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Trinidad and Tobago Government News
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    The Honourable Faris Al-Rawi, M.P., Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs met with Mr. Marshall Billingslea, the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, U.S. Department of the Treasury, on  Wednesday 15th January 2020 at the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, AGLA Tower, Government Plaza, corner London and Richmond Streets, Port of Spain. Attending the meeting with Mr. Billingslea were Policy Advisor Ms. Crina Ebanks, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Senior Advisor Ms. Katrina Feitt, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and  Mr. Matt Ciesielski, Economic Officer, Embassy of the United States of America. Also present were Supt. Wendell Lucas, Head of the Financial Investigations Branch, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, Mrs. Vyana Sharma, Head, Anti-Terrorism Unit, Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs and Ms. Vashti Maharaj, Head of Legal, Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.


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    His Excellency Kumar Gupta, High Commissioner for Canada to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago led a week-long visit by the Advisor to the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, Mr. Michael Ryan, to T&T to advance Canada-Trinidad and Tobago cooperation on prison reform.

    This visit came on the heels of High Commissioner Gupta’s presentation of credentials to Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

    Activities during the week included meetings with the Minister of National Security the Honourable Stuart Young, the Attorney General, the Honourable Faris Al-Rawi, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, and Ag Commissioner of Prisons Dane Clarke.

    Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Service continues to actively engage with Correctional Service Canada (CSC) under a Charter of Commitments signed in October 2017. CSC and TT Prisons are working together towards the transition from a punitive model to a rehabilitation model for the TT Prison system.

    Progress on the work done under the Charter includes collaboration whereby senior management of TT Prisons have visited facilities in Canada to observe and learn about best practices of corrections management in Canada. Working in partnership, TT Prisons and CSC have identified areas where members of the TT senior prisons management can get further training.

    In the way forward, there are plans to undertake on-the-ground training for program and parole officers, in anticipation of the tabling of legislation for the introduction of a system of parole - with the objective of moving towards rehabilitation of inmates and increasing public safety for all citizens of T&T.


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    On Wednesday 15 January, 2020 a meeting was convened between the preferred bidder, Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Limited (Patriotic) and their international advisors, the Evaluation Committee and a Cabinet sub-Committee comprising of three Ministers, namely; The Honourable Stuart Young in the capacity as Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator the Honourable Robert Le Hunte, Minister of Public Utilities and Senator the Honourable Franklin Khan, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI).

    The MEEI is pleased to report that it was a very productive meeting, with the main objective being the restart of the refinery. The next steps are the establishment of dedicated teams on both sides to achieve this mandate as well as a detailed inspection of the assets in the transaction.

    As we seek to finalize the transaction, there would be continued dialogue between all parties with a view to achieving the restart of the refinery within the earliest possible timeframe which would redound to the benefit of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.


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    Respect, appreciation and reconciliation were some of the commitments expressed by a group of students and parents of the Diego Martin North Secondary. These life changing statements were the results of their meeting with a team of the Ministry of Education senior officials led by the Honourable Anthony Garcia, Minister of Education. The meeting held on 15th January, 2020 at the Education Tower is part of the ongoing plans to implement measures to address safety and security concerns at the school.

    Minister Garcia, a former teacher and school principal himself, give details to the group about the ongoing intervention at the school, which include the continuous presence of members of a multidisciplinary team comprising officers from School Supervision, Students Support Services (SSS) and Curriculum Planning and Development. However, he explained that any level of intervention will be incomplete without the support and partnership with parents. “Responsible parenting is key in the success of our students. Education starts at home and we are here to reinforce positive values and to support and assist parents as needed, as we work together in moulding the future generations”, said Minister Garcia.

    Parents themselves took the opportunity to open-up about their own parenting challenges and request assistance. Their concerns were noted by members of the Student Support Services and further support will be provided in areas such as anger management as they work individually with some of these students.

    Simultaneously to the meeting with the group of students and their parents held at the Ministry’s head office, another team of senior officials visited the school and met with teachers, staff members and TTUTA’s representatives. They were also updated on the ongoing plans to improve safety at the school as they welcomed the Ministry’s intervention. 

