communication, “are desperate because of the lack of response from both governments.”

González disclosed that along with deputy Carlos Valero, correspondences and reports were sent to T&T officials. She also said that several meetings with diplomatic authorities of T&T in Caracas were held in a bid to find an outlet for the situation that the Venezuelans are going through.

She also expressed interest in coming to T&T “if necessary” as she denounced the alleged mistreatment and described it as “negligence from the inaction of the officials of the Embassy of Venezuela in Trinidad.”

Subsequent to the last protest at the IDC, on June 30, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, in a release, gave the assurance that “the Ministry of National Security is working assiduously in making arrangements to repatriate detainees to their homeland, as well as further improve living conditions at the facility.”

He reiterated that the Immigration Division has encountered and continues to face numerous repatriation challenges by detainees housed at the IDC.

On April 21, a Venezuelan military aircraft landed at Piarco International Airport to take back 82 nationals to their homeland. That arrangement was made between both governments, T&T and Venezuela, days before.

Just under 40 of those 82 Venezuelan nationals were said to have applied for asylum and refugee status in T&T but according to sources, the certificates they had in their possession were allegedly disregarded by Immigration officers here in T&T.

However, the Ministry of National Security remained adamant that the Venezuelan nationals were voluntarily repatriated with the assistance of the Ambassador of Venezuela to T&T, Coromoto Godoy.

Dillon, in response to the queries, responded via WhatsApp saying, “I do not have any official information concerning this matter.”

Categories: News

Search continues for fake cop

15 hours 24 min ago

Police are seeking the public’s assistance in locating a man suspected of posing as a police officer in the Caroni district.

Roderick Santana, 30, of Bon Air Gardens, Arouca, was identified via CCTV footage as one of three men allegedly involved in an incident which took place on June 19, 2018, at a supermarket in Frederick Settlement, Caroni.

The Police Service said yesterday that Santana, along with two other suspects, one of whom has since appeared in court, are alleged to have impersonated officers attached to the St Joseph Police Station and attempted to conduct a liquor license inspection.

The owner of the supermarket became suspicious and called the police, causing the men to flee the premises escaping in a white station wagon bearing a false number plate.

Dereck Steele, 28, of Spring Village, Valsayn, was arrested the following day in connection with the incident and later charged by PC Sudesh Jaikaran of the Caroni Police Station.

Steele was remanded into custody when he appeared before a Port-of-Spain magistrate on June 26. The matter was adjourned to July 30.

The third suspect has not yet been identified.

In a separate incident, Kerron Brooks, 24 of Charles Street, Gasparillo, was charged with two counts of robbery with violence as well as impersonating a police officer following a robbery of a feed depot along San Pedro Road, Rio Claro, on May, 28, 2018. he was charged by PC Rakesh Abraham of the Rio Claro CID.

During that incident, three armed men, dressed in clothing resembling that of the police, entered the feed depot.

The proprietor and his brother were tied up and robbed of cash and a cellular phone. The men escaped in a black Hyundai Tucson motor vehicle.

Brooks was granted $75,000 bail with surety when he appeared before a Rio Claro magistrate on June 1

He is due to reappearing court on August 8.

Categories: News

Tobago stakeholders want gift from Govt: First sailings on Galleons Passage should be free

15 hours 30 min ago

No word yet on whether Nidco and the Port Authority have moved closer to securing a crew for the Galleons Passage.

But Tobago stakeholders say the arrival of the vessel has done little to assuage their concerns and they cannot yet breathe a sigh of relief.

President of the Transport Division of the Tobago Chamber Diane Hadad is now proposing that in an effort to restore confidence on the seabridge Government should give consideration to “having the first couple of sailings free to build some sort of confidence back, they should give the people a gift and run the vessel free for a while.”

In an interview, Hadad said Tobago had suffered severely in the past two years and the proposal for free transport could be a way to rebuild the bridge between the two islands. Describing this as “the worst July I have seen,” Hadad said currently hotel occupancy in Tobago is “at zero.”

She said this is because Trinidadians no longer have confidence in getting to and from Tobago. She said, “The fact is that Tobagonians have decided they will only go to Trinidad if it’s absolutely necessary and Trinidadians only coming to Tobago out of necessity,” she noted

Hadad said problems which Tobago have endured in the past two years which included the closure of many businesses, hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and threats from banks to repossess businesses will be put squarely on the table on Monday when they meet with Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and officials of the Port Authority under the chairmanship of Lyle Alexander.

Declaring that Tobago had “suffered tremendously,” Hadad said stakeholders are adopting a “wait- and- see” approach, at least until the Galleons Passage actually begins to work on the seabridge.

She said, “We will be waiting to see the performance of the vessel and I think it is only when that happens we can start to speak a different language. We still on a wait and see. The boat has arrived and we are told it will take three weeks before it will sail to the island.”

Hadad said Tobago had hoped to capitalise on the July|August vacation period given the tough economic times and the problems in getting foreign exchange, but she said this has not happened and instead hotels and guest houses were empty.

According to Hadad, road tours conducted by the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association revealed that “80 per cent of the people from Trinidad are not coming because the seabridge is unreliable.”

She said although the T&T Spirit returned to the seabridge it has not been operating at full capacity “because it is not working at full capacity, so it cannot carry the 800 people which it has the capacity to do.”

