Month: July 2018

Where are they now?

Today, we remember one of the most corrupt and abusive Governments in our nation’s history. A Government which resulted in massive financial hardship on the citizens, as well as the reversal of a nation’s fortunes.

While in power, here are just a few of the individuals that should be remembered for corrupt practices, mismanaged billions, squandering, ill-conceived contracts, ineptitude, nepotism and unfinanced budget deficits.

Where are these individuals now?

Anand Ramlogan

Has been criminally charged for witness tampering but continues to be the UNC’s frontline attorney.

Roodal Moonilal

His name is on 7 search warrants for EMBD corruption and is named on civil lawsuits, that are trying to recover billions from contractors.

He remains Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s underboss in the UNC today.

Read Story on The EMBD Lawsuit

Glenn Ramadharsingh

Fired for sexual misconduct of the most vile and humiliating kind.

Returning him to a position of power, Persad-Bissessar appointed him in December 2016 as the Chairman of the Siparia Regional Corporation.

Anil Roberts

Protected by the UNC for his room 201 scandal and is responsible for what has been reported by the then Minister of National Security, Gary Griffith, as the single greatest engine of criminal financing in the history of the country- Lifesport.

Lifesport has been tied to the murders of Tall Man and Dana Seetahal.

He was brought back by Persad-Bissessar as a speaker to her public platform in October 2016, and said she would return him to the Senate.

Gerald Ramdeen

He was made a Senator in opposition, and is under investigation for the Prisongate scandal, as well as a separate matter involving a box of high court records found in his offices.

Jearlean John

Alleged in court documents to have engineered and facilitated the Eden Gardens $175 million land deal.

John is also Deputy Political Leader of the UNC.

The UNC Government was a kleptocracy run by a cabal that has only grown tighter in opposition.

On behalf of the people of T&T, the State has been tirelessly working to recover the corrupt proceeds of these contracts through the courts.

IMF – Economy expected to return to positive growth in 2018

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting that the Trinidad and Tobago economy is expected to return to “positive growth” in 2018 as the recovery continues to take hold in the non-energy sector.

In a statement following its latest Article IV Mission last Friday, the IMF recommended that the Government enact policies to focus on “completing the fiscal adjustment, while insulating the economy from future commodity price swings within a medium-term fiscal policy framework.”

It was also recommended that mechanisms be put in place to create an enabling environment for the non-energy sector as an engine of growth.

In an in-depth statement, the IMF noted the economy is “slowly recovering from a prolonged recession driven by energy supply shocks and low energy prices.”

“With signs of improvement driven by energy sector growth from the second half of 2017, the economy is expected to return to positive growth in 2018 as the recovery takes hold in the non-energy sector.”

The fund said real GDP contracted at a slower pace of 2.6 per cent in 2017, following the 6.1 per cent drop in 2016 driven by energy sector shocks. Added to that, the strong recovery in gas production in 2017 had “knock-on effects” on the downstream industry while oil production remained “largely flat, at a historically low level.”

The Fund also stated that headline inflation also fell to historic lows of 1.9 per cent last year, then dropped a further 1.1 per cent year on year in April.

They also noted that while unemployment remained at relatively low levels, the unemployment rate rose to 5.3 per cent in the second d quarter of 2017 while youth unemployment stood at an estimated 12 per cent in 2017, compared with 7.9 per cent in 2014.

And regarding the fiscal deficit, this had improved as the deficit was slightly lower than the previous seven year period.

The IMF said that it is the expectation that economic prospects improve over the medium term as energy projects come on-stream and the recovery takes hold in the non-energy sector.

“Near-term growth will likely be led by natural gas production with continued challenges in the oil sector. Gradual recovery in non-energy growth would help stabilize growth at 1.5 per cent over the medium term. The fiscal deficit is expected to narrow to an average four per cent of GDP as energy revenues rise, non-energy revenues recover, and spending falls with improved efficiency of transfers and subsidies.”

Whilst on the revenue side, the IMF stated the completion of the energy taxation and tax administration reforms remain a priority together with “ongoing reforms to enhance the fiscal regime for oil and gas to reduce tax leakages, while providing attractive terms for investment.” The IMF said the Revenue Authority would enhance revenue collection and address weaknesses in tax administration and called for a “speedy approval of RA legislation by Parliament, implementation of Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool recommendations, and acceleration of VAT refund payments owed to taxpayers.”

“Higher taxes on tobacco or sugary drinks could be considered as a contingency measure, as well as a gradual increase in the VAT rate toward the regional average (15 percent).”

