Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ali & Ali take over Toronto March 20, 22


(Photos above are from the original production of Ali & Ali)

The (abridged) Adventures of Ali & Ali and the Axes of Evil: (a divertimento for warlords) based on The Adventures of Ali & Ali and the Axes of Evil: (a divertimento for warlords)

  • by Marcus Youssef, Guillermo Verdecchia, and Camyar Chai
  • directed by Jiv Parasram

They made it through Mogadishu, they brought Hilarity to Haiti, they made Kabul Krumble with laughter! (May be related to bombings...) Now we're bringing them to the UCDP! They're Ali Hakim and Ali Ababwa and they've got a Korean!

PUT DOWN THE GOAT!

Host:
Type:
Network:
Global
Start Time:
Friday, March 20, 2009 at 8:00pm
End Time:
Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 10:00pm
Location:
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse
Street:
79a St George
City/Town:
Toronto, ON

Phone:
4169781505
Email:

From Heather Mcvingoe
Program Director Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse

"It is a pleasure to host, for the first time, an outside company from that other part of the world. Mr. Ababwa, and Mr. Hakim in thier presentation of a NEW Ethnic Family Drama that still promises to resonate with universal themes, will no doubt be the first of many international performances from the lesser known regions of the world to grace our stage. Enriching not only the lives of us at the playhouse, but also of our loyal and most gracious audience. I look forward to seing you there."

- Heather

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=52479534870

Here's what the critics said about past productions of the original Ali & Ali:

“A vicious and viciously funny satire of life in the New American Empire, Ali and Ali is a hilarious and eye opening evening of political theatre - extremely politically-incorrect political theatre.”
- CBC Radio

“Need a reminder of how smart, relevant and entertaining live theatre can be? Then check out The Adventures of Ali & Ali And The Axes Of Evil.”
- NOW (Toronto)

“What makes Ali and Ali more than the sum of its satirical-jibe parts as it takes aim at the inscrutability of U.S. foreign policy is its cunning ability to play by those very same rules to their expected devastating conclusions…”
- Globe and Mail

“Diabolically funny" ...the funniest exposition of American foreign policy ever devised... The confrontations are little sketches depicting the horrors of being helped by American military power. Though Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine come to mind, the scenarios of destructive rescue in the Philippines, Cuba, Nicaragua and Chile provide distant background...”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“'out-Borats Borat' An often hilarious, sometimes repulsive and no-holds-barred lampooning of ... well, what do you got? How about Arab religious fanaticism, Israeli militarism, American colonialism and commercialism, and feel-good-but-phony theatrical multiculturalism? ... A warning to all: The humor can here can be crude, sexually graphic, profane or genuinely offensive.”
- The Seattle Times

“'A Whole New World' In the course of that well-paced hour and a half, Ali and Ali ultimately bring democracy and freedom to the audience, in more ways than one. This is some phenomenally funny theatre.”
- Seattlest

Ramesh calls UNC letter "a national joke"

The national Executive of the United National Congress (UNC) has written MPs Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and Jack Warner seeking a meeting with them to "consider the issue of your persistent breach of the party rules and directives that the internal affairs of the party not be discussed in public in such a manner to bring the party into disrepute".

The letter from General Secretary Fazal Karim said the meeting would also recommend "the future course of action in this matter".

It said the main item on the agenda would be "your continued flouting of and disregard for the constitution, rules and directives of the party, that the internal affairs of the party ought not to be discussed publicly and/or in public so as to bring the party into hatred, ridicule and contempt".

Maharaj is not taking the latter lightly and in an interview with the Trinidad Express he called it a national joke.

"It is a national joke that some executive members can decide that a disciplinary offence is committed when a member makes a public call for change within the party, in order to put it on the path of electoral victory," he said.

The Tabaquite MP and former Attorney General said the wording of the letter strongly suggested that the UNC Executive had "pre-determined that I committed a disciplinary offence and it is acting as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. Obviously it has contaminated, by apparent bias, any disciplinary process".

He said the party's constitution has sanctions for all acts of discrimination, nepotism and favouritism and wondered why the executive "wants to go against Mr Warner and myself" and not other party members who have also made public disclosures about the party's internal matters, including political leader, Basdeo Panday.

He suggested that if he and Warner are guilty of a breach of the UNC constitution by speaking in public about internal matters, then Panday is also guilty of the same offence.

Maharaj told the Express that it is unfortunate that while Prime Minister Patrick Manning is taking the country down the path of despair and destruction, the UNC Executive is contemplating the suspension of two of its own MPs and weaken the party.

He said he and Warner would visit every constituency to inform the membership about this latest move by the Executive.

Gopeesingh calls for police probe of alleged hospital scam

Opposition MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh has written acting Commissioner of Police James Philbert, asking him for a police investigation into allegations of a scam taking place at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope.

It comes a day after a report in the Trinidad Express that claimed certain doctors are asking patients to pay huge sums of money for services that are free at Mt Hope.

"This is a criminal act of fraud being perpetrated on innocent distressed and sick patients. I therefore ask that you investigate the matter," Gopeesingh said in his letter to Philbert.

Gopeesingh said doctors are giving patients a mobile phone number to call a company called "Trinidad Orthopaedics" for information about medical supplies. "When patients call the number they were asked to pay from $9,000 to $17,000 for the surgical pins," his letter said.

He was also highly critical of the reaction of Health Minister Jerry Narace, who declined comment on the issue saying he had no knowledge of the alleged scam. Gopeesingh said it seems that whenever there is a major issue in the health sector, Narace is always unaware.

The Express reported Saturday that since it broke the story it has been getting more information from people allegedly affected by the money-for-early-surgeries scandal.

It reported that a self-employed mechanic named Indar Singh claimed certain doctors at the hospital made him pay more than $25,000. The paper said it also heard from Crystal Forde who paid $8,900 for implants that should have been free.

The Chairman of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) Howard Dottin told the Express he could not comment until the NCRHA board met and briefed him on the hospital's activities. He was appointed Friday, the paper said.

Singh said he spent 66 days in Surgical Ward Two of the hospital and that his mother paid $25,533.20 to a "Trinidad Orthopaedics" representative at an office on Methuen Street, Woodbrook, last month.

He had broken his arms and legs when a motorcycle he was repairing fell on him. "The doctors were always asking us to pay because the hospital had no pins," he paper quoted him as saying. "They even tell us we were taking too long, so when my family finally paid the money, the doctors told me because I take so long to pay, I have to wait one more week to get the surgery." He is back home now with his wife and five children but is unable to work.

