Posts tagged local news
Posts tagged local news
In case you haven’t seen the TV6 story relating to Communication Minister Jamal Mohammed’s email…
Thanks to the Eternal Pantomime for the heads up.
What a refreshing read this was about the simple side of Trinbagonian life that I - for one - have never seen.
That is, until I scrolled down to the bottom and read this comment:
The backpedaling has begun:
National Security Minister Jack Warner emailed the following statement, at about 9.45 pm, to clarify his statements made earlier to reporters.
ISSUE: PNM MURDER
“The statement was inferred to a select few front line opposition members of Parliament who have continued to make negative statements which may have the effect of nullifying the gains made over the last month, instead of looking at ways in which we could work together to ensure the statistics remain in check.
This in no way includes the membership of the party - even though I may not agree with their political affiliation, I respect them as citizens of this country.
I am incensed when I hear of “but one murder”…we have always said one murder is one murder too many - let us agree not to use this as a political football but to engage in supporting the men and women of the protective services in continuing the excellent work they have been doing - and the gains they have made.”
“The intent of this measure is to seek to ensure that crime statistics are not sensationalised thereby acting as a domino effect in certain hot spot areas and causing an escalation of crime in that hotspot area.
The issue is not about withholding the statistics — it is about the management of the sensitive information that many times is released along with the statistic that always has the potential to inflame additional crime — particularly when treating with the issue of gangs and the ‘gang culture’.
For instance, there is no issue with stating that there may have been a homicide in area ‘X’, the issue becomes more challenging when the information released includes the homicide in area ‘X’, along with the homicide being gang related, and involving person ‘Y’…this is a recipe for unnecessarily inflamed tensions.
Therefore my statement was earmarked to avoid unnecessary murders and escalation of crime in hot spots, and not in any way a means of muzzling the freedom of information, and I apologise if it may have been taken out of context.”
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan says that if the Government “slipped up” by reducing the fuel subsidy, they’re willing to review the decision.
Sounds like the beginning of the latest backpedal to me…
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has decreed that -following the Section 34 debacle - no bill will be proclaimed unless it passes through his office.
This might be reassuring if - in an effort to absolve himself of all blame re: Section 34 - he hadn’t declared that he knows nothing about criminal law. What could be the point of overseeing a law that he doesn’t understand because he’s a civil lawyer?
And then there’s the fact that - according to Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal - Ramlogan’s office has always been responsible for the passage of legislation, whether he ‘piloted’ it or not.
I see what you’re doing Ramlogan, but rest assured, this is not over. It won’t be over even when the motion of censure is defeated (and it will be). We are all well aware that your fingerprints are all over Section 34. Don’t tell yourself for a minute that it will go away if you continue to play dumb.
National Security Minister Jack Warner, commenting on the murder of Stephon Morris, who was shot multiple times by two gunman at about 3 o’clock this morning.
Warner went on to declare that he had instructed the T&T Police Service to cease providing murder statistics to the media (and, by extension, the public) because the PNM (who he says orchestrated the murder) are using the stats to encourage crime in hotspots.
He also said that the murder could have been avoided if the PNM would stop sponsoring crime and glamorizing murder.
This is our Minister of National Security. So incensed by the fact Stephon had the nerve to be brutally murdered in the area that he just declared murder-free (yesterday, in fact) that he is spouting such madness.
The only metric by which we can judge Warner’s performance are crime statistics, and murder statistics in particular. By effectively issuing a blackout on those stats, Warner has issued himself a blank cheque to declare success. He’s also removed one of the few tangible forms of evidence that his Government is sleeping on the job.
Well done, Warner. How much more of this are we going to take?
AMID growing concerns of a State sector culture of waste and mismanagement, the chairman of iGovTT, Attiba Phillips, is under fire from his board of directors for unapproved spending in excess of $69,000.
Phillips, a non-executive chairman, has defended the spending as legitimate company expenses but his entire board has taken strong issue with it, condemning his spending of taxpayers’ money as an “abuse” and has called on line minister Dr Rupert Griffith to investigate whether any wrongdoing occurred.
Phillips, the son of former government minister Daphne Phillips, spent $23,835.50 in 40 taxi transactions stretching over a 19-month period, according to an income and expenditure audit of the company. This is in addition to his board transportation fee (travel allowance) of $1,000 a month.
The taxi charges were recorded in the books of iGovTT as board expenses without the approval and/or knowledge of the seven directors on the board, sources disclosed.