She challenged port officials to reveal the true number of “people they are actually moving, I would like them to say what is full capacity.”

Hadad said while the Galleons Passage has the capacity to transport 700 passengers and 100 vehicles“we still have a capacity problem and Trinidadians still have to be convinced that they will have a safe journey to Tobago and back to Trinidad, so there is a confidence problem. Confidence is something that has to be built back.”

Hadad is also hoping that Nidco is on the hunt for a cargo vessel and that there would be no need for a further extension of the Cabo Star when its extended six- month contract comes to an end in December.

She said the Cabo Star makes the trip in seven hours and business people were “back to going home very late in the night. We are taking a beating on family and social life.”

Categories: News

Don’t eat raw crab meat

15 hours 34 min ago

The Ministry of Health has issued a call to restaurant owners to avoid offering crab meat to its customers.

If the meat is offered, it should be properly cooked and not served as crab sushi in its raw form.

The warning came from Neil Rampersad, chief public health inspector and Farz Khan, chief chemist and director of the Food and Drug Division, Ministry of Health, during an interview yesterday on the CNC3 Morning Brew programme with host Hema Ramkissoon.

This warning comes two days after the Ministry of Agriculture, in a press release, advised the public to avoid eating crab meat from Venezuela, as the US Food and Drug Agency stated it may be contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus — which is bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness in humans.

The symptoms of the bacteria are diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea, fever and stomach pains. So far, there have been no reported deaths.

Khan said while there are eight importers who bring in crab meat from Venezuela, there was no scientific evidence the bacteria is here.

He said the ministry was not panicking the public but issued the release out of an abundance of caution. Based on the evidence so far, Khan said the warning applies to processed crab meat or crab products packaged and ready for consumption.

“So there is no evidence of the live crabs or unprocessed crabs at this time.”

He however, advised crab lovers to examine the condition of the live crabs before purchasing.

Khan said the ministry has already increased surveillance at the ports of entry to ensure that the “food coming in is safe. This would prevent or reduce any contaminant foods entering our borders.”

The ministry will beef up its inspectorate to determine if Trinidad has the “organism” here by taking a random sampling of crabs sold at the markets and roadsides to get them tested.

“If it is there (the germ), the actual intervention will take place,” Rampersad said.

With crab season in full swing, Rampersad said customers may go after crab sushi at restaurants.

He advised restaurant owners “not to offer crab meat for sale because we are unsure what is in it at this point in time…if the foodstuff has the contaminant. So to prevent any outbreak attributed to this germ, if it is there…take precaution, do not offer it for sale.”

He said crab has been a delicacy in T&T for years. If the crab meat is offered, Rampersad advised that the meat should be cooked above 65 degrees Celsius to kill any bacteria that may be present.

The ministry has advised that live crabs should be thoroughly cleaned, washed and cooked before eating.

Categories: News

Two held after bar robbery

15 hours 43 min ago

Less than an hour after two men robbed a bar in Princes Town, police arrested the suspects and recovered the stolen items.

According to police reports, at around 8.30 pm on Wednesday, two men, one armed with a gun, ran into the bar at Hope Road where they robbed patrons of their cellphones and cash. The bar owner was also robbed of a bottle of whisky. The men then ran off.

Responding to the report, PC Sujeet Ramcharan, WPC Deonarine, PC Cooper, PC Basdeo and other officers from the Princes Town Police Station and Southern Division Task Force searched the area.

About 35 minutes after the robbery, the officers saw two men, who matched the description of the suspects, near Marcano Street. Officers found the stolen items in their possession. The suspects— ages 24 and 26 —of Pleasantville were up to yesterday being questioned by police in relation to other crimes. Investigations are continuing.

Categories: News

Beetham man shot 10 times by cops—autopsy

15 hours 44 min ago

Beetham resident Akiel Thomas was shot 10 times by police, an autopsy by pathologist Eastlyn McDonald-Burris at the Forensic Science Centre in St James found yesterday.

The autopsy was performed on the 19-year-old’s body almost 24 hours after he was shot dead by police during an incident near his Hell Yard, Beetham Gardens home on Wednesday morning.

Police reports say around 6.30 am a group of officers were conducting an exercise in the community when Thomas allegedly drew a gun and fired at them. Police claim Thomas, whom they accused of being a gang member, was shot in an exchange of gunfire. An illegal firearm was allegedly recovered on the scene.

However, Thomas’ relatives have disputed police’s claims saying he was unarmed and was executed by police officers whilst seated on a chair in a popular liming spot in the community.

Irate friends and relatives attempted to block the Eastern Main Road, Priority Bus Route and the Churchill Roosevelt Highway in response to the incident on Wednesday but were stopped by police who were dispatched in anticipation of their response. The T&T Guardian understands a strong police presence was maintained in the community yesterday, although there were no reports of any protests.

Like with all incidents of homicides involving police officers, a first division officer from another division has been appointed to investigate. Thomas’ relatives are expected to file a complaint with the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).

Thomas’ death is the 19th police-related homicide to take place this year

Categories: News

$22.6m payout to workers fired under UNC govts

15 hours 45 min ago

There will be payouts to certain workers affected by issues under two previous United National Congress governments.