In Forde's case she said her 29-year-old brother broke his leg in an accident and had to be admitted. "They told us pay, so my dad paid," the Express reported.

The paper said, "a source attached to a reputable orthopaedic distribution company told the Express that this scam has been going on for quite a while, adding that when senior hospital officials were told about the scheme, they turned a blind eye."

It quoted the unnamed source as saying, "When patients tried to get the trauma implants elsewhere at cheaper prices, the doctors told them the products were either inferior or incorrect, so they had to return it and pay the higher price."

The paper said an orthopaedic doctor at the hospital told its reporter doctors who are involved are "merely acting on orders from their superiors". The doctor who asked to remain anonymous said three consultants told them to tell patients that they would need to buy the surgical pins from "Trinidad Orthopaedics" if they wanted the surgery.

The Express said it visited the alleged location of "Trinidad Orthopaedics" and found a huge, well-fenced house with no signage.

The Express is inviting anyone who has been a victim to contact its reporter at aallaham@trinidadexpress.com or call 623-1711 ext 3890.

Guyana gov't takes control of Clico Guyana assets

The Guyana High Court has taken control of the assets of Clico (Guyana) Limited following the collapse of its sister company in the Bahamas.

President Bharrat Jagdeo told reporters in Georgetown Friday the court action was precipitated by a Supreme Court order in the Bahamas on Tuesday for Clico (Bahamas) Ltd to be wound up. The Bahamas company was holding 53 per cent of the assets of Clico (Guyana) Ltd and there was thought to be significant impairment.

The court appointed Commissioner of Insurance, Maria van Beek, is expected to make a full assessment of Clico’s financial position and report to the High Court within a few days.

She has now taken over the management of all the affairs of Clico. The company faces liquidation due to its heavy $6.9 billion investment in the Bahamian subsidiary. Jagdeo said winding it up is just one of the options available to the judicial manager.

However he was optimistic that the assets might be recovered from the company in the Bahamas therefore government is not yet treating the assets as "lost".

Jagdeo said the government has ordered Clico (Guyana) not to offer any new policies. He said van Beek would also have to make a decision as to what role, if any, Clico (Guyana)’s chief executive officer, Geeta Singh-Knight, would now have in the company.

More at Stabroek News

T&T holds on to Republic shares, rejects Bajan offer

Republic Bank Limited, the largest commercial bank in Trinidad & Tobago, has said it is not interested in selling its 65.13 per cent shares to the Barbados National Bank (BNB).

"Republic Bank affirms that BNB is of strategic value to the bank's Pan Caribbean strategy and that it has no interest in selling the Barbados-based subsidiary," the bank said in the release, adding that to date it has not received any offers to purchase its shares.

Last week Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson announced that his administration is interested in discussions with the Trinidad and Tobago government "to seek to repurchase our shareholding in BNB at the earliest opportunity".

The previous Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration sold 57 per cent of shares in the local bank to RBL in 2003. RBL subsequently acquired additional shares, increasing its shareholding to 65.13 per cent.

The Trinidad and Tobago government currently has control of 55 per cent of Republic's shares under the terms of an agreement with the financially strapped CL Financial, which had majority interest in the bank. The takeover of Republic's is part of the arrangements to bail out three CL companies, including CL Bank, which has been closed and its shares transferred to the state-owned First Citizens bank.

Other financial institutions are interested in Republic, including CIBC, one of Canada's largest charted banks which has strong business interests in the Caribbean.

Former Finance Minister, Wendell Mottley, who is an investment banker with Credit Suisse in New York, met Friday with Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira.

While there is speculation that Credit Suisse has a keen interest in Republic, Nunez-Tesheira described Mottley's visit as a routine one and declined comment on whether the former cabinet minister wanted to discuss the issue of CL Financial’s 55 per cent shareholding in Republic.

It is common knowledge that Republic shares are in high demand. Central Bank governor Ewart Williams acknowledged Friday that many investment bankers find the block of Republic Bank shares attractive because of the bank’s results.

He said Mottley visited the Central Bank some time ago with a team, adding that a lot of people are lining up to get the shares.

Antigua seizes Sir Allen Standford's lands for "public purpose"

The Antigua and Barbuda Parliament has passed a resolution to take ownership of 254 acres of Sir Allen Stanford's lands in the island. But in an about turn the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) refused to support the move. ALP leader, Lester Bird, had given support for the move just days ago.

When the motion went to the Senate for approval all three of the ALP Senators were absent. The ALP adopted the same approach in the House of Representatives where it pass unopposed

The ALP accused the governing United Progressive Party (UPP) of moving too fast in compulsorily acquiring Sir Allen's property.

But government has insisted that its action was urgent and necessary to ensure that the lands did not fall into foreign hands as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) continues building its case against Sir Allen who is accused of two separate fraud activities totaling US$9.2 billion.

Finance Minister Dr Errol Cort told Parliament the receiver appointed by the SEC had sent letters to commercial banks that did business with the Texan billionaire informing them they had to freeze any assets related to him.

It was against this background, he said, that the decision was taken to secure Antigua and Barbuda's land.

"Because of that action taken by the receiver in respect of our own commercial bank within the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States), we discussed at the Monetary Council and agreed that the receiver has no legal jurisdiction over these funds," he told his colleagues.

"The same receiver has sought to go after assets of Stanford International Bank (SIB) all over the world. The receiver has sent notices to all employees instructing the employees what they can and cannot say, what they should and should not do. So, in effect, the receiver in the United States has sought to impose himself in terms of the receiver-manger of this entity."

The ALP members in both houses have dismissed the and charged that the UPP was using the situation to score political points ahead of next month's general elections.

"I believe this particular motion is certainly premature," said deputy political leader Gaston Browne. "It is coming at a time when Stanford has not even been indicted. I believe this resolution should be deferred until a later time."

Opposition leader Steadroy Benjamin expressed similar sentiments, saying that the government should act "at the appropriate time once we are satisfied that we have the legal basis and there is due process".

But three days earlier the ALP's political leader said he welcomed the reconvening of parliament - which had been dissolved to prepare for the March 12th poll - in order to deal with the matter.

"The ALP welcomes the recall of Parliament - the highest decision making body in the land - because we want to ensure that the Stanford assets do not fall into foreign hands that the authorities of this country have not vetted and approved, and with whom there is no contractual understanding," Bird said at the time.

"Similarly, the Labour Party is deeply concerned about the existing Stanford Companies and their many employees who are citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda. We want those companies preserved in Antiguan and Barbudan ownership and the employment of these people preserved."