Reached for comment, Phillips defended spending beyond the chairman’s legal limit on travel. He said there were times during his chairmanship of the State-subsidised company when he was unable to get where he needed to go on company-related business. It was during those times, he told the Express, that the company provided a driver or taxi services. He declined to say who in the company’s management authorised taxi money from the State’s purse.
A review of taxi rides, however, showed trips to the airport, the Prime Minister’s private residence in Phillipine, the Rienzi Couva headquarters of the United National Congress (UNC) party, his Carenage residence, St Clair, Penal, Mid Centre Mall, iGovTT’s headquarters at Lord Harris Court on Pembroke Street and the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, among other places.
His travel log also showed trips from his home, Chaud Restaurant on Dundonald Street, Port of Spain, the airport and Rienzi Complex, among other places.
At least seven of his rides exceeded $1,000 a piece. In one trip from Lord Harris Court to Penal, the cost to the State was $1,197—which included an hour-long wait by the taxi.
A 2012 February ride from his Carenage home to Siparia cost taxpayers $1,575. A return road trip from his home to Mid Centre Mall in Chaguanas rang up a taxi fare of $1,335. Another trip from his home to Diego Martin cost taxpayers another $1,222.
Phillips is also reported to have used the company’s Toyota Prado vehicles on two occasions without the board’s knowledge and/or approval. He has, however, denied this, saying he never took the company vehicles without the requisite approval.
There were spending issues related as well to his six-day stay in June of this year at the Hilton Trinidad. Insiders report Phillips and management personnel ringing up a hotel tab of some $77,000. Asked about the Hilton stay, Phillips said there were serious deadline issues related to the delivery of the national ICT (National Information and Communications) plan and it was necessary for key company officials to hunker down for a few days to get the document out. He expressed surprise that the Hilton stay had become an issue.
He was surprised as well that his three-day stay at the Hyatt Regency hotel had raised eyebrows. Phillips rang up a tab of $5,396.10 for his Hyatt stay during iGovTT’s SmartTT conference. He said he had multiple roles and was a lead presenter on two conference days and “it just made sense” for him to stay on location.
There was also a reported misuse of the company’s credit card for a bit of fine dining at Chaud Restaurant in Port of Spain but Phillips said the bill of $417 was paid in full.
Minister Griffith has told the Express the matter of the chairman’s unapproved spending at iGovTT was raised with him and that it would be premature for him to say anything until he had all the facts before him.
I read things like this and - aside from wondering how the hell someone can rack up a thousand-dollar bill on one taxi ride from Carenage to Chaguanas when I know it costs about $30 to travel from Chaguanas to St. Clair - I think about the other politicians who manage to keep their excesses hidden.
All of this, while our gas subsidy is being reduced, import tax on foreign used tyres is being raised and the middle and lower income classes are just being squeezed for all we’re worth.
There is something wrong with our system of governance.
If the presence of police and army personnel in Laventille is reduced, daily murders in east Port-of-Spain will resume. This was the fear of several residents of the Beverly Hills, Laventille, community yesterday, a month since the community recorded its last murder.
When a news team from the T&T Guardian visited several of the communities yesterday morning, most residents expressed their support of joint police and army patrols, which were implemented early last month by National Security Minister Jack Warner in the wake of several reprisal killings.
So here’s the thing about the joint police/army patrols in Laventille. They’re not sustainable. Nor are they part of any sensible crime plan. What they are is a triage response to an emergency situation, which is fine, because the situation in Laventille has been an emergency for some time.
Of course the people of Laventille are happy about it (the law-abiding ones, anyway), because it means no more stray bullets, no more fear of walking the streets after dark, no more hearing your community shouted out as the nation’s murder capitol. Who wouldn’t love it?
But here’s the problem: the police and army can’t possibly conduct 24/7 patrols in Laventille indefinitely. Something has to be done about the root cause of the violence. Aside from the Hoop For Life programme (which is a national joke), I’ve heard talk about refurbishing the neglected and dilapidated community, providing jobs (which usually means CEPEP and URP), building community centres and sports facilities, etc., but I’ve heard nothing about a coherent plan for tackling the climate which causes the violence in the first place.
I’m not necessarily saying that there is no coherent plan (though, given this government’s track record…) I’m just saying that I haven’t heard one. And I worry about the people of Laventille. What will happen when the Army goes back to the barracks and the police can no longer make 24/7 patrols?
