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Updated: 2 hours 19 min ago

Chess leaps forward in Point

2 hours 22 min ago

The sport of chess in T&T has taken a significant leap forward with last Saturday’s formal launching of the country’s first permanent Chess Centre.

The facility, located in the Borough of Point Fortin, emerges naturally from last year’s successful Chess-in-Schools programme led by the T&T Chess Foundation.

The Centre, with financial support from Atlantic, will operate at the South West Regional Indoor Sports Arena, Egypt Village, on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm, offering chess training for young people under the age of 20 years.

According to Edison Raphael, TTCF president, the Centre is a means of contributing to development of critical thinking skills and cognitive abilities in children from an early age, “It is our response to recent demands from parents and well wishers of the sport for a more dedicated and sustainable approach to spreading the power of chess among the youth of Point Fortin.”

Raphael pointed out that benefits of the sport in schools and otherwise are not as widely recognised in T&T or the Caribbean as they are in developed countries. Hence the reason why the TTCF needs to deepen and extend its initiative nationwide.

“We have already earmarked a strategic location in east Trinidad for yet another chess centre. We recognise that our vision for chess in T&T can only be realised with support from corporate citizens and institutions.”

The Foundation’s centre at Point Fortin will be the model on which additional centres will be established, Raphael added. The formal launching of the Centre drew a large audience of parents and children at the Point Fortin Borough Corporation Auditorium with businessman and Chess Foundation director Raymond Aaron conducting the event.

Chantal Fitzpatrick, former junior champion and ex-women’s national champion gave insights into her prominent career.

Feature address was delivered by Patrice Charles, Director of Physical Education and Sport, who represented Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith. He said it was commendable for the Foundation to encourage the community’s youth to play chess, “a sport that teaches discipline while nurturing sound decision making and strategic problem solving skills.

“With the Centre targeting young people under the age of 20 on Saturdays, we believe that this initiative will provide the community with an excellent option for occupying their leisure time. Our nation currently faces challenging times and, as we know, crime and violence are issues affecting us on all sides.

“An intervention such as the teaching of chess-related skills to young people is a much welcomed initiative. We at the Ministry are certain that this Centre will prove to be of great benefit not only to the people of Point Fortin but also, by extension, the nation of T&T.

“To the young people who will be taking advantage of the opportunity this Chess Centre presents, we say congratulations. We congratulate you because dedicating yourselves to training in the sport of chess is admirable. It shows that you are willing to submit yourselves to discipline and to giving up some of your free time on Saturdays when many young people would prefer to be otherwise engaged.
“You too will come to see that your investment is not limited to Point Fortin or to the sport of chess in isolation, since the skills learned will contribute to the holistic development of those you will help to mentor,” he said.
“The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs looked forward to great national chess players coming out of the Point Fortin Chess Centre.”
Also addressing the launching ceremony was Major Michael Celestine, who represented Edmund Dillon, Minister of National Security and Member of Parliament for Point Fortin.
He said: “The educational benefits of being a chess player are many and include honing analytical thinking skills and aiding memory retention. It is a great confidence builder and teaches patience and persistence.
“Often known as a game for the intellectually gifted, chess is the best sport to exercise the most important organ in our bodies: the brain. The game of chess might not help you build your biceps or tone your abs, but your lifelong mental health can certainly benefit from it. And a beautiful mind is one of the best assets you can show off.”

Adventures of the UWI bus service

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 23:20

Oh, behold the adventures of the UWI bus service from San Fernando to St Augustine!

The UWI bus was the source of many adventures and mishaps on Tuesday. What an eventful day it was! The morning started off on a bright note with the 6 am bus departing the south terminal with great precision. However, as the day progressed, the events which followed, were to the detriment of the UWI students using the service.

At 9 am, no bus departed from San Fernando, the reason for such remains an unsolved mystery. The 10 am bus departed from south with the hope of reaching St Augustine. It never arrived. I was told that the bus was “shut down” en route to The UWI, and as such I would be required to wait for the next bus which left San Fernando at 11 am. I was waiting from 10.15 am.

This bus arrived at The UWI promptly at 12.30 pm where other students and I were waiting for it. The journey to south was smooth, until the bus stopped at Gasparillo to drop off passengers. After the passengers alighted, the driver realised the door was unable to close. He exited the bus to conduct an investigation upon which he returned and told the passengers that difficulties were being experienced and that he was making a call for assistance.

The driver then went to look for something with which to tie the door. After about 10 minutes, he was successful in his venture. I must say kudos to the driver for his actions in seeking to rectify the situation. The bus was finally along its way!

Who knows what the next bus trip may have in store for its passengers.

Can the Minister of Works and Transport ensure that the PTSC buses from UWI to San Fernando are functioning properly and efficiently on a daily basis (especially during the examination period in The UWI) and that such mishaps are significantly reduced in the mere future.

Mickhela L Alexander, 
Diamond Village,
San Fernando

Readymix bounces $0.29

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 23:07

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 15 securities of which four advanced, four declined and seven traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 172,543 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $8,389,891.27. Scotiabank was the volume leader with 60,000 shares changing hands for a value of $3,483,600, followed by The West Indian Tobacco Company with a volume of 35,490 shares being traded for $4,506,880.00.

NCB Financial Group contributed 34,800 shares with a value of $138,852, while Scotia Investments Jamaica Ltd added 29,000 shares valued at $79,751.05.

Readymix (West Indies) registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.29 to end the day at $12.33. Conversely, FirstCaribbean International Bank registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.04 to close at $8.57.

On the mutual fund market 63,153 shares changed hands for a value of $1,407,140.03. Clico Investment Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 62,153 shares valued at $1,399,060.03. Clico Investment Fund advanced by $0.01 to end at $22.51.

The second tier market did not witness any activity.

Moody’s downgrades T&T to junk bond status

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 23:04

Yet another international financial institution has downgraded Trinidad and Tobago.

