Trinidadians Stranded Abroad for 340+ Days

Submitted by Dr Kumar Mahabir

There have been more than 5,000 Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) nationals and citizens left outside of their homeland. The borders have been closed since March 2020 – a year ago – as a Government’s COVID-19 prevention measure.

It is more than 340 days, and counting, and some nationals and citizens are still stranded abroad.

Sangeeta Jagdeo, a T&T national who returned to the country after being stranded in India, said:

The Minister of National Security puts it very nicely on paper, but the implementation of the process is a total failure … They are misleading the population.

Guardian 27/12/20

These citizens feel that they have been abandoned by the Government. They have been left in a foreign land, some of them hungry, homeless and penniless. They sleep in train stations and on the pavements, and are facing a very cold winter. Many of them – like the migrant seasonal farmworkers in Canada – are dying to return home.

Meanwhile, Government Ministers and their families (with their dogs) are granted exemptions to leave and return as they wish.

The following are HIGHLIGHTS of a ZOOM public meeting held recently (14/02/21) on the topic “5,000 T&T Citizens stranded abroad for 320+ days.” The Pan-Caribbean public meeting was hosted by the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre (ICC). It was chaired by Sharlene Maharaj and moderated by Bindu Deokinath Maharaj, both women of Trinidad.

The speakers were KAREN LEE GHIN, a Trinidadian-American activist helping stranded Trinidadians in the USA since March last year; SHALLENA BUJAN, a T&T citizen in the UK whose mother is critically ill at home; GERALD RAMDEEN, an attorney-at-law who has taken legal against the Government to re-open the country’s borders to nationals; and ANONYMOUS STRANDED SPEAKERS (past and present) who did not reveal their names and photos for fear of victimisation.

Stranded in Venezuela,

SALIM wrote the following to us just after the ZOOM meeting:

“Please just give me hope that very soon I will overcome the worst and most disastrous time of my life, being stranded and abandoned here in Venezuela. I came here for 10 days on the 15th March 2020 to open a registered import-export company.

At first, I had been staying at a hotel here, who I now owe $5,800 USD for the period from 26th March 2020 to the ending of September.

I was put out on the streets from the said hotel because of the lack of money to pay. Then I stayed in a church for 5 days, then I had to move out and stay on the streets for 3 sleepless days and nights. I was robbed of my cell phone, my jewels and some of my clothes and $75. USD which my family had sent for me to survive.

Here in this country, Venezuela is facing a humanitarian crisis. People have no food, no medicine, no water and no justice – for their own people, much less for outsiders like me. I have sent numerous emails to the Minister of National Security, and Foreign Affairs, and I have never received a response, up to this date. None.

I met a vendor on the street who felt sorry for me and invited me to stay at his house until better can be done. I accepted the invitation because I had no choice. His house has 2 rooms, he has a family of 5, for him and his wife and 3 children.

He has no facilities in his house: no fan, no bed, little water and a small electric one-burner stove. No fridge, and little food for he and his family to eat. So I took my bed-spot on the ground where I have sleeping for the past 6 months. I got sick badly, and thanks be to god, I got better without any medication, only bush medicine.

A couple of times when my family sent me money and I go to town to buy food, the police would search me and take all my money without asking any question here. Sometimes I eat 4-5 times per week here, sometimes days without food, only water, and I go to bed. It’s disturbing my mental health now, and it’s affecting me very badly, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.

Also, my passport has been expired since June 2020. Presently, I am illegal here in Venezuela – no money, no food, no justice. I must pay that hotel bill of US $5,800, before I depart for Trinidad. It is just frustrating and depressing here every day, more and more.

I urgently need help here. No food or money, no clothes, nothing. Just living here like a destitute, and I am praying to god. I am a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, and I have been denied my constitutional right to return home. Thank you for hearing my cry.”