Some 450 former Unemployment Relief Programme workers terminated under the past PP/UNC administration will soon receive $22.6 million in payments - and 10 workers of the former Audio Visual Media company will also receive $408,000 owed from the first UNC administration.

Communication Minister Stuart Young revealed this at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, after Cabinet decided to make both sets of payments.

Young said the past PP/UNC Government terminated the 450 URP workers and litigation was brought by two sets of workers. He said Government received senior counsel advice on it and is settling the matter.

“We’re trying to pay this by August 20,” Young added.

Young also said 10 AVM workers would be paid a total of $408,000 owed in gratuity and ex gratia payments owed to them since 1997 under the Basdeo Panday government.

In the 1970s, radio and television broadcast veterans Bobby Thomas, Bryan Waller and brothers Arnold and Dale Kolasingh established AVM (Caribbean Ltd), a production house focusing on producing commercials and local current affairs programmes. It went on to become AVM Television, which was acquired by the State in early 1997 and merged with the then-state-owned International Communications Network (ICN).

Young said when AVM ceased operations in 1997, “it seemed certain people were hand-picked not to get gratuity and ex gratia payments. We investigated to ascertain why it wasn’t dealt with then in 1997. We did verification and these stalwarts in their field will get their payments. It’s taken 18 years to resolve this longstanding matter which was left to languish.”

He projected their payments in about a month.

Works Minister Rohan Sinanan also announced work on the San Fernando Waterfront would begin in the next two months over a two-year period at a cost of $143m. Expressions of interest are also being issued for parking meters for Port-of-Spain and San Fernando. This plan will be extended to other areas, including Tobago, later on.

Categories: News

Colm asks private schools for more info

15 hours 47 min ago

There is still no resolution on the request by private secondarys schools for a fee increase per students by the Ministry of Education, following half an hour of talks between the schools and a Government team led by Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday.

Schools were not given any indication of what Government plans to offer them but were asked to provide additional information to Imbert by today.

At the start of yesterday’s meeting, Imbert is reported to have told principals a short meeting was unavoidable because of other Cabinet commitments. But he said it had become a very contentious issue and he wanted to ensure there was a resolution and that a reasonable, fair and just payment is agreed upon.

Imbert, according to principals who attended, indicated he had a “mandate” to settle the issue but had to ensure that he got it right.

After the meeting, Corpus Christi College acting vice principal Anthony McCollin told the T&T Guardian “it’s very tiring, it’s unsettling and it’s disturbing that we came back to another fact finding meeting.”

He said Imbert gave no indication what figure the Education Minister had proposed to the Cabinet to counter their request for $5700 per student per term.

“Absolutely no discussion of that nature took place,” he said.

“We came back around the table, 13 schools represented in a room, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Education and there was no indication of what was the figure the Government was possibly looking at. All they want to do was to ensure that our fee was justified after 13 years.”

Imbert sought an explanation on how the $5700 was arrived at, to which Mc Collin explained that teachers at the private schools are currently underpaid and the money being requested takes into accounting paying increased salaries, pensions, gratuities and terms and conditions “so our teachers can be treated with the respect they deserve as educators.”

He said while the Association of Private Secondary Schools had presented a “very clear document which outlined the cost of educating each child, what again is being requested is information from each individual school with respect to the number of students in the school and the teacher to student ratio.”

Mc Collin said Imbert indicated that he had a copy of the original document which was sent, but still asked that it be resent with the information requested and some additional “private information with respect to the private students intake and how much the private parents pay.”

That information has to be provided by today (Friday) and the parties are to meet again in one week’s time.

Imbert was told that 80-90 per cent of the students are assigned to the schools by the Government and the schools are running millions of dollars of deficit annually, because they cannot increase the fees paid by private students because of the small $1200 fee paid by the Government.

But Imbert is reported to have told the meeting he needed details because Government currently spends in the region of $11 million on students assigned to the schools and if the fees is increased to $5700 it would mean a substantial increase in the cost to the state.

Mc Collin said, “We need to keep in mind that the Government is purchasing school places in these private schools and if you are purchasing a place you have to be very careful of coming across as though you could tell the private schools what their cost should be. That’s a very backward formula and it’s almost insulting.”

School officials also reminded Imbert that they were yet to receive payments for the school term just ended.

Categories: News

State lawyers blunder in Dana murder case

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 23:50

Prosecutors have made another blunder in the case again 10 men charged with the murder of former Independent Senator Dana Seetahal, SC.

The latest mistake occurred in the State’s appeal over a decision by Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno to dismiss gang charges against the group and two of their acquaintances in 2016, due to an administrative error by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Hours before the appeal was due to be heard yesterday, special prosecutor Travers Sinanan and Assistant DPP Angelica Teelucksingh-Ramoutar informed the court’s registry that their office had filed the notice of appeal late.

While it had 14 days to appeal Cedeno’s ruling, given on May 27, 2016, it filed the appeal on June 13 that year.

During yesterday’s hearing, Sinanan and Teelucksingh-Ramoutar applied to have the appeal withdrawn, but were given a lifeline as Appellate Judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Rajendra Narine suggested they file an application to have the deadline extended retroactively.