Moody’s announced on Wednesday that it had downgraded T&T to Ba1 from Baa3, just days after Friday’s announcement by Standard and Poor’s (S&P) that it had lowered its long-term sovereign credit ratings for this country from “A-” to “BBB+”,

In Moody’s ranking, Ba1 is considered to be non-investment grade, or junk-bond status, while S&P’s BBB+ is considered as investment grade. Bonds are rated as investment grade or junk based on the credit rating agencies assessment of the risk of the issuer of the bond defaulting on interest or principal payments.

In its assessment of T&T, Moody’s said the key driver of its decision was because the authorities’ policy response has been “insufficient to effectively offset the impact of low energy prices on government revenues, as fiscal consolidation efforts have mostly relied on one-off revenue measures.”

Weighing in on the property tax which government wants to implement this year, Moody’s said while “it will yield modest results but these will not be fully reflected in revenues until next year.”

According to Moody’s, the steady rise in debt ratios driven by large government deficits has eroded the country’s fiscal strength and it is forecasting that the country’s debt to GDP ratio which exceeded 56 per cent in 2016 from 42 per cent in 2014 will rise to almost 70 per cent of GDP by 2019. This, it said, “is substantially higher than the baseline scenario we assumed when we lowered the rating to Baa3 from Baa2 one year ago.”

Moody’s is also forecasting that government’s dependence on the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF) will continue, saying “without meaningful fiscal adjustment to reduce double digit fiscal deficits excluding capital revenues, the government will likely continue to use resources from the HSF.”

It cautioned that although the Fund’s assets stand at around $5.7 billion or 24 per cent of GDP, “recurring withdrawals will erode an important credit strength,” of the country.

With the fall in oil and gas prices, Moody’s said energy-related government revenues fell to only one per cent of GDP in fiscal 2016, from eight per cent in the previous fiscal year, and current revenues declined by 28 per cent over the period 2015-2016.

While the rating agency said government responded to the fall in revenues by reducing gasoline subsidies and current transfers, it was not enough.

Moody’s said: “These measures have not changed a rigid expenditure structure in which wages, subsidies and transfers account for 70 per cent of total government spending.”

Moody’s said it expects that “total expenditures will continue to increase this year amid higher debt servicing costs and larger capital expenditures.”

While this is happening Moody’s said there have been “limited results equivalent of 1 per cent of GDP this fiscal year,” to measures to raise current revenues.

It noted that even though government had eliminated exemptions from the value added tax and lowered the overall rate from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent, revenues gained were “less than originally expected.”

Government, it said, had been relying on dividends from the National Gas Company (NGC) and asset sales to contain the fiscal deficit. But Moody’s said while government expects to earn TT$9.69 billion or 6.4 per cent of GDP from one-off capital measures in fiscal 2017, “we believe TT$6 billion or 4 per cent of GDP is a more likely outcome given significant implementation risks.”

Aviation worker suspended for Facebook post

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:59

The Public Services Association (PSA) has warned the T&T Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) that it will not tolerate attempts to bully, harass or intimidate workers with threats of suspension or loss of work over their social media presence and/or online postings.

Speaking during a press conference at the PSA headquarters in Port-of-Spain yesterday, first vice president Christopher Joefield highlighted the case of a senior air traffic controller who was suspended for two weeks without pay after his online contributions about the behaviour of managers in a “secret” Facebook group were disclosed to senior TTCAA officials.

Dhanesh Kumar was suspended from March 18-31 on the basis of certain remarks he reportedly made as a member of the group.

Formed in 2012 by colleagues of Kumar’s, the group enables members to discuss their concerns about issues both within and outside the workplace, as well as comment on management style and the treatment of employees. It was a secret group as opposed to an open or closed group on Facebook, which means it offers a high level of privacy.

According to documents filed in the High Court on April 12, “members felt secure and confident in making their comments, knowing these comments were not in the public domain and were confidential.”

The document added that the secret group was specifically chosen in order to protect the fundamental constitutional rights of members to enjoy both freedom of speech/opinion as well as the right to privacy.

Kumar is being represented by Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan, instructed by Travers Sinanan.

Pointing out that Kumar’s contributions were disclosed by another member of the group, Joefield yesterday accused the TTCAA of acting in a “high-handed” manner when they convened a tribunal and decided to suspending Kumar as a result.

Having been summoned to a senior manager’s office in early November 2016, Kumar was advised that an investigation had been launched into certain postings in the secret group. It was during this that Kumar was made aware the senior manager was also a member of the secret group.

Kumar later denied responsibility for exposing or circulating in the public domain any of the postings from the secret group.

On November 18, 2016, Kumar received a memo which charged him with gross misconduct for posting allegations which could possibly bring the TTCAA into disrepute.

Joefield said Kumar fell ill and had to seek medical treatment for a heart-related condition which was exacerbated as a result of the stress brought on by the situation, leading the TTCAA to adjourn the disciplinary hearing from November 2016 to January.

At the hearing on January 10, the TTCAA attempted to introduce a document purportedly dealing with the use of social media by Staff, which was conceptualised after the disciplinary charges had been brought against Kumar.

Referring to this yesterday, Joefield argued the TTCAA did not have any policy regarding social media at the time of the incident. He said it was “quite possible” the TTCAA was using this incident to remove Kumar, as he has been a vocal employee representative advocating for workers’ rights.

Joefield said if this matter went unchallenged it would set a dangerous precedent, as “workers should have the right, even in a secret forum, to express their views without having to run the risk of being taken to task for it.”

9,000 vacancies in public service

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:51

There are 9,000 vacancies in T&T’s public service which is staffed by 27,000 to 30,000 public servants—including 13,800 contract officers.

The figures were confirmed yesterday by Public Service Commission chairman Maureen Manchouck and Public Administration’s permanent secretary Joan Mendez when PSC and affiliated officers appeared before a Parliamentary committee which examined efficiencies in the system.