Friday, February 27, 2009

T&T Homicides reach 100

With a day to go in February Trinidad & Tobago has hit another record for murders and if the trend continues to the end of the year it's likely that the homicide figure will cross 600.

Each year the country breaks its own record for violent crimes. And while law enforcement agencies and government officials talk about their concern for the accelerating crime rate and promise tougher measures, it seems like business as usual for the criminals and murderers.

The latest victims were a foreman employed by the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and his wife. The URP is itself infested with criminals, according to documented records. A judge made that clear in 2008.

And National Security Minister Martin Joseph, who blames gangs for the majority of the crime in the country, begrudgingly conceded last year that "it is very possible" that there is a link with URP and other State-financed social welfare schemes.

His admission followed a damning declaration by High Court judge Anthony Carmona that URP was a breeding ground for violent crimes.

The latest killings have the hallmarks of the URP connection. One of the victims, Tracey Sealy, had been warned that her husband, Roger Baptiste, was threatened and that his life was in danger. A close relative warned her to keep a distance from her husband or she too would be at risk. She didn't take the precaution and lost her life.

Neighbours found the couple dead in a bedroom of their William Avenue, Morvant, apartment shortly before 9 a.m. Thursday and called police, who have concluded that the two died several hours earlier.

Neighbours say they heard the commotion and gunshots outside in the pre-dawn hours but were too frightened to come out to to investigate. That is happening more frequently that ever.

The story has the same ending as the scores of others about the mayhem in the country: "Homicide Bureau officers are continuing investigations".

Report on corruption allegations at T&TEC coming mid-March

Trinidad and Tobago's Public Utilities Minister Mustapha Abdul-Hamid said Thursday that within two weeks he expects to have a final report on allegations of corruption against former electricity commission (T&TEC) chairman Devanand Ramlal. The minister said a preliminary report has already been prepared.

Ramlal quit in October last year after UNC-A Senate leader Wade Mark made serious corruption allegations against him.

Related story: T&TEC Chairman quits...

The minister said the Central Audit Unit (CAU) of the Finance Ministry is conducted a “very detailed audit” into “a number of aspects of T&TEC’s business.”

He said the investigation includes the matters raised in the Senate by Mark relating to T&TEC’s street lighting implementing unit, transactions with Kamus Mufflers Ltd, purchase of electricity poles from Klum Lumber of the U.S. and two other areas.

“I am in receipt of an interim report and have been advised by the Ministry that we can expect a final report by mid-March,” Abdul Hamid told reporters.

He said Government is investigating specific transactions to see if anyone broke T&TEC’s rules and regulations.

In response to a question about the loss of between $15 and $20 million in revenue due to the closure of Mittal Steel, the minister assured reporters that it was "not a significant sum" adding that the commission is strong enough to withstand that loss.

Duprey's billion-dollar Florida investments not affected by CB injunction

The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has received an injunction that requires its prior approval before CL Financial can sell, assign or dispose of any Clico assets. But the injunction does not apply to British American or any of the CL Financial assets in Florida, in which CL may have a “capital interest.”

The Florida assets are valued at billions of dollars.

A report in the Trinidad Guardian says CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey went on a billion-dollar shopping spree in south Florida in the last five years during which he bought or developed properties with an estimated value of US$1.5 billion.

It says some of the money that the CL boss invested overseas came from local pensioners who bought financial products from CL companies with promises of high returns.

"The jewel in Duprey’s Florida crown is a company called DYL Development Group which in 2005 announced more than US$1 billion in new development in South Florida," the Guardian reported.

It said among the projects undertaken by the DYL group are:

  • a 56-storey condominium project called Infinity at Brickell which has 459 residences and is located on Brickell Street, one of the most expensive streets in Miami
  • a 69-storey office office/condominium complex with 556 residences called Infinity II also on Brickell Street
  • a twin, 23-storey towers comprising 346 hotel rooms and 171 condominium residences for the W hotel in Fort Lauderdale
  • a 50-unit luxury high-rise oceanfront condominium complex in Fort Lauderdale where the price of the units ranged from US$900,000 to more than US$2 million

It said Duprey's other properties include 121,533 square feet of motel buildings in Fort Lauderdale which was bought in 2004 by a company called Capri Resorts LLC for US$35 million in 2004. The seller, the Guardian said, was a company called Sable Resorts, which was related to the buyer.

The paper said the investment details appeared in the CL Financial annual report in 2004 as an associated company with CL Financial holding a 26.88 per cent interest. But it is absent from the 2005 annual reports and there is no mention of it being sold.

The Guardian investigation discovered more. According to the paper, "Through a company called Dalco Properties, Duprey purchased a 1.98-acre parcel of land in Broward County in 2008 at US$92.87 per square foot. Duprey and Winston Fifi were the officers of the company in 2000, while Duprey, his wife Sylvia Baldini and Andrew Gross were listed as the officers of the company in 2008.

"Also in 2008, the CL Financial group spent US$300 million buying 6,000 acres of land that is described as “rural” in Osceola County in Florida. Duprey is the chairman of the DYL group, whose Web site describes the British American Insurance Company as its “capital partner.” The founding member and principal of DYL is Geoffrey Leid, who was listed as the corporate secretary of Clico in the CL Financial-owned insurance company’s 2007 annual report."

The Guardian said in 2004 , a Duprey company, Colonial Development, obtained a loan of US$45.6 million from Chicago-based Corus Bank for a project called Europa By-The-Sea project. Two years later that same bank lent an affiliate of DYL Development Group US$140.3 million to finance the construction of Infinity at Brickell, the Guardian said, adding that DYL took out a mortgage for US$12 million on the Infinity at Brickell property in 2005.

"Florida court records indicate that the mortgage was amended eight times between 2005 and December 2007, when the loan’s maturity was extended with US$6 million outstanding. DYL is required to pay US$2 million up front, plus a US$100,000 extension fee and US$1 million each quarter, with the total due Sunday", the Guardian said.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rowley in the clear over Arima housing project


A report in the Newsday newspaper says the independent construction expert hired by the UFF enquiry into the construction sector has cleared former Trinidad and Tobago housing minister Dr Keith Rowley of wrongdoing in the Cleaver Heights affair.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning had suggested that $10 million was missing from the project under Rowley's watch when he was housing minister. But both Rowley and the contractors produced evidence to show that no money was missing and that it was a clerical error.

In an initial report, Gerry McCaffrey, of the British specialist consultancy Acutus, attributes discrepancies in the contract sum for the Housing Development Corporation to “typos and arithmetic errors” on the part of HDC staff.