In case - like me - you were wondering exactly what will change on November 15th, check out the long list of items that are currently zero-rated.
You will notice that many of the staples of the Trinbagonian diet are included in that list.
Now, compare this to the Government’s provisional list of items that will soon be VAT-free:
• Cereals (only cornflakes are zero-rated at present)
• Pancake mixes
• Pancake syrups
• Flavoured milk drinks
• Drink mixes
• Juices (only citrus juices are zero-rated)
• Custard powder
• Canned vegetables
• Pasta sauces
• Soups/soup mixes
• Corned mutton
• Luncheon meats
• Canned salmon
• Viennas (non-chicken)
• Pholourie mix
• Flavoured rice
• Cake mixes/frosting
• Almond essence (vanilla essence is zero-rated)
• Canned fruit
• Fruit cocktail
• Soya chunks/minced
• Soya drinks
• Instant oatmeal
• Barbecue sauce
• Pepper sauce
• Coconut milk powder
• Salad dressing
• Hot chow
• French fries
• Frozen potato
• Hamburger patties
• Processed meats
• Smoked chicken
• Smoked turkey
• Hot dogs
• Frozen foods
• Ice cream
Corned mutton and almond essence? Is it any wonder why Social activist Hazel Brown has advised our Government to sit down and have a chat with an actual poor person before revising this list?
(Thanks for the link, Christian!)
Since last weekend, I’ve been wondering how the Prime Minister of this country can rally her supporters against an enemy when she is sworn to represent everyone (every single person) in this country.
On Saturday Mrs Persad-Bissessar made several statements that caused me some alarm. She advised the crowd to, “get in yuh section”, “an election is coming”, “we know who the enemy is”. Sections? Enemies? If this was a pre-Budget rally, why was it sounding like an election campaign? Why was the Prime Minister, at a meeting she claims the people called for, making comments that indicated it was “We versus Them”? In a country of Trinbagonians, who precisely are the “enemies” that the PM is speaking of? And why such divisive and attacking language? The election she referred to was the THA election. And the mood of the crowd at the time of her speech was drunkenly aggressive. I was standing in the midst of it looking on and wondering what madness was being incited at the Mid-Centre Mall car park. In a country where people’s tempers are stretched thin by any number of daily issues, the Prime Minister was being extremely imprudent.
Prior to the PM’s speech there were many subtle and overt comments to attack the PNM, at what was billed as a pre-Budget Rally. The fiercest attacks came from Ramlogan, Roberts and Moonilal. Their speeches were delivered early in the event, so by the end of the first 45 minutes of an event to announce the Budget, the predominantly UNC crowd was whipped into an anti-PNM frenzy. It was in stark contrast to their rallies of 2010. At those rallies then Opposition Leader Persad-Bissessar had stated to all her her audiences that she was running a clean campaign. There would be no slurring or mudslinging on her platform. She insisted that she was running a campaign focused on sober discussion of issues. The façade of being a principled coalition fell on Saturday.
The woman who is brought onstage to Celine Dion songs, dressed very femininely in demure and muted shades of yellow; the woman who routinely reminds us that her decision-making is informed by her status as both a mother and a grandmother revealed her claws. And she can scratch. At the helm of a party and government responsible for a multi-ethnic population phrases like “get in yuh section” and “we know who the enemy is” sound an alarum.
This in the wake of Warner openly casting aspersions on Asha Javeed, and we start seeing a trend with this government: attack the media, treat citizens of the country that are not Pro-UNC as the enemy and use both subtle and overt references to race and ethnicity as the determining factor.
We already have a situation whereby instead of promoting people who have genuinely achieved, regardless of their ethnicity, this government has been hellbent on reinventing political, social and cultural history to suit itself.
The international community has gotten wind of the Government’s recent interactions with the media:
A public campaign led in part by high-ranking government officials to discredit two prominent Trindadian investigative journalists must end, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.
Denyse Renne of the Trinidad Guardian and Asha Javeed of the Trinidad Express have been the target of public accusations and criticism by leading members of the ruling United National Congress (UNC), particularly Minister of National Security Jack Warner, after reporting on a legal scandal that has rocked the administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
In addition, the two journalists have reportedly been the subject of widely circulated e-mails hinting at allegations related to their private lives, a campaign that IPI and Trinidadian media groups believe is an attempt to instill fear and self-censorship. There is no indication as to the source of the e-mails, which have been described in the press as “nasty.”