Manchouck said the PSC was not responsible for managing or running the service, or doing budgeting or staff hiring or training. She said PSC is an oversight body handling policy, reports and monitoring.

Manchouck said the public service’s size is between 27,000 to 30,000 divided among 23 government ministries. There were 33 ministries under the previous People’s Partnership administration.

Mendez said there are 13,800 contract officers.

Prabhwatie Maraj, deputy Director of Personnel Administration, said there are approximately 9,000 job vacancies in the service - 4,636 specific vacancies and about 4,551 generic ones.

Mendez said a review of ministries will be done after their strategic plans are completed.

“We feel there are some areas of over-staffing and other areas which are under-staffed. Rationalisation needs to be done,” Mendez said.

She said a preliminary exercise was done due to the realignment from the PP’s 33 ministries to the PNM’s 23, and further restructuring was needed. As Ministry planning is complete, more realignments can be done. She said Ministries seek to retain posts every few weeks.

PSC member Clive Pegus said in 2016, there were 10,000 realignments.

Director of Personnel Administration Anastasius Creed said the realignment of Ministries did not decrease the size of the service or vacancies since some posts shifted.

Committee member Ramona Ramdial asked if regulations allowed permanent secretaries who reached retirement age — like Energy’s Selwyn Lashley—to be reappointed.

PSC legal adviser Natasha Seebaran said this is not within regulation. Pegus said regulation 15 (1) allowed for employment of a pensioner with the Prime Minister’s approval, if the person had necessary special experience, is particularly useful to the division, and if it was not possible to fill the post.

Manchouck said such appointments are only made in exceptional circumstances. She said this particular one—Lashley’s—was considered carefully and it was decided it was justified.

Pegus added that a strong case was made to the PSC by the permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. He said the Energy Ministry’s deputy PS had lacked the requisite experience for the post. He said the appointment was for a year and the PSC strongly recommended to the OPM’s Permanent Secretary that succession planning be done.

Manchouck said the new batch of deputy PSs due for appointment may be given training specific for ministries.

Deal with complaints in-house

Complaints about public service officers should be dealt with at the level of Ministries and Human Resource divisions, says Sandra Jones, Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister.

“We’ve been speaking to PSs and many of them are working to comply on these issues,” she said.

Jones spoke after committee member Khadijah Ameen said the PSC was perceived as not being receptive to complaints from the public about public service officers.

Director of Personnel Administration Anastasius Creed said complaints sent to PSC are acknowledged and researched. The latter sometimes takes much time since the PSC has a paper-based system—with thousands of files—and is now beginning to be computerised. Creed said there were 240 representations last year.

Defects in property tax law—Ramadhar

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:38

Opposition MP Prakash Ramadhar says citizens should not pay property tax unless Government fully implemented public procurement, campaign and party finance reform and new local government legislation.

Ramadhar was addressing constituents during a meeting on the proposed reintroduction of the property tax at the St Augustine South Community Centre on Tuesday.

Ramadhar also responded to an announcement by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in Parliament last Friday. Imbert said then that Ramadhar, while leading a campaign to axe the tax was paying property tax in the United States.

Ramadhar said he was not in T&T when Imbert “took the awful opportunity to use your sacred house (Parliament) to speak about me paying property tax in Florida .”

Ramadhar confirmed he pays the tax as he owns “a property there but if I do not pay it I lose my property.”

He said he felt if Imbert thinks “he can silence Prakash Ramadhar by calling his name in Parliament. I have nothing to hide. I am proud of the achievements I have made and from the legacy of my father and grandfather. “

Ramadhar said: “There are defects in this legislation. It is my humble view that these letters they are sending out are null and void and of no effect.”

He said the property tax was a “punishment on the population” especially in the wake of prevailing economic conditions where citizens already have to pay many other taxes and they were losing their jobs.

During the meeting attorneys Larry Lalla, Jagdeo Singh and others answered questions from members of the audience about the tax.

One citizen asked Ramadhar to explain why the former People’s Partnership government failed to repeal the property tax as it promised in its 2010 election manifesto.

In responding, Ramadhar said he was the chairman of the then Cabinet’s Legislative Review Committee “and many efforts were made for the Ministry of Finance to bring us legislation to repeal the property tax of 2009 and re-instate Land and Building Taxes.”

He insisted: “There were members of that ministry who absolutely refused to obey the instructions of the LRC.” He said what actually happened was that the property tax returned (under the PP government) and then prime minister (Kamla Persad-Bissessar) and myself had to go before the people to indicate that it is not going to happen under our term.”

$2m a year for Enterprise peace

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:28

The cost to maintain a 24-hour presence in crime hotspot of Enterprise, Chaguanas can cost of the T&T Police Service (TTPS) in excess of $2 million a year.

Operation Enterprise was launched by the Minister of National Security, Edmund Dillon on March 28 due to the upsurge in murders and violent crime in the area.

The initiative is a joint collaboration with the TTPS and the T&T Regiment to stamp out violence among warring gangs.

Speaking with the T&T Guardian following the TTPS’ weekly media briefing yesterday, head of Operation Enterprise, ASP Richard Smith said that at an average a monthly cost, which includes overtime costs, meals and other allowances for police officers, who work on a 24-hour on and off shift, was about $200,000.

Smith said that although he thinks that the TTPS can sustain the initiative, it is not possible to deploy the amount of personnel in all parts of T&T.

“Operation Enterprise took a lot of resources to police that area to bring it to a sense of normalcy. We really deploy our personnel as the need arises,” Smith said.

Asked the successfulness of the initiative so far, the TTPS’ Public Information Officer, Michael Pierre said that since they have made several arrests of people belonging to both gangs, including those in high-ranking positions, they have seen a form of relief.

“We are continuing to keeping on the pressure that we have in the area to ensure that it remains this way,” Pierre said.

In giving statistics, Smith said that in 2016 Central Division recorded a total of 79 homicides, with 18 occurring in the Enterprise district.