Once that application is filed it will be determined by one Appellate Judge. Provided that the State succeeds in its application, the appeal will then be heard by Yorke-Soo Hon and Narine.

Seetahal was shot dead in her SUV while driving along Hamilton Holder Street, Woodbrook, on May 4, 2014.

Reputed gang-leader Rajaee Ali, his brothers Ishmael and Hamid Ali; Devaughn Cummings, Ricardo Stewart, Earl Richards, Stephan Cummings, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales; Roger Boucher and Gareth Wiseman were initially charged with the crime. They, along with Rajaee’s wife Stacy Griffith, Deon Peters and David Ector, were also charged under the Anti-Gang Act for being members of a gang.

In 2016, the DDP’s Office applied to amend the gang charges due to an administrative error made when they were laid on the group.

The DPP’s Office had admitted to filing the charges indictably (heard and determined by a High Court Judge and jury) as opposed to summarily (heard and determined by a magistrate) as prescribed by the legislation. Cedeno dismissed the charges as she ruled the time for making the amendment had expired.

Peters and Ector were set free, while Griffith remained in custody on an unrelated gang offence that was not affected by the blunder.

In December last year, the murder charge was discontinued against Stephan Cummings, who was instead charged with conspiring to murder Seetahal. Ector was murdered last week.

While the State mulls over its appeal, the preliminary inquiry into the murder charge has hit a snag.

Evidential hearings of the inquiry have been put on hold as Cedeno is considering an application calling on her to recuse herself from the case.

Categories: News

Unfair treatment

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 23:48

Parliament meets today to discuss the Police Service Commission (PSC) nomination of Stephen Williams as Commissioner of Police, but ahead of this another candidate, Wayne Hayde, has sent a pre-action protocol letter to PSC chairman Bliss Seepersad claiming he was not treated “fairly” and demanding his name be put on the merit list.

Through attorneys Fulton Wilson and Company, Hayde sought to debunk the commission’s position that a candidate who attained the age of 60 cannot apply for the CoP position and is also claiming he was graded on a question he was never asked or answered.

Hayde has described the PSC’s actions as “capricious, arbitrary and unfair” and is threatening legal action if it does not put his name on the merit list.

In the pre-action letter, Hayde denied claims by former PSC chairman Marie Therese Gomes that he was asked whether he wanted to be considered for the Deputy Commissioner post. He said he was never asked that question but “points were awarded or conclusions made by the PSC on the basis of the answers given to the question that had not been asked.”

At least one other CoP candidate told the T&T Guardian he was not asked the question either.

Hayde, a former cop now working with the UN in Uganda, is alleging he was ‘treated unfairly” and his position on the shortlist and subsequent omission from the merit list was due in part to the omission made by the PSC with respect to that question.

In the circumstances, the letter said “the failure of the PSC to properly, fairly and adequately assess and grade” Hayde’s application and omission of his name from the merit list is “legally wrong and represents a breach of his right to fair and equitable treatment.”

The pre action letter, dated July 17, demanded that the error be corrected immediately “by not only including his name on the merit list but also place him in a position on same, which takes into account the actions and omissions made by the PSC that resulted in his improper grading and omission from the said list.”

The letter cited among other things statements by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in Parliament that after the process undertaken by KPMG, with the involvement of the PSC, 11 candidates were deemed suitable and shortlisted, five for the CoP post and six for Deputy CoP.

The five shortlisted for the CoP position were identified as Deodat Dulalchan, Gary Griffith, Stephen Williams Hayde and Glen Hackett. But Hayde is contending only four people applied for the CoP position. He said he was led to conclude that the PSC, after deliberations, removed himself and Hackett from the shortlist while Dulalchan and Phillip, who applied for DCP, were elevated to the merit list “without proper explanation.”

The pre-action also notes statements made by Seepersad, in her letter to President Paula-Mae Weekes, that the PSC “simply does not have the money, time and other resources to conduct a completely new process” and that “two candidates were over sixty years old.”

The letter said Hayde felt he was “omitted based on the fact” he was 60 years at the time of his application. But it noted by law there is “no impediment for a person who is sixty years or over from applying or being appointed to either the posts of CoP or DCP.”

Hayde is also contending his age was listed on his application and yet he was ‘invited to participate in two separate interviews in November and December 2017.’ He said he was provided with two business class tickets from Uganda paid for by the PSC to attend the interviews.

The letter noted it was “therefore inconceivable” that the PSC, whose members had participated in both interviews and other aspects of the assessment, knew or believed Hayde was “ineligible for appointment as CoP due to his age.” There was also nothing in the ad put out by the PSC with regard to age, the letter said.

Efforts to contact both Gomes and Seepersad were unsuccessful yesterday.

The selection process for the top cop has resulted in pre-action protocols from two other candidates, Griffith and Dulalchan. Dulalchan and Phillip’s nominations have already gone before Parliament and were rejected.

Two weeks ago the parliament referred the selection process back to the PSC, telling the commission the merit list was still valid.

Categories: News

Daly: Police stats don't necessarily mean fewer crimes against children

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 14:52

Even though the T&T Police Service reported a 12 per cent decrease in reports of serious crimes against children in 2018, former chairman of the Children's Authority Stephanie Daly said this does not mean that fewer crimes are being committed against children.

