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Kamla’s troubled relationship with Rienzi
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016

It only occurred to me after some contemplation that as a Political Leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar had abandoned the Rienzi Complex long before the UNC would be evicted from their premises. You only have to think back to the last general election, where upon her defeat, she departed her constituency office and headed directly to her residence, while scores of supporters, MPs and other then Executive members were at the party headquarters awaiting her arrival. It is therefore not surprising, although still insulting, that after a week of the public being aware of the ATSGWU's decision to evict the UNC as tenants, that we have not yet heard any word from the political leader on this most troubling issue. Even more interesting is that to date, and aside from a solitary release in which the Party Chairman sought only to confirm the rumors surrounding the situation, not a single member of the Executive has attempted to explain the matter or discuss how the party intends to move forward. 

It is no secret that political parties in Trinidad and Tobago do not have to publicly disclose their financial status, as discussions have been ongoing for quite some time with regards to the need for legislation to regulate party funding, especially during election campaigns. Since no one has ever brought any such legislation to the Parliament, financial members are unable to access any records to find out how a political party spends it money. So while we have heard about the negotiations between the UNC and the ATSGWU with regards to their lease agreement, there is no way of knowing whether or not the UNC is in a financial position to manage a higher rent payment, or, being in the position that they will soon find themselves, whether they can afford a relocation. 

Whatever the Political Leader and the Party Executive have planned for the future, it seems that they intend to implement it without the input of the general membership, which is as depressing as it is contemptuous. It has always been the members and supporters that have the most stake in the UNC and their voices demand to be heard. Whether or not the Executive will listen to them however, is left to be seen. 

Ravi Maharaj

MAN & CHILD: Boy talk
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016

Kevin Baldeosingh

​My son Kyle is not a normal boy. This week he took up a teddy bear and hugged it, then brought it to me and ordered, “Hug.”

This, mind you, from a boy who gives teddy bears more hugs than he does his Daddy. Ironically, those teddy bears aren’t his – they are his sister’s, who has pretty much ignored them for all of her three years. Jinaki has always preferred to play with pens, spoons, blocks and even cars than teddy bears and dolls. At the same time, she’s lately been insisting on only wearing tops with sleeves, and her mother Afi thinks it’s because Princess Sofia, which is her second favourite show after Doc McStuffins, wears outfits with sleeves.

Kyle, who is 14 months old, is more affectionate than Jinaki was at that age, although she contracted Daddyitis early enough so I was the one putting her to sleep even before she could talk. Her brother has Daddyitis only for playing, though. And, even though he hugs teddy bears, he also has the typical boys’ obsession with cars. Not only was “car” his first noun, but “spinning” was one of his first verbs (from flicking the car wheels).

The main way in which Kyle is not normal, though, is that his verbal development is proceeding faster than his sister’s did. Jinaki said her first word at 13 months; Kyle did so at 11. Now, he is already on to two- and three-word phrases, a stage Jinaki didn’t attain until 17 months. This is not the normal pattern, because girls on average develop somewhat ahead of boys on most measures, especially verbal. What is interesting is that Kyle’s ability to speak phrases at 14 months also means his vocabulary is bigger than Jinaki’s was at the same age.

Child development researchers have long observed that children don’t speak two-word sentences until they have acquired a minimum number of words. But is this because babies have to reach a certain cognitive stage before they can acquire the required number of words, or is it because a certain size vocabulary is needed before a baby can start making sentences?

Researchers at Harvard University in the United States tested these two hypotheses by tracking 27 adopted children from China, who came to the US not knowing English. “The adoptees and native children started combining words in sentences when their vocabulary reached the same size, further suggesting that what matters is not how old you are or how mature your brain is but the number of words you know,” wrote Joshua Hartshorne in a 2009 issue of Scientific American.

