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Peace Possible- Maduro open to Mediation

Political instability in Venezuela had been simmering for over two years as the country reeled from an economic and humanitarian crisis spurred by plummeting commodity prices and bad economic policies that lead to massive hyperinflation, hunger, unemployment and the biggest refugee crisis in the Western Hemisphere. Last Wednesday, those tensions exploded when National Assembly president, Juan Guaido, in front of thousands of anti-government protesters declared himself interim president of the country, according to the Constitution, until free and fair elections could take place. The last general election was last May, when Maduro won in a contest widely condemned to be fraudulent, corrupt and illegitimate.

Following a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres yesterday in New York, a release from the Office of the Prime Minister stated that Rowley journeyed to the UN as a member of a Caricom delegation led by Dr Timothy Harris, Caricom chairman and Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis.

The delegation also included Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Caricom’s Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, and Ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago to the UN Pennelope Beckles.

Following the meeting intended to work out a strategy to lessen political tensions in Venezuela, peace and security in Venezuela and the wider region is now a real possibility.

“The meeting was useful and productive. We are very satisfied that at the appropriate moment the good offices of this UN would and could bring about some significant preparation of a road map for peace and security for Venezuela and the region,” Prime Minister Dr Rowley, who was part of the Caricom delegation, said in a recorded statement posted to the Office of the Prime Minister’s official social media accounts.

CARICOM’S POSITION

Caricom has maintained its position of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign states, but has offered to be a mediator to Venezuela, and agreed to call on the UN to assist in de-escalating tensions.

Since the fall-out on Wednesday, there has been a push by the United States, especially, to get countries to support Guaido.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an address to the OAS on Thursday, made a strong call for all members of the OAS to disavow Maduro’s presidency as illegitimate, morally bankrupt, economically incompetent and corrupt, a call he echoed during an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Saturday.

The US also yesterday announced sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. PDVSA is the commercial entity currently engaging T&T and Shell as partners for the monetization of gas from Venezuela’s Dragon gas field.

The US said it would block the Maduro administration from accessing up to US$18 billion in assets, as well as any proceeds from Citgo, PDVSA’s retail chain, which will be locked away, until a democratically elected government can be put in place to reduce corruption and return these assets to the people of the country. This is the first time the US has taken a firm step to introduce direct trade sanctions.

Previously only key members of the administration and their close family members were blocked.

UWI International Relations Institute shares their view…

The UWI International Relations Institute has said that the geopolitical and economic spaces of Caricom states make them particularly vulnerable to fallouts from regional political tensions.

The question, though, is how long the Maduro administration remains and is Caricom prepared for the real possibility of impending change.

The US too, is a very important power for Caribbean countries but it is just one interested actor, so Caricom will need to consider other international actors who are important partners.

“Small states necessarily must consider their economic and political interests before pronouncing on regional political affairs. It is unlikely that Caricom is unaware of the human rights issues in Venezuela, but there are also important economic and geopolitical concerns,” the IIR said.

Most reassuringly, though, the Institute did not think war was on the horizon because military intervention by states in Venezuela will in principle, require a UN Security Council resolution, which is unlikely since a Security Council vote must be unanimous and China and Russia already have indicated their unwillingness to intervene. Regarding civil war and instability – Venezuela has been very unstable for many years now and Caribbean states have already experienced the economic and social consequences.

“It is in Caricom’s interests that a sustainable solution is found to Venezuela’s political and economic crisis. The economic projections do not seem to suggest that solutions are imminent with the Maduro regime.”

“From this perspective, it appears to be in Caricom’s interest to explore more nuanced positions that prioritise the well-being of the Venezuelan people,” the institute said.

Maduro Open to Mediation

Nicolas Maduro has said he is open to talks with his opponents in “Trinidad and Tobago or wherever.” In a speech to members of the Venezuelan diplomatic corps at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, on Monday, Maduro said his administration was “establishing contact with governments who offered to mediate.

“As I said to the Caribbean Prime Ministers today. They were in New York. They met with the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres. I spoke with all of them at length during the afternoon. I spoke with Evo Morales (President of Bolivia). We are also establishing contact with governments who offered to mediate dialogue and I told them I am ready once again in Venezuela or in Trinidad and Tobago or wherever to begin a round of conversations, dialogue, negotiations, with all of the Venezuelan opposition when and where they want them.”

Naked Politicking with Taxpayers Money

At the 17th Sitting of the House of Representatives last Friday, a Private Motion was moved by Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to consider the details of the two-part address by the Hon. Dr. Keith Rowley which took place in January 2019.

In response to the Opposition’s motion, Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert begged that the motion be amended by adding that “whereas the present government inherited in September 2015 a very difficult and challenging financial situation as a result of the profligate and reckless spending of the previous government and whereas in the face of these challenges, the present government has stabilized the economy creating an economic turnaround and laid the foundation for sustainable economic growth, and whereas in the face of the current economic situation, there is need to do more with less and this is being achieved by the present government” before the resolution.

Minister of National Security, Minister of Communications and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young, addressed the spread of misinformation by members of the opposition and proceeded to quote the Opposition leader, “Naked Politicking using taxpayers money, no achievements to show. What did we do when we took office?” 

Young described the feedback from constituents of Port of Spain, North as thankful for the Prime Minister’s two-part address to the nation, for being presented with naked facts in a manner that the man on the street could understand and appreciate and adding that the presentation cost a minimum amount of money.

Young then began to address the concept of “Naked Politicking with taxpayers money” beginning with an internal audit of Government Information Services Limited (GISL), a company the Opposition was in control of in January 2015.

January 13th 2015– Audit Objective: “To evaluate whether the hiring process is transparent and objective by checking to ensure that there is evidence of proper advertisement, proper reference checks, interview assessments completed, resume on file and signed application forms.”

Young stated that while the Opposition boasted of 50,000 job opportunities under their administration, the means by which jobs were offered were not done following due procedure.

The opinion of the internal auditor– “Needs significant improvement. Several controls put in place to ensure transparency in the recruitment process has been the subject of management override of controls. This is a practice that needs to be stopped as it exposes the organization to the practice of hiring friends. Reference checks are necessary to ensure that the person being hired is making the correct representations to the organization. More importantly, documentation of those checks being performed should be maintained on the employees’ files.”

Observation 1: “Management override of controls. Four employees were hired due to the directions of the CEO without following due process. The employees are Kadesha Munroe, Kimberly Duncan, Nikolai Edwards and Nyron Rawlinson.”

Observation 2: “Lack of file documentation to support positions being advertised. There were six employee files for which there was no evidence of reference checks being performed.” Kadesha Munroe, Nikolai Edwards, Nyron Rawlinson, Nicholas Ramjass ,Dike Ross and Rachel Kanhai were the names listed.

Young went on to acknowledge another audit which described “irregularities in the process”. The academic qualifications required for the position of Media Relations Coordinator were listed and it was then indicated that the person hired in the post did not possess any qualifications close to what was required.

In further reiterating how the Opposition handed out positions to unqualified persons, he went on to say that there were Chairmen in state enterprises who possessed fake Curriculum Vitaes.

July 14th 2015– The internal audit report objective was to determine whether the proper procurement process was followed in the hiring of MCM and Company Limited.

The audit scope: “The scope of this engagement is limited to the invoices reviewed for MCM and Company Limited.” A company which does not exist on the Company’s Registry.

The auditor said that “GISL has again not followed the procurement procedures and no documentation can be found for a supplier of consultancy services as it relates to three industrial relations.”

Background to the Internal Audit: “The acting CEO, Mr. Anthony Deyal, requested an internal audit to look into the relationship with MCM and Company and whether there was any contract and whether the procurement process was followed,” with the answer being no.

The audit revealed that MCM and Company Limited was retained to provide consultancy services without a contract or end-document to show why they were hired or whether any other industrial relations consultants were considered. Young said the invoices were paid to this company even though it does not exist.

As the present government took over, the Board began to recognize a number of discrepancies, particularly with Mr. Anthony Deyal.

September 30th 2015– “We refer to the agreement between GISL and yourself dated December 5th 2014, by virtue of which you were employed as a consultant. The Board of GISL has seen correspondence to you from former Minister of Finance Larry Howai in his capacity as corporate sole. The Board is also currently reviewing your performance and is particularly concerned that the assets of GISL under your direction and control were put to use for purposes not connected with the legitimate business of GISL. The Board also wishes to conduct a review of the matters raised by former Minister Larry Howai.”

Young said a forensic analysis into the board minutes suggested that the board members were unaware that Mr. Deyal had a contract but one appeared before the 2015 elections that is backdated and was being paid USD $10,000 as his monthly salary.

December 29th 2014– Via a cabinet decision taken on December 23rd, 2013 cabinet agreed to the provision of funds to develop and implement the strategic plan and action items for the then Ministry of Communications, a sum of $50 Million Dollars to enable GISL to formalize the development of government strategic planning and implement the action items of the strategic plan which include the provision of electronic broadcast, social media (Cambridge Analytics), traditional print media and billboards for the government.

He quoted Clause three which said, “Where as should be necessary for GISL to retain consultants, service providers and/any other persons to perform any part of the services or in the course of providing the services, the government shall reimburse GISL for such expenses as are properly incurred, identifiable supported by evidence.”

The strategic plan approved by cabinet:

1.Social Media $10 Million: Provide a comprehensive social media programme including a website link to all the major social media applications (Facebook, Youtube, WhatsApp, Twitter, Hangouts, Messenger.) Website will be the front end of a massive communications feedback loop that allows the public to comment and seek information on all government services and products.

2. Tv production: $10 Million

3. Internal communications streaming in all government buildings: $12 Million

4. Electronic Billboards: $8 Million

5. Publications: $8 Million

Project Icon: Objectives and Purpose

Forensic Auditors: “During our review of email correspondence between GISL representatives, vendors, government officials and other individuals, we noted various correspondence that suggested Project Icon which was funded by the state appeared to be implemented as a political vehicle and in a manner inconsistent with the stated objective of dissemination of government information in accordance with government’s strategic plan. For example, we observed email correspondence that appeared to be more closely related to the activities of the incumbent political party regarding its strategies for re-election including monitoring of opposing political parties.”

January 7th 2014– In an email the then GISL consultant and ICON Project Manager, Anthony Deyal shared several plans with the then GISL CEO Andy Johnson and Production Manager John Barry documents which appeared to set out a strategy that appeared to emphasize the governing party’s political plans to enhance its public image leading up to elections as follow.

One of the documents shared by Deyal was entitled “People, Perception, Perspectives, a proposal for voices- An integrated national communication project.” He wrote, “Despite its overwhelming popularity when it came into office, its record of service delivery, ownership of several media outlets, the increase in communications/public relations capacity within Ministries, the charisma of the Prime Minister, the credibility of the government has fallen significantly. Public opinion polls, the recent local government elections and two central government byelections have shown the need for a comprehensive strategy to simultaneously regain the credibility, retrieve the reputation and revive confidence in the government as it heads towards general elections in 2015.”

January 10th 2014– Deyal also shared the plans with CNMG’s Ken Ali and Andy Johnson in an email where he wrote, “The 500 day strategy was discussed yesterday by Ministers Tewari, Gangasingh, Hadeed. They suggested some additions, more in terms of actions that will support it than changes in the strategies itself. I will develop a revised version which you will get when it is approved and the decision is taken about implementing it. Clearly Mr. Moonilal and the Prime Minister have to be brought on more fully on board. But we have a general agreement on the broader basis of the plan I have attached. We are now with it and with voices.”

The auditors’ noted that Deyal’s plans also appeared to emphasize the increased use of billboards in marginal constituencies. This would have been done with taxpayers’ money with the approval of Ministers.

May 13th 2014– In a letter to Andy Johnson, a representative of Label House, one of the Project ICON contractors wrote, “On the 2nd of April 2014, I signed an agency agreement. Given my playing an active role in billboards project which sought to place information from GISL on all digital billboards in Trinidad and Tobago, my role in it amongst other things is to get the owners of the billboards in North Trinidad to accept a contract to run messages from GISL on their billboards.”


July 8th 2015 – In email correspondence between Doodnath Bhola, former GISL Chairman and Anthony Deyal, Deyal stated, “$9 Million was approved a while ago. The process is the problem and the lack of power of the Minister to deal with public servants who are deliberately obstructing the process. We have another $21 Million dollars that was approved and the problem is the Minister’s ability to get it done. I just spoke to the Prime Minister’s husband, Gregory, told him what to expect so we (GISL & Me) would not be blamed if there is a problem and we lose billboard owners to the PNM.”

It was also noted that at the GISL board of directors meeting dated the 4th of December 2014  – Project Manager Anthony Deyal stated that he welcomed the ICON meetings which should occur with board and management. Call center was in its finishing stages before it came into effect. There will be approximately 100 billboards by the end of December 2014, proposing the 50 starting billboards with the Christmas messages from the Prime Minister during the Christmas season.

Director Pouchet stated that placing billboards with Christmas messages would go against what the ICON Project was meant to do in disassociating itself from politics.

December 28th 2014– An email from Deyal was sent to Vassant Bharath and Gregory Bissessar describing the use of social media to analyze public sentiment in connection with the former Prime Minister’s Christmas Billboards.

January 7th 2014– An email from Deyal sent to John Barry and Andy Roberts was a proposal for voices. The proposal stated, “The PNM has been using all media including social media to virtually set and dominate the public information agenda.”

An objective highlighted in the Voices Proposal was that the government should use social media more effectively too. “Make the government look greater on Facebook, Twitter and social media force than the PNM and the ILP.” The propsal aslo stated, “Finalize a plan for retaking the marginals that were lost in the recent local government byelections. This plan must be specifically geared towards winning back the middle class that voted for the People’s Partnership in 2010.”

The email went on to say, “Generally the PNM and Keith Rowley are currently in the lead. The ballot question at the moment revolves around a feeling of disappointment in the People’s Partnership which stems from a combination of feelings held by the general public, including that the Prime Minister has let them down and is potentially not up for the job. The decision in the minds of the voters at the moment is binary choice about the government. PNM will only receive the support of voters after they decided against the government. It is important to understand that in this construct, voters compare the government to an impossible perfect ideal and not to a government potentially led by Keith Rowley and the PNM.”

December 28th 2014– Another email sent by Anthony Deyal to Vassant Bharath which cc’d Gregory Bissessar quoted the following, “Minister, this is an analysis still ongoing based on a trawl of social media. As you see, the positives far outweigh the negatives. There are a lot of neutrals but what happened is that the many negatives tended to be well known people in the politics. What is clear is that apart from you and Suruj, the People’s Partnership support kept their mouth shut and did not support. Ministers have rapid response but not throw these assets on the side of the party or the Prime Minister when needed.”

Another email sent by Anthony Deyal to Wesley Gervais and Volney Ransom read, “Thanks guys, keep it quiet until I say so, we don’t want this particular source to be exposed.”

What came from the source was the following- “Hi, see attached details about the Rowley Carnival incident that was pulled from Radiano. Cheers Wesley. Web and digitization support.”

March 27th 2015– Volney Ransom in an email to Anthony Deyal “Hi Tony, please see the attached on Mrs. Alleyne-Toppin issue, it’s very negative.”

In an email from Anthony Deyal to Chairman Doodnath Bhola, he indicated that in 2003 when the billboards were stopped, the Prime Minister was livid when she found out since it was her project. She asked Jerry and Moonilal to make sure it happened and he had to reinstate it. Immediately after he spoke with her, and she told him not to let it happen again given the timing and the fact that he is acting as MFO, he has no excuse.

During Deyal’s tenure as the CEO, concerns were raised by former board members regarding a conflict of interest with Deyal assuming this role. Young expressed that concerns were being raised when luxury vehicles were bought, additional salaries and allowances were being paid as well as a lack of appropriate tendering processes being followed.

Young said that the audit shows that when $50 Million ran out a month before the 2015 elections, they began to put pressure on the Permanent Secretary where they were clamouring and claiming for more money. “It also shows that they hired “Maury” and paid him over $36 Million dollars for Projects associated with the elections.”

He closed his presentation by stating that the public can now be the judge of what “Naked Politicking using taxpayers money” means.

Read more on ICON’s Illegal Act here: http://spotlight-tt.com/2018/04/23/icons-illegal-act/

PM- The Gravy Train done

The Prime Minister alleged the former People’s Partnership Government had spent $1 billion in communication, advertising and branding from 2013 to 2015.

This was made up of $700 million spent by the Government, plus about $400 million spent by the National Gas Company (NGC), the latter in contrast to a usual annual figure of $20 million, he said.

Rowley read a NGC document titled Suspicious Transactions from 2010 to 2015, that alleged “a record of deliberate attempts to conceal expenditure, indefensible wastage and siphoning of money.” He said from 2013 to 2015, the NGC spent some $915 million on 46 CSR projects relating to road-works and recreational facilities ($422 million) and communications ($493 million.)

“So NGC became a road-worker and a communicator.” Rowley lamented most projects were in areas other than Port of Spain and Diego Martin.

He said $258 million worth in such contracts for road-works were awarded to one contractor, SIS. “They went back into NGC. Fourteen projects for $274 million were put into PSAL to be awarded without proper process and scrutiny.”

He said a small handful of people got largesse under the former government. Rowley added, “The gravy train done. Good government reach.”

He recalled the Integrity Commission probing him over Landate, and said if they don’t now probe alleged corruption under the PP, they have some explaining to do. Rowley scoffed that an MP had complained to the commission that he was selling his autobiography, and said he had not met any author who made money from such. “One book-selling house told me, ‘We normally sell about 12 copies.’ I gave that book as a donation to a number of young people.

“And I now have to hire a lawyer to protect myself from the Integrity Commission. If you don’t see me here one of those days, it’s because the Integrity Commission has gone with me.”

Rowley hit Persad-Bissessar’s motion as a poor substitute for a no-confidence motion against him. “We are ready for a vote of no confidence,” he said.

Caricom Heads seek UN’s assistance for Venezuela

Cari­com’s Heads of Gov­ern­ment have agreed not to in­ter­fere in the state of af­fairs of Venezuela at this time. How­ev­er, the 12 re­gion­al lead­ers who at­tend­ed a video con­fer­ence meet­ing on Thurs­day night will seek an ur­gent meet­ing with Unit­ed Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al An­tónio Guter­res to re­quest the UN’s as­sis­tance in re­solv­ing the is­sue peace­ful­ly.

The video-conference comprised lead­ers of An­tigua and Bar­bu­da, Bar­ba­dos, Be­lize, Do­mini­ca, Ja­maica, Montser­rat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lu­cia, St. Vin­cent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and To­ba­go, and the for­eign min­is­ters of Grena­da and Suri­name.

The Heads of Gov­ern­ment al­so called on ex­ter­nal forces to re­frain from do­ing any­thing to desta­bilise the sit­u­a­tion, un­der­scored the need to step back from the brink and called on all ac­tors, in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal, to avoid ac­tions which would es­ca­late an al­ready ex­plo­sive sit­u­a­tion to the detri­ment of the peo­ple of Venezuela and which could have far-reach­ing neg­a­tive con­se­quences for the wider re­gion.

Ac­cord­ing to a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Chair­man of the con­fer­ence, Prime Min­is­ter of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr Tim­o­thy Har­ris and the oth­er Heads of Gov­ern­ment agreed they would now seek an ur­gent meet­ing with the UN.

The state­ment said the Heads of Gov­ern­ment are fol­low­ing close­ly the cur­rent “un­sat­is­fac­to­ry sit­u­a­tion” in Venezuela, a neigh­bour­ing Caribbean coun­try, very close­ly and ex­pressed grave con­cern about the plight of the peo­ple and the in­creas­ing volatil­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion brought about by re­cent de­vel­op­ments which could lead to fur­ther vi­o­lence, con­fronta­tion, a break­down of law and or­der and greater suf­fer­ing for the peo­ple of the coun­try.

But the Heads reaf­firmed their guid­ing prin­ci­ples of non-in­ter­fer­ence and non-in­ter­ven­tion in the af­fairs of states, re­spect for sov­er­eign­ty, ad­her­ence to the rule of law and re­spect for hu­man rights and democ­ra­cy.

“Heads of Gov­ern­ment re­it­er­at­ed that the long-stand­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, which has been ex­ac­er­bat­ed by re­cent events, can on­ly be re­solved peace­ful­ly through mean­ing­ful di­a­logue and diplo­ma­cy. In this re­gard, Heads of Gov­ern­ment of­fered their good of­fices to fa­cil­i­tate di­a­logue among all par­ties to re­solve the deep­en­ing cri­sis,” the state­ment said.

Reaf­firm­ing their com­mit­ment to the tenets of Ar­ti­cle 2 (4) of the Unit­ed Na­tions Char­ter, which calls for Mem­bers States to re­frain from the threat or the use of force and Ar­ti­cle 21 of the Char­ter of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States which refers to ter­ri­to­r­i­al in­vi­o­la­bil­i­ty, the Heads of Gov­ern­ment em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of the Caribbean re­main­ing a Zone of Peace.

The Heads of Gov­ern­ment re­it­er­at­ed that the long-stand­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis can on­ly be re­solved peace­ful­ly through mean­ing­ful di­a­logue and diplo­ma­cy. They be­lieve the UN will play a crit­i­cal role in this process, hence the dri­ve for an ur­gent meet­ing with its head.

Young- AG seeking legal advice on compilation of Smith report

The Ministry of Sports’ re­port on the $150,000 set­tle­ment to a for­mer em­ploy­ee is un­der le­gal ad­vice and can­not be pub­lished yet.

But the Chris­t­ian Mout­tet fer­ry re­port and the Christo­pher Thomas re­port on the T&T/Do­mini­ca vote is­sue have both been made pub­lic.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­is­ter Stu­art Young con­firmed this at yes­ter­day’s post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing, re­ject­ing UNC ac­tivist De­vant Ma­haraj’s ac­cu­sa­tion that Gov­ern­ment has not re­vealed the re­ports and was “hid­ing” re­ports.

Young point­ed out that the Mout­tet re­port was sent by the Prime Min­is­ter to a Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee of Par­lia­ment on Sep­tem­ber 19, 2017. It was al­so laid in the Low­er and Up­per Hous­es of Par­lia­ment on Sep­tem­ber 26 and 28 Sep­tem­ber 2018 and was post­ed on Par­lia­ment’s web­site.

Young said the Thomas re­port – on T&T’s vote against Do­mini­ca’s OAS fee waiv­er bid last year – was sent to Par­lia­ment in No­vem­ber 2018 and it was then sent to Par­lia­ment’s For­eign Af­fairs team which did an in­quiry.

The team de­liv­ered a re­port which is pub­lic on the Par­lia­ment’s web­site and the Thomas re­port was ap­pend­ed to the team’s re­port.

“So Ma­haraj’s claims are false and are part of the Op­po­si­tion’s nar­ra­tive and lie to mis­lead the pub­lic,” Young de­clared.

He said there was a draft of the Sports Min­istry/Dar­ryl Smith re­port. But Young said the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al sought le­gal ad­vice on how it was com­piled since there were some pro­ce­dur­al is­sues in the com­pi­la­tion.

He said the AG sought the ad­vice of ex­ter­nal coun­sel.

Consultations begin for San Fernando Waterfront Project

The Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) has hosted its first consultation with fishermen for the New Hatters Facility.

The talks took place at the San Fernando City Hall Auditorium on Monday, and Udecott senior architect John Ferraz briefed stakeholders about preliminary designs. A release issued yesterday by Udecott said it will include a new jetty, retail stalls, chillers, boat engine room, fishermen lockers, boat engine repair and net repair rooms.

This facility will form part of the San Fernando Waterfront Development Project.

Those who attended included representatives of the fishermen, Agriculture Ministry, San Fernando City Corporation and Greater San Fernando Chamber of Commerce.

The second consultation is scheduled to take place in two weeks.

In the House of Representatives last October, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said three projects which fall under this wider project have been allocated $13 million in the 2018/2019 budget.

These sums include $5 million for the relocation of squatters, $5 million for the relocation of the Public Transport Service Corporation Terminal from King’s Wharf and $3 million for the upgrade of Plaza San Carlos.

UK training for local Cops to prosecute criminals

A new colour-cod­ed threat alert sys­tem and train­ing for po­lice of­fi­cers to pros­e­cute cas­es are some of the im­me­di­ate out­comes of a week-long vis­it to the Unit­ed King­dom by Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith.

Grif­fith en­gaged in “sev­er­al meet­ings with law en­force­ment of­fi­cials from vary­ing de­part­ments,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment on his In­sta­gram Page.

Grif­fith, along with Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young, and Chief of De­fence Staff Hay­den Pritchard met with of­fi­cials from Scot­land Yard, the Joint Ter­ror­ism Analy­sis Cen­tre, the Na­tion­al Cy­ber Crime Cen­tre, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Train­ing Fa­cil­i­ty among oth­er agen­cies.

Ac­cord­ing to Grif­fith, a colour-cod­ed threat alert sys­tem will be im­ple­ment­ed with­in the Po­lice Ser­vice “hope­ful­ly” in about three weeks. The lev­els will be green, am­ber, red and black. The lev­els will in­crease based on in­for­ma­tion re­ceived from T&T’s in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

“You will no longer be hear­ing about per­sons claim­ing that they in­tend to beef up se­cu­ri­ty,” he said. “We do not work in an abat­toir to beef up se­cu­ri­ty.”

Grif­fith says there are im­me­di­ate ben­e­fits to this, as “each and every po­lice of­fi­cer, every di­vi­sion will be aware of their role and func­tion based on the es­ca­la­tion of the threat and colour code.”

Grif­fith be­lieves this will en­sure max­i­mum ef­fec­tive­ness with­in the ser­vice.

A Unit­ed King­dom team will al­so ar­rive in a few weeks to train lo­cal po­lice pros­e­cu­tors to plug “sev­er­al loop­holes” that al­low crim­i­nals to es­cape jus­tice.

Grif­fith ad­mits that mis­takes have been made, but he says he will utilise the ex­per­tise of this team “to as­sist” in en­sur­ing that cas­es are air-tight.

The team which will be con­tract­ed will help the TTPS “go through the sys­tem prop­er­ly, ac­cu­rate­ly and en­sure there are no loop­holes and win­dows of op­por­tu­ni­ty” for al­leged crim­i­nals.

While he says the TTPS is deal­ing with law en­force­ment, he says they must al­so deal with how cas­es are pros­e­cut­ed to elim­i­nate “op­por­tu­ni­ty for per­sons to beat the sys­tem.”

The Com­mis­sion­er al­so aims to es­tab­lish a spe­cial counter-ter­ror­ism unit aris­ing out of his vis­it to the UK.

Griffith said, “I have contracted a senior prosecutorial team from the UK to assist the police service ensuring we could improve the prosecutorial aspect of the police service. Many loopholes used by people charged by police have resulted in them beating the system. This training will assist the criminal justice system with respect to policing.”

PM: Couva Hospital to be opened in phases

The Prime Minister says with an operator, the Couva Hospital can be operationalised on a phased basis this year.

He was responding to prime minister’s questions in the House on Friday from Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe on when the Couva Hospital will be ready for use.

Dr Rowley said the initiative is to export healthcare using the facility and the Government, through the Health Ministry, and is currently engaged in putting that in place.

“It is taking a little while longer than we had anticipated, but we are advised by the University of the West Indies (UWI) that they are moving as fast as they can.”

He said a special-purpose company was set up in 2018 and consideration is being given to an operator for phased operationalisation later in the year. Bodoe asked if there were any provisions for local healthcare workers in the project.

Rowley replied, “I couldn’t give you the exact details, but certainly it will be an opportunity for healthcare providers of the highest quality and numbers in that hospital to provide healthcare for the national community but with a focus on exporting healthcare services.”

Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked about the phased operationalisation, but Rowley said he would not engage in guesswork but will wait until the final arrangements.

Bodoe asked if there was any assurance TT citizens will not have to pay. Rowley said the hospital is meant to be a fee-earning entity, but charges to citizens will be borne by the Government, as is done at other hospitals.

Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie asked about UWI’s involvement in the project. Rowley said the project started with a requirement of the Government to discharge its responsibility to UWI, as there was a claim of more than $200 million owing to the university. He said Government agreed to use the asset base to discharge the payment and UWI accepted it would be paid via asset transfer.

“We went further, where the UWI and the Government of T&T through the Ministry of Health would operate a hospital for profit providing additional training and services to the local and international community. And that is what is being worked on.” He added: “We do not have the final arrangements, as that is being worked out, but as soon as those final arrangements are available, as the Government always does, it will make them available to the population.”

Govt to give support to Sunwing’s investment in Turtle Beach

“Sandals isn’t the only thing. There are other prospects. And if you aim for the sky and you fall into the clouds, you’re still way above the ground.”

So said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he yesterday announced his determination to “redouble” his efforts to develop Trinidad and Tobago, pledging not to be deterred by his “disappointment” over the Sandals’ withdrawal from Tobago.

But all may not be lost for the is­land’s tourism sec­tor, as Cana­di­an-based Sun­wing Trav­el Group wants the Gov­ern­ment to in­vest in Tur­tle Beach Ho­tel which they re­cent­ly ac­quired.

The an­nounce­ment was made by Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley yes­ter­day dur­ing his first Con­ver­sa­tion with the Me­dia at Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s.

Last week, the PM met with Sun­wing’s CEO Stephen Hunter and oth­er ex­ec­u­tives of the air­line com­pa­ny where they dis­cussed Sun­wing’s hav­ing an in­ter­est in an in­creased pres­ence in To­ba­go, in­clud­ing an in­ter­est in State-owned Mag­dale­na Grand Beach and Golf Re­sort.

Sun­wing pro­vides di­rect flights from Toron­to to To­ba­go.

The air­line, which is the largest in­te­grat­ed trav­el com­pa­ny in North Amer­i­ca, re­cent­ly ac­quired a chain of Rex Re­sorts’ Caribbean ho­tels and is now the own­er of Tur­tle Beach Ho­tel in To­ba­go.

The PM was asked what plans his Gov­ern­ment has to im­prove To­ba­go’s tourism thrust with San­dals pulling out of the project, to which he said Sun­wing was one in­vestor they were look­ing at.

Hav­ing ac­quired Tur­tle Beach Ho­tel, Row­ley said Sun­wing wants to up­grade the ho­tel to their stan­dard.

“They al­so think it does not have enough rooms. So they want to in­crease the num­ber of rooms…they want to up­grade it to a five-star ho­tel. They asked for Gov­ern­ment sup­port for that and we said yes.”

He said Sun­wing’s prospect was to build be­tween 200 to 300 rooms.

He also said, how­ev­er, Sun­wing was faced with one prob­lem as “the cur­rent road be­tween Black­rock and Ply­mouth pass­es right in front of the ho­tel’s lob­by.”

Some peo­ple in To­ba­go, Row­ley said, took the po­si­tion that the road be­longs to them and “no­body must stop them from pass­ing there.”

He said this de­vel­op­ment, was not the la­goon, No Man’s Land or the man­grove.

“It is the use of a road that was built to con­nect Black­rock to Ply­mouth and to pre­vent traf­fic from pass­ing through a ho­tel if they use the land they have on the oth­er side,” he said.

The PM said this was a mat­ter for the To­ba­go House of As­sem­bly to han­dle.

“We are go­ing to have some in­ter­est­ing days ahead. The Gov­ern­ment al­so has oth­er sites in To­ba­go,” he not­ed.

The PM said there were some pri­vate sec­tor sites they can utilise. “We are go­ing to en­cour­age peo­ple to in­vest in­to To­ba­go,” he said.

Sandals withdraws from Tobago project but Gov’t won’t give up

CEO Gebhard Rainer, in a press conference today, said the main reason for withdrawing was the negative publicity surrounding the project.

He said the Sandals team had been grateful for the unwavering support and transparency from the Government and from the Prime Minister.

“From the beginning there has never been a doubt about what the Prime Minister has been trying to do for the good of Trinidad and Tobago,” Rainer said.

He said there would be no cost from Sandals that would be passed on to the T&T Government as any cost they would have incurred from preliminary designs would be at Sandals’ expense.

National Security Minister Stuart Young said a handful of people had tainted a global international brand and that it was a sad and disappointing day.

He also said the Government isn’t going to “just give up” on the Tobago project and that the Government would continue to look for opportunities in Tobago.

“We will continue to look and see if there are opportunities for Tobago. We believe in Tobago. We believe in the destination of Tobago.”

He said Sandals also believed in Tobago and said the island continued to fit in the spectrum of long-term viewing.