In an interview, Daly said the recent statistics cannot be interpreted to mean there is an actual decrease or increase of child abuse in T&T. 

Saying the "extent of reported child abuse was worrying from day one," Daly explained that increased reporting suggested a level of confidence in the agencies set up to deal with child abuse.

"We also have to take into account the issue of late reporting. 

Children could be facing abuse but it is not immediately reported," she explained. 

She noted that it is not reliable to use the statistics presented by the TTPS to make a statement on the extent of child abuse, adding, "This is still a sizeable problem in T&T and what is important is ensuring that the State agencies set up to deal with this, are equipped with enough resources so that all reports of abuse could be acted upon immediately."

While she was the head of the Children's Authority, Daly said the figures of abuse were much higher than anticipated but despite the overwhelming amount of reports, she was impressed by how the staff coped.

Asked whether she believed the negative exposure of child abusers on social media served as a deterrent to sexual child abusers, Daly said no.

"I don’t think people think that far ahead when they are committing these acts. Social media would have little bearing on how they behave," she said. She also urged people to continue to report incidents of abuse to the police and to exercise care with their children during the holiday period.

A source at the Children's Authority said there was still a problem with finding accommodation for victims of abuse, adding that most times they are placed in the care of a responsible relative. There is also severe staff shortages at the Authority. 

"We need a staff of 242 but we are currently operating with 140 and we are currently recruiting staff for our operations in Tobago," the official said.

During a function last week, chairman of the Children's Authority Haniff Benjamin said the authority has received 60,000 calls from the public on cases of abuse in T&T. He said the Authority is investigating 15,000 reports and remarked that 67 per cent of the reports are linked to instances of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.

On Wednesday, acting Senior Superintendent Sharon Cooper of the Child Protection Unit said the Police Service recorded a 12% decrease in reports of serious crimes against children, for the period January to June 2018 when compared to the corresponding period in 2017.  

Cooper said there was a total of 878 reports made to the Child Protection Unit for January to June 2018, when compared to 1006, the previous year.

Sexual touching and sexual penetration continue to be the most prevalent, with 140 reports of sexual touching; and 348 reports of sexual penetration, for the period under review in 2018, versus 119 and 351 such reports respect.

Categories: News

Love, Sweat & Basmati Rice on stage

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:59

Love, Sweat & Basmati Rice is Caricomedy Entertainment Ltd’s newest comedy offering to the public. The event, which consists of a short play and a stand-up comedy show, takes place on Sunday, July 22 at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (Sapa), San Fernando.

Co-founder Kwame Weekes said the play, “tells the story of young love in 21st century T&T between West girl Sarah Jane Waffles and her social media lover, Ravi C, who is from an entirely different country.

When their distance from each other and racism threatens the blossoming of their growing love, Sarah discovers a sweltering truth, that true love is a love worth sweating for.”

Caricomedy Entertainment, which is approximately two years old, is best known for their viral Facebook videos, featuring challenging, smart comedy. Weekes said: “We’ve grown to having over 35,000 followers on Facebook and reaching over 100,000 people every month with our videos.

Our cast has also grown in number and racial diversity.

Our goals were always two-pronged: to create original content for the internet and for the stage, and to create a platform for other upcoming comedians in Trinidad and Tobago to showcase their talent.

“We’re happy to have fulfilled these goals with over 80 online videos, two theatrical shows in two years and the launch of Nah Hoss! That Real Funny! the first free, stand-up comedy ONLY open mic in T&T which has launched the comedy careers of at least two new comedians.”

The play, which is directed by co-founder and artistic director Denith McNicolls, features both old and new members of the Caricomedy cast.

Weekes said: “One of our newest Caricomedy cast members, Chantal Waldropt, plays the lead role of Sarah Jane Waffles. Granny Maidenname will be played by Ocean Davidson, another new cast member.

Ravi C is played by Dike Samai, our most senior recognisable male actor and Mavis is played by Zwena Joseph, the most senior and loved Caricomedy actress. Mom and Daddy Waffles are played by Shenice Nyack and Kwame Weekes.”

The second half of the programme features four young male comedians: Keevan “Keevo” Lewis, Kevin Soyer, Gervail “Jr. Lee” Lemo and Thaddy Boom. Weekes said each comedian has a following of their own.

“Lewis is an observational comedian who is no stranger to going viral on Instagram and Facebook with his sharp observations about Trinbagonian culture,” said Weekes.

“Soyer is a naturally-gifted comedian who is known for his Facebook series about the young Pinky and her dysfunctional family, while the youthfully vibrant Lemo has a hit Facebook show Dollar Questions and his jokes about his family and love life will keep you young yourself.

“Thaddy Boom is one of the hilarious hosts of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam, and is sure to make audiences laugh with his quick wit, work with the crowd, and unique sense of humour.”

Weekes said children as young as 14-years-old can comfortably attend the show as, “there’s no obscene language. Sexuality will be confined to innuendo in some of the dialogue, but nothing more than what is seen in any teen Disney movie or series.”

He said the decision was made to have a physical show because, “while likes on Facebook are nice, but nothing beats the booming laughter, the knee slapping and falling over of a live audience. “Caricomedy’s founders have backgrounds in theatre, so it was always our intention to make people laugh on our Facebook page as well as the theatre stage. We hope the single people who attend the show find husbands and wives as they laugh loudly next to cute strangers in the crowd.