From January 1 to March 2017, Smith said that given the upsurge in violence there were 10 murders reported.

“The objective of Operation Enterprise is to increase the joint army and police patrols in the area; conduct raids, searches and road blocks in the known drug blocks throughout the area; target priority offenders and people on outstanding warrants; partner with the community via the community policing approach by engaging in town meetings, door-to-door visits, school visits and walkabouts; increasing firearms and narcotics detection and restoring a sense of peace and comfort to the residents,” Smith said.

Last week, head of the Islamic Front, Umar Abdullah suggested that as part of the initiative there should be a gun amnesty, however, in response, Pierre said that a gun amnesty was not an option at this time but placed emphasis on the TTPS’ continued efforts to intensify its seizure and recovery of firearms.

He also added that there was a lot of collaborative effort being put into their investigations with respect to all aspects of gang activity, including in the recovery of firearms. He, however, added that people finding firearms and bringing them in will also be welcomed.

Driver crashes after bullet to head

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:14

A mysterious phone call may be linked to the murder of Ste Madeleine pensioner Calvin Baptiste who was shot while driving through his Tarodale Hills, San Fernando community on Tuesday night.

Although a motive is yet to be determined, police are said that they intend get to the bottom of Baptiste’s murder.

A report stated that around 8.20 pm, residents heard gunshots in the community and contacted the police. When officers arrived, they found a green, old model Mitsubishi Lancer that ran off the road along Bougainvillea Avenue. They found Baptiste, 69, of Yallah Avenue, slumped over the steering wheel. There was no wallet in the car, but he was identified by relatives who came to the scene.

Relatives said Baptiste moved into the community approximately one year ago.

On Tuesday night, he had just returned home when he got a phone call and left home. They believe that he was shot while driving along Bougainvillea Avenue by someone who was waiting on him to pass. However, some residents are questioning whether he was struck by a stray bullet.

No one was at Baptiste’s home yesterday and neighbours said he lived alone.

Snr Supt Zamsheed Mohammed said resources are being given to solve all murders in the division as they seek to reduce the numbers. Baptiste’s killing is the 163rd murder for the year according to the Homicide Bureau.

Petrotrin faces hefty fines for latest leak

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:10

At a time when oil and gas prices are stunted, Petrotrin is facing the risk of being penalised in light of last Sunday’s spill which has begun to exact financial loses and pose environmental dangers.

Sunday’s spill into the Guaracara River and the Gulf of Paria, has also raised more questions than answers from the former Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine and the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) which represents workers at this institution. 

Three years ago the State-owned energy company was ordered to pay some $20 million in fines for breaches of its Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC).

Ramnarine called on Petrotrin to clarify conflicting reports as to the size and extent of last Sunday’s oil spill and to say why the tender process for the construction of bund walls for high risk storage tanks in the refinery was stopped in 2016.

Bund walls contain the contents of tanks in the event of a rupture. 

In its initial report, Petrotrin reported that 20 barrels had leaked from a ruptured storage tank at its Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery. Later, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) in a release said it had been informed by the company 20,000 gallons of bunker fuel had escaped. Petrotrin is now quantifying the figure as 300 barrels which leaked from the tank.

A portion of the fuel was not contained and recovered but has made its way into the Gulf of Paria, is said to be travelling in a westerly direction and fishermen claim their livelihood is once more threatened by Petrotrin.

Education and Research officer of the OWTU Ozzi Warwick questioned when was the last time the storage tanks were inspected and if there are others are waiting to crack. 

Warwick said the union has been severely criticised for industrial actions taken in the past because of safety issue but said there is no joy from being proven right. He recalled threats to fire President General Ancel Roget in 2015, when he was hauled before the Court for publicly highlighting the poor state of infrastructure and bad management at Petrotrin. 

Homeowners urged to comply with deadline

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:08

Valuator Afra Raymond is advising citizens to “not panic” about the property tax and there is no need for citizens to pay a valuator to assess their property.

While there is widespread panic and public concern about the list of information requested from property owners Raymond said “it is just that a request and not a requirement.”

Raymond is advising citizens to fill out the basic information required for the form, “name, address, property address, phone number, email address and if you have a bill for the old land and building tax there is an assessment number on it, that is a unique number which will lead officials to your file.”

There are also concerns that officers may visit the property to verify the information but Raymond said that would only be triggered “if you do not submit the form or if the information on your form does not match other persons in the same area, then they could send someone to look at your property.”

The penalty under the law for failing to submit the form by the deadline date is $500. He is advising citizens to submit their forms.

Both Raymond and President of the Real Estate Association Sally Singh said they have no issue with the property tax.

Singh said “property tax is natural and is done in most countries. We have no problem with the property tax.”

She said people who are purchasing properties know that they need to get all the documents in hand “to ensure they meet all the requirements to send in.”

Singh said there have been questions from a lot of people who are unsure how to assess the rental value of their property, “that is a major concern because nobody wants to defraud the government. They want to do what is right, but they do not know what is the best assessment for the property.”

She said an “option is for people to get private valuator, but not everybody can afford that.”

Raymond said “there is no need to get your own private valuation.”

Raymond said there is a lot of information on the Ministry of Finance website where citizens can also fill out the form online to meet the May 22nd deadline.

Chartered Valuation Surveyors GA Farrell & Associates Ltd has also taken to Facebook to assist people. The company said “with lots of misinformation and confusion surrounding the property tax, we continue with our efforts to provide clarification to our Facebook page visitors with a series of posts.”

It noted that one of the most asked questions is — “How will I determine the value of my property?

The company refers to the Ministry of Finance website which states that the technical and professional staff of the valuation division is responsible for valuing all properties. The Valuation Return Form is simply a way to aid the division in making the valuation. The rental value you put on your form is simply your best (honest) estimate of the rental value.

The accompanying documents (as many of those requested on the form that you have available) will also assist the division in making an accurate valuation.”