The IMF noted that containing of current spending should remain a priority as transfers to public utilities “continue to represent a significant fiscal drain” and that the raising utility rates should be guided by the Regulated Industries Commission.

Lastly, the IMF said reform of the National Insurance System (NIS) was required as contributions income are no longer sufficient to meet benefits payments. The raising of the retirement age from 60 to 65, starting in 2025 was also suggested as a method of keeping the system “sustainable and reduce contingent liabilities to the government.”

PRESS RELEASE- T&T maintains tier two ranking in its response to human trafficking

The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago continues to demonstrate increasing efforts in the fight against human trafficking.

According to the United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TiPs) Report 2018, Trinidad and Tobago maintains its Tier 2 ranking.

The annual report acknowledged the strides made through measures taken by Government, including:

• Expanding authorities to collect intelligence on trafficking crimes.

• Creating new task forces on intelligence gathering and prosecution to increase law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases.

• Government’s collaboration with INTERPOL on investigations of four potential trafficking cases.

• Increased anti-trafficking training for public officials.

The Ministry of National Security notes the recommendations made in the report specific to Trinidad and Tobago with regard to expanding victim services, victim identification and victim screening.

It should be underscored that significant work has already been undertaken by the Ministry’s Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) which continues to give priority to educating persons on the crime of Trafficking in Persons. Sensitization workshops have been conducted for students of primary and secondary schools, school safety officers, school supervisors, officials employed in the hospitality and tourism industry and law enforcement officers.

The CTU in collaboration with other Government departments and Non-Governmental Organisations continue efforts in increasing public awareness on human trafficking, the provision of victim support and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Members of the public who have information on suspected human trafficking activity should contact the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) toll-free hotline at 800-4288 (4CTU).

“We need a revolution in media and we need to start reporting the positive” – Young

Following the first meeting of the Lisa Agard led board- in the last week of July, Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) will be known as TTT Ltd, with a new logo which staff is expected to see from today.

Speaking with employees of the three radio stations and one tv station that comprise CNMG on Tuesday, Communications Minister Stuart Young assured that no jobs will be lost in the rebranding.

Young expressed that his focus is different from the former Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie’s plan to wind up CNMG and launch a new and improved TTT.

Young said the name TTT will be used but is not an acronym for Trinidad and Tobago Television, as was the case with the original TTT.

The reason is that CNMG also comprises three radio stations and the media landscape is changing so TTT will not be limited to television.

Last August, under Cuffie, a decision was made to shut down CNMG and re-emerge as TTT, with staff being retrenched and having to reapply for their positions. Cuffie stated that the reason for the closing of CNMG was low revenue and high expenses.

After close to a year of staff feeling uneasy, Young announced last week that the rebranding will not cause job losses.

He told the staff that he has a point to prove to Cabinet to take CNMG particularly CTV, to the top spot.

“We are not going to be a propaganda station. I don’t follow in anything in life, I lead. We need a revolution in media and we need to start reporting the positive because we are weighed down with negativity and the media has the power to change the narrative,” Young told the staff.

Young said while at the time no job was being affected the board will be looking at the viability of each entity as TTT Ltd will not be “carrying around dead weight”. He added that after the board meets that day both managerial and other staff will be looked at and anyone who is deemed to be “clogging” the way for profitability will be removed.

Ferry problems were resolved – Imbert

Yesterday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert gave the assurance that the problems the Galleons Passage encountered during a sea trial in 2017 have been resolved and the vessel was given the highest seaworthiness score by one of the world’s leading and respected classification societies — Lloyd’s Register.

He clarified information on the seven documents he circulated in Parliament last Friday relating to the purchase of the vessel. The minister said a number of newspaper articles made reference to the perceived issues regarding the vessel’s condition but did not publish information contained in Lloyd’s Register pre-purchase condition survey, one of the documents laid in House.

On Monday, Opposition Senator Wade Mark said having perused the documents Imbert supplied to the Parliament, they lacked detailed information and that he could only conclude that it was “a con job of massive proportions” executed on the population by the PNM Government.

Mark also stated that Imbert had submitted only five of 59 pages in the valuation report.

However, Imbert defended that Mark was inaccurate and said he provided the entire valuation report by Schulte Marine Concept, stating that the “footer at the bottom of each page makes it clear it’s four pages long.”

He said under each page, it was clearly marked 1 of 4, 2 of 4, 3 of 4 and 4 of 4.

To avoid traces of doubt, Imbert said when a passenger vessel is being purchased a condition survey report is usually obtained from a classification society that validates and reports the construction of a vessel in accordance with relevant standards.