The puzzle for me is why Kyle should be acquiring his vocabulary at a faster rate than his sister’s, especially since Jinaki’s vocabulary at three years is pretty good. “Walter was driving fast and angrily,” she told me the other day, recounting the Season One finale of Scorpion, a drama series about a group of high-IQ crime-fighters. After all, Jinaki as the first-born child had people talking more to her as an infant than Kyle does now. But maybe he’s paying more attention to his sister’s chatter than to the adults.

Minister responds on T&TEC
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016

I write in response to (a letter) in the Sunday Guardian of July 17th, 2016, with the heading “How can you make informed statements without all the facts, Mr. Antoine” penned by Tracy Shields of Wallerfied.

Firstly, I thank Ms. Shields for the information contained within her letter. This is the kind of information that needs to be shared as we move forward to find solutions to the numerous problems that plague many of our state enterprises.

The heading of the letter, extracted by the Sunday Guardian, however, seeks to imply that a definitive statement was released by me, as Minister on the T&TEC issue. I did say that workers must be held accountable and that we seek to obtain maximum productivity from all workers. I also indicated that Management would be held accountable to ensure that this level of productivity was in fact achievable. This part of the discourse, sadly was never reported.

As Ms Shields rightfully stated, this is an issue that has been ongoing for a number of years, however, the Band Aid fixes will no longer be entertained. This issue requires a holistic, systematic investigation before a final solution can be achieved. This will not happen overnight. 

The supply of substandard material, the hoarding of material, the numerous incidents of non-functioning equipment and vehicles as alluded to in the letter, all of these affect the overall efficiency of workers and all of these are caused by poor management practices. As I have stated from the inception, I remain committed to hearing all sides of the issue and to engaging with stakeholders in a meaningful way. Through the Board, all of these issues will be addressed, I as Minister, however will not micro manage any of the agencies under my Ministries purview. As Minister with responsibility for Public Utilities, it is my duty to ensure that at the end of the day, the taxpayers of this country get value for their money and I remain committed to ensuring that this is achieved.

Minister Public Utilities

Ancil Antoine

Prakash moves forward....with whom?
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016

Certainly former COP leader Prakash Ramadhar won’t be remaining “mum” much longer.

Controversy following his agreement to be part of the PNM Government’s recent Jamaica mission hasn’t escaped him. And perhaps it may not necessarily be his last “input” with the Rowley PNM administration. 

It’ll soon be clear. But it will present an issue for the Opposition to ponder.

Family “issues”—political and otherwise—broke out in various sectors all week. Some Central clans were wracked—and split—by the murder of notorious Selwyn “Robocop” Alexis, a still unfolding story.

Familial splits and snafus were also clear at the US Republican convention in Ohio where Donald Trump became the beleaguered party’s presidential candidate. State governor Ron Kasich wasn’t the only jefe absent. 

Team Trump’s operational-tightening will now have to guard against further plagiarising (from Michelle Obama’s addresses.) 

Former contender Ted Cruz’s call for a conscience vote remains to be tested. And Tuesday’s rabid convention calls to “Lock her (HIllary Clinton) up” are set to move from conference floor to campaign fervor. 

Trump’s statements Thursday - pitched to LGBT quarters among others—seen as appropriately moderate compared to convention confusion—will be measured fully when Democrats reply with their gathering next week.

Locally, strategic moves by the PNM administration—against Opposition numbers—via COP MP Ramadhar’s inclusion on the Prime Minister’s Jamaican trip are also to play out. 

After the Opposition Leader’s complaint there was no consultation by Government on the invitation to Ramadhar (or to Opposition MP Ramona Ramdial) UNC officials believe moves to cut into their ranks were being made since Bail Bill debate when efforts were made to meet with the Opposition whip and others— but not the Opposition Leader. 

Opposition whip Ganga Singh says that is a breach of the Constitution.

How that argument holds up with Ramadhar’s agreement on the Jamaica trip is another issue. While Ramadhar said he cleared it with his COP leader—his former deputy when he was COP leader—UNC officials noted Ramadhar attends Opposition caucuses and has signed documents saying he supports Opposition leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar. 

