July 19, 2006 issue

Trinidad & Tobago

Scaffolding falls down, Sharma standing strong
Industrial accident marks bomb anniversary
By Sandra Chouthi
Special to
Indo Caribbean World

Port-of-Spain - A day after the anniversary of the July 11, 2005, bombing in Port-of-Spain, the city was dealing with yet another big event when an accident took place at the construction site of the Customs and Excise building on Wrightson Road.
This time, the event was 20 men falling from an eight-storey high scaffolding.
One of most seriously injured construction workers was Floyd ‘Fires’ Simmons, whose left leg was amputated on July 13. Front page newspaper reports carried photos of Simmons on his hospital bed, his bandaged limb exposed.
The collapsing scaffolding took place a day after Trinidad and Tobago observed the first anniversary of the bombing in Port-of-Spain. Thirteen people were injured.
There were published photos of Yvonne McIvor in a wheelchair and on her feet. McIvor lost her left leg when a bomb exploded on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain. She has since been outfitted with a prosthetic leg.
McIvor, 66, has been noted for her courage from day one. This cancer survivor spoke of pain and anguish and courage and the miracle of surviving the blast.
“The events that have challenged me have given me strength,” McIvor said. “Like a baby, I had to learn how to walk again. The process involved trial and error, finding your balance and discovering what your body can do. It was like a journey into the unknown with both physical and emotional undertones.”
Who planted the bomb in a bin and the motive behind the treacherous remain unanswered a year later.
Police Commissioner Trevor Paul said the investigation has not been closed, even though police have not yet made a breakthrough.
Two other bombings in Port-of-Spain followed, the second on August 10, and September 10. None has been solved.
The collapse of the scaffolding took place against the backdrop of government facing criticism over its failure to establish an occupational health and safety (OSH) agency to ensure that businesses are compliant with health and safety standards.
Cabinet announced on July 13 that it had approved the membership of an OSH Authority. Chairman of the Authority is Arlene Chow, vice-president of corporate operations at bpTT.
There have been eight other reported industrial accidents this year. On June 28, Tarran Gilmit, 26, of Penal Roack Road, and Anil Jailal, of Jaipaulsingh Road, Barrackpore, were killed in an explosion at PowerGen, Penal, while conducting routine maintenance repairs on the electricity breakers of a 33,000 kilovolts switch house. Don Andrews was hospitalised with extensive burns.
On June 7, Serigiy Romashanqu, 45, a sailor from the Ukraine suffered a broken neck, ruptured liver and abdominal injuries after he slipped on a latch cover while cleaning the main deck of cargo ship MV Smarty, and fell onto a lower deck. The ship was docked at Berth 1A at Pt Lisas docks to offload a cargo of animal feed.
On June 2, Andy Timothy, 23, aka Bat, of Couva, suffered a severed finger when a piece of wood from inside a ship at Plipdeco dislodged and crushed his left hand against a piece of metal.
On June 1, Dion Lezama and Ramnath Ezekiel, Port and Maritime Services Company workers, fell off a 40-foot container while conducting cargo checks at Plipdeco in Couva.
And on May 28, Wayne Lamont, 55, a terminal worker, Plipdeco, Pt Lisas, of Susan Street, Couva, had his arm and leg severed after being struck by a container handler.
While health and safety concerns occupy the attention of the Ministry of Labour and other officials, trouble continues to brew over Chief Justice Sat Sharma.
Sharma has managed to evade arrest following a successful attempt by a team of his attorneys on July 14 in the High Court. Lawyers in a late evening sitting argued and convinced Justice Judith Jones to vary her order which she had made 24 hours before.
Last Thursday at the San Fernando Civil Court, following legal arguments from attorneys Alvin Fitzpatrick, SC, and Rajiv Persad, Sharma was successful in gaining a temporary stay that prevented Asst Commissioner of Police Wellington Virgil from laying criminal charges against him.
However, Jones amended her decision on July 14 to include the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
Earlier in the week, Sharma was also successful in getting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Carla Browne-Antoine, from instructing that charges be laid against him.
Virgil was in charge of the investigations arising out of a complaint by Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls that Sharma attempted to influence the outcome of the Basdeo Panday trial.
Former prime minister Panday was charged with, found guilty and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour, of three counts of failing to declare a London Bank account.
Following Jones’ judgement, Sharma’s attorneys proceeded to his Fairways, Maraval home where they served the police with the amended judgement.
Insp Rapheal Romany of the Fraud Squad, who went to Sharma¹s residence to execute the warrant, left Sharma¹s residence around 7.20 pm.
However, initial attempts by police to serve the summons on Sharma was met with strong resistance by Sharma as he refused to leave his home and instead sent orders that members of the media vacate his driveway.
As the media patiently waited outside Sharma¹s driveway, a police officer on guard duty told the media and camera crew that the CJ wanted them removed from his driveway.
Soon after, a police car arrived to relieve the officer on duty while three other police officers escorted the media off the driveway and onto the road.
The officer on guard duty was asked by media personnel if the CJ is under house arrest and the officer responded, “No.”
President of the Law Association, Russell Martineau, SC, along with Justice Stanley John, were at Sharma¹s residence.
Since May 11, police began criminal investigations into allegations that Sharma tried to influence the decision of Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls in favour of Panday.
Panday, at the time, was before McNicolls charged with failing to declare his London bank account to the Integrity Commission.
Twenty-one witnesses were called to testify in the matter and following a three week trial, Panday was found guilty and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
He has since appealed this decision and is currently on bail.
Also prominent in the news was pregnant Alicia Halls, who thought she was going to give birth to one baby. She did give birth to a boy on July 6 at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Centre at Mt Hope, but he only lived for 15 minutes. Then, much to her surprise the day after, she gave birth to a baby girl at home.
Halls said she went home after she was discharged by her doctor. She said she still felt something big moving in her belly. She said hospital employees told her it might be a placenta.
Halls said the pain eventually subsided and she felt better. On July 7, Halls said she felt like urinating and asked her grandmother to bring a pail for her.
“While I was stooping over the pail, I feel like there was something in my passage and I passed my hand by my vagina. That is when I feel something fleshy and the then the baby just fell out into the pail,” Halls said.
Halls said when she went back to the hospital on July 9, the doctors and nurses, “Had an attitude towards me.”
Dr Esau Joseph, medical chief of staff, said the hospital bore no blame, that Halls did not follow her doctors’ advice and left the hospital.
He said Halls was admitted to the hospital on July 5 and had an ultrasound, which did not produce information that she was pregnant with twins.
“Ms Halls was supposed to do a review of the ultrasound with her physician. She ignored all medical advice and went home,” Joseph said.