    Back on November last year, teachers at the Diego Martin North Secondary School walked off the compound claiming health and safety issues after a rock was thrown at a window in the teachers’ staff-room. Since them, work has commenced to raise the perimeter wall of the school compound and a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) have been issued stating the action taken by teachers to stay away from work is not justifiable.

     


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    CR14 of 2019 The Attorney General Of Trinidad And Tobago v The Registrar Of The Supreme Court; The Commissioner Of Police; And The Commissioner Of Prisons

    1. The Office of the Attorney General instituted legal proceedings against the Registrar of the Supreme Court, the Commissioners of Police and Prisons by Fixed Date Claim Form on December 23, 2019, on the same date The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was proclaimed by Her Excellency, the President, and became law.

    2. During the course of these proceedings, the Attorney General successfully obtained all the Orders it sought from the Court including the potential of thousands of persons being entitled to have their criminal records expunged and to make applications for pardons before the Mercy Committee.

    3. Specifically, pursuant to submissions made on behalf of the Attorney General, the Honourable Mr. Justice Jack, by Order dated December 27, 2019, varied the Bail Orders of two (2) minors from Tobago who were in custody at the Youth Training and Rehabilitation Centre, and both minors were subsequently transferred to Tobago and released into the custody of their guardians. The matter was then re-scheduled with a short time –frame to January 6, 2020.

    4. On January, 6, 2020, the Court was informed of the preliminary data received from the various District Courts and the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service which revealed the amount of persons on bail in the sum of approximately 505 persons across the various Magisterial Districts. Thereafter, the Court considered the information presented to it, expressed its urgent concern with those persons in custody, and adjourned the matter to January, 14, 2020 for a report on same.

    5. In accordance with the Court’s directive, and the information supplied by the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service, on January 14, 2020, the Attorney General caused the release of information pertinent to two (2) inmates: Brian Prince and Kenrick Sylvester. Subsequently, the Court granted both inmates their own bond in the sum of $500.00.

    6. As a consequence, the Attorney General is pleased to report that the said inmates were released from the Remand Prison, Golden Grove, on Wednesday 15th January at 11:23 a.m.

    7. Further, the Court was also informed that upon the receipt of further information from the District Courts, the number of persons on bail increased to 699, and will increase further as the information is provided. This number does not take into account those persons already convicted (approximately 67) and who are entitled to have their matters also expunged and pardoned.


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    The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS) is pleased to announce that with immediate effect, prospective beneficiaries of the Ministry’s Food Support Programme will be provided with temporary food cards (TFC) during the period preceding final review and approval of their application. According to Minister of Social Development and Family Services, the Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis: “This measure is part of our Ministry’s ongoing efforts to show that we care and that we are trying to make sure there is no gap in the support for food, for those most in need of it”.

    The policy makes provision for temporary cards to be provided to households that are experiencing chronic food poverty/deprivation during the processing of their application.  Individuals applying for long-term food support assistance will receive a temporary card upon initial qualification based on passing the SMT. A second TFC will only be issued upon the completion of an application and where all the necessary documentation to validate the Standard Means Test have been submitted. Such a household will continue to receive a TFC until the Food Support Application is processed and a long-term Food Card is delivered or the household has been deemed ineligible for food support following completion of the investigative process.

    It is expected that over five hundred households per month will be impacted by this measure. Some of these will include households with persons with disabilities, children, as well as, recent applicants from the National Social Mitigation Plan’s Social Outreach Caravan who passed the SMT.

    Additional information will continue to be made available via the Ministry’s website and social media feeds. Alternatively, clients can also call the Ministry’s toll free hotline at 800 -1MSD (800-1673).


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    It is that time of the year when the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) component of our schools’ curriculum takes center stage. This was evident on Wednesday morning when past winners of the Junior Calypso Monarch entertained many at the launch of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians' Organisation (TUCO)/First Citizens Junior Calypso Monarch 2020 at the VIP Lounge of the Queen’s Park Savannah.