Newsday quotes the report as stating, “I have formed the initial view that the smoke around the Cleaver Heights project is highly unlikely to be masking mischief...Regretfully, careless administrative errors combined with an environment of suspicion fuel controversy."

Newsday says the McCaffrey report says the errors resulted in the contract sum for the housing project being mistakenly stated as $143.4 million when it should have been $133.4 million in some HDC documents.

It adds that the contractor, NH International Caribbean Ltd (NHIC), has never attempted to make a claim for the difference of $10 million. “In my dealings with the HDC, I was given the clear impression that the contractor is being reasonable and is not trying to make anything out of slips or errors in paperwork. That is not to excuse slips and errors, but in this case, their materiality may/could be limited."

McCaffrey does note that documents appeared to have been modified in the wake of Manning’s statements in Parliament on the issue on September 30 last year.

“It looks as though they (HDC staff) have been back-fitted to match the larger erroneous contract sum. If this is deemed important it needs further investigation."

The commission is due to resume hearings on March 23. Minister of Planning Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde is tentatively due to testify on March 24.

She had attacked officials in her own department for a report submitted to the commission, saying it contained “apparent inconsistent and inaccurate information”.

Dick-Forde is not pleased with the interim McCaffrey report and told reporters Thursday this is why the government is justified in hiring a second investigator, Canadian forensic investigator Robert Lindquist

Dick-Forde said McCaffrey spent three hours with the Housing Development Corporation and was presented with over 2,000 sheets of paper. She said McCaffrey's conclusion that the 'smoke' was unlikely to be masking mischief seemed to be "premature".

Bahamas High Court shuts down CLICO Bahamas

The High Court in the Bahamas has ordered the liquidation of CLICO Bahamas Limited, a local subsidiary of Trinidad and Tobago's troubled conglomerate CL Financial Limited.

It came following an application by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who also holds the finance portfolio, seeking to protect CLICO policyholders.

A news release issued by the Office of the Registrar of Insurance Companies said the position was taken "after very careful consideration of the interest of the policyholders, staff and creditors of the company in the Bahamas and in the region."

It stated that there it became necessary "after discussions with the principals of the company over many months urging and directing them to inject additional capital and liquidity into the company but to no avail."

It added, "This action was precipitated at this time because of the continuing decline in the market value of the real estate investment in the United States via CLICO Bahamas Limited subsidiaries, CLICO Enterprises Limited and Wellington Preserve Limited, the uncertain financial position of its ultimate parent CL Financial Limited of Trinidad and Tobago, the inability of the company to pay claims/surrenders of policies in one of the jurisdictions where it operates and the lack of a credible plan by the company to address the shortfall in capital and liquidity in a reasonable time."

It said any further delay in moving against the Clico subsidiary would have further eroded the assets of the company to the detriment of policyholders. The statement assured Bahamians that the action against the CL company does not in any way reflect "the entire dynamic and robust local Bahamian insurance industry.

It said at the end of 2007 the domestic insurance industry had 52 local companies and branches of foreign companies, over US$1.2 billion in assets and total gross premiums of US$701 million. The CLICO subsidiary represents only a small fraction of the overall investment in the Bahamas,

"CLICO Bahamas represented less than one per cent of the total assets and less than one per cent of the total gross premiums. The financial difficulties of CLICO Bahamas are a direct result of the company's business model and investment policies," it added.

"We would like to encourage the liquidators to move with all speed in communicating practical guidance to policyholders and other creditors who have claims against the company so as to minimize any uncertainty."

The Office of the Registrar of Insurance Companies further advised policyholders to consult with their financial advisers on the actions they should now take.

CLICO Bahamas Limited (formerly British Fidelity Assurance Limited), a subsidiary of CLICO (Holdings) Barbados Limited and a subsidiary of the CL Financial group, operated in the Bahamas as a part of the CL Financial group since 1992.

Prior to 1992 it operated as British Fidelity Assurance Limited under different owners. The company has active operations in the Bahamas, Belize and the Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as run-off business in the US Virgin Islands, Cayman and Barbados.

It has just over 29,000 policyholders, over 170 staff and over US$100 million dollars in policy liabilities, the majority of which are in the Bahamas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

About being mistaken for white in Canada

Ajay Parasram in British Columbia

A few months ago - October last year to be exact - my son had an interesting encounter with a taxi driver in Toronto. He wrote about it and I published it on this blog. This week I passed it to CBC.ca producer Leigh Felesky and asked her whether she would be interested in posting it on the website's CITIZEN BYTES section.

Leigh was very happy to have it and said she was sure it would generate a lot of debate. She was right.

I invite you to go to the cbc website to read Ajay's story about being mistaken for white along with the scores of comments from cbc.ca readers from across Canada and the world.

It's a stirring debate about a subject that many people try to sweep under then carpet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chalkie is KING

The Mighty Chalkdust walked away from the Dimance Gras Stage early Monday morning with a half million dollars and the coveted title of Calypso Monarch. But perhaps what was even better was that the victory put Dr Hollis Liverpool on par with the Mighty Sparrow. Up to now no one was able to match sparrow's eight crowns; Chalkie did it this year singing in his typical style of political satire.

The history professor and former culture director scored top marks with a tribute to his friend, the late Kelvin Pope, the Mighty Duke, who died earflier this year and his biting sitire, "My Hart and I" about the controversy over Calder Hart, the Canadian-Trinidian head of UDeCOTT.

Chalkdust has recorded more than 300 songs during his career, which began in 1967 while he was a teacher. His winning performances for the acclaimed Calypso Monarch crown are:

  1. "Three Blind Mice" and "Ah Put on Meh Guns Again" (1976)
  2. "Juba Dubai" and Shango Vision" (1977)
  3. "Ah Can't Make" and "My Kind of Worry" (1981)
  4. "Chauffeur Wanted" and "Carnival Is the Answer" (1989)
  5. "Kaiso Sick in de Hospital" and "Misconceptions" (1993)
  6. "Fish Monger" and "Trinidad in the Cemetery" (2004)
  7. "I in Town Too Long" and "Ah Doh Rhyme" (2005)
The Dimanche Gras featured final competitions in calypso and the king and queen of the bands.