The After-Election Crowd: Citizens, Tribesmen and Idiots

Submitted by Hollis ‘’Chalkdust’’ Liverpool

Tuesday after the election, my good friend, David Boothman, sent me an interesting video-clip about how ‘’True-Democrats’’ in a democracy should behave after an election. The clip testified that in ‘’Greece the founder of democracy,’’ people were expected to behave in a manner that showed respect for their elected representatives. The clip from Boothman was very apt, given the fact that many persons in Trinidad and Tobago seemed, by their many letters to the Press, to be angry with our leaders’ behavioural actions and sayings, reactions that demonstrated their loss or their winning of the national elections on August 10th. The clip, however, made me think anew about Greece and its democratic postulations.

Democracy is generally associated with the Greeks and Romans in earlier times and with Europeans in the Medieval Period. Truly, Greeks in the Golden Age (500-300 BCE) had many city-states: some aristocratic, some ruled by monarchs, and others by tyrants. Despite their differences, Athenians in Greece were able to fashion out of the different, interrelated entities a democratic order, whereby the authoritative power of the state was vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly, through a system of representation that involved elections periodically. History shows that under Cleisthenes in Athens around 508 BCE, the government was reformed and placed on a democratic footing with a Council and a Jury and these institutions were further fortified by the works of Pericles (461-429 BCE), Socrates (469-399) and his pupil Plato, as well as the outstanding philosopher of the era, Aristotle (384-322 BCE).

What all students and academics should know, however, is that Greece developed its institutions long after the civilisations of Africa, in particular, Ethiopia and Egypt, and the Near East, including the Sumerians in Mesopotamia between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Moreover, India with its early republics such as the Sanghas of Buddha and the Ganas (attendants of Shiva) practised democracy as early as the 6th century BCE. Some historians even consider the Buddhist Sangha as the world’s oldest democracy. In fact, Diodorus, the Greek historian, two hundred years after Alexander the so-called Great invaded India, wrote that India possessed systems of democracy in like manner to Greece, then. Accordingly, when I heard Boothman’s video clip, I told myself that Africans and Indians in Trinidad and Tobago should indeed be politically proud of their management process of holding elections here, since their forefathers were practitioners of democracy long before Europeans wrote history.

History shows that the Greeks in Athens, based on the philosophy and legal codes of the Egyptians, developed a ‘’three-way Athenian Democratic Code’’ by which they were able to assess and describe the behaviour of all eligible electors within the state of Athens and even within the city-state of Sparta in Greece.

In terms of the ‘’three-way’’ grouping, first, there were those persons who, like many in Trinidad and Tobago, refused to vote for representatives to the Council in Athens (The National Assembly); Greek society called them ‘’Idiots.’’ An idiot was thus a private person who kept to himself/herself and refused to be part of the Government. As time progressed, based on the Latin word ‘’Idiota,’’ Europeans placed a derogatory twist to the word and caused it to mean an ‘’uneducated or ignorant’’ person.

The second group of persons in the Athenian Code consisted of those who, like many in Trinidad and Tobago, selected their representatives narrowly, on the basis of their tribe. Such persons in Athens cared not for what was being discussed in the Council nor the thought-provoking musings in the marketplace and were thus termed ‘’Tribesmen.’’ Athens was filled with them at the time. One could easily espy, then, Spartans, Persians, Corinthians, Macedonians, Helots, Minoans, and Phoenicians not only by their dress but by their colour of face. For elections to the Council, tribesmen voted for their own.

The third group in the Code was referred to as ‘’Citizens.’’ Citizens were educated persons who debated issues; who voted for representatives based on their knowledge of philosophy; who studied and practised agriculture; who respected God and family life; and who, in the long run, put Athens first in everything that they did. Of course, citizens were considered by the Council to be the most principled and highest echelons of the state, and all persons in the society, with encouragement from the state, aimed to join that educated group.

But Athens also had a secret fourth group in its Code. These were persons who the government felt were worse than the idiots, in that they undermined the society by trying to destroy its institutions. The leaders of Athens therefore ‘’ostracized’’ them. To be ‘’ostracized,’’ according to the Greeks, was to be banned from society. Indeed, Themistocles, who, it was said, tried to disrupt the smooth flow of the Council in Athens was ‘’ostracized;’’ he was imprisoned for a period of five to ten years. What was his crime? He was found guilty of giving money to people in Athens for reasons not approved by the Council.