Appearing on the television programme “Democracy is Alive” last Wednesday, Warner asserted that opposition leader Keith Rowley was “propped up by a section of a compliant media” and said of Javeed, “you know her history…where she lives and so on…” Warner repeated his assertions of the media’s “deceitful” efforts to “push an agenda” in a subsequent interview with the Express.
On Sunday, Warner sought to defend himself in the face of a media outcry over his remarks, releasing a statement emphasising his support for press freedom but stating, “What I did was to expose what I rightfully considered the duplicitous and disingenuous behavior of one who works in the media and, in this particular case, the Express newspaper.”
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan last week also joined the fray, attacking what he viewed as the media’s bias against the UNC government. “That kind of imbalance is something that calls for self-analysis and self-introspection by the media itself,” he added, proceeding to call more responsibility on the part of the press.
IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “While the personal attacks and allegations against Denyse Renne and Asha Javeed are unacceptable in any context, the fact that public officials are at the forefront of the abuse is particularly troubling. One critical responsibility of journalism is precisely to investigate the actions of elected governments, and public officials should remember that, in a democracy, the price of power is heightened scrutiny.”
He added: “We call upon Minister Jack Warner and anyone else to immediately cease this campaign of harassment and insinuation against the media.”
The scandal centres around the government’s early proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proccedings) Act, which granted judges the power to dismiss a criminal matter if “it had languished in the court for more than ten years,” according to media reports. The expedited passage of Section 34 allowed two well-known businessmen and reported UNC donors, Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, to petition for dismissal of decade-old fraud and conspiracy charges against them. The United States government is also seeking their extradition to face money laundering charges.
Following the media’s investigation into the alleged political motives behind the move, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar called an extraodinary session of parliament to repeal Section 34 and later dismissed the country’s justice minister, Herbert Volney. The opposition has continued to press for the resignation of Attorney General Ramlogan.
The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) condemned what it called a “smear campaign” against Renne and Javeed, and declared, “Personal attacks in response to news reports are not a valid or acceptable means of discrediting the information unearthed by journalists who are simply doing their job.”
MATT added: “If this trend is not rapidly checked, the association fears a trend of organised personal attacks against journalists will eventaully damage the ability of the media to report fearlessly, undermine the functioning of the media—which is fundamental to all democracies—and ultimately weaken the rights of citizens.”
This is not the first time that Jack Warner has tangled with the media. Earlier this year, IPI reported on Warner’s threats to sue sports journalist Lasana Liburd for covering Warner’s alleged embezzlement of FIFA aid money destined for earthquake-ravaged Haiti, charges that have led to calls for Warner’s removal from the government.
In June, IPI held its World Congress in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, which closed with a commitment by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar to review the country’s criminal defamation laws, a key target of IPI lobbying efforts.
So - nearly four months after the announcement and just about two months after they debuted - I got my first $50 bills today. I was totally confused when the teller started counting; I thought she was giving me tens:
Earlier this week, Tim Gopeesingh told every single media outlet that his son, Shane Gopeesingh, has not fled the country. Admittedly, he didn’t sound exactly sure where Shane was (“Shane is at home…I think he is possibly at work”), but he was sure that he was somewhere in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
So, I ask you, WHY are the police now asking the public to help them find Shane?
Asked about the delay in arresting the suspect, Williams said: “They (the police) have gone to the home of the alleged suspect, the home where he is supposed to have resided. They have gone to the home to locate him…they have not located him. They are continuing to search for him. If people in the public know and have information which can help we will appreciate information to locate him.
Have they asked Tim?
Meanwhile, the media finally got around to asking acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams about the investigation into the Collin Partap case:
Williams said he projects that the investigation will be completed by October 15.
“The interesting thing about the media and people generally in probing issues like these is that they will raise issues in relation to speed, but you know if you rush and do something and the matter collapses, you know the flip side comes up that the police compromise the investigation to facilitate the minister being freed,” Williams added.
Williams said even though the matter is not as serious as a murder, he was aware of the law and what is required in law and was meeting the requirements.
He added that the statue of limitations on the matter is not close to the October 15 projected date and he just wanted to ensure that the matter is investigated thoroughly.
Glad to hear it. I must note however, that it’s passing strange how - in high-profile cases - investigations are carried out before the suspect is detained… even in the case of violent offenders.