Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy 48th Birthday, Trinidad & Tobago!

Photo story: PM Kamla celebrates with the children

PM Kamla launches Children's Life Fund, says true independence yet to come

Fellow citizens,

On this our 48th Independence Anniversary we have so much to be grateful for and proud about.

We have excelled in so many endeavours gaining the admiration of the world in areas such as literature, the arts, music, sports and pageantry.

But there is so much we have to ponder upon that has not gone well for our fledgling nation, so many wrongs which we must put right, so many needs that are still to be filled, so many young people who have gone astray, so many children who suffer unnecessarily, so much wealth that has not been equitably distributed, so many values which have been sadly forgotten, so many opportunities squandered, so many freedoms taken for granted and abused.

We have been blessed with abundant natural resources and a pool of the most talented and well educated people to be found anywhere.

As we observe our 48th year as an independent nation we can recall the mark we have made on the world with the invention of the steelpan, the gift of calypso and carnival, the magic of world cup football qualification, world class athletes, Nobel Laureates and more.

Here on this small Caribbean twin island state occupied by a mere 1.3 million people there are few places on earth that hold out the kind of potential we possess. Yet the state of affairs in our nation today does not reflect that we have taken full advantage of this.

It is not enough to proudly proclaim our independence when we are lagging behind the rest of the developed world in so many areas.

When our people no longer cower in fear from criminals, we are truly independent; When the labour and intellect of a woman are considered equal to that of a man, and the colour, class and creed of a citizen are of no consequence, we are all truly independent; When we grow to undrstand and respect our environment, we have gained our independence; When we can aspire to be better people, when mediocrity is no longer tolerated and excellence a standard by which everything is measured every day, then and only then we have truly gained our independence.

Each year as we pass milestone after milestone of our nation’s independence the skies light up with celebration and there is much ceremony of what we have gained since that historic day.

And we can be justifiably proud of that event. But that is not enough.

This nation gained its independence 48 years ago. Nearly half a century. And while it is not my intention at all to overlook how far our nation has come, it is just as critical for us to ponder how far we have not travelled and how much further we have to go before realising the dream born in 1962.

Now, in 2010, we must reposition our thinking, reframe the context in which we recognise and celebrate our independence, we must use these occasions to recommit and reconcile how we correct the way things have gone wrong even as we acknowledge the good and the great strides made.

This is not meant to be a sombre Anniversary message but an inspiring one. It points the way ahead, towards a brighter future and more hopeful journey.

Too much time has been wasted. Too much money squandered. Too much pretence has been made at times like this that everything is fine and our nation is doing well.

Celebrate by all means the pride we must all feel in the independence anniversary, reflect certainly on all the achievements made over the years, gather confidence from our success but learn as well from our failures and failings.

Today, Trinidad and Tobago has never been better positioned to become the nation it was always meant to be.

Together, we will reach heights of achievement never thought possible before. Our goals are set, the resolve is there and we are on the right course.

So let this be as much a celebration of where we will arrive as a nation in the shortest possible time as it is the marking of our historic journey of 48 years as an independent nation.

While the legislative procedures have to be concluded to put the Children's Life Fund into effect, I take this opportunity as well to officially launch the Children’s Life Fund.

As promised, it will receive the deposit of five per cent of all Ministerial salaries plus ten per cent of my own as Prime Minister.

I urge all corporate entities and citizens to make some contribution to the Fund which will be used to provide urgent medical care for children whose families cannot afford the cost of what is often life saving surgery.

It is perhaps the most fitting way to honour this day as it defines what should be most important to us if we are to have any sense of having evolved as a more caring, compassionate, modern and civilised society.

Through shared perspectives such as this we can genuinely extend to each other a Happy Independence Day.

Happy Independence day to you all.

May God bless you and may God bless our nation.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister

PM confirms 4 to receive Order of T&T

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar confirmed Sunday that former senior cabinet minister Kamaluddin Mohammed, 83, will receive the Order of Trinidad and Tobago, the country's highest national award.

Senior attorney Karl Hudson-Phillips will also received the nation's top honour.

The state will also bestow the honour on two deceased national leaders, Dr Wahid Ali who served for many years as President of the Senate, and Pandit Krishna Maharaj, who was the spiritual leader of the country's largest Hindu organisation, the Sanatan Dharman Maha Sabha.

President Richards will hand out the wards Tuesday night.


Persad-Bissessar pointed out that the two posthumous awards are going to leaders who refused to accept the Trinity Cross (the former name of the award) on the basis of conscience.

They both said the cross was a symbol of Christianity. She said the two of them were courageous men who championed inclusion and acceptance of every creed and race in Trinidad and Tobago.

Persad-Bissessar told reporters the honour is in keeping with the spirit of multi-culturalism and multi-ethnicity that both men pioneered.

She noted that the Privy Council agreed that it was unconstitutional and against equity and fairness to force any one religion to accept the Trinity Cross.


She also spoke about the challenges that face her new government and was confident that "we can overcome every challenge...We will work together to build this land, as we celebrate Independence and as we look back at our successes, we know that there is so much we need to do.

“There are a lot of gridlocks and obstacles, but I know with your help, prayers and love, your People’s Partnership Government will overcome.”


Mohammed
, who is fondly known as "Charch", is a founder the People's National Movement (PNM) and served in all the top government posts in the various Williams administrations and acted as Prime Minister on many occasions.

He also served as President of the World Health Organisation (WHO).


He was one of the main architects of the regional integration movement and served as CARICOM Ambassador in the Panday
administration.

Charch
is also one of Trinidad and Tobago's leading cultural ambassadors and the pioneer of Indian culture in the broadcast media, having inaugurated "Indian Talent on Parade" in 1947 on what was then Radio Trinidad.

Hudson-Phillips is one of the country's most respected legal luminaries. He has had an extensive private practice in Trinidad and Tobago and in the Commonwealth Caribbean, as well as before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

Like Mohammed he served in the Williams PNM administration, holding the posts of Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs from 1969 to 1973. He fell out with Williams on matters of principle and was fired.

He later formed his own political party, The Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR), and fought again the PNM in 1981, failing to win any seats.

In 1986 he dissolved the ONR and joined other political parties to form the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) led by A.N.R. Robinson, which created political history in Trinidad and Tobago by winning 33 of the 36 parliamentary seats, sweeping the PNM out of office for the first time since 1956.


Errol Mahabir, Sat Maharaj among others on full list of national awards

Former Senior Cabinet Minister Errol Mahabir in a recent photo with Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. Mahabir has been given the Chanconia Medal (Gold), the country's second highest national award, for national service to Trinidad and Tobago.