“We also hope the couples leave with the bonds of their love strengthened. Most of all we want everyone to leave full of enough joy to last until our next live show, and we hope they recognise Caricomedy as a company that surprises them each time with its approach to comedy.”

Show begins at 6 pm on July 22 at Sapa. Tickets cost $150 and special couple and group prices are available. For more information, find Love, Sweat, & Basmati Rice on Facebook Caricomedy’s Love, Sweat & Basmati Rice crew, from left, Ocean Davidson as Maidenname; Chantal Vasquez-Waldropt as Sarah Jane Waffles; Dike Samai as Ravi C; Shenice Nyack as Mom Waffles; and, Kwame Weekes as Daddy Waffles. PICTURE COURTESY CARICOMEDY ENTERTAINMENT LTD

Categories: News

Minster appoints new TTPost board

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:33

Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte has challenged the Board of TTPost to work towards achieving greater levels of efficiency and increasing its revenue streams.

The minister issued the challenge as he handed out instruments of appointment to the new board members during a ceremony at the ministry’s head office in St Clair yesterday,

Le Hunte told the board it needed to recognise that the organisation’s business model must change in order to adapt to the new global realities.

He noted that advancements in digital technology had changed market conditions in the postal industry across the globe.

As such, TTPost, like other national postal services, needed to engage in a process of transformative change in order to maintain relevance and ensure sustainability.

The minister also emphasised that given the country’s economic realities, it cannot be business as usual. He encouraged the Board to explore mechanisms to improve efficiencies, while reducing operating costs and increasing revenues.

Returning to the newly appointed board are chairman Eula Rogers, along with members Kevin Finch, Carol David and Dana O’ Neil-Gervais.

Rogers said it could not be business as usual, and committed to engage the organisation in a transformation exercise to keep pace with changing market conditions.

Joining the board are chartered accountant Hakeem Ahmad and business executive Natasha Phillips.

Categories: News

Councillor wants cholera testing in Cedros

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:30

Days after the Government discontinued permits for the importation of processed crab meat and live crab from neighbouring Venezuela because of potential cholera risks, a request has been made for cholera testing to be done in rural fishing communities in Cedros and Icacos.

In an interview, Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh questioned whether the Ministry of Health’s Food and Drug Division had done any tests on local crabs to determine whether they were also contaminated by the bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Teelucksingh said the Orinoco River pours into the Gulf of Paria bringing with it clumps of flora, snakes, crabs, and other creatures.

“If they are banning the importation of live crabs how are they going to stop it from reaching here. What parts of Venezuela are the bacteria found? What testing was done to confirm this?” Teelucksingh asked.

He added that over 100 crab catchers and crab vendors in the southwestern peninsula were suffering because no one wanted to buy crabs in fear of falling sick.

Teeklucksingh said studies have shown that food that which is properly cooked prevented the spread of cholera.

“I want to know what checks is presently being done at the Cedros port by the Ministry of Health of all products coming in, like fish, shrimps, dairy, and poultry. Are we equipping health centres with cholera kits?

Are people being tested in Icacos and are they educating people about how cholera is spread?” Teelucksingh asked.

He said banning the issuing of permits for the importation of the packaged crab meat and live crabs should have only occurred if proper investigations were done.

Contacted yesterday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said the concerns raised by Teelucksingh fell under the purview of the Health Ministry. However, he denied a report from the Jamaica Observer that

T&T had banned crab meat and live crabs from Venezuela.

“We have issued no ban on crab meat from Venezuela. The Ministry of Trade has not issued any import permit for crab meat from Venezuela. We have simply shared the US FDA advisory - for consumers to be aware of the risk of consuming packaged crab meat coming illegally from Venezuela,” Rambharat said.

He added that the Ministry was concerned about possible health risks coming from the Venezuelan mainland.

He also said that if there is any local ban or advisory, the Ministry of Health will notify citizens.

Last week, the FDA reported that 12 people in the US fell ill after eating crab meat infected by the bacteria, which prompted the advisory.

Categories: News

$450,000 award for offensive radio talk

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:25

Radio station 104.7 More FM has been ordered to pay a little over $450,000 in compensation to businessmen Junior Sammy and three of his companies over defamatory statements made during a talk show programme.

Delivering a 36-page judgment in the San Fernando High Court yesterday, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that Sammy and his companies were defamed by a series of accusations made on the “Ground Report” between November and December 2016.

While Seepersad ruled that Sammy was entitled to $450,000 in compensation to vindicate his professional reputation, he ruled that his companies Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd, Jusamco Pavers Ltd and Sammy’s Multilift Services Ltd only deserved nominal damages as they were unable to provide financial records, which showed that their business interests were directly affected by the offensive allegations.

“Although the words complained of were significant, the court took judicial notice of the fact, that the corporate claimants continue to receive substantial contracts, including government contracts, the most recent being the extension of the Point Fortin Highway along the Mosquito Creek,” Seepersad said as he ruled that each company was entitled to $7,500 in compensation.

Sammy and his companies sued the radio station and the hosts of the programme Andy Williams and Lennox Smith after they made allegations that he (Sammy) had corruptly obtained government contracts.