Calypso Monarch:

  1. Hollis "Chalkdust" Liverpool - "My Heart and I"
  2. Joanne "Tigress" Rowley - "Yuh Ent See Wajang Yet"
  3. Winston "D'Original De Fosto Himself" - "Could We Rise Again"

King of Carnival:

  1. Stephen Alexis - "Ndlovu In Search"
  2. Curtis Eustace - "Apollo's Lust"
  3. Glen Turnbull - "Flight of D Golden Sun Lord"
Queen of Carnival:

  1. Kadaffi Romney - "Manzandaba's in Flight"
  2. Tamara Alleyne-Gittens - "Fairy Dust"
  3. Pamela Gordon - "First Lady of the Chinese Court"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Finally, a dictionary for Trinis


If you've ever listened to two Trinis carrying on a conversation you could be tempted to ask what language they were speaking.

That was my experience back in the 1960's when I worked at the University of The West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad as a laboratory assistant to Dr Malcolm Cherret, an English researcher in the Zoology department. And it happens every day here in Toronto.

Dr Cherret was studying Bachas, those huge ants that leave a lasting reminder of their anger if you happen to stand in their path or invade their nests. My job included trips to the forests to find Bachac nests, dig them up and take them to the lab to study their habits once they had reconstructed their homes.

On most of these expeditions into rural Trinidad I would have to act as translator for my boss, who was fascinated with local culture but could not speak or understand "our language," which was of course, English.

No way, he would tell me. That's not even close to the Queen's English, the only English that Dr Cherret recognized. But who said it was the Queen's English?

Our contact with the British during our history of colonisation gave us English as our mother tongue but from it we developed a vernacular that is colourful and descriptive, a dialect that only a Trini knows or can master; not even our closest Caribbean cousins understand "we".

There never was any dictionary or anything close to it to help us explain ourselves to non-Trinis.

Now, thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Lise Winer there is a dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad and Tobago. It took her 30 years of painstaking research to compile the 12,000 words in her dictionary, but it's the only work that I know of that will explain the meaning of the word "broughtupcy", for example.

As a doctoral student in the 1970's, Winer found herself in the same predicament as so many of us - how to explain the Trinidad and Tobago words encountered daily.

That's when she started her project, collecting words while reading essays, the newspapers and talking to people.

The dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad and Tobago is aimed at locals and foreigners alike. Dr. Winer says it givers foreign readers a reference source to define the local usage of a word like 'ignorant', and locals now have a place where they could find alternative phrases to express our Creole words.

Dr. Winer is associate professor in the Faculty of Education, McGill University, the author of Badjohns, Bhaaji & Banknote Blue: Essays on the Social History of Language in Trinidad & Tobago, and editor of a series of early Trinidadian novels.

You can buy the dictionary online and get a 20% discount. Visit the website at: www.mqup.ca
or contact:

Nikki Shaffeeullah, Marketing Assistant - McGill-Queen's University Press (MQUP). Her email is: marketing.mqup@mcgill.ca or you can call or fax her: (514) 398-2914 - fax (514) 398-5443

Editor's note: Cote ci Cote La, which is a collection of Trinidad & Tobago's vernacular, is not considered a dictionary.

Caribbean Central Banks take over Bank of Antigua


The Antigua and Barbuda cabinet met in emergency session over the weekend and decided to recall parliament on Thursday to deal with a financial crisis created by the fall of billionaire investor Sir Allen Stanford, owner of the Bank of Antigua (BoA).

The parliament was dissolved on February 9th to prepare for general elections on March 12th but the cabinet is acting on the basis of a constitutional provision that allows the legislature to be reconvened in an emergency such as the one the country now faces.

In an official statement the government called the decision a necessary one "in order to safeguard the jobs of the thousands of Antiguans and Barbudans employed by the company and stem the negative effects that the action of the U.S. Courts might have on the economy of Antigua and Barbuda."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) served Sir Allen with legal papers last week outlining fraud allegations. The agency had been asked to track down Sir Allen after officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said they could not locate the billionaire Texan investor.

He remains out of custody since the charges he faces are civil matters and not criminal at this stage.

The SEC has alleged that the Texan masterminded "a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world". It claimed that he sold US$8 billion in certificates of deposit (CDs) to clients all over the world, using false promises of high interest rates. Investors in Sir Allen's businesses are waiting to see when they will have access to their funds.

In the Caribbean, a consortium of Eastern Caribbean Central Banks is taking control of The Bank of Antigua, which is part of Sir Allen's empire, following the takeover of the financial institution by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

The ECCB said it took the decision based on a discussions at a weekend meeting involving representatives of the Central Bank, the Antigua and Barbuda government, the government of St Vincent and Grenadines, Antigua Commercial Bank Ltd, St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank Ltd, Eastern Caribbean Financial Holdings Company Ltd, National Commercial Bank (SVG) Ltd and National Bank of Dominica Ltd.

"The parties came to a successful conclusion on the formation of an entity to carry on the operations of the Bank of Antigua Ltd. This will come into effect on Monday, 23 February 2009," the ECCB said in a release issued late Sunday.

On Friday, the ECCB announced that after a request for help from the BoA, it used its emergency powers to take control of the local bank.

It said the intervention was necessary because the fraud complaint filed last Tuesday by the SEC against Sir Allen and his Financial Group had led to "hundreds of customers rushing the bank to take their funds, even though it had not been named in the U.S. action".

The Central Bank said the "unusual and substantial" withdrawals created the potential for severe liquidity problems for the financial institution.

"In response to this situation, the ECCB sent in two teams of Bank Supervisors on Wednesday, 18 February 2009 and Thursday, 19 February 2009 and has been supplying liquidity to the bank which has ensured that the depositors' demands have been met," the ECCB said in a release on Friday evening.

Mumbai slums take over Hollywood

The rags-to-riches love story "Slumdog Millionaire" set in the slums of Mumbai triumphed at the 81st Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood Sunday night, taking eight academy awards, including Best Picture.

Danny Boyle picked up the Oscar for the feel-good tale of a Mumbai orphan’s escape from poverty. The film’s victory mirrors its protagonists’ story.

“Slumdog Millioniare" is truly a story about dreams. The movie almost didn’t get distributed. Fox Searchlight picked up the movie after Time Warner closed its small-picture divisions.

It was made with a meagre budget of $15 million with a cast of unknowns and pushed aside “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” a $150 million production starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, which received 13 nominations; "Slumdog" was nominated for 10.

Kate Winslett was adjudged Best actress for her portrayal of a former guard at a Nazi concentration camp. Sean Penn won the leading-actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco supervisor who was murdered in 1978 by a political rival.

The late Heath Ledger won the supporting-actor Oscar for his role as the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” becoming the second actor to win the prize posthumously. Ledger died last year of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 28.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jack threatens to sue UNC

Jack Warner says he would sue anyone who use any loophole in the constitution of the United National Congress (UNC) to expel him and his parliamentary colleague, Ramesh L. Maharaj from the party.