The full list of the 2010 National Awards:


Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
  1. Kamaluddin Mohammed
  2. Karl Hudson-Phillips, Q.C.
  3. Pandit Krishna Maharaj (posthumously)
  4. Dr Wahid Ali (posthumously)
Chaconia Medal (Gold)
  1. Errol Mahabir
  2. Prof. Julien Kenny
  3. Satnarayan Maharaj
  4. Brian MacFarlane
  5. Ronald Harford
  6. Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon
The Chaconia Medal (Silver)
  1. Prof. Zulaika Ali
  2. Claudius Pegus
  3. Margaret Elcock
Humming Bird Medal (Gold)
  1. Bishop Clive Abdullah
  2. Dennis Pantin (posthumously)
  3. Andrew Ganteaume
  4. John Arnold
  5. Don Jacob
Humming Bird Medal (Silver)
  1. Dr Nasser Mustapha
  2. St John's Trace Ramleela Committee
  3. Wayne Chance
  4. Patricia Roberts (posthumously)
  5. Harripersad Dass
  6. Augustine Ribeiro
  7. Ronald Greene
  8. Sheila Sawh-Gowkaran
Humming Bird Medal (Bronze)
  1. Trinidad and Tobago Women's Cricket Team
Public Service Medal of Merit (Gold)
  1. Dr Rampersad Parasram
  2. Premchand Sookoo
  3. Dr Nicholas nennie Tia-Okwee
  4. Joe Sirju
  5. Esmond Farfan
Public Service Medal of Merit (Silver)
  1. Lyle Donowa
  2. Beulah Duke
  3. Vernon Ramesar Snr.
  4. Roopnarine Rambachan
  5. Carlo McHoney
  6. Lennox McKay
Public Service Medal of Merit (Bronze)
  1. Zahir Akaloo
  2. Cynthia Toney

"We are a resilient people": President Richards

Since our last celebration of National Independence, we have had opportunity to see democracy at work, here in Trinidad and Tobago, significantly, in two elections held during this year - General Elections in May and Local Government Elections in July - both of which were keenly contested.

Most assuredly, the reminder to the country,
coming out of these elections, turns on the power that resides in the will of the people, when they chose to exercise their right.

So, the baton has been passed on and there is another dispensation. I posit that the task ahead is to so manage the affairs of our country that there is clear evidence of equitable benefit to the entire nation, with its several publics.

Expectations remain high, in that regard and whatever the challenges, gaps between those expectations and reality need to be dealt with in such a way that public trust is preserved and not dissipated. The truth is: the human condition demands and will accept no less.

Today we are forty-eight years old, as an Independent Nation and, once again, we must take stock. We are not far away from the fifty-year mark and we might do well to consider what we have achieved.

There is no doubt that many of us have acquitted ourselves with distinction, in several areas, at home and abroad. Some of our achievements have gained prominent and sustained recognition and of this we can all be justly proud.

But I am certain that there are many unsung heroes who have not and may never come to public notice. I urge you to join me in celebrating these persons, salt of the earth, faceless to the vast majority of us, but known to those whom they have rescued, in one way or another and set on their feet.

These are the ones, true patriots, who have not given up on their communities and our country, in the face of the most trying circumstances.

It may well be that in their consciousness resides knowledge of the paths that we have taken on our journey from 1834, a journey which took another pace and direction in 1956, brought us to Independent Statehood in 1962 and to Republican status, within the Commonwealth, in 1976.

Far too many of us are not conscious of the way that we have come, the sacrifices that were made, the give and take, such as was exhibited, in the Independence talks at Marlborough House in London, when opposing political parties so managed their differences that our Nation was born, in 1962.

That was only the beginning. We had to equip ourselves very quickly to take charge of our development as a people, facing and dealing with crises as they arose, over the years.

We saw value in and took pattern from many of the institutions which we were left, adapting as necessary, from time to time. Many of them have stood the test of time and as we proceed on the path of development, we must be ever mindful of the importance of upholding sound institutions which are at the centre of our existence.

If the centre does not hold we cannot survive. In this context, we must judge whether we are satisfied with where we are at this point in our development. The yardstick may well be subjective, but I leave it to you to consider what we have gained and what life-ways we have let go, with questionable replacements in their stead.

We must embrace the twenty-first century, but in so doing, let us not be supine and accept whatever the rest of the world hands us.

Many of us are capable of setting the pace in several areas of endeavour and we ought to see to it that our people, at every age, are so trained as to recognize their abilities to maximize the many resources of our own environment, for our own benefit and as a contribution to others.

Our education system, broadly speaking, and making use of our elders, must so equip us.

Each one of us, regardless of social condition, has a responsibility to be the best that we can be, with help, from time to time, as may be necessary, even as we collaborate to break the dependency syndrome, wherever it may exist in the national psyche.

Leadership, as I have indicated, has a duty in this regard.

I leave you with the reminder that we are a resilient people and can succeed at whatsoever we put our minds to.

Let us, therefore, determine to build a solid Trinidad and Tobago.

Happy Independence Anniversary and may God bless our Nation.

George Maxwell Richards | President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

"We must feel proud of the achievements of people's power": Dookeran

Independence day message from COP leader Winston Dookeran:

On this historic occasion of the 48th Anniversary of our Independence, I salute all patriotic citizens of our twin Island Republic, who have contributed in one form or fashion to the development of our beloved young nation.

I wish our country and our People’s Partnership Government continued success in effectively addressing the many challenges that we face.

This anniversary of our Independence is being marked by the empowerment of new Central and Local governance arrangements, rising expectations for good governance, and renewed feelings of community spirit.

It is a year when we rejected outright undemocratic practices and secret governance based on nepotism, and lack of accountability. We have in fact taken back our country from the cabal and the cartel.

We must not now allow these gains to be frittered away. We must conserve our God-given patrimony for the equitable benefit of all. We must feel proud of these achievements of people’s power.

The expressed desire of our Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is that this year’s Independence should be celebrated throughout Trinidad and Tobago by all the people.

To that end we are organizing celebrations in every village, town, municipality, corporation and city.

This year, let us rekindle a process for a new beginning for the future of Trinidad and Tobago. A process that will depart from the past and will embrace all the people in Trinidad and Tobago, as citizens of equal stature in our nation.

It is timely that we should remind ourselves of our National Pledge. “I solemnly pledge to dedicate my life to the service of my God and my country. I will honour my parents, my teachers and my leaders and those in authority. I will be clean and honest in all my thoughts, my words and my deeds. I will strive in everything I do to work together with my fellow men of every creed and race for the greater happiness of all and the honour and glory of my country.”

I have said on many occasions before that my job really in the world of politics, is to build the next generation of political leaders in Trinidad and Tobago, to open the door for the next generation to emerge and to take us out of the wrong direction that we have gotten ourselves in.

We must get back into the hearts and minds of the people, so that we can build ourselves in this new beginning, with a better understanding of each other. In so doing I want to state that this country belongs to all of us.

A country that came from many parts of the world hundreds of years ago. What is important now that we are here in Trinidad and Tobago is that we are a Caribbean people.

We have a rich heritage and a common future. We must now bind ourselves with that heritage of strength of the past and the common hope for the future. This I believe is the essential message as we start the celebration of Independence.

It is accepted knowledge that Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the world are currently experiencing economic challenges. This calls for new approaches if we are to successfully craft this new future.

The Congress of the People, through perseverance and partnering with like-minded citizens, has brought new people-centred and value driven politics to our nation .Our country is now positioned for the best opportunity for that better future.