    Addressing the launch, the Honourable Anthony Garcia, Minister of Education outlined the versatility of Calypso. “It is important for us, as educators, to be reminded always, that Calypso and culture are very important. In fact, in any country, one of the underpinnings of the society, is its culture and a very important aspect of the culture of Trinidad & Tobago is the Steel Pan and Calypso.  You can use Calypso to teach Poetry and Essay Writing in our schools, we can use Calypso to talk about the Geography of our country. There are so many areas that Calypso can offer us that we must always pay homage to Calypso and our Calypsonians,” said Minister Garcia.

    The Education Minister expressed appreciation for the collaboration between TUCO and First Citizens Bank, who renewed their sponsorship agreement for another five (5) years. ‘I want to show appreciation for the work that has been done by TUCO and I want to pledge the Ministry of Education’s support to TUCO in ensuring that calypso remains on the front burner of our cultural offerings in this country. Whatever assistance in our capacity as educators and as a Ministry of Education we can give, I want to assure the President of TUCO that we will do it. Said Minister Garcia.

    Quoting from the Mighty Sparrow’s song ‘Education”, Minister Garcia literally begged the students in attendance to pay special attention to their education because education can take them out of poverty.   


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    The Ministry of Communications (MOC) wishes to address the suggestion that the Government is acting unconstitutionally when it utilises the Concession documentto share information on Government policies and decisions.

    President of the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) Kiran Maharaj stated in the Newsday dated 15 January 2020 that the association’s concern “…is from an industry standpoint, over the use of the telecommunications concession by governments, specifically sections D31 and D32…It is constant and ongoing and it is unconstitutional."

    However, the Concession which is signed by all providers of public broadcasting and telecommunications services, sets out the terms and conditions under which the Government can request airtime of broadcast stations.

    All free-to-air radio and TV stations agreed to the conditions set out under conditions D30 to 32 of their Concession. Section D 30 provides, inter alia:

    “The concessionaire shall, on a free-of-charge basis up to a limit of fourteen (14) hours per calendar week…. transmit any programme, announcement, information or other material which the Government may require to be transmitted as a matter of public interest…Such material shall, up to a limit of one hour per day, be transmitted without accompanying advertisement.”

    Minister of Communications, Senator the Honourable Donna Cox said, “We are not unreasonable. For us, every request is the beginning of a negotiation. Often, stations inform us that they are unable to air Government programmes at the times we request, and so begins a discussion. We have always been able to reach some compromise.”

    For example, the Government gets one (1) hour per week from one TV station although the Concession provides for up to fourteen (14) hours per calendar week. 

    Moreso, it is incorrect that, “Almost every week a media house gets a letter from Government expressing the wish to utilise the air time” as espoused by TTPBA’s President.   The record will reflect that prior to the January request from the MOC, the last request for air time was made in November.

    “We value the media and its role in shaping a society we can all be proud of. We also value our relationship with the media and will do nothing to undermine this fourth pillar of democracy,” reiterated Minister Cox.

    But it is deliberately misleading to imply the Government bullied or acted unethically in its use of the Concession and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) arrangement with journalist Khamal Georges.

    Minister Cox reiterated that the questions were not furnished by the OPM and Mr Georges was free to ask any question he wished, although the OPM requested the interview. This arrangement is in keeping with industry practice.

    The Government is mindful of its obligations to citizens and its commitment to a free press in Trinidad and Tobago. Each request made to radio and TV stations takes into consideration the delicate balancing act both parties face between commercial obligations and public interest.

    Nevertheless, information is a key pillar of any democracy and no one can deny that it is the duty of the Government to communicate its policies and decisions.

    Minister Cox is available and willing to meet with the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) and the TTPBA to clear up any misconceptions.

     

    Key clauses of the Concession in full:

    Section D 30:

    “The concessionaire shall, on a free-of-charge basis up to a limit of fourteen (14) hours per calendar week, and thereafter at an agreed rate not to exceed eighty-seven and one-half percent (87.5%) of the concessionaire’s regular commercial rate for similar broadcast transmissions, transmit any programme, announcement, information or other material which the Government may require to be transmitted as a matter of public interest, during the concessionaire’s ordinary business hours, or at any hour to be selected by agreement with the Government. Such material shall, up to a limit of one hour per day, be transmitted without accompanying advertisement.”