Both men will likely face a disciplinary committee of the UNC because of their public pronouncements that the party sees as indiscipline.

Warner and Maharaj have been demanding a reorganization of the party to better position itself to fight and defeat the governing People's National Movement (PNM), saying unless the party changes it will never win an election. They have also been calling for internal elections, which the national executive has postponed until after the local government election.

Warner is currently one of the party's three deputy political leaders. But he told reporters this week when the UNC holds internal elections he would run for the post of chairman. He said a deputy leader is unable to effect meaningful change in the party.

On the possible expulsion from the UNC Warner said: “I tell you here tonight if that ever happens, if they ever take God out of their thoughts to put us before the committee for discipline, I shall become a lawyer for the first time, they shall be sued in their individual and collective capacities.”

The UNC has called for a meeting for March 18 to deal with party indiscipline but he won't be there for that because of previous commitments on behalf of FIFA to be in Europe.

In announcing the date the party has said if Warner and Maharaj are unavailable they should advise the party, which might be able to make alternative arrangements. However it is possible that the special meeting could deal with the matter and take a decision in the absence of Warner and Maharaj.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Panday says Judicial & Legal Services Commission must do its job or quit

Trinidad and Tobago Opposition leader Basdeo Panday on Thursday suggested that the independence of the country's independent Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) has been compromised and said if the JLSC does not have the fortitude to stand up to the Prime Minister and "assert its competence and independence" members must "resign forthwith."

Panday was commenting on the failure of the commission to appoint a solicitor general to fill the position that has been vacant since 2005. He said it is a national scandal that no one is even acting in the post and said it facilitates government corruption.

"How can the government and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) allow an important statutory office such as that of the Solicitor General to remain unoccupied for more than three years? The JLSC claims procedural issues are hampering the appointment, but what has the JLSC or the government done in the last three years to fix these procedural problems so that a Solicitor General can be appointed?" Panday asked in a news release.

The post became vacant in 2005 when then Lynette Stephenson was appointed Ombudsman. The JLSC appointed Mark Terrence Thorne, Deputy Solicitor General, to act as Solicitor General for the period February 19, 2006 to June 30, 2006. However, when the acting appointment expired it did not make any further appointment.

Since then the duties of the Solicitor General have since been shared among the senior staff of the Solicitor General's Department.

Panday said several important questions arise.

"Firstly, is the hunt still on to find a Solicitor General or has the JLSC given up and settled for leaving this post vacant? How is it that Mr Thorne was competent enough to rise to the rank of Deputy Solicitor General and to act as SG for four months but not good enough to continue in the position? What about the other senior solicitors in the SG's Office? Is the JLSC saying that they are all not qualified to perform this job?

"The Chairman of the JLSC must come forward and make a statement on this matter because it does not stand to reason that if none of them are competent enough to even act as Solicitor General that putting them all together in a committee will result in a creature that is more competent than the most competent of the lot."

The former prime minister said the excuse of lengthy security clearance procedures hampering the appointment is very weak and illogical.

"In its 2007 annual report, the JLSC says the problem is security vetting of candidates; but you have a situation where there are about five senior persons who are inside the SG's office already who are suitable for this job. Those persons must have already passed the security vetting because they are already employed in the SG's office and are seeing documents intended for the eyes of the SG only.

"If they already have the clearance then this excuse does not prevent any of them from being appointed Solicitor General.

"On the contrary, if they have not passed or been subjected to the security vetting then the government and the JLSC have created a security leak because it has those same persons doing a job that required a security clearance."

Panday said he refuses to accept the flimsy excuse of difficulties with the security vetting, adding that he believes the real obstacle is the inability to "secure the Prime Minister's agreement" as stated in the 2007 JLSC annual report.

"That is a diplomatic way of saying the Prime Minister wants to handpick the Solicitor General, in the same way he handpicked the Commissioner of Police and attempted to handpick a Director of Public Prosecutions."

The Solicitor General heads the department which advises the State on all aspects of civil law by representing the State in constitutional matters and other civil proceedings, such as lawsuits against the State and by assisting in the formulation and execution of government policy within the limits of the law and vetting contracts involving government agencies.

Panday said, "It is clear from the amount of corruption being exposed on a daily basis that somebody is profiting by the absence of a proper appointee to the post of Solicitor General and it stands to reason that chaos is allowed to reign to facilitate corruption in government contracts because there is no-one guarding the gate and no-one to hold accountable for the corruption that is taking place.

"The JLSC must do its duty as it did in the case of the vacant DPP's Office and make a recommendation to fill the post of Solicitor General that has been vacant for over three years and it must stand by its recommendation.

"If the JLSC does not have the fortitude to stand up to the Prime Minister and assert its competence and independence then the members of the JLSC must resign forthwith," he said.

President Obama and PM Harper vow joint effort on North American economic recovery

Official news release from the Office of the Prime Minister, Canada.

OTTAWA - President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper today (Feb. 19, 2009) agreed the United States and Canada will pursue economic recovery measures and efforts to strengthen the international financial system to counter the global economic recession.

"I value our strategic partnership with Canada and look forward to working closely with the Prime Minister to address the global economic recession and create jobs, to protect our environment through promoting clean energy technologies, and achieve our shared goals in responding to international security challenges," said the President.

"The President and I agree that both our countries must take immediate action to restore economic growth by lowering taxes, ensuring access to credit and unleashing spending that stimulates economic growth. We also agreed to strengthen our cooperation in the areas of environmental protection and global security," said the Prime Minister.

RESTORING ECONOMIC GROWTH AND CREATING JOBS

The President and the Prime Minister discussed their respective economic recovery plans and their focus on saving and creating jobs. In addition, the President and the Prime Minister discussed common challenges they face, including restructuring of the North American auto sector.

They also discussed working together to develop effective global responses to the economic crisis, through the G-8 and G-20 processes. The United States and Canada will actively work together to ensure that the G-20 Summit in April contributes to restoring confidence in financial markets. Finally, they instructed senior officials to meet at an early date to develop strategies to enhance our collective security in North America, including reviewing the management of the Canada-U.S. border.

TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY SECURITY


Noting the long and productive history of bilateral co-operation on continental environmental protection and energy trade and technology, the President and the Prime Minister agreed that environmental protection and the development of clean energy are inextricably linked and announced plans to work together to build a new energy economy as a key element of broader economic recovery and reinvestment efforts.