Pondering his action in the context of team unity, some equate his crossing of the seas with the Government team with a “crossing of the floor,” away from the Opposition dock. 

Reinforcing perspective, on the eve of the Government delegation’s return, the Opposition panned the trip. 

Yesterday while some UNC officials queried Ramadhar’s role in the trip—noting his Opposition shadow portfolio concerns national security and legal affairs, not foreign affairs—they however acknowledged since he was not a UNC MP, he was only subject to COP sanction, not the UNC’s. 

“He’s said he’s making a statement, I await this,” Singh said yesterday 

In Opposition last December, Ramadhar said the COP (he’d headed then) was out of the People’s Partnership and COP might contest 2020 polls alone.

Yesterday on possible future action—like the Jamaica trip— including with government, Ramadhar made it clear he would co-operate with, and COP would participate in, “what is good for T&T.... if it involves a worthwhile effort that’s potential benefit for T&T. Absolutely.”

Including proposed legislation? 

“It’ll be on a case-by-case basis. I’ll have to be persuaded, and other things, I’ll try to persuade otherwise,” he added .

He noted his February statement that COP allows MPs to act at discretion and conscience “So I remain open” he’d said then.

A month later in March, he’d said there was need for all political forces to come together to defeat PNM in 2020. Discussion on that has been mulled by some small groups

Whatever future Government moves Ramadhar supports, the repercussions on his struggling party—which bitterly fought the PNM in 2010—remain to unfold. Especially since in March, he’d given Prime Minister Keith Rowley a four out of ten for his six month performance, and barely gave the PNM five.

But former PP member Gary Griffith—whose Alliance of Independents is among small groups talking unity—believe Ramadhar’s acceptance of the Jamaica invitation can assist the COP regain credibility and rebuild by breaking out of the PP/UNC shadow, maligned in the last term.

“After the Jamaica trip, he (Ramadhar) should move from the Opposition frontbench and go to the backbench—be independent,” Griffith lobbied.

Is Tobago ready for Sandals?
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016

The air crackles with excitement over the possibility of the world renowned Sandals resort setting up shop in Tobago. 

Advocates believe the arrival of the most recognisable hotel chain in the Caribbean could trigger a quantum leap for tourism on the island. 

Less enthusiastic are smaller hoteliers and environmentalists who are already marshalling others to their opposition of the proposed development. 

There is one question which hasn’t surfaced in the vigorous pre-emptive for-and-against debate; can Tobago’s customer service rise to the exacting standards a Sandals presence will impose? Trinidad is of course no slouch when it comes to deplorable customer service, but Sandals isn’t coming to Trinidad. Washikongs maybe. 

The principal champion of a Sandals incursion appears to be Tobago-born Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. He is quoted as telling a political gathering in Tobago that Tobagonians should ready themselves for the Sandals epoch. 

The prime minister has many supporters of his push to romance the franchise all the way down to the pendant of the Caribbean island chain. Newspaper reports portray the Hotel and Tourism Association and the Tobago arm of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce as being gung-ho on the idea. 

There are voices in the industry who believe the international cachet of the Sandals empire would lift all tourism in Tobago. 

There is, however, something else which Sandals will bring to Tobago; inflexible demand for the highest standard of customer service and hospitality. 

An international clientele seduced by the Sandals brand will spend with the expectation of sterling service. Their expectation of friendly, above-and-beyond attitudes among the hotel staff will extend to every single Tobagonian they come into contact with on the island. Personal experience with Tobago tells me this will be a very steep climb for the sister isle. 

A few years ago I spent some time there shooting a documentary series. While there were several pleasant and rewarding encounters with Tobagonians, for the most part, in the hotel environment and out and about, I endured rudeness, apathy, and thinly-veiled hostility. 

In one instance I was trying to record a mud oven in operation on the North Coast of the island. My crew was accompanied by an official from the Tobago House of Assembly who arranged for the production team to capture footage of the mud oven as an iconic village scene. When we got to the location, we met the surliest creature imaginable who, notwithstanding the prostrate supplications of our fixer, absolutely forbade us from shooting on the premises. This woman vacillated between setting her price for cooperation to concluding that no amount of money would cut it. She repeated in a hundred different ways, “Meeee-eh know nuttin’ bout dat!” 

Thwarted by stubbornness, we decided to take five and give the brooding baker time to cool down. Just then, a group of German tourists made their way to the mud oven and its resident virago, only to be chased away in similar fashion! Whaaaat? You were expecting to get bread from the mud oven at 10 am???? 

My experience at one of the oldest resort hotels on the island didn’t salve my bruised sensibilities. The staff there were, at best, indifferent. Signs that something wasn’t quite right manifested on my arrival. I waited for two hours to check into a room that had been booked weeks in advance. 

With nary an apology in sight, hotel managers weaved in and around my party and me as if we were potted plants in the lobby. Thereafter, my stay at the popular resort was all consternation and disappointment. For the staff, the smallest request was more complex than solving climate change. For the duration of my time there I was made to feel like an uninvited guest who overstayed his welcome. 

The prime minister, in championing Sandals speaks about training for Tobagonians to steel them for the impending evolution of the tourism sector. Something tells me mere customer service and hospitality training will fall far short. Tobagonians (Trinidadians could benefit from this as well) need to understand that service is not automatically analogous to servitude. They must appreciate that tourism shouldn’t be demonised as some form of neo-colonialism. 

Training is a necessary component of the hospitality sector, but educating our people about the role tourism plays in economic development is equally critical. Public education can help people understand their part in the value chain of creating memorable experiences for visitors. Small acts of kindness, or less challenging, a pleasant demeanour, whether you operate a hotel or a parlour, can contribute immeasurably to the growth and prosperity of the tourism sector. 

Tobagonians can be shown that tourism is more than making beds. It is about identifying the opportunities for entrepreneurship (coin operated laundries, tour operations, restaurants) and claiming the industry as your own. 

When the chatter about the pros and cons of a Sandals presence in Tobago heats up, hopefully customer service and healthy attitudes will earn a place at the table. If Tobago hopes to ascend to the next level of tourism competitiveness, dour faces and doh-kear, not me nah-ness must find no place.

Time for talking on CSME over
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016

Now that their leaders have had heart-to heart discussions about free movement of people and goods, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, the biggest economies in Caricom, have a renewed opportunity to observe the letter, and certainly the spirit, of the Caricom Single Market and Economy. Conceived more than 25 years ago at Grand Anse, Grenada, the CSME has fallen victim to narrow national interests.

Unfortunately, these rows about “who is in who place”, absorb energy and raise the never far-from-the-surface insularity. Meetings of heads of government and state end with nothing changed. It has now become more important than ever for leaders to act upon decisions taken at these conferences, and transmit that to other department of governments such as trade and immigration.

Let’s remind ourselves why the CSME was established. One objective was to twin the raw bauxite of Jamaica, Guyana and later Suriname with the cheap energy of Trinidad and Tobago to produce aluminum and a range of other semi-finished and finished products. Strength in economic unity. This was meant to break the historical pattern of West Indian states being the exporters of raw materials, allowing richer, more developed countries to add the value. Then there is the objective of using the untold millions of hectares of available lands in continental Guyana (add Suriname) to grow food with the experienced agricultural workers from the Eastern Caribbean and the expertise trained at the Agricultural Faculty at UWI, St Augustine. Feeding ourselves and saving billions on food imports were key objectives of that project.

Trinidad and Tobago, richest in resources and capital, was to fund commercial and industrial development across Caricom. To achieve such objectives, the CSME had to allow for the free movement of capital, people and their skills.

Caricom leaders also signed on to make the Caribbean Court of Justice their final appeal court – yet more than ten years later only four of the 13 member states have adopted the CCJ in their final (supreme) court, even as each one has paid tens of millions of dollars to fund the upkeep of the CCJ. 

Numerous studies on Caricom and how it functions have concluded that while the leaders sign regional agreements at Caricom and bilateral conferences, they do nothing to put them in place once they get home. Back in 1992, the Shridath Ramphal Commission, with a number of the prominent Caribbean citizens on board, said then, it was “Time for Action”.

All of the speechifying in Kingston over the last week has been heard before and often with greater elegance from the likes of Norman and Michael Manley, Errol Barrow, Eric Williams, Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan. To be different Prime Ministers Rowley and Holness have to produce action.

In addition to the faint-heartedness of the political directorate, the business community of Caricom has many questions to answer. They are the ones who have the responsibility to spread entrepreneurship into regional production for export. The regional industrial ventures are far and few between, while everyone is busily engaged in having its little market space protected.

New Prime Ministers Dr Keith Rowley and Andrew Holness have to pay the debt to West Indian integration left by their predecessors, Alexander Bustamante and Eric Williams. 

The former contrived a referendum to move Jamaica out of the Federation and the latter invented new arithmetic: one from ten leaves nothing. It is now up to both to demonstrate to their citizens and their directorates that integration is possible. 

German bank to manage T&T’s US$1 bill bond issue
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Ministry of Finance has chosen Germany’s largest bank to arrange an international roadshow to pique the interest of US and UK fixed-income investors in the Government’s US$1 billion ($6.7 billion), ten-year, fixed-rate bond.

The bond is due to be priced on Thursday.

The price of the bond—the amount of interest it will pay twice a year for ten years—is expected to be between 4.40 per cent and 4.95 per cent, according to several local investment bankers who spoke to the Guardian yesterday on the basis of anonymity.

The fixed-income investor meetings will begin on Monday in Los Angeles and London. Further meetings will take place in New York and London on Tuesday and New York and Boston on Wednesday, Reuters reported yesterday.

The term sheet for the bond, which was made available to the Guardian, disclosed that the sole bookrunner for the issue is Deutsche Bank Securities, while the joint lead managers are Deutsche Bank and majority state-owned First Citizens Bank.

Deutsche Bank, a global bank based in Frankfurt, is generally not well known in the Caribbean, but an investment banker recalled yesterday that the bank was the lead arranger of a US$250 million bond for the Barbados government that failed to place in October 2013.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Finance said that the proceeds of the bond issue “is required to facilitate Government’s development programme, among other things.”

The term sheet indicates, however, that the proceeds “will be used for budgetary purposes.” 

Having raised $3.1 billion in two TT-dollar bonds in May and June, the Government needs $6.7 billion, the amount to be raised by the bond, to complete the financing for the 2016 budget deficit, estimated to be $9.8 billion.

The bond has generated a great deal of interest because of the dearth of high-quality, US-dollar fixed income instruments and the slippage in the exchange rate since the beginning of 2016. 

The term sheet indicates that the bond will be sold on the international market in denominations of US$200,000. It could not be established yesterday if local financial institutions would be offering the bond in smaller tranches. 

In its statement, the Ministry of Finance said Minister Colm Imbert, will head a local delegation to the US on a roadshow, during the week starting Monday.

The delegation includes senior officials, advisers and technocrats from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, among others.

“The goal of the roadshow is to promote the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago as a viable investment destination, as well as to encourage the widest possible investor interest and participation in the bond,” said the Ministry of Finance. 

During the week, the Minister of Finance and his delegation will meet with, and make presentations to, as many as 20 major banks, investors and financial institutions.

The statement said that in order to cover the widest cross-section of investors, and to achieve the most favourable results, the roadshow has been divided into two legs with different teams covering each leg.

The last time the Government attempted to raise money on the international capital market was in December 2013, when the ten-year, US$500 million bond was oversubscribed, offered at an interest rate of 4.375 per cent and upsized to US$550 million. 

Be friendly to public
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Regiment chaplain tells troops...

Members of the Defence Force have been encouraged to relax their stance when interacting with members of the public.

Defence Force Chaplain Ashton Gomez made the call as he addressed a service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain, commemorating the 54th anniversary of the T&T Regiment yesterday.

Stating the public’s assistance was vital in the fight against crime, Gomez appealed to soldiers to be more friendly when performing joint patrols with the police.

“Is it illegal for soldiers to say good morning and good afternoon? Certainly not!” Gomez said.

“People should not fear you, they should respect you. Fear and respect are two different things,” he added as he suggested that polite interactions would encourage people to provide vital intelligence to the protective services.

Gomez also called on the Government to include more local history in schools as he said that there were many unnamed heros who served during the 1990 Attempted Coup, who many citizens would never know about.

“We know about European and American History but we have now learnt that some things we thought about our history were not true,” Gomez said.

Commander of the Regiment Colonel Dexter Francis also spoke during the service and encouraged his officers to continue to work together to improve the organisation.

“There must be reflection and introspection. We have to examine the past and know where we come from in order to be better for citizens,” Francis said.

He also said in addition to assisting with national security, the organisation would continue to nature at risk youths and assist with their growth and development.

T&T Coast Guard naval police officer Stephen George, left, salutes acting Chief of Defence Staff Archillus Phillips and acting Commanding Officer of the Regiment, Colonel Dexter Francis, after the Regiment’s 54th anniversary church parade yesterday. Photo: NICOLE DRAYTON
Be friendly to public

Members of the Defence Force have been encouraged to relax their stance when interacting with members of the public.

Defence Force Chaplain Ashton Gomez made the call as he addressed a service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain, commemorating the 54th anniversary of the T&T Regiment yesterday.

Stating the public’s assistance was vital in the fight against crime, Gomez appealed to soldiers to be more friendly when performing joint patrols with the police.

“Is it illegal for soldiers to say good morning and good afternoon? Certainly not!” Gomez said.

“People should not fear you, they should respect you. Fear and respect are two different things,” he added as he suggested that polite interactions would encourage people to provide vital intelligence to the protective services.

Gomez also called on the Government to include more local history in schools as he said that there were many unnamed heros who served during the 1990 Attempted Coup, who many citizens would never know about.

“We know about European and American History but we have now learnt that some things we thought about our history were not true,” Gomez said.

Commander of the Regiment Colonel Dexter Francis also spoke during the service and encouraged his officers to continue to work together to improve the organisation.

“There must be reflection and introspection. We have to examine the past and know where we come from in order to be better for citizens,” Francis said.

He also said in addition to assisting with national security, the organisation would continue to nature at risk youths and assist with their growth and development.

Father of murdered man: The system has failed me
Published: 
Saturday, July 23, 2016

The system has failed, says a father of nine whose first born son left home to meet a friend in the Maracas St Joseph area and was found murdered in Morvant the following morning.

Chris Simon, 51, told the media at the Forensic Science Centre, St James yesterday that all he could do now was have faith in God that he and his family would get justice after his son, Christopher Simon, was found murdered at Poinsettia Drive Morvant on Wednesday morning. 

Residents had reported hearing gunshots the night before. 

“The system failed me. I have nothing to say other than that. I not pointing no fingers, the man above I leave everything to his hand. 

“I not going to see any man on the block and say boy I hear it’s you because I am not that kind of man. 

“I stand up with my son and provide for them and go the distance with them. But this… this hard… this is my first boy” Simon said.

The father of nine, seven sons, said his firstborn received a phone call and left his Maracas, St Joseph home without telling his grandmother where he was going or with whom. 

The next day, Simon said, he went to see his son and other children but was told his first born was not seen since the day before and no one heard from him that day. 

He denied reports that his child was involved in any criminal activity, adding that his son did roofing for a living. 

“I don’t know why anyone would do this. But I would say he was never in this gang thing, so I don’t know what trigger this. 

“He never come with complaints. He don’t resemble anyone who might be a criminal from the area neither. I just holding faith and be strong,” Simon said.

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