UK advisory warns about crime

Port-of-Spain - A British High Commission travel advisory has reinforced warnings to travelers about crime in Trinidad and particularly Tobago, and also about local health care.
The advisory would remain standing until a satisfactory reduction in crime is noted.
The current advisory particularly warns against theft and violent robberies in the country’s capital and Tobago. It also warns cruise ship passengers to take particular care when walking around the docks and downtown Port-of-Spain.
The High Commission outlined in the advisory several examples of crime affecting British nationals, including break-ins and attacks in popular tourist areas such as Fort George, the Pitch Lake, supermarkets, shopping malls and night clubs.
Authorities in Tobago were described as “being unable to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators.”
According to the advisory, on May 26, nine people were robbed at a villa near Mount Irvine Bay Hotel and Golf Club.
“Extreme caution is advised if renting villas in the south-west; and at villas throughout the island, you (British nationals) should ensure that adequate security is in place,” the advisory stated.
“The standard of driving in Trinidad and Tobago is poor...Road accidents leading to fatalities are a regular occurrence.”
The advisory cautioned British nationals to drive with care and use taxis when necessary.
Health care is another aspect the advisory warns against.
It warns of high HIV/Aids levels in Trinidad and Tobago as well as dengue haemorrhagic fever which is on the increase.
The advisory also warns that “medical facilities can be limited and may not be up to UK standards.”

UNC: Naked grab for power
Vasant Bharath
Port-of-Spain - The UNC sees Friday’s attempt to arrest Chief Justice Sat Sharma as “the naked grab for power” by Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his regime.
“The UNC notes with grave concern the uneasiness and increasing fears of our citizens, both locally and those resident abroad, as a result of Mr Manning’s growing dictatorial tendencies,” UNC chairman Vasant Bharath said.
Bharath said Manning’s actions were consistent with his behaviour previously, when he placed former House Speaker Occah Seapaul under house arrest after failing to remove her from office.
He said the UNC planned mobilising the country for a mass protest and other activities it deemed necessary to condemn the Manning regime’s victimisation of those opposed to them.
UNC Senator Wade Mark likened Manning to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
“What we are faced here in Trinidad and Tobago is the emergency of a Robert Mugabe right here in Trinidad and Tobago in the personality of Mr. Patrick Manning. This is very dangerous. This is very serious. We will not allow Patrick Manning and the PNM to ride roughshod over the rights, freedoms of our citizens in this country,” he said.
MP Subhas Panday said Police Commissioner Trevor Paul’s statement that it was his decision to arrest Sharma was “pay back time.”
He added: “Paul is merely falling in line with the wishes of Patrick Manning, and this is a severe blow to the judiciary.”
Panday said government intended to replace Sharma with a PNM judge.
“When he gets rid of Sharma, you could make sure it is a PNM judge they are going to put as Chief Justice. You may not look very far and find that it might be relatives of some PNM ministers. We must make sure that this does not happen.”
Panday said a one-line bill to amend the Supreme Court Ajudicature Act to increase the number of judges from 23 to 25 had been on the Order Paper since January.
“They keep pushing that bill backwards. They want to hound Sharma out of office so they will put their boy in place at the head of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission.”
Panday said young, pro-PNM judges would be appointed, but they were incompetent and weak.
“And the type of judges they will put in place are weak, people who are supporters of the PNM. They put the young people, people who are incompetent as judges, so that this country will be saddled with a judiciary which is pro-PNM, which is incompetent, and which will be there for a very long time because they are young.”
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