The Leaders discussed practical ways the United States and Canada could encourage the development of clean energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change. The Leaders established a senior-level U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue that will cooperate on several critical energy science and technology issues, including:
- Expand clean energy research and development - Develop and deploy clean energy technology - Build a more efficient electricity grid based on clean and renewable generation United States and Canadian officials will meet in the coming weeks to launch the Clean Energy Dialogue.

RESPONDING TO INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CHALLENGES

The President and the Prime Minister agreed on the importance of Canada and the United States cooperating closely on a number of key international priorities for both countries, with a particular focus on Afghanistan, which is a top priority for both countries and which will be a major subject of attention at the upcoming NATO Summit.

The Leaders also agreed to work together closely in the Americas, including promoting effective discussion and meaningful results at the Summit of the Americas in April.
Our Foreign Ministers will meet in Washington next week, and Ministers of Defence the following week, to pursue a strengthened dialogue on these and other key international challenges.


For comprehensive news coverage of the Obama visit to Canada go to: cbcnews.ca

Manning changes his mind, Brown-Antoine to act as DPP

Prime Minister Patrick Manning has changed his mind about the recommendation from the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) to appoint Carla Brown-Antoine to act as Director of Public Prosecutions. He lifted his veto Wednesday and said he would agree to let her act in the post “until such time as a permanent appointment is made”.

Manning declared that the country is not facing a constitutional crisis. "There never was any and we expect that the appointment will now be made with dispatch."

Manning made the statement in the House of Representatives following concerns raised by the legal fraternity and the Opposition regarding his veto of Brown-Antoine to act as DPP.

Brown-Antoine performed the DPP’s duties until last Friday when the JLSC received a letter from Manning vetoing her appointment. She subsequently reverted to her former position as deputy DPP.

Manning said there was “by administrative error” in making the appointment before he was consulted. He explained that if he had allowed the appointment he would “tacitly have been giving the person acting, first lien on the permanent appointment, which the Prime Minister did not want to do.”

He also said there is no obligation on the Prime Minister to give reasons for exercising the veto power. "If reason is given, it violates the spirit and in fact it raises questions of giving reasons in some instances and not giving in other which the framers of the Constitution recognised could be a source of tremendous confusion.”

Manning added, “What happened therefore is that the Prime Minister vetoed the appointment and now that it has come to his attention that an appointment has been made, what the Prime Minister will now do is agree to the acting appointment until such time as the permanent appointment is made.”

The opposition had planned to raise the issue in the House but Manning's statement pre-empted that move. Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday told reporters Manning backtracked because he might have realized that people would think he was abusing his own power "and he thinks he can ameliorate the situation by saying Ms Brown-Antoine can act.”

Panday wondered what's the real difference. "If she can act, why can’t she be the DPP, why can’t she hold the post? Why veto her in the substantive post?"

He agreed that the Constitution gives the Prime Minister power of veto and does not specifically state whether or not he should give a reason. However he said "he should have considered the ethics, ethos and culture of this country and to know when he vetoes a position like this, it is going to cast an aspersion upon the lady.”

Panday said people like Brown-Antoine are acting under threat. "If you play the fool, you’ll never be confirmed. All the top law positions are acting...we have Hollywood, Bollywood and Triniwood,” Panday added.

JLSC says Manning's statement is not true

The Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) issued a statement shortly after Prime Minister Patrick Manning changed his mind on the appointment of an acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) refuting Manning's statement that the commission did not consult the prime minister before making the acting appointment.

The commission, which is under the chairmanship of Chief Justice Ivor Archie, said it is pleased that "Deputy DPP Carla Brown-Antoine has now been endorsed to act in the position of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)."

But it clarified its position, pointing out that contrary to what Manning told the House of Representatives, it followed the rules.

"A recommendation for Mrs Brown-Antoine to act as DPP was made by the JLSC to the Honourable Prime Minister before Mr Geoffrey Henderson demitted office as the substantive DPP on January 5, 2009. Having regard to Section 111 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, no appointment to the position of DPP was or could have been made," it added.

The commission noted that Manning, "now having signified his consent, the commission will appoint Mrs Brown-Antoine to act as DPP effective January 5, 2009".

Brown-Antoine took over the responsibilities of the DPP's office after DPP Geoffrey Henderson was appointed as a judge of the High Court bench on January 5. She had also acted on numerous occasions during Henderson's six-and-a-half year tenure.

The DPP is responsible for overseeing all the criminal prosecutions in the country and has the power to stop or take over any of those criminal proceedings.

Something to think about

My son, Amit, sent me this story. It's not original; it's been on the Internet but many of us might have bypassed it or just ignored it. I think it's something worth circulating, so I implore you to read it and share its message.

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.

After extolling the school and its
dedicated staff, he offered a question: 'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?'

The audience was stilled by the query.
The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'


Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart.

The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat.

Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over.

The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.

He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.

He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'.

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!'

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'. Shay didn't make it to another summer.

He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!


AND NOW A LITTLE FOOT NOTE TO THIS STORY:

We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate.
The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the 'appropriate' ones to receive this type of message.

Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference.

Thank you, my son, for sending it!

Moonilal worried that criminals will walk free because of Sando fire

Opposition East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has expressed concern about the loss of vital evidence in this week's fire at the San Fernando police station, saying Trinidad and Tobago is facing a "frightening reality", since murderers, kidnappers and other criminals could go free because the evidence to prosecute them has been destroyed.

Moonilal was speaking in Parliament in the debate on a bill to give legal effect to electronic documents, records and signatures.

He questioned the Government's ability to store electronic data, given the manner in which the physical evidence that was stored at the San Fernando Police Station had been destroyed.

Hundreds of criminal cases are now at risk, including murder cases, because of the loss the critical evidence. The building that burned was condemned by the city of San Fernando three years ago.

"We now have the alarming and frightening reality of bandits, murderers, kidnappers, robbers being discharged, released because there is no evidence available to prosecute," Moonilal said.

"I am told that that building that was destroyed by fire housed the property room, the property keeper's room where they stored exhibits, narcotics, documents, arms, ammunition to be used in criminal proceedings at the courts and this is storage of hard physical evidence," Moonilal said.

Moonilal used the fire to raise serious questions about the ability of the government to gather and store electronic data as required in the bill under debate. "So, when you cannot provide for the storage of physical material, what storage you providing for electronic data which is more difficult and supremely complex to think about storage?" Moonilal asked.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fire at San Fernando Police HQ destroys critical evidence


A fire at the Police headquarters in San Fernando destroyed a section of the building Tuesday along with critical evidence for hundreds criminal cases.