From this new platform let us work to build this country together as we have never done before. Our nation needs the best efforts of every citizen in order to achieve the prosperity in which we all can share equitably.

Together we aspire, Together we achieve.

Best wishes to all for the observance of the Anniversary of our Independence. Let us make the ensuing year a period of real growth, sustained development and shared progress in Mother Trinidad and Tobago.

Winston Dookeran | Political Leader, 30th August, 2010

US Sec. of State congratulates T&T on 48th anniversary of Independence

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Trinidad and Tobago as you celebrate your 48th anniversary of independence this August 31.

The United States and Trinidad and Tobago enjoy a strong partnership covering a wide range of issues and reinforced by the extensive ties of family and friendship between our people.

I was honored to visit Trinidad and Tobago on one of my first trips as Secretary of State to attend the fifth Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, and I look forward to continuing our cooperation on matters of common concern and regional importance.

The United States recognizes the vital importance of the Caribbean to the stability and security of our hemisphere, and we appreciate Trinidad and Tobago’s leading role in CARICOM and the recently launched Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

The democratic values we share have been a source of strength for our nations, and we congratulate you on the historic election of your first female Prime Minister this past May.

The United States and Trinidad and Tobago also share a deep commitment to ethnic and religious tolerance, recognizing that a diversity of the people enriches both our countries.

I wish all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago a safe and joyous holiday as you celebrate at Independence Day festivities and reflect on the history of your nation.

Hillary Clinton | Secretary of State

Kamal deserves honour: Rowley

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley is happy that Kamluddin Mohammed is receiving the country's highest national honour, the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Rowley says the former cabinet minister and founding member of the People's National Movement (PNM) deserves it. The Manning PNM administration had refused to honour Mohammed although he had been recommended several times for the award.

Two other former PNM members are getting the award, former Attorney General Karl Hudson-Phillips and former Senate President Dr Wahid Ali (
posthumously). The fourth award goes posthumously to Pandit Krishna Maharaj.

Mohammed is pleased that his decades of service to the country has been recognised and rewarded. He told local media he hopes that it is seen as a reward for his public service to Trinidad and Tobago.

He also commended Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as a "lady of vision" and reminded all politicians that they have been elected to serve the people, echoing the mantra of the Prime Minister.

The former CARICOM ambassador said now is the time for all citizens to put aside their differences and come together as one people to build the nation.

And he urged those who have chosen a life of crime to put down their knives, cutlasses and guns and live peacefully and in harmony. "Stop the senseless violence and the senseless killings in the country," he said.

Read a tribute to Kamal:
Feature: Kamal - a life of service

Congratulations to my brother, Dr Rampersad Parasram

Congratulations to all citizens who have been honoured for their service to our nation, including my brother, Dr Rampersad Parasram, who served in the national health service for many years.

Rampa, as he is fondly called in our family, was Chief Medical Officer of Health when he retired. He will receive the Public Service Medal of Merit (Gold) on Tuesday from President Max Richards for "Outstanding and Meritorious Service to Trinidad and Tobago in the Sphere of Medicine."

On the death of our father, Pandit Parasram in March 2004, he gave up medicine and vowed to dedicate his life to the priesthood, teaching and practising Hindu Dharma as my father had done for seven decades.

Congrats, Rampa. We're all very proud!

Jai Parasram - Toronto | 30 August 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Earl kicks up a storm, becomes category 4 hurricane

Hurricane Earl was upgraded Monday evening to a Category 4 storm with winds of 215 km/h.

Earl has lashed the northeastern Caribbean and is setting a course for the eastern United States and Canada later this week.


The storm has been battering some islands, including Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, the British and the United States Virgin islands.


Local radio stations have not reported any injuries and are broadcasting appeals from officials for people to remain.

In Antigua, at least one home has been destroyed. Emergency response officials has said that hundreds of people have moved to designated shelters.

In St. Maarten, the storm toppled trees, damaged roofs and knocked out electricity to much of the island, where the government has imposed curfew.

Cruise lines have diverted ships to other ports, and the regional airline LIAT has canceled flights were cancelled throughout the region.

New State Boards coming in T&T "within days": Karim

The new People's Partnership (PP) Government in Trinidad and Tobago will appoint "within a matter of days" new boards of directors at many of the state run institutions.

Tertiary Education Minister Senator Fazal Karim made the announcement in Toronto Sunday afternoon in a speech at the annual "We t'ing" event organised by the Trinidad and Tobago Consulate in Toronto to celebrate the country's 48th anniversary of independence.

Karim is in Toronto on a private visit until Tuesday and accepted an invitation to drop in and bring greetings from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The minister said the government is aware of concerns expressed by citizens that there has been a delay in making board appointments.

However he explained that it has taken time to put the boards in place because "we wanted to select only the most qualified and most competent citizens to fill these positions".

He commended T&T citizens living in Canada for their dedication to their home country.

"All of you, by your very presence...have demonstrated clearly and unambiguously that you care about Trinidad and Tobago," he said.

"The honourable Prime Minister, Mrs Persad-Bissesssar, has asked me to convey to you, the thanks and appreciation of the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago for your continued interest in, and significant contribution to, the development of our beloved country," he added.

Karim said the election of the People's Partnership Government was "a statement of hope" and a clear indication that the people were fed up of escalating crime, divisive policies, the neglect of infrastructure and rampant corruption.

The people voted against an administration, he said, that had made Trinidad and Tobago a society in which "everybody felt like second class citizens at times".

The minister spoke of achievements and priorities for the new administration. He said the government responded immediately to floods and offered quick relief to victims. Other achievements included:
  • A frontal attack on crime with the appointment of a Police Commissioner from Canada and one of three Deputy Commissioners, also from Canada
  • An emphasis on creating "a knowledge driven entrepreneurial, innovative critical thinking citizenry" to drive development
  • Higher education to focus on technical and vocational training
  • A full review of national infrastructure to deal with years of neglect
  • A commitment to make local government representatives more receptive to solving people's problems, noting that "there is a new zeal" in the local government ministry
  • An investor-friendly environment that would provide opportunities for citizens who want to return home and invest in the country
Karim urged everyone to pay attention to the the People's Partnership's first budget on September 8 and also to what the Prime Minister will present to the world when she addresses the United Nations in New York on September 26.

The minister also addressed an issue that has hurt developing states in the past - a brain drain - noting that in the new world order such a handicap has reverse good benefits.

"So my advice to you...is to study hard and work diligently in your adopted country. Master the skills, excel in what you do. Make Trinidad and Tobago proud of your achievements in Canada.

"And seek always to help us, and in so doing, you will be playing your part in making the world a better place," he said.

"We need people like you. We need citizens of goodwill and excellence," Karim said.

Mobile passsport offices across Canada coming soon

Trinidad and Tobago's Consul General in Toronto had some good news Sunday for T&T citizens across Canada who wish to apply for the country's new machine readable passports.

At the present time the Consulate in Toronto is the only office that receives applications for the new passports and every applicant must appear in person for an interview by an immigration officer.

Michael Lashley said the Consulate would soon start a mobile application process that would allow officials to travel to selected cities in Canada to offer a passport service to T&T citizens.

Lashley was speaking at the annual "We t'ing" celebrations at Queen's Park in Toronto to mark the 48th anniversary of Independence.


He said the mobile passport service is one of his major achievements, adding that the other is a new permanent home for the Consulate.

Last July the Consulate bought a building in Toronto for CDN$5 million but so far it has not occupied the premises and the diplomatic mission continues to operate from rented offices.

Read the story: T&T paid Cdn$5M for Toronto consulate building; US$12 for one in Washington

Lashley said as soon as he gets the approval for funds the mission will move to its new location at 185 Sheppard Avenue, West.

He also spoke about what the People's Partnership (PP) victory, which he called the "most earth shattering" event in the country's recent history. He said the change of government demonstrated that the country had matured politically.

Lashley added that there are two other significant things about the PP victory - a "unique reality" that it is possible for the widest possible coalition of interests to govern, and the election of a prime minister who has "shattered the gender-based political glass ceiling."

He also welcomed Senator Fazal Karim, Minister of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education in the new People's Partnership government, who brought greetings from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Lashley noted that Karim was on a private visit to Toronto but found time to address a new T&T citizens group, Friends of Trinidad and Tobago, and to attend the independence celebrations.

The Charge d'Affaires of the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission in Ottawa brought greetings from his staff.

He urged citizens to keep the national watchwords of discipline, production and tolerance alive stating that they remain as relevant today as when they were handed down by the country's first prime minister in 1962.


Keith Kerwood congratulated the new government of Trinidad and Tobago for its commitment to accountability and transparency and to citizen participation.

Hurricane Earl poses threat to Caribbean; LIAT cancels flights

Hurricane Earl began affecting the Northern Leeward islands in the Caribbean on Monday and the U.S. National Hurricane Center is expecting the first major storm of the hurricane season to get stronger by Monday night or early Tuesday.

Earl's winds were recorded at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), which puts it as a Category 2 hurricane.

"Hurricane conditions are now spreading into the Northern Leeward Islands and will spread westward into the Virgin Islands later today," the hurricane center said in its 5 a.m. advisory.

Hurricane warnings are in effect throughout the Caribbean, including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda and the British overseas territories of Montserrat and Anguilla.

Earl is also expected to affect Puerto Rico on Monday.

Caribbean airline LIAT canceled 41 flights to several destinations in the eastern Caribbean Monday and has shut down its reservation service because of Earl's approach.

Big bucks for Jack's ministry but he would like more

Works Minister Jack Jack toured Bamboo #1 Sunday morning and vowed to end flooding in Trinidad and Tobago before his term expires.

Warner said he wants that to be his legacy.

Warner and members of his technical team looked at the drainage systems in several communities
and concluded that "gross neglect over the last ten years" was the principal cause of the excessive flooding in the area.

“There are drains which are too small to carry the quantity of water. The drains are filled with mud and slush and stagnant water which is a breading ground for mosquitoes,” he told reporter accompanying him on the tour.

He observed that there was no proper planning and pointed out that in some cases the authorities built "pavement upon pavements", which ended up blocking water courses.

“This is ludicrous and ridiculous,” the minister said. He added that it doesn't take a lot of money to fix some of the problems.

“I pledge I would correct them. Some would be done immediately and some would be done in the coming weeks. These problems shall be resolved,” he promised.

On Saturday during the walkabout in Lopinot the minister heard about - and saw for himself - the problems that people in the community face.

These include lack of and dilapidated infrastructure, and an absence of basic services.

Read more: Forgotten by God and gov't


Warner also told reporters his ministry is getting the biggest slice of the budget pie in the fiscal measures to be announced on September 8.

Warner himself is happy for that. However he still feels he could use more money because of the enormous task that his ministry has to undertake.

During the walkabout in Lopinot Warner told reporters, “I must confess, though the Ministry of Works and Transport got the biggest part of the budget, I am not happy with the amount.

"There is so much to be done; Look at Lopinot alone, people’s homes are falling into rivers and the roads are in a poor state. The transportation sector needs help.

“It would take for me a herculean task to try and do the things I would want to do with the money that has been given to my ministry.

“But I believe with prudent management it can be done, it must be done, we have to prioritise in the nation’s best interest."

Changing of the guard: Williams takes over from Philbert as ag. CoP

James Philbert officially hands over to Deputy Commissioner Stephen Williams, who will act as Commissioner of Police until the new CoP, Canadian Dwayne Gibbs takes up his duties next month.

The Police Service Commission (PSC) asked Philbert last week to take all his outstanding leave and hand over his duties immediately to Williams. Philbert was due to retire on September 30.

Philbert, who will be 62 in December, joined the Police Service in 1964, and worked his through the ranks.

He was appointed in 2008 after the Manning administration refused to accept the recommendation to appoint Stephen Williams as Commissioner of Police although Williams was ranked as the number one candidate in the recruitment process.

On Sunday he spoke with the Trinidad Express and suggested that his stay in the police service may have been too long. And he said now that he is rewtiring he can now spend more time at home and "catch up" with his personal life.

Philbert told the paper he had neglected the needs of his family, particularly his wife, blaming it on "a passion and willingness" to serve.

The Express described him as one of the most active commissioners of police since the days of Randolph Burroughs.

It quoted one senior police officer as saying, "He was always out in the battle field with us, giving whatever support we needed. He even surprised many of us when he himself would stop and search suspects and charge traffic offenders...

"We have never really had an active commissioner as Philbert in a very long time. He was very good out in the field and we thank him for that, even though not every decision he made we were pleased with."

Philbert told the Express there is a bright future for the police service, which has a lot of hard working men and women.

"We have recorded a lot of successes," he said while admitting that the force is "still challenged with things like murders". However he said he knows police officers will work hard to deal with these problems.

Cadiz opposed to hanging, suggests a return to 'family values'

A member of the People's Partnership (PP) Government publicly stated Sunday that in his opinion hanging convicted killers would is not the proper way to fight crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

International Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz said he believes what the country needs is a way to rebuild family values and the family unit. He says when this happens it will insulate future generations from engaging in criminal activities.


Social activist Verna St Rose Greaves, who is a strong supporter of the PP, also opposes hanging and has stated that if the government goes ahead with its plan to execute murderers she will withdraw her support.

Their views are in direct contrast to those of Works Minister Jack Warner who is the most vocal advocate of bringing back executions. Warner has asked Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to take all steps to ensure the country can restart the process.

And in New York recently Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said capital punishment for murder is the law in the country and suggested that it would be upheld.

Cadiz says the country cannot "hang our way" out of the crime problem. "We cannot shoot our way out of this problem. We cannot jail our way out of this problem. The only way this problem can be solved is if we rebuild the family unit.''


His focus is on family. "Make sure your children are there with you at least once a week if they are not there already. Make sure that your neighbours are there.

"The one way to get rid of the evils of this country is for us to do it ourselves, and the only way that this can be achieved was by the families and neighbourhoods coming together for a better and safer country,'' he said.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Trinidad celebrates with fireworks: Sunday's schedule

(File photo)

Trinidad and Tobago started off its Independence celebrations Saturday with fireworks and cultural shows in different parts of the country.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar attended the show Saturday that was hosted by the Penal/Debe regional corporation.


This year the festivities have been decentralised with each of the 14 regional corporations having its own event, culminating in a grand party for all citizens on Independence Day at the Queen Park's Savannah.

The venues for cultural shows and fireworks on Sunday are:
  • Central Diego Martin Community Centre Grounds, Wendy Fitzwilliam Blvd.
  • Market Square, Rio Claro (concert); Shell Recreation Ground (Fireworks
  • Siparia Basket Ball Court, Lalla Street, Off High Street, Siparia
On Monday the concerts and fireworks continue at other venues with the grand finale in Port of Spain on Tuesday. The government has urged all citizens to participate and make it a family affair.

More TT Independence stories:
After 48 years, nothing to celebrate - the Peter O'Connor column
It's confirmed: Charch to get T&T's highest award
Feature: Kamal - a life of service

Trinidad and Tobago's consulate in Toronto is celebrating the country's independence Sunday on the grounds of the legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto.

More than $2B invested in GATE in 6 years: Karim

Trinidad and Tobago taxpayers invested more than two billion dollars over the past six years in educating students pursuing undergraduate studies and distance learning at the tertiary level.

That's the amount the Manning administration spent on GATE - the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses from October 2004 to June 2010.

The exact amount -
$2,366,250,320 - went to pay for 253,018 tertiary level students.

The largest allocation was between October 2006 and September 2007, when 56,056 students received grants amounting to $4.7 million. Between October 2009 and June 24, 2010, the tertiary education ministry allocated $5.4 million to 47,000 applicants.

Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim anticipates that the investment in GATE will increase since the new People's Partnership government has pledged to expand the education program.

Karim told the Trinidad Guardian GATE will form the "overall strategy for human development, economic diversification and competitiveness".

He said, "We are going to do this in terms of the capacity of training providers to deliver programmes that are responsive to the labour market needs and the economy."

Karim recently held a meeting with officials of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University who expressed an interest in offering students scholarships.

"We also spoke about a student exchange on both sides and a study tour for students from Trinidad and Tobago to universities in the United States," he said.

Karim also met with members of State University of New York (SUNY), which is a workforce development and technology centre, to have a hands-on view of vocational training for T&T citizens working in the industry and, as well, for full time students.

"We had discussions on how we can collaborate with SUNY, UWI, UTT and COSTAATT," he said.

Karim said officials of SUNY, Suffolk County Community College and Polytechnic Institute intend to visit Trinidad and Tobago by the end of the year for discussions on areas of cooperation and collaboration.

Philbert says he's happy with his performance even if others aren't

James Philbert told reporters on Saturday that the Police Service Commission (PSC) did not give him a reason for the sudden termination of his appointment. However he said as far as he knows the PSC doesn't have to explain its decision.

The acting Police Commissioner was sent home last week although his contract was due to expire at the end of September.

Read the story:
Philbert sent home; Williams to act as CoP

The PSC told Philbert to pack and leave immediately and called back Deputy Commissioner Stephen Williams from leave to act in Philbert's position until the new police commissioner takes office.

Philbert told local media Saturday he got a "note" from the PSC saying he should hand over to Mr Williams on Monday.

"Now, as you understand, I was acting in the post. So it meant that officially, I should have finished acting somewhere at the end of September, but that is not something that has to happen."

He said it is the PSC's prerogative "to say when I should go and they have said so...and I, as an obedient servant, I have done that."

Reporters pointed out that some police officers and the opposition have complained that it was a political move but he didn't follow their agenda.

"I do not know. No, I don't know. I don't have time to think that way. I was asked a question...and it was suggested it's just a change in administration and I don't know. But sometime, somebody should tell me, so that I could make certain adjustments.

Philbert said he was satisfied with his performance but that does not mean that other people are happy.

"It's a difficult thing to make people happy, you would know that. But I have done what I have to do and I am happy with what I have done," Philbert said.

National Security Minister John Sandy said didn't know the reason for the PSC's decision and reminded reporters that he has no control over the commission.

Feature: Kamal - a life of service

(The following tribute to Kamaluddin Mohammed is based on an interview I conducted with him in 2008 - Jai Parasram.)

It takes commitment and dedication to be up at four in the morning. And it says a lot about a man who, at 83, does it in order to follow a religious discipline he learned as a boy.

The man is Kamaluddin Mohammed.
"It’s a part of my life," he says, explaining that he wakes before dawn to say Namaz, a routine that enriches his life and prepares him to face the day. "We need faith in our lives," he told me. "Too many people are so busy they forget to make room for God. That’s why our society is in its current state of dismay."

Kamal’s obligation to duty has characterized both his public and private life. He has met kings and commoners and mingled with the world’s most powerful men and women.

At home he helped define our society and mould and shape our national institutions. Yet he remains, as always, a simple, humble man who lives in the community that nurtured him and spends much of his time these days "attending to family matters."


"When I am finished with my prayers I have time to tend to the plants and read the papers. Then I attend to chores, mostly social and religious," he said.
It’s interesting that that’s his focus today.

It’s as if he has come full circle because it was Kamal’s religious and social activities that propelled him to prominence and made him a household name in Trinidad and Tobago. His success, he says, is due to hard work, and a passion and dedication to every project he tackles.


He made history in 1947 when, at age 20, he became the colony’s first ethnic broadcaster. Less than a decade later he was sitting in the cabinet, an equal among the most influential leaders of the time.

Today in retirement he maintains the same enthusiasm that I felt the very first time I met him many years ago when I was a young reporter and he was the Minister of Health.


To my great surprise he introduced himself to me, not that he needed an introduction, and invited me to drop in at his office "at any time". It was a brilliant public relations stroke for a senior government minister who understood the value of good media relations better than most of his colleagues, including his friend and political mentor, the late Dr Eric Williams.

It was that understanding of communication that took Kamal from obscurity to the national and international stage. He understood his environment, blended in and always had time to listen to what people were saying. It earned him respect and admiration and opened doors that would otherwise have remained shut.


Kamal was born on April 19, 1927 at El Socorro not far from where he lives today in Mohammedville, surrounded by the Mohammed clan, the fifth of a family of 13 that included well-known cultural icons in their own right, Sham and Moen, who are both deceased.

Their parents, Fazal Mohammed and Khajiman Kartoum, were the children of Indian indentured labourers.
From his childhood, Kamal was surrounded by religion and culture, which he credits for the sound family values, discipline and respect for authority that he has passed on to his children and his extended family.

At an early age he became versed in Islamic teachings and was fluent in Arabic, Hindi, Farsi and Urdu. By 1947, at age 20, he became Imam at the Mosque at Queen Street, Port of Spain after impressing skeptics with his brilliance as a theologian.

A tribute to Kamal in 1974 by the late Noor Ghany described him as a champion of the cause of unity among the Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago. "His is the life of a man who cannot and does not allow parochialism and insularity to dominate his thinking," wrote Ghany.

Those who know Kamal would consider that an understatement. He devoted his entire life not only to uniting Muslims, but to embracing culture to build bridges between Hindus and Muslims at a time when religious strife was tearing the Indian subcontinent apart in the post-Independence period that saw the creation of Pakistan and India as two separate sovereign states.

Kamal remembers being involved in satsang in the community and also joining his Hindu brothers, encouraging them to follow Dharma, and to let their own scriptures guide their lives and enrich the community.

His passion for unity sometimes brought him into conflict with extremists in his own faith.
He remembers one incident in 1975 when he spoke at a Ramayan Yagna in his neighbourhood. He focused on the importance of worship, praised the Hindu community for its devotion and sang a bhajan with the congregation.

He told them to make room in their lives for prayer, doing it with "purity of heart and sincerity of purpose." He spoke of the need to "surrender ourselves to the Divine will, and dedicate our day, our lives, our actions, in fact everything we do, as an offering to God."


His speech offended the publishers of the Muslim Standard. The paper chastised him for identifying himself with "Hindu aspirations" and questioned whether he was fit to continue to occupy positions of "trust and authority in the Muslim community."

The general Muslim population did not share that view and Kamal remained a leader and influential figure in the community. But the incident bothered him because it demonstrated the kind of destructive extremism that had always rejected.


Instead of responding he became more determined to follow his progressive nation-building agenda, showing respect for the country’s diversity and delivering a strong message of unity and harmony among all religions and ethnic groups.


Kamal had been an experienced county councilor in 1947 when he got his first big break in the cultural field with the opening of Radio Trinidad.

The Muslim representative at the blessing asked Kamal to translate the Arabic and Urdu blessings to English, a performance that so impressed the station’s managers that they invited him to produce and present a show for the Indo-Trinidadian community.

That was the birth of "Indian talent on Parade", the radio show that was the first giant step in national recognition for Indian broadcasting in Trinidad and Tobago.


In 1947, Indians were still a minority in colonial Trinidad and Tobago, with a culture that was generally unknown and misunderstood. Indians were often the objects of derision because of their language, religion and culture.

"Indian talent on Parade" became the nation’s first mass media vehicle for the Indians. And Kamal used it to begin creating an understanding and appreciation of the Indian community, its art and culture, as well as its religions.


For the Indians, it was a major step forward, giving them self-confidence and the respectability they deserved. Kamal’s signature "Muday lakh burah cha-hay to kya hota hai, wohi hotay hai jo manzooray Khoda hota hai" (Thousands may wish me harm, but nothing happens unless it is the will of the almighty) still resounds in Trinidad and Tobago after sixty-one years.

The impact in 1947 was astounding as he began what was in effect an experiment in ethnic broadcasting. "There were no rules. We just had to improvise as we went along," he said.

Kamal’s ingenuity and innovation created a path where none existed. In the process he paved the way for the revolution in Indian media that has taken place today, starting with the first all-Indian radio station, WABC-FM103 in 1993.


He was the driving force behind the formation of Indian orchestras, traveling the country to introduce them at major events, rehearsing with them and hiring taxis to cart them to Maraval Road where they performed live in the studios of Radio Trinidad for the fortunate few who owned radios.


In those days, entire families would cluster around the community radio to hear Kamal’s familiar voice and the mix of culture he offered every week.

The first band to perform on Kamal’s "Indian Talent On Parade" was the Naya Zamana Orchestra led by Ostad Nazear Mohammed. The show featured Jhagroo Kawal, Taran Persad and Jang Bahadoor.

Over the years Kamal gave exposure to artistes like Yankaran and his sons, Jameer Hosein, Zora Seesahai, Haniff Mohammed, Yusuff Khan, Narsaloo Ramaya, Champa Devi, Toolom Dindial, Harry Mahabir and many, many more. And he embraced anyone who identified with and cared about Indian culture, most notably black artistes like Owen Ali, Sonny Matthews, Roy Cooper and Cecil Fonrose.


Kamal’s work, which he says was inspired by the great Indian film director Mehboob Khan, spread into the communities, creating a new kind of national consciousness. In the cultural renaissance of which he was an integral part, India offered scholarships to artistes like Rajkumar ‘Krishna’ Persad, Harry Mahabir, Mungal Patasar and others who become proficient in song, music and dance in India.

Kamal’s Dil Bahar restaurant in Port of Spain – and Windsor Stores later - became a cultural mecca.

It was also the place where Eric Williams came to visit to discuss a movement that was to transform the politics of Trinidad and Tobago and thrust the young Kamal into a life of national service.


Kamal remembers his first public speech in Penal on a PNM political platform. It was a highly charged political time, with strong ethnic divisions. He walked up to the microphone and surveyed his audience.

Penal was part of the Indian heartland. Then he spoke. "Muday lakh burah chahay to kya hota hai…". Instant rapturous applause broke out and drowned his poetry as the audience identified immediately with the man who had brought them "Indian Talent on Parade."

The cultural icon, the voice behind the revolution in Indian culture was real.
His language skills, the ability to speak the ancestral languages and switch back to English without missing a beat won him admiration and gave him clout.

He became one of Eric Williams’ most trusted political lieutenants. Kamal held a variety of cabinet posts, attended major conferences as head of the nation’s delegations, and had the honour to be elected president of the World Health Organization.

He acted as prime minister, but was denied the nation’s highest elected office in 1981 when President Ellis Clarke bypassed him and chose George Chambers as the successor to Eric Williams.


Kamal’s politics didn’t hurt his cultural life. In fact he used every opportunity to advance Indian religion and culture. One example was getting cabinet to simplify the cremation process for Hindus.

In his travels abroad he also wore his cultural hat. One of his more memorable trips was to India as part of a government delegation. His grandfather had come to Trinidad from the Punjab as an indentured labourer. Now Kamal was returning to the homeland in the exalted position of a cabinet minister.


He met Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and spent two days with the Nehru family at their home, where he had an opportunity to chat with Nehru’s daughter, Indira, who was to later become India’s first female prime minister.

That relationship worked well in developing strong links between Trinidad and Tobago and India.
Kamal told me he was thrilled to meet the larger-than-life Nehru, who with Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party had engaged the British in a non-violent struggle for Indian Independence.

But he was humbled at the Punjab legislature where 109 lawmakers gave him a standing ovation and offered him garlands, as a gesture of welcome.

"I had to pause ten times to remove the garlands to allow the others to present theirs. Every member offered a garland," he remembers.


Today in retirement, Kamal has time to reflect on his life in the nation’s service and in culture. He is proud that the work he started more than 60 years ago has borne fruit, happy that his siblings, his children and nephews and nieces have followed the family tradition and become Indian cultural media icons in their own right.


He is also disappointed with many things. He says he remained dedicated to the party he founded with Williams and a few others until it lost it’s way under the new Manning leadership. But he was not interested in talking politics, except to say that we seem to be "in a downward spiral."

He was more vocal on cultural issues. He strongly disapproves of some of what passes as Indian culture today. He said, "It’s scandalous and shameful to see our sisters and daughters performing lewd dances in the presence of their elders and calling it culture."

He laments our disdain for learning ancestral languages and for not following the religious traditions our ancestors fought so hard to preserve.

"Look at what is happening now with events where people are encouraged to sing religious songs in English," he said.
For Kamal, culture begins to die when people lose their indigenous languages and religions. "These are the things that define culture," he said.

Kamal accepts that in a plural society some assimilation takes place and cultural patterns change, but he is deeply bothered by the accelerated decline in Indian culture.


I asked him whether the proliferation of Indian radio stations helped make the situation worse. "Yes," he told me. "I’m saddened by the trend in Indian broadcasting. We had a golden opportunity, but we have squandered it, thinking only of profit."


Still Kamal is not giving up. He encourages people to dedicate some of their time to community service and he has valuable advice for those who wish to serve: do it for its own sake, not for fame or fortune.


He admitted politics today is no longer attractive, but says people can offer service in other ways. "Get involved in community and citizens groups, go among the people, work with them to make their lives better."

And he urged everyone to make a little time for their languages and the scriptures.


And his final thoughts? "Live with humility, and the world will respect you," he said.


Narsaloo Ramaya’s tribute epitomizes Kamal’s impact in the field of culture:

"Generations unborn will still remember his work…men will say with justifiable pride, ‘well done, thou good and faithful servant’."

_________________
Tributes to Kamal:
  • Hans Hanoomansingh: "His was no doubt a pioneering role in definite terms…he had the background for it spoke fluently, and knew the ancestral languages. He was very familiar with the traditions and had a love for music.”
  • Hamilton Maurice, former President of the Senate: "The community owes a great debt to Kamaluddin Mohammed for the contrib
  • ution he has made in getting non-Indians to understand and appreciate Indian art and culture, and how wonderfully music and song can unite a people."
  • Narsaloo Ramaya: "Kamal has built an imperishable monument for himself, and his name will long be remembered as one who dedicated his life toward the promotion of Indian music.”
  • Dr Wahid Ali, former President of the Senate: "His lifetime of service is derived from a rich family background…Kamal’s chequered career has many important lessons, not only for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, but universally.”
  • Errol Mahabir, former cabinet colleague: "Kamaluddin Mohammed has always led a simple life and humility has been one of his attributes. He served his country faithfully and with a great sense of dedication and has left a lasting impression both in the Caribbean region and beyond.”
  • Dr Elizabeth and Dr David Quamina: "His obvious enthusiasm for public service did not detract from his devotion to wife and family. He was always at the helm of the family and always keenly interested, indeed involved, in the smallest details of their daily lives.”
  • Satnarine Maharaj, Secretary General of the Maha Sabha: “We all owe Kamal for his unstinting dedication to racial harmony…Kamal is a role model for our youth.

After 48 years, nothing to celebrate - the Peter O'Connor column

On Tuesday Trinidad & Tobago commemorates our 48th anniversary of Independence from Great Britain.

I cannot say that we are “celebrating” Independence, because in my view we really have nothing to celebrate.

In almost every respect, we have, under our own governance, seen things become worse over the past 48 years. Our behaviour, our institutions, and our environment have all deteriorated during the time we have been “Independent”.

And this has not been for a lack of money.

It hurts me deeply to be forced to acknowledge this, even as we wait for the parade and the fireworks on Tuesday.

But the time has come to acknowledge that we are sick, and that we need to be cured, and where we cannot cure ourselves, we must bring in foreign “doctors” to do the job.

We have fooled ourselves for long enough, living in denial and never planning beyond the next fete, and this must stop now.

I know that there is a lot of what we do here which is still good, and praise worthy. But these are just glowing embers in the darkness we have allowed to envelop us. We need to keep fanning those embers to eventually re-light the fires of our Independence.

But that alone will not help. Much more is needed in all of the basics of a supposedly modern society.

Forty eight years ago we were given the motto: “Together we Aspire, Together we Achieve”. Inspiring words, you may believe!

But our national aspirations have been hijacked to match the lowest common denominator of our individual aspirations.

Vainglorious projects like the Waterfront, NAPA, Tarouba, the Prime Minister’s residence and grand showcase summits shine like tinsel while the people live without water amidst flooding, atrocious health care, and assailed by crime that spreads like cancer.

At every level of our society a more appropriate motto would be “Together we Desire, Together we Receive”!

We have surrendered every vestige of personal independence and initiative, and everyone believes that the government must do everything for us—even as we acknowledge the incompetence of our governments.

We have cloaked ourselves in victimhood and excuses for the failures we have become. We have absolutely no understanding of Patriotism, and we expect the new government to fix everything except the scams in which we are personally involved.

The incompetence in all of our government institutions have become covers for the corruption in these institutions.

Licensing Office, Passport Office, the judicial system, repairs to roads, bridges and drains, government vehicles, government buildings, medical equipment in our hospitals, and on and on!

Every thing, every system is rotted, rusted or broken. And we all know all these things to be true. We all break every law that we come across. We block roads and intersections with our cars and parked-up container trailers.

We drive on the highway shoulders, and force our way back into line when the shoulder ends, and woe betide any who law abiding citizen who complains.

We “boom out” loud music through our neighbourhoods—even “churches” do it! We do all this simply because we can. There is no one in authority who will stop us.

And then we wonder about the violent crime?

That is simply the next step. The new government is already being blamed for everything which they found when they took office.

They are being blamed for the failings of the PNM and of all of us who allowed the PNM to continue on its corrupt and incompetent way.

They are being called to account by persons who sat and suffered the PNM years without comment or complaint. I cannot help but conclude that this is all part of a well-orchestrated attack to discredit them before they get rolling.

How are we to face this cancer of disinterest, disloyalty, dishonesty and the constant demands for “me”?

When the new government came into power, I was one of many who felt that many of the new Ministers were coming on too strong in their criticisms—not necessarily of the PNM, but of their “charges” and others.

Doctors and health workers were publicly criticized by the Minister of Health, the AG publicly berated the Commissioner of Police, Jack Warner spared no one in his criticisms of wrongs he was unearthing, and Anil Roberts took on the United States Embassy.

And they even criticize each other! All conventional protocols were being ignored.

Well, I have changed my outlook.

Maybe these protocols have kept us bound too long. Maybe our new government needs to publicly rebuke the slack, the incompetent and the corrupt among us.

My wish for this Independence anniversary is that we move from acknowledgement of our failings into the stage of correcting them.

Letter: Rowley must be responsible on pension issue

Having read the report on Dr Rowley’s comments, dated August 27, I must admit that the People’s Partnership did create a mess for themselves with regard to the pension issue.

Read the story:
Rowley says People's partnership lying to the people
Also read:
What the manifesto said: Life begins at 60

Having said that and I make no bones about this, Dr Rowley should know better than to play politics, like Mr Hinds, on this issue.

Dr Rowley as a responsible Opposition leader how could you demand that the pension age be reduced to 60 years when you yourself alluded in the same article that the government finances at the time of the mishap were and still are very discouraging.

All over the world countries are raising their pension ages because of the stress on the public purse, you know that very well.

By all means make mas, call the Peolple’s Partnership foolish and uninformed. Call them naive and impatient, that is okay. They made their bed and they must sleep in it.