In its defence, the radio station, through its owners Robert and Sharon Amar, claimed that it should not be held liable as it did not manage the programme which was broadcast on airtime purchased by Williams and Smith.

Although Williams and Smith initially sought to rely on the defence of fair comment, they eventually settled the claim and were removed from the lawsuit before it went to trial, in March.

Sammy and his companies continued to pursue the claim against the radio station.

In his judgment, Seepersad first decided whether the statements could be considered libel or slander. Libel deals with written defamatory statements while slander deals with oral defamatory statements.

As he ruled that the talk show statements constituted libel based on the fact that it was broadcast internationally on the radio station’s website.

“Radio broadcasts can reach a wide audience and it can cause as much or even more harm than a newspaper report,” Seepersad said.

He called for Parliament to consider amending T&T colonial age legislation to bring it in line with international developments in defamation law.

“The law in this jurisdiction needs to be reviewed especially given the fact that talk shows have become the norm and there are numerous ‘call in’ programmes where persons regularly make highly offensive and defamatory remarks,” Seepersad said.

He noted that in England the law had developed to provide a defence for companies like the radio station, which currently can be held liable for defamatory statements made by third parties on its platform.

Seepersad sought to give advice to radio stations on how to avoid similar situations until legislative intervention occurs.

“The implementation of time delays, the implementation of a pre-recorded broadcast policy and the inclusion of indemnification policies as between the station and third party should be considered and adopted,” Seepersad said.

In 2015, television host Ian Alleyne was ordered to pay Sammy, his companies and his son Shaun, $600,000 in compensation for defamation over statements related to him (Shaun) being charged for drunk driving in 2014.

Alleyne failed to pay the money by the deadline and the Sammys levied on Alleyne’s home to recoup it. He eventually paid.

Sammy and his companies were represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and Ronnie Bissessar

Categories: News

Imbert to meet with private schools on new fee

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 22:10

Principals of the Private Secondary Schools who have been lobbying for an increase in the fee currently paid per student per term by the Government will get their chance today to make a case for the increase to Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Principals of the private secondary schools told Guardian Media they were contacted by phone yesterday to attend today’s meeting which begins at 2.30 pm at the Ministry of Finance, following the weekly Cabinet meeting.

They say they are “looking forward to the meeting,” and are “optimistic,” that something positive would come out of the discussions.

Last Thursday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia took a proposal to Cabinet on the request by the Association of Private Secondary Schools for an increase in the fee from the current $1,200 to $5,700. The

Cabinet sent the matter to the Finance and General Purpose Committee of the Cabinet.

The last time the private schools got an increase in the fee paid by the government was 13 years ago in 2005 when the fee was increased from $1,000 to $1,200.

But principals say the reality is that they are unable to meet all the educational requirements with the current fee structure.

One school official told Guardian Media that the private schools need to get a commitment from the Government to increase the fee to a more “realistic figure,” from September 2018. There is also a suggestion that a timetable should be set for review of the fee structure.

The impasse between the private secondary schools and the Ministry of Education resulted in a decision by the private schools not to accept government students when this year’s SEA results were released.

Many of the schools ended the school year without receiving payments from the Ministry for the last school term.

Private schools say over the years they have been “subsidising” the cost of education to government-placed students and had passed their borrowing limits and the goodwill of those who assisted them in meeting financial commitments had all but run out.

Garcia admitted that the request for an increase in the fee was “fair,” but he said the quantum would have to be decided by Cabinet.

Any increase in the fee would have to be included in the 2018-2019 budget and will be implemented in the new school term, he previously said.

Categories: News

Beetham teen killed in ‘shootout with cops’

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 22:03

Senior police officers in the Port-of-Spain Division have launched an investigation into a shooting incident involving police officers at Hell Yard, Beetham Gardens yesterday which left a teenager dead.

A 19-year-old man who was shot was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

He was identified as Akiel Thomas, of Phase Five, Beetham. Police claimed he was shot during an exchange of gunfire around 6.30 am.

This incident triggered scores of residents to protest in anger and some attempted to block the roads—the Eastern Main Road, the Priority Bus Route and the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Beetham.

Their actions were short-lived after vanloads of heavily-armed police officers arrived on the scene.

According to a police report, officers of the Port-of-Spain Division were conducting exercises in the community when they were confronted by a group of people at Hell Yard.

One of the men, police said, pulled out a firearm and opened fire on the police.

The police returned fire shooting Thomas in the chest. The other men, police said, ran off. Police said they recovered a firearm on the scene.

Police said Thomas was known to them and was believed to be involved in a gang.

Guardian Media was told that he acted as a “lookout” out to monitor who was attempting to enter the area.

A relative denied the police claims saying that Thomas was no gang member.

“He was a girl’s man and lime out late almost every day. He probably limed late last night (Tuesday) and slept away on the chair outside.

“He was sleeping on the chair and the police come up and shoot him just so. There was no shootout. He had no gun,” the relative, who refused to give his name, said.

The T&T Police Service’s public relations officer, ASP Michael Jackman said police officers have in place several plans to deal with the Beetham residents should they “act up.”

“The police would respond accordingly should anything take place. The head of the Port-of-Spain Division is well on top of the matter and the situation there is clearly being monitored,” he said. The flow of traffic, up to press time, was normal along the PBR, main road and highway.