Raymond said once the valuation is completed the Commissioner of Valuations will “issue a notice of assessment, so for example they would say John Doe you live at Mango Street your property tax is $1,500, you have 30 days to object. If no objection is lodged after 30 days it is accepted and that is what you will pay.”

Old Ayers-Caesar case adjourned: Upset inmates in court uproar

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:02

Several inmates, mostly murder accused, had to be removed from the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistrate’s Court yesterday, after they began shouting and cursing after realising their matters could possibly be restarted due to the recent departure of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar.

The inmates were fuelled by six men who, on leaving the courtroom, began shouting that they were being denied of justice after they were given an adjournment date. The six men are jointly charged with murder and had been before Ayers-Caesar, who is now a High Court judge.

Ayers-Caesar was supposed to have ruled on a submission made by the men’s attorneys before leaving for the High Court posting. The case had been ongoing for the past seven years and was nearing completion with 59 witnesses listed.

The case also had changes in the prosecutorial team, as the complainant in the mater changed three times because of retirements from the department.

Preliminary inquiries for murder cases usually take three to five years to complete and another three to five years before it reaches the High Court.

After the six men received their adjourned dates and were leaving the courtroom they stamped and shouted and cursed as they were being led to the cell downstairs the courtrooms.

As they left the courtroom the men shouted: “All yuh doh care about f---g we! This is not no f---g justice!”

While shouting their objection to the adjournment, other inmates in the prisoners’ dock in the courtroom began cursing and had to be forcibly removed from the courtroom by officers.

Downstairs, the men could be heard cursing and shouting while their matters were being adjourned in their absence.

Up to the closing of the courthouse, none of the inmates who were cursing had been charged with using obscene language or resisting arrest although some were regarded as being “unruly”.

Officers of the Court and Process Branch, who are responsible for the inmates while at court, said they understood the frustration of the men and thus opted not to charge them. They denied that the men were beaten as had been suggested in some reports which surfaced yesterday.

Since her elevation to the High Court on April 12, it had been suggested that all Ayers-Caesar’s unfinished matters would now have to re-started by another magistrate.

The issue was raised by attorneys and Opposition senators Gerald Ramdeen and Wayne Sturge last week, after Ramdeen had initially suggested that Ayers-Caesar should have completed all her matters before moving on, since this could place more burden on the already stressed system.

Also addressing the situation in a press release on Monday, Law Association president Douglas Mendes SC said they will be seeking to meet with Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard “to assist in finding a workable solution.”

Three business chambers want Govt to Defer property tax until 2018

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 21:58

The Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC), the Couva Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce and the Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce are calling on government to defer implementation of the property tax until next year.

The Chambers say the business community is reeling as a result of the rising cost of doing business and with growing unemployment in the country, it would be unfair to impose the tax at this time.

The three Chambers met on Wednesday to discuss the issue and expressed concern at the hasty implementation of the tax and the requirements stipulated on the form which they said “cannot be fulfilled before May 22nd, 2017 deadline.”

In a joint statement business groups said they are apprehensive given the uncertainty regarding the stipulated rates and believe that the Government should host a series of consultations to educate the population on the implementation process and the assessment of land and property.

While they say they have no objection to the implementation of the property tax, the Chambers said Government must acknowledge that Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) are barely surviving owing to the rising cost of doing business, and the imposition of other taxes such as business levy, green fund levy, NIS, gas increase, unavailability of foreign exchange and vat on food items.

They said they would “prefer if the Government would defer the implementation of the property tax until next year, when more information can be provided to the public and some relief given to the general population as a result of the other tax impositions over the past months and the increased unemployment rate in our Country.”

The Chambers make it clear they have no objection to the property tax, but “firmly believe that such a drastic increase would cause unease amongst the population who are already struggling given the downturn in the economy.”

They suggest that government should apply an incremental increase over the next three years, which can be afforded by citizens.

The Chambers also said they would like to see some transparency regarding the allocation of the funds derived from the property tax and how it is to be used for development.”

Opposition mulls legal challenge to property tax

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 21:54

While the Opposition UNC has not yet decided how it will represent the myriad concerns of constituents on the property tax, a legal challenge has not been ruled out.

This was confirmed yesterday by Opposition whip David Lee.

“We know there are many, many concerns throughout T&T on this tax—having regard to how it’s being implemented in a rushed manner—and not just among our constituents,” Lee added as UNC constituencies continued to meet with experts to assess the tax’s impact.

“We’re still holding final meetings with constituencies on it and arising from all our consultations, we’ll caucus on findings and should be able to announce how we’ll respond to the matter very soon.”

Lee said the majority of consultations should conclude by early next week.

The Opposition announced a blitz of consultations from yesterday featuring experts’ views on the impact of the tax. Former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran spoke last night at the Opposition leader’s Siparia forum.

Tonight former Trade Minister Vasant Bharath will speak at Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Christine Newallo- Hosein’s consultation at Sangre Grande.

Yesterday, UNC MP Barry Padarath called on Government to let the population decide whether they want the tax or not, through a national referendum.

“Several countries have put the power in the hands of the people on important and controversial decisions like these. A referendum would strengthen our democracy and empower citizens to contribute to the decision making process that affects their lives.”

“The announcement of the imposition of the tax has become a worrisome, traumatic experience for many who are still in the dark on how it would be assessed and calculated. A national referendum would give a voice to a voiceless, weary population on this issue and provide opportunity for citizens to be educated on the implications and the mechanics of tax collection.”

Atlantic welcomes Walcott as Sports Ambassador

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:06

Olympic gold and bronze-medallist and the Caribbean’s most successful javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott can now add Atlantic Sports Ambassador to his repertoire, as he joins the LNG producer’s esteemed sports advocate programme alongside fellow Olympians Richard Thompson and Andrew Lewis.

Coming to the international forefront at the London 2012 Olympics, Walcott became the first-ever Caribbean national, and at 19 years old the youngest men’s contender ever to win Olympic gold in the javelin event, recording a throwing distance of 84.58 metres. Four years later in Brazil at the 2016 Olympic Games, Walcott took home the bronze medal for his third place throw of 85.28m. The young javelin thrower was also named the T&T Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) Sportsman of the Year for last year.