    Section D 31:

    “Pursuant to condition D30, the Government may reasonably declare any matter or event to be of public interest and require the concessionaire to broadcast such matter or event, but the Government shall, in deciding the actual time of transmission and length of broadcast, consult with the concessionaire with a view to causing the least possible disruption to the normal commercial operations of the concessionaire.”

    Section D 32: 

    “The transmission time allocated to the Government may be varied on the giving of twenty-four (24) hours notice to the concessionaire, except that, in the case of an emergency, such notice period shall be waived.”


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    If you, or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please know that assistance is available through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services’ National Family Services Division (NFSD).

    Staffed by a cadre of highly skilled and trained professionals who are guided by the ethical principles of the Social Work profession, the NFSD caters primarily to the needs of individuals and families in order to provide greater psychosocial support.

    The NFSD is located at 95 -97 Frederick Street, Port of Spain (at the Law Association Bldg. opposite Elections and Boundaries Commission)  and at the Ministry’s Social Welfare offices in Couva, Chaguanas, Tunapuna, San Juan, Arima, Princes Town, Rio Claro, San Fernando, Penal and Point Fortin.

    Persons may contact the National Family Services Division by calling: 623 – 2608 ext.’s 6701-6707 or visit our various offices to receive free counselling and support.

    Other agencies that provide similar types of psychosocial support are:

    Office of the Prime Minister

    ChildLine – contact:    800-4321

    Children’s Authority – 800 – 2014 or 996 - 2014

    The Authority’s 24 hour hotline is for the receipt of reports of child abuse. In addition to other services, the CA investigates those reports to validate whether a child is in imminent danger and is in need of care and protection.

    Families in Action – contact:  628-6333

    • In person counselling
    • 24 hour Hotline Counselling  - Hotline:
    • Parenting, youth, and domestic violence education
    • Addictions screening and group support
    • Group support for female survivors of domestic violence

    Manages the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800- 7283 (SAVE) Available: 24 hours

    Rape Crisis Society of Trinidad and Tobago:-

    Contacts:

    North Office:   627- 7273

    8:00 AM- 4:00 PM                 

    6:00 PM- 6:00 AM

    South Office-   657-5355

    8:15 AM- 4:15 PM

    6:00 PM- 6:00 AM

    • Provides counselling and support for victims of domestic violence and rape 
    • Individual and group counselling
    • Walk-in services
    • Educates public about sexual violence issues through outreach programmes

    Trinidad and Tobago Innovative Parenting Support

    Contact: 664-1520

    Monday – Friday 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM

    • Parenting courses
    • Affordable counselling services
    • Parent empowerment groups
    • Training workshops for parents

     

    Lifeline Trinidad and Tobago

    Contact: 645-2800, life@lifelinett.com

    • 24 Hour Listening Service
    • STOP (Student Outreach Programme) towards improved literacy for YTC
      • Schools Outreach to students at high risk of being victims and/or perpetrators of violence and crime. 
      • The Kevin Fund - Lifeline’s newest project which supports persons who have been in YTC
      • Partners for Peace - A group of organisations coming together to advocate for 10 cents in the Security $ for prevention of violence in communities. 

     


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    In an effort to ensure that whilst citizens who apply for the Food Card are awaiting their permanent card are not left in a position where they still cannot obtain food; the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS), has determined that applicants who are waiting will be provided with a temporary card.

    Minister of Social Development and Family Services, the Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis has stated that with immediate effect, prospective beneficiaries of the Ministry’s Food Support Programme will be provided with temporary food cards (TFC) during the period preceding final review and approval of their application. According to the Minister “This measure is part of the Ministry’s ongoing effort to ensure that we meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens. We are trying to make sure that there is no gap in the support for food, for those most in need of it”.

    The policy makes provision for temporary cards to be provided to households that are experiencing chronic food poverty/deprivation during the processing of their application. Individuals applying for long-term food support assistance will receive a temporary card upon initial application, whilst the Ministry is processing their application. When the application has been processed and the applicant is found to have qualified, a permanent Food Card will be issued.

    It is expected that over five hundred households per month will be impacted by this measure. Some of these will include households with persons with disabilities, children, as well as, recent applicants from the National Social Mitigation Plan’s Social Outreach Caravan.


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