There was heightened police presence during peak afternoon traffic and the patrols are expected to continue over the next few days, police said.

The latest police killing incident has been recorded as the 19th for the year so far.

Investigations are continuing.

Categories: News

Stuart knocks UNC’s launch boycott

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 21:59

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young yesterday lambasted the Opposition for not attending the launch of the National Crime Prevention Programme (NCPP), saying all they were interested in was politicising crime.

Young made the statement as he delivered the feature address on behalf of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who also failed to attend the event at the Hilton Trinidad due to a “pressing matter.”

Young said while everyone is affected by crime, the PNM Government would “not bury its head in the sand pretending and believing that crime does not exist and things do not need to be done to deal directly with crime.”

In fulfilling one of Government’s promises in its 2015 manifesto - the NCPP - which became Government policy, Young said the only way to tackle crime head-on was the involvement of every patriot of T&T.

“So I must register a bit of disappointment this morning on behalf of the Government of T&T, that we invited every single member of the Opposition…as a Member of Parliament and as a Senator and unfortunately they have not turned up.”

Young said Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan, who was listed as a speaker at the launch, also failed to show up.

“Citizens, crime is not about politics. And from the time we begin to politicise crime and the issues of crime and wish that the scourge of crime continues to develop in the hope that it mars a Government…and make a Government look bad you are failing your country and wider national community.”

He pleaded for all to come together to do whatever we can to tackle frontally the issue of crime.

“Don’t shirk that responsibility and duty.”

Asked after the launch if the Opposition gave a reason for not attending, Young replied, “Not that I am aware of. It’s quite unfortunate that none of them came here today on this national crime prevention programme.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who was also present, said the absence of Boodhan was startling “because the MPs for that area have been crying out for the attention and specific focus of taking Chaguanas as one of the pilot projects was very targeted and intended.”

Categories: News

Dillon seeks full support for new crime plan

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 21:58

National Security Minister Edmund Dillon has promised not to surrender to criminal elements who have been waging an all-out war against law-abiding citizens.

Dillon gave the commitment at the launch of the National Crime Preventative Programme (NCPP) at the Hilton Trinidad, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

However, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who was listed to deliver the feature address and unveil the NCPP logo, did not attend. Elements of the NCPP were first mentioned by Rowley at a PNM convention in 2016 and again in the 2018 budget presentation last October.

Yesterday, Dillon said he was aware of the challenges society faces as a result of crime.

“Crime affects all of us. There is no doubt about that. It saddens me deeply to hear the loss of life increasingly through the acts of violence, especially with the use of weapons and ammunition.”

He said crime was being perpetrated by a small group of criminals who have been “spreading fear and discord in our beloved country.”

He reiterated the call to all law-abiding citizens, police officers and the Government to unite to reclaim T&T from those who are supportive of criminality and lawlessness.

“The time has come for all of us to put all differences of opinion aside and work together as one cohesive unit to let the criminal elements know in society that they will never get the upper hand on us. We will never surrender. As a matter of fact, failure should never be an option.”

The NCPP, Dillon said, was anchored in Government’s 2030 National Security Strategic Plan and will address the root causes of crime and criminality and make communities more resilient.

The programme will be implemented on a phased basis and 15 community crime prevention councils, representing 14 regional corporations and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), will interface directly with communities to determine their needs and respond appropriately. The programme will first be implemented in the Diego Martin and Chaguanas corporations and the THA before being rolled out in the other 12 corporations.

“I guarantee once we put our necks to the grind or foot to the peddle we will see some results in the future,” Dillon said.

“The NCPP heralds the beginning of a new era of development and stability for our people and our country, by promoting and facilitating good order as well as transparent and accountable governance. Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Among the measures implemented, Dillon said, was the strengthening of the T&T Police Service, Strategic Services Agency, Defence Force Intelligence Unit and T&T Prisons Intelligence Unit.

“Yes, the T&T Prisons Intelligence Unit, because we believe and we have found the prisons provide a great deal of intelligence. So we have established a Prisons Intelligence Unit. The prison provides an area of intelligence which we would not normally have.”

Categories: News

Sixth man charged with Tamana killing

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 21:54

The next door neighbour of Guaico, Tamana mini-mart owner has been charged with conspiracy to murder John Samaroo.

Devon Dillon appeared before Senior Magistrate Gillian Scotland in the Sangre Grande First Court yesterday.

Dillon, 35, was charged by Cpl Seecharan of Arouca Homicide Bureau, Region 2.

Five other people are also charged with the same offence and appeared in court last week.

Ferdinand Mora, aka ‘Fredi’, 32, Bonifacio Mora, aka’ Chin’, 46, Javon Mora, aka, ‘Mickey’, 25, Justin Durity, 22 and Nickie Paradaisee 35, appeared in court on July 12. The magistrate after perusing the prisoner’s criminal record granted him $250,000 bail.

Dillon will return to court on August 9 along with his five other accused.

Samaroo, the owner of J&J mini-mart was attacked and chopped repeatedly when went to empty garbage in a barrel on the outside of his business place on June 21.

His wife, Saraswatee Samaroo, was also chopped during the incident but survived.

RALPH BANWARIE
 

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