Nigel Darlow, CEO, Atlantic, said that Walcott was the perfect addition to the Atlantic Sports Ambassador Programme, given the heights he has already attained as a young athlete and his proven rapport with children eager to pursue future careers in competitive sport.

“As a young Olympian, Keshorn Walcott has an amazing story to tell, one which will inspire the next generation of athletes who will take their place on the world stage,” Darlow said. “Atlantic is very happy to help create the opportunity for Keshorn to meet with the thousands of primary school children who participate in the sporting competitions that we facilitate in our home community Point Fortin and also at the national level.”

Established in 2012, the Atlantic Sports Ambassador Programme enlists prominent national athletes as advocates of Atlantic’s sporting programmes to inspire young athletes and expose them to opportunities to learn from the wisdom and expertise of elite athletes. In addition to Thompson and Lewis, Walcott joins cricketers Merissa Aguilliera, Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard as Atlantic Sports Ambassadors.

Walcott said that he viewed the programme as an excellent opportunity to impress on young athletes the critical need to believe in themselves in order to advance in their chosen sporting disciplines.

“When I met with Atlantic, I immediately felt that our two-way partnership would be successful, as there were many commonalities between us,” Walcott said. “I want to give back in any way that I can—especially to the youth where I feel I can have the most impact—and Atlantic’s various sporting initiatives will certainly be an avenue for reaching many young persons.”

Atlantic supports several sporting programmes targeting Under-13 youths including the annual national primary schools competitions in football, cricket and track and field; the Atlantic Primary School Multi-Sport Triathlon Series; and the Atlantic National Primary Schools Invitational Swimming Championships.

He’s back, full of gusto, and ‘Gree’

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:04

Coneygree is obviously fit and a rarin’ to go, for resumption of a sensational career, otherwise this remarkable superior ten-year-old wouldn’t be declared for the six-runner Punchestown Gold Cup over three miles of a ‘good to yielding surface this afternoon.

That deduction, based on ultra common sense, hit home immediately and you need to take advantage because Coneygree is undoubtedly vastly superior and worth punting at odds-against, even though he’s only raced once since making all sensationally (as a novice!) in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

There have been as many bulletins as we expect for presidents and prime ministers for Coneygree, so many times trainer Mark Bradstock experienced frustration but now, at last, Nicky de Boinville will be ‘legged up’ again on this magnificent, front-running, monster.

Patience is a supreme virtue (until you run out of time!), ours has been exhausted and put aside in resignation of inevitable closure but Bradstock was apparently buoyed by a couple of sensational gallops recently, “look at me, I’m ready,” insisted Coneygree.

Last month Sizing John won the supreme chasing award around Prestbury Park, in his wake were Djakadam, Champagne West and Outlander. None is capable of reversing placings and so, by process of elimination, today is just a question of Coneygree reproducing anything like his best time-handicap mark.

This really is exciting, nerve-wrecking for Mark and wife Sara, daughter of the late Lord Oaksey, but what a spectacle for National Hunt enthusiasts who will be thronging enclosures at ‘Punches!’

In stark contrast will an intriguing ten-runner Maiden Stakes over seven furlongs of ‘good to firm’ Catterick where Aimez La Vie, one of two ‘decs’ for Richard Fahey, looks a solid proposition under Paul Hanagan.

This combination has been deadly since Paul moved back North, following the unsatisfactory ‘sack’ from his number one status with Hamdan Al Maktoum, he has a point to prove (again!) that he’s the best jockey in England and you punters really must take advantage in the next six months or so.

 

 

Cilaos Emery surprise

 

Cilaos Emery gunned down Melon late on to run out a gutsy winner of the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, yesterday, after Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Labaik reverted to type and failed to set off with the others.

The 8/1 winner looked beaten in third when turning for home, but stayed on gamely under a David Mullins drive to go on to score by a length from his Willie Mullins stablemate.

Melon, sent off the 5/4 favourite under Ruby Walsh, stuck to his task in second to give Mullins a one-two and boost his trainers’ championship bid, with Colin Tizzard’s Pingshou three-and-a-quarter lengths back in third.

Gordon Elliott’s Labaik, renowned for being a tricky customer having refused to race on a couple of occasions previously, was up to his old tricks at the start before eventually jumping off a long way behind the rest of the field.

The winner was given an opening quote of 25/1 for the Champion Hurdle with Sky Bet.

Prize $$$ and interests dwingle

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:03

An important development this week that is going almost unnoticed is the lack of involvement by many of local racing’s prominent owners in the Ocala Sales that begun yesterday. This follows a similarly low level of interest in the March Ocala sales. This lack of interest is directly related to both the uncertainty over the future of local horse racing and both the significant reduction in prize money and reduction in racing opportunities for the higher rated animals.

The lack of confidence into what the future holds for the local racing industry could be the most prophetic indicator of what is to come next. No one involved in the sport can articulate what is the current vision for the sport by those responsible for charting such a vision. What we are witnessing is a potpourri of measures being implemented. The measures implemented are neither coherent nor consistent with preserving or promoting the growth of the industry.

Racing needs both top class horses and quality West Indian bred horses to succeed because these are the groups of horses that attract the crowd. Any vision for the sport has to start with the animals at its very centre. It has to start with a vision to attract the best quality horses to this country, if not to compete permanently, to compete annually for some of the best prizes in the Caribbean.

Most visions begin with a goal to be the best at something, no one has (or should have) a vision to be and remain mediocre.

The significant cuts in prize money are therefore inconsistent with trying to become the best.

Right across the board, we have seen a significant reduction in the prize money for both the Classics and the top class horses. The best horses in this country are now racing for one third the prize money of what they raced for, as recent as three or four years ago. Instead, we are seeing a plethora of racing for horses in the lowest rating classes and when this is raised in relevant horseracing circles, those in authority argue that most of our horses are in that rating band.