The population, if it is important to them, will tell them with their voting fingers. They will learn in due course whether this is a painful error in making such mistakes.

Please, however, do not call for the reduction of the pension age with the increased allotments knowing full well it can have a very detrimental hit on the coffers of the public purse for all citizens.

That to me is even more disingenuous than the original mistake.

Knowing that something is not good to do but goading someone to do it, in so doing potentially harming the greater number, in the name of making someone look bad, is downright selfish and irresponsible.

Dr Rowley needs to stop blowing fire and brimstone. As my father always tells me “brawn is not the answer to all problems, use your brain too.”

Scott Rodriguez

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Philbert sent home; Williams to act as CoP

The Police Service Commission (PSC) on Friday terminated the contract of acting Commissioner of Police (CoP) James Philbert and requested Deputy Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams to abort his leave and act as commissioner. Williams takes up duties on Monday.

The PSC has not given a formal explanation for the sudden decision to send Philbert home.

"We haven't made any press release or media release on the matter, and I'm not prepared to say anything further on that. Next week, perhaps, we could be able to give some insight into what is taking place," Nizam Mohammed told the Trinidad Express.

Philbert has been in the position since the retirement of Trevor Paul in July 2008. Williams had been chosen as the number one candidate for the job but the Manning admistration rejected him saying he didn't have certain essential skills.

The PSC subsequently appointed Philbert, who was granted extensions three times. His contract was due to expire on September 30, 2010.

Williams, who is the most senior of the three Deputy Commissioners, will act as CoP until Canadian Dwayne Gibbs takes up the job.

Williams told local media he will meet with the executive of the Police Service to discuss the crime situation and plans to deal with the problem.

The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Social and Welfare Association welcomed Philbert's departure. Association President Sgt Anand Ramesar called it "a huge victory" for the police service and his membership.

"This is a victory for the association in its fight for better management for its membership when it comes to the issues of promotion and management that brings job satisfaction and internal treatment for its membership," Ramesar told the Express.

"From the onset, we have had concerns about the administration being implemented by Mr Philbert, and we have voiced our concerns at all levels, which include the Ministerial and Prime Ministerial level and at the Police Service Commission. It appears that our concerns have been responded to and our complaints have been addressed," he said.


T&T inflation up to 14.1 per cent

The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago on Friday cut its overnight rate by 50 basis points as it announced that the country's inflation rate has climbed to 14.1 per cent.

The most significant contributor to the inflation was the cost of fresh produce. The heavy rains and floods have destroyed crops pushing up the cost of vehetables by 63 per cent.

Here are some examples of rise in food prices:
  • Fruits - 38.0 per cent
  • Vegetables 63.1 per cent
  • Meat 4.1 per cent
  • Milk, cheese and eggs 2.3 per cent
  • Sugar and confectionery products 8.3 per cent

AG to set up committee to look into hangings in T&T

Jack Warner's crusade to reintroduce the death penalty for murder in Trinidad and Tobago is moving forward with the formation of a special committee to look into the matter.

The Works minister told reporters Friday Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has agreed to set up the committee.

Ramlogan himself is on record as saying that he favours the reintroduction of executions for convicted murderers. And one week ago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told a Caribbean radio program
hanging is the law of the land and it will be enforced to deal with crime.

Warner insists that the death penalty will be a deterrent to murder. He is standing firm and is now worried about offending some people.

"Who vex vex," he told reporters adding that the recent attacks against members of the security forces, including the recent murders of prison officer Marvin Diaz and police constable Jason Thomas reinforce the need for hangings to resume.

"Until you do that people will not stop this foolishness. Everything has been tried. All those guys who want to pamper these criminals I say pamper them. But I say again the time will come, God forbid...when they will feel the pain and they will understand the pain that others have felt," Warner said.

Anthony Briggs was the last person executed for murder in the country. He was hanged in July 1999, one month after the Dole Chadee and eight members of his gang were put to death for the murder of four members of one family.

Keeping check: 337 murders in T&T

Four murders have pushed to 337 the number of murders in Trinidad and Tobago for the year.

The latest victims:
  • Daryl Edwards, 23, of Mercer Road in Diego Martin. Shot on the Diego Martin Main Road
  • Retired Ministry of Works employee Melvin Goodridge. Chopped at his home at Indian Walk, Moruga
  • Edison Bruno, 31, of Collie Street, Fyzabad
  • The homeless man, known only as Jacket. Found dead on the premises of a church on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain

Warner invites PNM MP as he commissions elevator at walkover

Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner on Friday commissioned an elevator for the physically challenged at Phase 2 Powder Magazine, on the Diego Martin Highway.

He noted that although the Manning government completed the walkover since December 2007 they didn't see it fit to assist the country’s disabled people by installing an elevator.

He invited Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne to the ceremony to commission the lift noting that Browne supported a government that spent millions of dollars to build skyscrapers and hold summits, but could not spare a few dollars to install the elevator, which is in Browne's own constituency.

The elevator, which cost $1.2 million, is the first of its kind ion the country. Warner noted that the price tag included
installation, labour and the equipment.

He noted that the tide has turne.“What we have to do now is take care of our people,” as he to
install similar elevators on all other flyovers.

"We must make it easy for differently abled people. For us to be a first world country, we have to be first world in how we treat our differently abled citizens,” he said.

"Our major role as ministers is to improve the life of people,” he said.

Rowley urges TT gov't to embrace CCJ

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley wants the new People's partnership to remove the Privy Council as Trinidad and Tobago's final court of appeal and replace it with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The headquarters of the CCJ is in Port of Spain. The Panday UNC administration set up the court but Panday did not support the Manning government's move to make the CCJ the final court.

In an independence day message Rowley urged the Kamla administration to make the move away from the London-based court.

Rowley said it would be a symbolic shift to true independence beyond just political independence. He said independence should also mean that Caribbean nationals must be responsible for interpreting the laws of the land and arbitrating on issues impartially.

Rowley said the continued denial of the legitimacy of the CCJ amounts to "an unwarranted slur" on jurists.

The PNM leader said recognition of the regional court of appeal is important for his party. "This an issue of principle, not opportunism,” he said.

Only four Caribbean states have accepted the CCJ, which was inaugurated in 2005, as their final courts - Guyana, Belize, Barbados and St Lucia.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has said the people must decide on the issue through a national referendum.

Despite Rowley's concerns, some people believe that now is not the time to replace the Privy Council.

One commentator in the Trinidad Guardian said:

"Given the number of defective decisions that the Privy Council has had to reverse, I am not surprised that most people still want to retain the PC as the final appelate court.


"It is rather ironical for Rowley to make this call seeing that the PNM spent so much taxpayers money hiring high-priced English QCs to continue to deprive citizens justice when the local courts ruled against the Government, especially in matters involving discrimination whether it be in the work-place or in the award of radio licences.

"I would like to see the CCJ become the highest court of the land, but first there must be confidence in its ability to deliver judgement uninfluenced by any form of affiliation.

"Maybe for the immediate future it can be used as an intermediate court of appeal until the people can have confidence in their decisions."

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