Having surveyed and classified thousands of vessels for decades, Imbert said Lloyd’s Register did a determination and confirmation of the Galleons Passage seaworthiness.

Imbert cited page 8 of Lloyd’s Register pre-purchase condition of the vessel which had been circulated to all Members of the House last week and stated that “problem with engine vibration and shafting and stern bearing found during the sea trial were solved… Shaft seal temperatures were measured and found satisfactory.”

In responding to Mark’s claims that the vessel was not seaworthy, Imbert said Lloyd’s Register which is the final arbiter on the condition of a passenger vessel gave the Galleons Passage a category one status.

“That is the highest category for all items surveyed. The highest possible score given by Lloyd’s Register.”

Lloyd’s Register examined the hull, deck, superstructure, engines, mechanical, electrical, lifesaving and safety equipment, piping systems, gears, controls and generators of the vessel. The vessel is currently in Cuba where a canopy is being installed on the vehicle deck.

It is expected to travel to T&T by July 10.

One-cent coins can be redeemed at Central Bank

On Tuesday, Trinidad and Tobago’s one-cent coins were officially discontinued as legal tender.

The public was given until Monday to redeem their one-cent coins at any commercial bank.

However, for those still in possession of the coins, the Central Bank announced that they can be redeemed “indefinitely” at the Central Bank, Eric Williams Financial Complex, Independence Square, Port of Spain.

The opening hours for the Central Bank’s tellers are 8 am to 2 pm, Monday to Thursday and 8 am to 3 pm on Fridays.

For more information, you can contact the Central Bank via email at info@central-bank.org.tt or call 621-2288, extension 2723 or 2023.

A full explanation of the Central Bank’s rounding rules can be found here: https://www.central-bank.org.tt/sites/default/files/page-file-uploads/Rounding%20Guidelines%20July%202017.pdf

Press Release- New TTT to be launched by end of July

“I am convinced that we can become number one in Trinidad and Tobago…it is incumbent on each and every one of you who are now part of the process to take up your specific responsibility and mantle, I expect that from you.”

That was the challenge Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs and Minister of Communications, the Honourable Stuart Young, M.P., gave to employees at Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) whom he met with earlier today to share his vision for the soon to be rebranded company. This was the first time that all staff were invited to a meeting with the Minister of Communications and allowed to ask open questions.

Minister Young wanted the employees to hear from him first, about the company’s direction and the future plans for the company.

The newly installed board has been mandated to launch the new TTT by the end of July. Employees will by the end of this week be given a sneak preview of what the new company logo looks like.

“Obviously we need to be viable. This idea that Government has an open-ended cheque book, if that happened before, fine; [but] it doesn’t exist now.”

Minister Young again allayed fears that the company would be shut down and instead explained that it will be a rebranding process which includes a name change from CNMG Limited to TTT Ltd.

He urged the employees to be committed to their jobs and ensure they go the extra mile for the company. He said the idea is to work towards the new TTT turning a profit.

“We would like to reach a stage where we are able to generate enough advertising revenue to reduce the Government’s subventions.”

Minister Young told the staff that TTT has a lot of history and the rebranding exercise has given them an opportunity to be part of a new chapter in that history.

“We must now lead a revolution in media…the media has the power to change negative narratives. At the end of the day, we, the citizens in Trinidad and Tobago look to the media for news so the challenge is, and I think one of the ways we can turn this around is, by showing the positives.”

Chairman of the board, Lisa Agard told the employees there is an exciting future before them but the challenge they face entails sustaining traditional media while growing digital media.  She said CNMG’s success will depend on the company’s ability to embrace technological advances and their understanding of how citizens consume their content.

 

Press Release- AG responds to the President of the Law Association

THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
ATTORNEY GENERAL & MINISTER OF LEGAL AFFAIRS
THE HONOURABLE FARIS AL-RAWI, LL.B, LL.M.

July 3rd 2018

Mr. Douglas Mendes S.C.
President of the Law Association

2nd Floor
95-97 Frederick Street

Port-of-Spain

Dear Mr. Mendes S.C.

RE: (i) The Criminal Division and District Criminal and Traffic Court Bill

(ii) The Payments into Court Bill 2018
(iii) The Miscellaneous Provisions (Supreme Court of Judicature and Children) Bill
I refer to the matters at caption and acknowledge receipt of your two (2) separate letters to me both dated
June 29th 2018, which I first received from several members of the media whilst I sat during a sitting of the
House of Representatives on the 29th ultimo. I later on the 29th ultimo received from the Treasurer of the
Association, Ms. Theresa Hadad, her email to me of the same date enclosing copies of your said letters to me.

Regrettably and as you are aware, I was not able to respond the very day of receipt of your said letters as the
sitting of the House and Committee of the Whole continued late into the night on the 29th ultimo on the very
contentious and burning issue of the Opposition’s violent about face in support of the unanimous report of
the Joint Select Committee established to consider the Anti Terrorism Bill 2018. This Bill is of national and
international importance as the 190 countries comprising the Financial Acton Task Force will apply enhanced
due diligence, colloquially referred to as ‘blacklisting’ against Trinidad and Tobago if it does not receive
critical amendments contained in the Bill into law immediately. I note with deep concern that the Law
Association is entirely silent on this critical matter, which affects the bedrock of the financial system of the
country.

As per our several conversations over the weekend and ending yesterday I confirm that the Government is
pleased to facilitate the Law Association’s belated request to provide written submissions on the captioned
Bills by July 6th 2018. Accordingly at a sitting of the Senate yesterday July 2nd 2018 the debate on the thirdly
captioned Bill was adjourned to a date to be fixed in September 2018 prior to the end of the 3rd Session of the
11th Parliament. A fortiori, the debate on the secondly captioned Bill will also be taken in September 2018. It
is to be noted that yesterday’s sitting of the Senate was scheduled prior to the Association’s letters to me of
the 29th ultimo.

I note that your said letters to me of the 29th ultimo are very general in nature and are obviously written as a
first blush response by the Law Association to matters which it now wishes to consider and also in fact
reconsider. Whilst we are pleased to have the benefit of the Association’s fulminations it is incumbent upon
me to answer some of the very sharp criticisms levelled by you.

July 3rd 2018
Letter to Mr. Douglas Mendes S.C.
President of the Law Association
RE: (i) The Criminal Division and District Criminal and Traffic Court Bill
(ii) The Payments into Court Bill 2018
(iii) The Miscellaneous Provisions (Supreme Court of Judicature and Children) Bill
Page 2 of 3
I am particularly concerned by the Association’s comments in respect of the Criminal Division and District
Criminal and Traffic Court Bill (the ‘Criminal Division Bill’) which give in my respectful view, the entirely
wrong impression that the Law Association was some how caught off guard in the structuring of this division
and the unique features of inter alia the blending of jurisdictions of the Magisterial Courts and the Assizes and
the use of Criminal Masters. My consternation is deeply rooted in the fact that the structure and features of
the Criminal Division are replicated from the Family and Children Division Act, which established the
Children Court with the very same structures and features of the Criminal Division Bill and which Act of
Parliament has stood as part of the lex corpus since July 5th 2016.
It is a matter of public record that the Law Association was consulted on multiple occasions and in multiple
ways in respect of the establishment of the Children’s Court. Not a single comment has come from the Law
Association let alone an adverse one, since the assent of the law which created the Children Court. This
spectacular observation is underscored by the fact that hundreds of matters have been listed and actually
heard in the two Children courts, where the essence of what is contained in the Criminal Division Bill is in
active and actual practice.
With respect to The Miscellaneous Provisions (Supreme Court of Judicature and Children) Bill it is
true to note that the Government proposes to increase the number of Pusine Judges from 49 to 64 and the
number of Court of Appeal Judges from 12 to 15 and that it proposes to allow Judges to be appointed from
the entire Commonwealth.
The Government has revealed statistics that demonstrate inter alia that: (i) there are over 29,000 preliminary
enquiries in backlog; (ii) 2/3rds of the Prison population is in pre-trial detention with matters over 17-20 years
in delay; (iii) there are over 94,000 matters pending at the Magistrate’s Court with the backlog growing year on
year and; (iv) if trials for murder alone occupied the full attention of the existing compliment of Judges in the
Assizes it will take at least 10 years to deal with the backlog alone. The other 12 laws to be addressed in The
Miscellaneous Provisions (Supreme Court of Judicature and Children) Bill relate to matters that the
Government has observed in the operationalization of the 19 laws amended by the introduction of the Family
and Children Division Act, none of which have come from the Law Association in the near 2 years since the
assent of the law.
The Government’s proposal to increase the number of Pusine and Court of Appeal Judges with a broadened
range to include candidates from the entire Commonwealth has come on the back of the introduction and
implementation of Criminal Proceedings Rules, the opening of new courts and specialist courts as evidenced
by the Children Courts; the introduction of a computerised registry in courts; the filling of vacancies in the
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; the increase in manpower at the Finance Intelligence Unit; the
increase in manpower at the Financial Investigations Branch of the TTPS; the reforms to the Land Registry
etc. Judicial capacity is perhaps the most critical aspect required to address the nightmare that is the criminal
justice system.
The Government has noted the Opposition’s call to amend the manner in which Judges are currently
appointed. This will involve constitutional special majority issues. The Opposition’s track record on the
support for special majority legislation speaks for itself. The Law Association has also recently completed an
exercise of reviewing the manner in which Judges are appointed. The courts are currently considering issues
surrounding the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. The Government is in the course of considering
potential amendments to the law relative to judicial appointments. The issue of immediately providing for
more judicial capacity can be separated from the debate on constitutional reform as the manner of appointing

July 3rd 2018
Letter to Mr. Douglas Mendes S.C.
President of the Law Association
RE: (i) The Criminal Division and District Criminal and Traffic Court Bill
(ii) The Payments into Court Bill 2018
(iii) The Miscellaneous Provisions (Supreme Court of Judicature and Children) Bill
Page 3 of 3
judges and the entrenchment of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission in our Republican Constitution
has been in existence for many decades. The Government holds the view that the many thousands of
criminal matters in arrears have to be addressed immediately lest we continue to spend billions on an
unchanged system expecting a different result. The chasm of decades between charge and conviction or
acquittal has to be immediately closed.
We do not share some of the criticism of the Association’s in relation to The Payments into Court Bill
2018 but shall reserve our responses until after receipt of your written comments on the captioned Bills.
The Government agrees that there must be consultation. We posit that this must be catalysed by alacrity and
consistency of approach. The Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs has written to the Law
Association on numerous occasions requesting commentary and stakeholder engagement. In many instances
we have been left without even an acknowledgment of our request. All Bills are published and gazetted. The
Criminal Division Bill has been in the public domain since March 9th 2018. I am aware that the Association
has employed an experienced legal officer from the Parliament to assist in its legislative considerations and I
take this opportunity to commend your leadership for advancing this initiative.
The Government awaits the Association’s submissions by July 6th 2018. I remind that we have written the
Association on a host of other very important Bills and note that we have not had any responses to date.
I shall appreciate the same manner of instantaneous and wide spread dissemination of my letter to you as was
employed in your letters to me of the 29th ultimo.
I look forward to your reply and reversion.
I remain
Yours sincerely
Faris Al-Rawi, MP
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs

Local Government ready to respond to affected communities

All Disaster Management Units are on alert and in a state of readiness to respond to affected Municipalities.

As first responders, the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government has ensured that all Disaster Management Units across the 14 municipalities are placed on alert and in a state of readiness to respond to any complaints of damage or loss to property due to the recent inclement weather.

Reports coming in to the Senior Disaster Management Coordinator at the Ministry have indicated that the Municipalities affected are Port of Spain, Diego Martin, Tunapuna/Piarco, Chaguanas, Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo, San Juan/Laventille, Princes Town and Sangre Grande. Disaster Management Units for the Tunapuna, Port of Spain and Diego Martin areas were activated for safe removal of fallen trees and affected power lines.

An all of Government approach has been implemented with all stakeholder agencies, including the Ministry of Works and Transport, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management and other first response agencies to respond where needed. In addition, all Mayors, Chairmen and Chief Executive Officers, along with their respective technical teams are in full response mode, to provide any assistance needed by burgesses who were affected by the recent torrential rains. Clean-Up efforts and Initial Damage Assessments have begun as of 7am today and will continue until normalcy is regained across all affected municipalities.

  • The Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government continues to encourage citizens, especially those residing in flood prone areas, to add the 24-hour Disaster Management Hotline numbers to their list of emergency contacts and to take the necessary precautions to protect their property and lives.

Press Release- New CNMG board meets with Communications Minister

The Minister of Communications, the Honourable Stuart Young today handed over the instruments of appointment to the new board of Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG).

“I am happy to have met with the new board. I am looking forward to working closely with them to shape the new TTT into the number one station in Trinidad and Tobago,” Minister Young said.

The new TTT will be officially launched as early as this month offering a new line-up of local programming.

Minister Young is expected to meet with the staff of CNMG this week as the Government-funded station begins to transition to its new look and mandate.

Background

The newly appointed members comprise:

  • Lisa Agard – Chairman
  • Karen Lynch – Member
  • Dr. Rita Pemberton – Member
  • Anthony Bullock – Member
  • Nadira Lyder – Member
  • Dr. Jameel Sulimani – Member