No one there seems to understand the notion of cause and effect. Very soon maybe, all of our horses will be in the lowest rating band. One consequence of this is that we are promoting our horses above their ability to perform. This starts when the horses are in the three-year-old seasons and extends to many of the imported horses that we have imported in the past.

We only have to look at the record of some of our best three-year-olds in the four-year-old seasons to see the ineptitude of our handicapping. One of our best three-year-olds of 2016, Academy Award, has not been able to make any impression so far in his four-year-old season. We all remember the fate of our 2014 Triple Crown winner, Momentum, who was unable to win another race. These animals, along with many of their counterparts, are poster boys for the poor approach of increasing the rating of these animals based on successes in West Indian bred and Classic races.

Leading Lady who recently won the Infallibility Stakes against West Indian bred three-year-olds was promoted 10 points to 65 for that victory. She is now rated three points higher than Hurricane Harry and equal to Peace N Glory, both of whom beat her comfortably when they met earlier in the season. Should she go on to win the Triple Crown, she would likely end the season rated 80+.

Something has to be wrong with that. Lord Silver, who finished second by a head in the Royal Colours Classic was promoted seven points to 52. He would have to give weight to horses like King Arthur and Saragon should they clash in the near future. A maiden locally bred three year old.

We need to go back to basics in the horse racing industry.

The future of the Horse Racing Industry depends on it now more than ever.

Roberts, Denoon golden in Baltimore

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:00

T&T’s Khemani Roberts and Zakiya Denoon had golden performances on the weekend dominating their respective events at the Morgan State Legacy Track and Field Meet in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States.

Roberts of Coppin State University won the women’s heptathlon tallying 5,038 points to take the top spot on the podium while Denoon of Monroe College sped to gold in the women’s 100 metres in 11.61 seconds. This after the freshman qualified with third fastest time of 11.96 in the preliminary round.

Denoon also a collected a bronze as part of the Monroe College 4x100m team who placed third in 46.66.

Her teammate Dawnel Collymore also saw action at the meet, facing the starter in the women’s 800m and clocked 2:16.43 to place eighth. The Monroe College freshman was 13th in the 1,500m in 4:58.67.

T&T’s Haysean Cowie-Clarke also of Coppin State attempted to complete the sprint double. He crossed second in the men’s 100m final in 10.48 and was 12th in the 200m in 22.05. His countryman Andre Marcano of Central Park Track Club (CPTC) New Balance also lined up in both events but his time of 10.95 placed him ninth overall in the preliminary round in the 100m and did not advance to the final. In the other race, he was 24th in 22.49.

Cowie-Clarke was also included in the 4x100m unit but his Coppin State team did not finish the relay.

Also getting success at the Baltimore meet was local field athlete Emmanuel Stewart who copped silver medals in the men’s discus with a best toss of 48.61m and in the hammer throw (52.33m).

Another T&T Coppin State athlete, middle-distance runner Mark London was in action on the weekend at the Virginia Challenge at the University of Virginia in Charlotteville and the junior was 31st in the men’s 800m in 1:52.62.

At the UTEP Invitational in El Paso, Texas, Jeminise Parris was outstanding, bagging two individual bronze medals and two gold with her Central Arizona relay teams. In the women’s 100m hurdles, the freshman was third in 13.47. Parris now leads the NJCAA in the 100 hurdles with a time of 13.51. She also picked up another bronze in the 400m hurdles in 1:02.50. The sprinter then celebrated success with her 4x100 team, who clocked 46.25 and in the 4x400m, they won in a time of 3:42.54.

Local quartermiler Asa Guevara grabbed bronze in the men’s 400m in 46.81 for UTEP and silver with his 4x100m unit in 40.70.

At the Triton Invitational in San Diego, California, another Central Arizona athlete, Portious Warren was fourth in the shot put with a toss of 16.05m, improving on her 15.81m, she measured two weeks ago in placing fourth at the Rafer/JJK Invitational in Los Angeles, California. The sophomore was seventh in the discus with 38.61m and 11th in the hammer throw with 47.37m.

T&T men’s athletes were in a great form in Texas helping their Wiley College men’s track field team cop its fourth consecutive Red River Athletic Conference title at the Tatum Eagle Stadium.

Quinn-Lee Ralph, a senior, finished runner-up in three events, the 100 (10.50), 200m (21.38) and 400m dashes (48.10).

His time in the 400m surpassed the NAIA ‘A’ qualifying standard. Ralph then partnered will fellow T&T athletes Jesse Berkley and Machael Mark to emerge champion in the 4x100m relay in 3:15.94.

Mark finished third in the 100m in 10.74 as well as Kendell Perouza in the 400m hurdles (55.54).

Another local athlete Roger Ali was part of the Wiley College squad that narrowly won the 4x400m relay in 3:15.94.

 

Also on track was Wiley junior athlete Darion De La Rosa, who placed sixth in the men’s 800m at 2:04.07 and on the field, sophomore Ashton DeMurrell was fourth in the javelin, sending the spear 39.14m.

In Norman, Oklahoma at the John Jacobs Invitational, Mauricia Prieto just missed out on a medal, placing fourth in 55.77 and then got a bronze competing in the 4x400m relay (3:45.95).

At the Louisiana State University (LSU) Alumni Gold, Akanni Hislop of T&T was 17th (10.66) in the men’s 100m Section A race while his LSU teammate freshman Xavier Mulugata was 23rd in the Section B race in 11.00.

In the men’s 200m Section A event, Shermund Allsop of Tiger Olympians crossed in 21.38 to place 18th.

At the NSIC Indoor Conference Championships, Bemidji State freshman Jada Barker was 18th (26.06) in the women’s 200m and 12th (4:04.49) in the 4x400m relay.

In Arizona at the John McDonnell Invitational in Fayetteville, University of Missouri sophomore Tsai-Anne Joseph was fifth (11.86) in the women’s 100m.

Round one to Williams

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 11:57

The T&T Gymnastics Federation has lost in its bid to have gymnast Thema Williams’ multi-million dollar lawsuit against it struck out before it even reaches to trial.

Delivering an eight-page written decision in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday morning, Justice Frank Seepersad dismissed the federation’s application for a stay of the lawsuit in which Williams is seeking $11.38 million in compensation.

As a result of the decision Williams’ substantive lawsuit will continue before Seepersad

The federation was alleging that both its bye laws and athlete contracts prescribes that arbitration be used to resolve all internal disputes, and should be used in Williams’ case as opposed to the lawsuit before Seepersad.

However, Seepersad ruled that the clauses prescribing arbitration were imprecise and could not be considered as an effective dispute resolution provision. He also ruled that based on Williams’ complaints against the federation and its officials, it would be unlikely that she would be given a fair hearing before the federation’s disciplinary committee.

“Given the nature of Williams’ complaints, the Court has deep rooted concerns as to whether any dispute resolution process as outline by the federation would be fair, independent and impartial,” he said.

Seepersad also ruled that the disciplinary committee would be unable to arbitrate over some of Williams’ allegations made in her lawsuit.

“Even if some of Williams’ complaints could have been resolved via dispute resolution, other aspects of her claim cannot be adequately addressed via the said process and it would be appropriate to subject her to two set of proceedings in circumstance where all her complaints stem from the same fundamental factual matrix,” Seepersad said.

Seepersad also noted that the there were strong public interest in the case due to national interest in sport.

“There is, therefore, a very evident public interest concern in this matter and the selection process for representation at the Olympics is an issue that extends beyond the insular concerns of the parties to this matter and is one in which every citizen has a vested interest,” he said.

The lawsuit has been filed against the federation and four of its executives, in their individual capacity. The officials are David Marquez, Akil Wattley, Ricardo and Donna Lue Shue.

As part of his ruling, Seepersad ordered the federation to pay Williams’ legal fees for defending against the procedural application as it and not its officers raised the preliminary point.

The controversial dispute between the athlete and the federation began after Williams was replaced by Marissa Dick to represent this country at the Olympic Test Event at Rio de Janeiro event in April. Her initial selection was based on her performance at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland on October 23, 2015, where she placed higher than Dick.

Williams claimed that her coach John Geddert was informed by the federation that she was withdrawn because she was injured, a claim which she denies. Alternate athlete Dick was selected to participate in the event instead and eventually qualified becoming the first person to represent T&T in gymnastics at the Olympics.

In her claim for damages, Williams is claiming compensation for her “loss of opportunity” and damage to her personal and professional reputation allegedly caused by the “harsh and oppressive” actions of the federation’s executive.

Her attorneys are contending that by failing to be given an opportunity to qualify for the last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, she suffered a huge loss of opportunity of endorsements, motivational speaking engagements and repeated business opportunities as well as a full scholarship to the Michigan State University, which she forewent in her bid to represent T&T at event.

Williams is being represented by Martin Daly, SC, and Keith Scotland, while Justin Junkere is representing the federation. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and Ronnie Bissessar are representing the four executives.

Batting meltdown leaves Windies with heavy loss

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 09:55

Resuming their second innings on 93 for four, the hosts’ suspect batting once again stayed true to form, collapsing for 152 all out, 37 minutes before the scheduled lunch interval.

Leg-spinner Yasir Shah added two wickets to his overnight tally to finish with six for 63 while debutant seamer Mohammad Abbas ended with two for 35.

Roston Chase, batting at number seven, was left stranded on 16 as his teammates failed to show the required judgement on a decent track that offered precious few devils.

Set 32 for victory, Pakistan were untidy and made heavy weather of the target before finally crossing the line 20 minutes after lunch, when captain Misbah-ul-Haq launched ineffective leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo for consecutive sixes.

Both openers perished in the six overs possible before the break, with Ahmed Shezad nicking fast bowler Shannon Gabriel to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich in the third over for six and Azhar Ali playing on to pacer Alzarri Joseph in the following over for one.

On 13 for two at lunch, the visitors lost veteran right-hander Younis Khan in the fifth over following the resumption when he missed a full length delivery from Bishoo and was plumb lbw for six, with the score on 24.

By then, however, Misbah had had enough of his batsmen’s dithering. He smashed the second ball he faced from Bishoo back overhead for six and then cleared the ropes at mid-wicket off the very next delivery, to ensure victory.

For Pakistan, the success ended a run of six straight defeats while the result left West Indies with their 11th loss in their last 15 outings.

Entering the final day still 28 runs behind and facing the daunting prospect of surviving against the guile of Yasir, the Caribbean side required nothing short of a miracle but no such interventions materialized.

Debutant left-hander Vishal Singh and nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo, both yet to score at the start, saw West Indies through the first seven overs of the day and extended their stand to 21 before the first breakthrough came.

Vishal had just punched the previous delivery from left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir to the cover point boundary when he shouldered arms to the next ball and saw his stumps shattered for nine.

Bishoo (18), meanwhile, played and missed several times before losing his discipline, slashing at one from Abbas and edging to Younis at second slip. (CMC)

 

And two balls later with no addition to the score, Dowrich missed one that came back from Abbas and was lbw, leaving West Indies tottering on 129 for seven – only eight runs ahead.

Captain Jason Holder played positively on arrival, stroking three fours in 14 as he temporarily raised hopes of a revival in a 22-run stand with Chase. But he perished to a loose stroke, wafting at a wide one from seamer Wahab Riaz and edging a catch behind.

Yasir fittingly performed the final rites, trapping Alzarri Joseph lbw for one off the first ball of the next over to pick up his ninth five-wicket haul in Tests, before having last man Gabriel caught at mid-off, skying an attempted big hit.

The two teams will travel to Barbados for the second Test starting at Kensington Oval on Sunday.

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