Among items lost were items to be used as evidence in criminal cases including guns, ammunition, knives, and cutlasses as well as weapons used by security officers and business people. Police said illegal narcotics were not affected since they were stored in another section of the police complex.

Acting police commissioner James Philbert told reporters he cannot say how much evidence was lost until police complete an audit.

The mayor of San Fernando said he was not surprised, noting that three years ago the cit condemned the section of the 140 year old building that burned.

Police continued to use it as a dormitory because of a shortage of space. Officers lost their uniforms, clothing, money, identification documents, and the keys to their cars.

The fire started shortly after nine in the morning and the sole occupant at the time raised an alarm and summoned the fire service from nearby King's wharf. But firefighters had a hard time because they met dry hydrants. By the time they got pumps working from a hydrant near the library the building was destroyed.

About 100 officers have been displaced by the blaze. They will work from the Mon Repos station for now.



Top COP not giving up, blames gangs for murders

Last week Trinidad and Tobago's minister of national security passed the buck and shifted responsibility for the skyrocketing homicide rate to the police commissioner. Martin Joseph said he is only supposed to provide the crime fighting resources for the police.

Now acting Commissioner James Philbert admits that criminals are giving police a hard time but he isn't giving up.

Philbert told reporters gangs are the biggest problem, noting that of the of the 83 murders recorded up to Monday this week, 77 were gang related. And he admitted that his Evangelical initiative launched last year is not working.

Philbert and some pastors had met with gang leaders and offered them a fresh start if they gave up a life of crime and turned to God. Police even set up a hot line for criminals to call. Instead, gangs are growing.

Related story: Guns for God

"There is a new surge taking the forefront with gangs, the older members who want to come forward are having challenges," Philbert said.

"We are still working hard at restoring public confidence. There is too much talk, action is needed," Philbert said.

He also said kidnapping is on the rise again and cautioned people to be more vigilant, especially with children.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

T&T racing for a new record: 83 murders in 47 days

Trinidad and Tobago is racing to beat its own record in crime. So far for 2009 there have been 83 murders, an average of nearly two every day. And it doesn't seem to be a problem for the authorities.

Minister of National Security Martin Joseph, whose ministry is in charge of the police service, has washed his hand off the matter, declaring in the House of Representatives that Acting Police Commissioner James Philbert is solely responsible for ensuring the Police Service operates "in an efficient and effective manner".

"The Constitution could not be clearer on this matter and I might add that the Commissioner of Police is the only head of a division with the ministry who holds such power," Joseph told Parliament.

He was responding to an opposition motion by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, the MP for Tabaquite, asking the Government to state what action, if any, it intends to take to bring immediate relief to provide safety and security to the population against the continuing rise of serious crimes.

"I agree that there is frustration at the top of the Government with the lack of visible progress in fighting the most serious crimes, especially the unacceptably high murder rate. I know that the country is impatient but the fight against crime is an evolving one," Joseph said.

He refused to accept responsibility and denied the opposition charge that he had abdicated his his responsibility.

Here is how he explained himself: "The Minister of National Security has no authority and power to micromanage the Police Service. I want to assure this honourable House that I am fully aware of my responsibility as Minister of National Security, in relation to the operations of the Police Service."

He said he is only responsible for ensuring that the Government provides the Police Service and all other law enforcement agencies with the means so they can "discharge their responsibilities". That is what he has been doing, he assured the House.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Today's quote


"They may celebrate today, but on the horizon of 2012 what's starting to loom is the ghost of an inevitable defeat."

Venezuelan newspaper editor Teodoro Petkoff writing Monday on the possibility of President Hugo Chavez facing defeat as the country's economic fortunes diminish because of the global financial crisis.

Read an analysis by AP's Caracas Bureau chief, Ian James, in the Boston Globe

Panday RAMJACKED? Battle for the UNC intensifies

The battle lines are now clearly drawn in the fight for the UNC. And UNC supporters loyal to their leader have coined a new word to describe what they say is going on: RAMJACK, the hijacking of the party by two of its top men Ramesh L. Maharaj and Jack Warner - RAM and JACK.

In the latest salvo in the ongoing fight between the UNC Leader, Basdeo Panday, Warner and Maharaj have called on members and supporters of the United National Congress Alliance (UNC-A) to stand up against “dictatorial rule” within the party.

“We believe that MPs, members of the national executive and the parliamentary caucus must have the courage to stand up for the rights of members and supporters of the party when they are threatened with dictatorial rule,” they said in a joint statement Sunday.

The party has turned down the duo's demand for internal elections, saying now is not the time for such an event that could do more harm than good on the eve of local government elections. But Warner and Maharaj are not accepting that.

Some UNC-A caucus members have suggested that the two men should be disciplined and possibly expelled from the party. And Panday, expressing frustration with what's going on, remarked, "Why Jack, why?"

Warner has said in the past and again in this latest statement that his fight is not with Panday but with those who are adivising the former prime minister to maintain the staus quo and keep the party mired in the past without dealing with the need for change.

And they say they plan to stay inside to get the work done.

“We do not intend to leave the UNC-A. We are more determined now, than ever before, to stand up and fight, to ensure that the UNC-A forms the next government,” their statement said.

They are convinced that the party cannot win a general election "as presently constituted with its existing policy and strategy" adding that the majority of members and supporters share that view.

“This is not a battle against Mr Panday, the parliamentary caucus or the national executive; it is a battle in support of the UNC-A and the national community as a whole.”

Warner and Maharaj are convinced that they would get the support of the majority of members of the party's national executive and parliamentary caucus.

“That is a matter for them and their consciences. We are not backing down in our battles to get the party ready to win a general election...Our first duty is to members and supporters, and not to the upper levels of the party. Our first duty is to protect the membership at the lower level of the party against dictatorship from Patrick Manning and his government.”

The two men are considering a tactic Panday has used whenever he has had to deal with a revolt or internal opposition in the party - going to the membership.

Panday believes that Warner might be playing completely into the hands of Manning and the PNM.

“Why is he doing that, I would like to know. Can somebody tell me why he is doing this?” Panday asked.

Editor's note: The United National Congress (UNC) is the largest party in the UNC Alliance, which fought the last general election (Nov. 5, 2007). However each party retained its identity. Panday, Warner and Maharaj are members of the UNC in the context of their party status. However, they are MPs of the UNC-Alliance. References to the UNC-A membership can be misleading because a UNC member is not a UNC-A member since the the UNC-A is not a unitary party.

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai