Trinidad and Tobago

July 13, 2024

What's the keepback,Mr Hinds?

THE EDITOR: Angus Eve has begged for amendments to immigration laws to widen the pool of footballing talent to represent TT since the beginning of his tenure. Dwight Yorke followed up during a fete match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium a couple of weeks ago. Only a player born overseas whose parents are Trinidadian/Tobagonian can represent the red, white and black. Extending that privilege to players with grandparents will widen the selection diaspora and strengthen internal competition. What is the keepback, Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, and by extension the Cabinet? I get the impression that the football community isn’t a priority for the current administration. I reckon sport in general is not important to the PNM because it is sure its base supporters can wait, regardless of the impact of PNM policies and the problems facing the nation. With the type of urgency from this Government shown on a daily basis, we will be looking towards qualifying for the 2030 World Cup, because all and sundry would still be complaining then. KENDELL KARAN Chaguanas The post What's the keepback,Mr Hinds? appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
July 13, 2024

What’s the keep back, Mr Hinds?

THE EDITOR: Angus Eve has begged for amendments to immigration laws to widen the pool of footballing talent to represent TT since the beginning of his tenure. Dwight Yorke followed up during a fete match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium a couple of weeks ago. Only a player born overseas whose parents are Trinidadian/Tobagonian can represent the red, white and black. Extending that privilege to players with grandparents will widen the selection diaspora and strengthen internal competition. What is the keepback, Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, and by extension the Cabinet? I get the impression that the football community isn’t a priority for the current administration. I reckon sport in general is not important to the PNM because it is sure its base supporters can wait, regardless of the impact of PNM policies and the problems facing the nation. With the type of urgency from this Government shown on a daily basis, we will be looking towards qualifying for the 2030 World Cup, because all and sundry would still be complaining then. KENDELL KARAN Chaguanas The post What’s the keep back, Mr Hinds? appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
July 13, 2024

Human trafficking: Everyone is to blame?

DINESH RAMBALLY MANY CITIZENS have an awareness that TT was moved to Tier 2 status in the recently-issued 2023 US State Department report on human trafficking. This “improvement” might be met with a vague sense of reassurance that things are improving, if marginally. This would be a misleading conclusion. The situation described in that report is horrific. It sketches a thumbnail of wide national complicity in this industry of exploitation. On the positive side, the report notes the Government increased its anti-trafficking activities. A National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons, an agglomeration of ten agencies and six NGOs, was formed. It has done public education programmes via the media, initiated victim assistance and outreach platforms in Spanish. It had also made efforts to restrict the “commercial sex” trade. But these efforts seem flimsy compared to the realities of dealing with the problem as it exists. TT is now a transit point for vulnerable Venezuelan refugees and migrants en route to Europe, North Africa and elsewhere. Sex trafficking is the most prevalent form of trafficking and includes women and girls from Latin America, the Dominican Republic and Guyana. Trinidadian fishermen are a major trafficking medium between Venezuela and the 132 points of entry on Trinidad’s southern coast. So, along with all its other infamy, Trinidad is a now hub of sex trafficking of women and girls. Trafficking begins online as victims are lured, and the sex trade is carried out in bars, spas and brothels, which are patronised by locals as well as sex-tourists from the US, Canada, China and Europe.  The victims include Trinidadian and Tobagonian schoolchildren as well as foreign trafficked children. And all arms of the state – Coast Guard, TTPS and immigration and customs and other officials – are complicit with large international criminal organisations,  megabandas, which are involved from the mainland.  As far as prosecutions for trafficking go, 22 prosecutions were initiated by the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) for 2023, and 26 cases brought in previous years continued. Early last year charges were dismissed against three Trinidadians and one dual national because the police did not locate the victim for testimony. No convictions for 2022 were reported. A large part of this was due to the vulnerability of victims, who are not protected by government, and choose to not testify. These are bare numbers. There is no comparison between the quantum of prosecutions and the scope of the trafficking. However, the efficacy seems about as impressive as the TTPS’s action in every other area – with the detection rate considerably below 20 per cent.  The number of victims identified, upon whom prosecutions rely, remains small. The Government has identified 38 trafficking victims and 36 sex-trafficking victims for 2023. The report states that the Government’s victim statistics were unreliable, and NGOs estimated 500 trafficked people for the two-year period addressed by the survey. Especially disturbing is the report’s identification of “corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes.” The pace of prosecution is slow because “officials, oversight bodies and outside observers consistently alleged law enforcement and security officials colluded with criminal groups complicit in trafficking.”   Victims alleged that “police, customs and immigration officials” frequented establishments where “commercial sex” was available and who received “money and sex in exchange for co-ordinating the transport of victims and the protection of sex traffickers.”  The CTU reported challenges in inter-agency information sharing, investigation and that “it was unable to follow up tips requests and referrals” due to workload. The cases it did refer for prosecution were hamstrung by an under-resourced Director of Public Prosecutions and systemic prosecution delays. A “fast track” process was proposed, but remained “pending” as of the report’s issuance and two dozen police officers and several “senior government officials” are under investigation. Another part of the report informs us that a study conducted by a foreign company reported that "ten per cent of the police force was under active investigation for misconduct, including trafficking." As bad as all this is, it gets worse. In March 2023, the report tells us, the government opened three shelters for 20 victims each. The shelters were yet another horror story, as foreign children were placed in homes with child criminal offenders, and officials did not investigate any of the reports of abuse, rape and “severe physical and psychological abuse resulting in deaths.” The treatment of adults and asylum seekers was hardly more comforting. The Government claimed it had begun to screen migrants for “trafficking indicators,” but NGOS reported that the Coast Guard did not implement “international best practices” in screening. Some trafficking victims who complained about their treatment subsequently faced arrest and deportation proceedings. The report concludes with recommendations, which can be distilled into one statement: allow the institutions and people whose responsibility it is to deal with the situation to do their jobs. In Trinidad today, such a wish is almost laughable. Yet, like everything else, if we want to fix the situation, we know what to do. It just remains for us to do it. Dinesh Rambally is the MP for Chaguanas West The post Human trafficking: Everyone is to blame? appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
July 13, 2024

Include community in dengue fight

Dara E Healy “…community engagement can facilitate a more efficient use of resources, strengthen co-ordination and build local capacities…the call to include hard-to-reach populations, women leaders, people with disabilities and minorities in preparedness and response planning is getting louder. Understanding their perspectives and including them in intervention planning and delivery is critical to effectively addressing the complexity and diversity of health emergencies, disasters and humanitarian crises.” – J Hope Corbin et al, Oxford University Press COMMUNICATING during a serious health situation is never simple. Messages should be clear, timely and consistent. However, as dengue cases and deaths rise, the communication becomes more intense. Can placing more emphasis on community engagement help us to better navigate this latest national health challenge and keep it from escalating? Meaningful engagement of communities is recognised as one of the most important ways to foster behaviour change and shift harmful social norms. However, experts maintain that behaviour change is no longer the ultimate goal. Instead, communities should feel empowered to take control of the message and implement solutions themselves. This is not really a new idea. Organisations have been working towards community resilience and capacity building for decades, especially in the area of disasters. Covid19 showed that local context is critical when sharing messages with communities and empowering them to determine what they need. Communicating for health is considered both a science and an art, incorporating evidence, theories and creativity for long-term results. How is this relevant to what we in TT are now facing with dengue? Communicating about health is now about encouraging a fundamental shift in culture. To a large extent, people already know what is essential to keep their surroundings clean, to avoid having exposed bodies of water and all the other practices. I believe I became aware of the dangers of the Aedes aegypti mosquito as far back as the 1970s. So how much more encouragement is needed at this point? The reality is that over time people become immune to certain messages, so new approaches become necessary. Developing local partnerships and collaborations is one way. For instance, there may be people in the community who are unable to do the requisite cleaning, such as elderly people living on their own or people with disabilities. People can be encouraged to support these vulnerable groups to achieve the mandated standards of cleanliness. Faith-based bodies and civil-society or non-governmental organisations already have deep bonds with their communities. They would serve as an invaluable source of simplifying technical information, motivation and support. The business sector is crucial to any successful community engagement approach. Can they provide a space so that items can be recycled and then collected by the appropriate local government agency? During our recent outreach to communities about gender-based violence, we consulted with and involved businesspeople from the area. We discovered that very often their ties to the community were generational. They were running businesses started by their parents or grandparents. People were consequently more open to hearing what they had to say, because it came from someone with deep ties to their area. Artists and the creative sector should always be included in any major national campaign for change and empowerment. The ability of artists to address difficult subject matters through their art and tap into the soul of communities is undeniable. Our input should therefore be considered at the start of any outreach and not when efforts begin to falter. We are responsible for taking care of our communities, but people take cues from their leaders. In attempting to get my (extremely vulnerable) community cleaned, I wrote to the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, I believe about two years ago (I lost track), about the deplorable conditions. After following up several times, I am still awaiting a response. Some of the problems I identified have now worsened and, I suspect, are already contributing to the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Connecting with communities on a deeper level is not difficult. In my experience they welcome respectful communication and genuine attempts to improve their quality of life. However, sustainability of these efforts is essential, as well as an all-of-society approach to finding solutions. Health and environmental crises are now a normal part of our lives, so yes, citizens must do better. But the State must also be more vigilant in providing us with the support and engagement that we require. Dara E Healy is a performance artist and founder of the Indigenous Creative Arts Network – ICAN The post Include community in dengue fight appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
July 13, 2024

Media must be free

THE FRAMERS of our republic saw fit to include, within the supreme law, freedom of the press. While the Constitution protects free expression as a fundamental right, the 1974 Hugh Wooding Commission believed it necessary to go further, given the historical and emotional importance of a free press in a society premised on rights. And so, the law tells us: The media are no sacred cow; they do not exist in a framework above citizens. At the same time, a vigorous press goes hand in hand with an alert democracy, and its freedoms are not to be trifled with. This is the context in which we today take note of recent developments in relation to the Government and One Caribbean Media (OCM), the parent company of the Trinidad Express Newspaper, CCN TV6 and i95.5 FM. The State’s move to appoint two members to the OCM board – wisely rejected by shareholders at an annual general meeting on July 11 – is cause for disquiet. It brings into focus a cavalier, if not hostile, approach. Since 2018, the National Investment Fund Holding Company Ltd (NIF) – whose sole shareholder is the Government – has owned 15,285,917 OCM shares. These shares were previously held by Clico, which was subject to a 2009 bailout. Separately, Republic Bank Ltd (RBL) owns 2,993,209 OCM shares. RBL’s registered owner is Republic Financial Holdings Ltd, which is 26 per cent owned by NIF. Classing its peculiar media holdings, which it has opted not to dispose of, like any ordinary entity, the ostensible reason given by the Government for its meddlesome position was one of preventing share-price dissipation. “This move by no stretch of the imagination has anything to do with seeking to influence editorial policy,” said Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning in reply to Senate queries from Wade Mark earlier this month. Mr Manning, whose father Patrick Manning, ironically, sparred with the press as prime minister, claimed nominal share fluctuations suggest it is “necessary for the largest shareholder in OCM to be present in corporate decision-making.” However, the minister’s position pays little heed to the fact that the NIF share of OCM accounts for only two per cent of NIF’s overall portfolio. And that well-rated portfolio has been thriving, irrespective of any share fluctuations. In fact, OCM recently recorded rising profitability and has consistently paid out dividends in the years 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. In any event, being “present in corporate decision-making” very strongly suggests operating in a way that does not necessarily firewall editorial independence at a moment when the State itself is already in the media business through entities like TTT. That dangerous possibility, and its perception, are plainly what shareholders this week took heed of. They know, unlike the Government, that a media organisation without independence is not one worth having. The post Media must be free appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
July 13, 2024

Accident claim? Just accept offer

THE EDITOR: If you own a car, here are some facts for you. I have gained this knowledge over the last three years. 1. If you have an accident claim, you have four years to get it settled. 2. Under prevailing conditions, just accept the offer and move on. 3. Do not waste your money on lawyers, they won't help you. 4. If possible, the only help you might get is from a claims adjuster and it probably won't be enough. How did I gain this knowledge? My vehicle was damaged by another driver who apparently believed that a red traffic light meant keep going. His insurer had a valuator decide the value of my car. His quote was somewhere in the area of less than half of what it was actually worth. My vehicle suffered only cosmetic damage yet he decided it should be written off. His estimate to repair my car was more than the value he put on the entire car. Does that make sense? How can two fenders, one hood, one bumper and grille and one radiator cost more than the entire vehicle when the vehicle was already equipped with those items and also had an engine, transmission, suspension, steering, brakes, seven leather seats and a lot of other goodies, too many to mention. I sought help from five different lawyers and all I got were promises and nothing else. I eventually found out that the court very seldom disagrees with the valuation quoted. Here is the catch: if the valuator supplied an honest quote, certain insurance companies would not accept it and seek the services of another valuator who would supply them with a valuation they prefer. The services of the first valuator would not be used in the future. The valuators rely on the insurance companies to keep their businesses going and in this way they have been conditioned to provide a low valuation. There is an opposite side to this. I offer this fact in support of my statement. I purchased a property in 1998 for $580,000 and I had a valuator assess the property in order to get ample insurance coverage. The valuator valued the property at $1,300,000. The insurance in this case is collecting, not paying. I have to say that justice is severely lacking when it comes to insurance claims. In a just society, in a case like mine, if the insurance company decides that my vehicle is a write-off, it should be prepared to replace it with a similar make, model and trim, instead of being allowed to get away with a pitiful, partial payment, leaving the innocent owner holding the bag. RICHARD DEANE Diego Martin The post Accident claim? Just accept offer appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
July 13, 2024

Yes, a real country but for how long?

THE EDITOR: People routinely write letters saying "Trinidad is not a real country." Of course that's nonsensical, but I can understand where their thoughts may be coming from. Our population takes everything lightly, including the people in charge – the usual "nine-day wonder" scenario – so we are never serious about anything. To wit: Wrecking: we get hot and sweaty any time the authorities announce they are going to resume towing illegally parked vehicles. But they will soon backslide again because the wrecker will start up, work for a couple of weeks and then never be seen again for months. Supposedly they are on Ariapita Avenue and all over Woodbrook but you would never guess that from the amount of vehicles parked under "No Parking" signs. The alert goes out, "No inspection stickers displayed – tickets and demerit points!" That galvanises people into action for a couple of weeks – fixing their broken tail lights, horns, mufflers and the like. But lo and behold, after a month that ceases to be an issue again until another announcement from the toothless authorities. And let's not even talk about enforcing the speed limit. When that announcement first came out and radar guns were being used, everyone was driving slow and nice, no road hogs behind you flashing lights for you to get out of their lane – driving was easy. Now we have the police cars on the highways and drivers are zooming past them with no repercussions. We may be a real country, but we're quickly getting to a state where we may not be for much longer. HAFEEZ AMIN Woodbrook The post Yes, a real country but for how long? appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
July 13, 2024

Elevation of pan

THE EDITOR: Pan's national status has been elevated to the ultimate level enjoyed by all our other national emblems and symbols. Thank you! HENRY HARPER Petit Valley The post Elevation of pan appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
July 13, 2024

What to put in your disaster kit

THE EDITOR: The hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30. It is therefore imperative that all homes prepare a disaster kit. The kit should have: Water, a gallon per person a day; non-perishable food; first aid kit; cash; prescription medicine; extra batteries; matches in a waterproof container; toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap; paper plates, plastic cups, paper towels; battery-powered radio; sleeping bags; flashlights; whistle to signal for help; can opener; baby supplies, if one is present; extra pair of eyeglasses. It is better to be safe than sorry. Planning is a most effective skill. Safety is first and foremost. AV RAMPERSAD Princes Town The post What to put in your disaster kit appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
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