NAR says Manning not humane with Caroni
Lennox Sankersingh, political
leader of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), has accused
the PNM government of not dealing with Caroni 1975 Ltd in a humane and
"The NAR states categorically
that it agrees with the restructuring of Caroni (1975) Ltd. but it
must be done but in a humane way," said Sankersingh last week.
Sankersingh believed that the
current plan by the PNM government would upset the social balance, "as
too many people would be displaced at the same time."
"Retrenching 9,000 workers can
only lead to chaos," he commented.
Sankersingh cited this as a
tragedy compounded by the fact that government had no alternative,
concrete plans for creating other forms of employment for these
people. The NAR leader also blamed the PNM for Caroni’s present
He contended that during the
oil boom they (PNM) had ignored the state owned company and allowed it
Sankersingh then went on to
condemn the PNM for creating another ‘DEWD system’ referring to the
He contended that CECEP lacked
accountability and had no planning in relation to the local government
Another serious danger of the
programme was deemed to be the influx of party politics in community
councils and local government bodies, which said Sankersingh, would
lead to the overall destruction of local government.
Shifting to the topic of
crime, no one was spared from blame. "We breed the criminals in many
ways, just look at the prison system," he cried.
He called for prison reform,
which he believed could not be truly addressed until our political
system was overhauled.
"Governance is currently based on antagonism
and such needs to be changed before crime can be reduced," he
Health Minister in search for Cuban doctors
Health Minister Colm Imbert has left for Cuba to initiate discussions
for the recruitment of doctors and nurses to take up local positions.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning
announced at a People’s National Movement meeting at Couva on Saturday
that Imbert will be part of a delegation led by Foreign Affairs
Minister Knowlson Gift to hold discussions with the Cuban Government.
Manning said the objective is
"to see whether and to what extent, Cuban medical personnel — who
incidentally are world renowned — are available to the health services
in Trinidad and Tobago, so we can provide a better service for all our
During a month-long impasse,
which near crippled services at the major public hospitals earlier
this year, Government had threatened to bring in Cuban doctors to fill
positions vacated by local medical practitioners.
The Medical Practitioners
Association strenuously objected the move and even wrote to Cuban
president Fidel Castro informing him that any doctors coming here
would be doing so as "scab labourers".
Dr Colin Furlonge, president
of MPATT, said he had no comment to make in response to Manning’s
Manning, recalling "difficulty
in medical services" during the month of January, said the PNM wants
to make it clear that the Cuban initiative is not related specifically
to that industrial impasse.
He said the move is part of
the government’s strategy to continue to improve medical services in
Govt minister takes to his heels after stormy Caroni meeting
By Sandra Chouthi
Indo Caribbean World
The government’s offer of voluntary separation of
employment programme (VSEP) to thousands of workers of the
unprofitable Caroni (1975) Ltd came to a head last week when
Agriculture Minister John Rahael had to flee from angry sugar workers
on March 13.
The next day, Rahael, a Syrian
businessman, came in for heavy heckling from Opposition Members of
Parliament when the Lower House met. "Run, Rahael, run, run in (your)
Reeboks!" the MPs shouted to Rahael, laughing, as he rose to answer
questions on the Order Paper.
Rahael answered his questions
briefly and returned to his seat. Pointe-a-Pierre MP Gillian Lucky
also had some choice words for Rahael. If he had listened, she said,
he would not have had to run. "Unlike Forrest Gump," Lucky said, "he
didn’t have crutches, but he had to run in his Reeboks." Rahael had
met with the sugar workers at the Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resource
Centre in McBean, Couva, but left hurriedly after the meeting turned
into a shouting match.
The March 13 incident came on
the heels of Couva South MP Kelvin Ramnath and Rudranath Indarsingh,
president of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union,
stating to the government that they could not guarantee its safety if
its ministers were to find themselves in central Trinidad.
The government has offered
VSEP to the company’s 9,000 workers. In published full-page newspaper
advertisements, the company has stated that the actuarial firm of
Bacon, Woodrow and de Souza conducted several actuarial reviews of its
daily paid pension plans, and the most recent review showed that an
injection of (Can) $81 million is required to fully fund pension
payments to daily paid workers as they become due.
"In early January 2003, the government agreed
to fund the deficit to the full extent as determined by the actuaries.
This decision of Cabinet was communicated to all stakeholders," the
February 23 ad stated.
The government’s public
relations campaign on Caroni (1975) Ltd has been executed along the
lines of the VSEP being part of its restructuring plans for the
company. Rahael, speaking to members of the Pt Lisas Chamber of
Commerce on March 13, said that the Caroni VSEP plan was good for
central Trinidad. All viable agricultural and commercial lands owned
by the State sugar producer will be distributed to employees as part
of government’s drive to ensure that they reap the maximum benefits
from accepting VSEP, Rahael said.
Part of the public relations
has been to carry radio ads about different aspects of the plan - VSEP,
land distribution and psychological and financial counselling and
retraining for those who might be affected by the changes.
The Basdeo Panday-led United
National Congress, now in Opposition, has been urging sugar workers to
"take to the streets to fight government’s decision to shut down the
Brechin Castle sugar factory", which is located in Couva. "We must
take to the streets and fight back," declared Wade Mark on February 21
at a public meeting at Gasparillo Junction. "They want to become
millionaires through our sweat and blood," Mark shouted. "The fight
back starts tonight. We are not prepared to be second-class citizens."
Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal
told sugar workers that they will never see government’s promise of
land. He accused the People’s National Movement government of being on
a warpath and of wanting to destroy sugar workers’ communities, family
and their children’s future.
More than 1,000 Caroni workers
took to the streets on February 6 when they marched outside Whitehall,
the Office of the Prime Minister, wearing red jerseys and carrying
Prime Minister Patrick Manning
refused to meet with the protesting workers. "Some of this thing might
be politically inspired," Manning said. Explaining why neither he nor
any of his ministers went out to meet with them, Manning said: "There
was nothing new that could have been added today by going out except
to add some kerosene to the fire, which we didn’t intend to do."
Caroni has always operated at
a loss. A March 9 newspaper ad stated that the company has for decades
relied on its shareholder, the government, to support its operations
"Increased dependence on the
shareholder to fund operating deficits and developments in the
international sugar markets have dictated that Caroni restructure its
operations, becoming more productive and efficient in its operating
methods so as to bring about financial viability."
Planning and Development
Minister Dr Keith Rowley stated on March 8 at a public meeting in St
Augustine that Caroni (1975) Ltd is owing the State more than (Can)
$.5 billion; the Water and Sewerage Authority (Can) $5 million, First
Citizens Bank (Can) $8.8 million and the National Gas Company (Can)
"That has to stop for the benefit of all the
people of Trinidad and Tobago," Rowley said. "That Republic of Caroni
Ltd, which they want you to believe is different from anything else in
this country, can disregard the law and the government just pays. We
are saying that is coming to an end and order will return to Caroni
Alert out for Al Qaeda
man with T&T passport
The Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) last week launched a hunt for a suspected Al Qaeda
operative who was said to be holding a Trinidad and Tobago passport
and who might be planning an attack on the US
The FBI issued a "be on the
lookout" alert for Adnan G El Shukrijumah, 27, who was born in Saudi
Arabia and who, it said, might try to enter the US with a Saudi,
Canadian or Trinidad and Tobago passport.
"El Shukrijumah is possibly
involved with Al Qaeda terrorist activities and, if true, poses a
serious threat to US citizens and interests worldwide," the FBI said.
Prime Minister Patrick
Manning, who is chairman of the National Security Council, said last
night he was unaware of the FBI request for information on El
"I know nothing of it," a
surprised Manning told the media.
When told that El Shukrijumah
was thought to have a Trinidad and Tobago passport, among others,
Manning said: "A Trinidadian passport? That has not been drawn to my
attention at all."
The acting Minister of
National Security, Franklin Khan, also said he was "unaware" of the
El-Shukrijumah was recently
using the alias Jaafaral al-Tayyar, and the FBI bulletin said word of
his plans was based on information obtained from recently captured Al
"The United States has
information indicating he may be involved in Al Qaeda and may pose an
imminent threat to US interests at home or overseas," the bulletin
The suspect is said to have
pilot training and may already be in the US planning a "major attack",
senior counter-terrorism officials told NBC News. The officials, who
spoke on condition of anonymity, said authorities feared the man could
be "another Mohammed Atta".
The officials who spoke with
NBC News said El-Shukrijumah was known to have been in the US since
the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, living for a time in
Miami. The officials said they had no specific information about what
El-Shukrijuman, nicknamed "Jaafaral the Pilot", might be planning, but
they said his pilot training raised the possibility that he might be
planning an airborne attack similar to that carried out by Atta, the
ringleader of the 19 Al Qaeda hijackers who carried out the September
the investigation of the possible threat came three days after the
Homeland Security Department raised the national terrorist threat
assessment to "orange" — the second-highest level on the five-tier
alert scheme — out of concern that war with Iraq could trigger
terrorist attacks against US interests at home or abroad.
Now kidnappings spread to children
Hilton Guy last week noted that "kidnappings were spreading and not
focussed to one category". He stated this at a media brief last week
at the Ministry of National Security at Abercromby Street, Port of
Guy gave the example of Micha
Bernard who was kidnapped two weeks ago to make his point that
kidnappings no longer applied to wealthy families as "Bernard is not
out from a family of wealth".
Nine-year-old Micha is the son
of Marlon Bernard, a Customs Clerk, and Marcia Bernard, a clerk at the
Ministry of Industries and Commerce.
Adrianna Ramsingh, aged 8, the
daughter of Ramesh, owner of Ramsingh’s Glass Specialists, and Routie
Ramsingh, was kidnapped on last Wednesday. Both children have been
returned to their families.
Both officials of the
Anti-Kidnapping Squad (AKS) and relatives of the children who were
kidnapped would not disclose information on whether ransom demands
were made for the children’s return.
When Guy was questioned about
the new issue of child kidnapping and alleged reports of an increased
security presence at schools, he stated "those two persons were not at
schools". The Commissioner neither denied nor confirmed the reports.
An official at the AKS also
said that he could not comment on alleged reports of an increase in
police security at schools. When asked about issue of child kidnapping
he said: "If they occur they would be handled like any other
Guy reiterated the policy that
the payment of ransom money should not be the "foremost strategy" in
dealing with kidnappers. He said that succumbing to kidnappers’
demands set a precedent that kidnapping is a fruitful business.