Thus, in Athens, there were three groups of persons and a secret one that few historians speak about: the ostracized. On the contrary, how well do I remember my friends in Barbados, historian Trevor Marshall and public servant Vincent ‘’Buff’’ Burnett, telling me that Barbados has a name for the ostracized persons. ‘’In Barbados,’’ according to Trevor and Buff, ‘’we name and ostracize them openly for their ignorance, lack of education, racism, fraud, greed, their undercover moves to undermine the society, and their idolising of money. In Barbados, we call them Half o’ Idiots.’’ Indeed, ‘’go long you half o’ idiot’’ is a favourite, demeaning curseword of Barbadians.

Trinidadians and Tobagonians, therefore, have a splendid, historical template whereby we the people can study the pitfalls and challenges of a society that aims to bring into focus the democracy of our ancestors. When, then, Henry Ford said: ‘’History is more or less bunk,’’ indeed, he can certainly be classified as a ‘’Half o’ idiot.’’

Indian Lives do not Matter – violent incitement against Indians


Submitted by Dr Kumar Mahabir

On her Facebook page, well-known ruling People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) political activist, Juliet Davy, of Trinidad and Tobago, created and shared a blood-curdling video recently.

No one in the mainstream media even made reference to it except for an Afro Opposition United National Congress (UNC) radio talk show host, Barrington “Skippy” Thomas. The video was captured for posterity by a UNC activist, Garth Christopher, who is racially-mixed (25/6/20).

Not even a single Indo-Trinidadian made a public comment, except for journalist Niala Maharaj who has been living in the Netherlands for the past 40 years.

On her blog (30/6/20), Maharaj wrote: Between the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement and electioneering in Trinidad, Indian-bashing is getting to be the new normal on Facebook. No one blinked an eye last week when a video repeatedly made the rounds with a PNM activist urging ‘Africans’ to jump over the walls of Indian-owned properties, rush into their houses, and ‘deal with them’.

The majority of Afros (Africans) support the PNM while mainly Indos (Indians) back the UNC.

Are Indians really docile and afraid to speak out, even those in the UNC against whom the threat was made specifically? No leader in the PNM distanced the party from, and denounced the violent incitement of Davy.

I instantly reported the matter to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith via his Facebook page but I did not even receive the courtesy and comfort of an acknowledgement. He is known to scan and respond to every shadow that jumps at him on social media. Beyond a shadow doubt, Davy has committed a seditious act and she should have been investigated, arrested and charged.

A seditious act

The Sedition Act (1920, last amended in 1976) states that a seditious intention is a plan to engender or promote (i) feelings of ill-will or hostility between one or more sections of the community on the one hand and any other section or sections of the community on the other hand; or (ii) feelings of ill-will towards, hostility to or contempt for any class of inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago distinguished by race, colour, religion, profession, calling or employment (Section 3).

A person is guilty of an offence who has been found to have communicated any statement having a seditious intention. Subject to Subsection (3), a person guilty of an offence under this section is liable (a) on summary conviction to a fine of three thousand dollars AND to imprisonment for two years; or (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine of twenty thousand dollars AND to imprisonment for five years.

Is the Black-dominated Police Service (TTPS) racially and politically biased? In April last year, the police, led by Inspector Wayne Stanley, executed a search warrant at Radio and TV Jaagriti for an audio-visual clip. In the clip, the late Hindu and Indian civil rights leader, Sat Maharaj, is reported to have said that Tobagonians are lazy and the men are rapists. The matter went to court.

Sat’s stereotypical description pales in comparison to that of Davy’s violent instigation: “Is many of you holding it back; many of you holding back. … What we really need to tell them is how they mother really make them. That is what we really need to tell them … We suppose to jump over they fence, run up inside they house, hold them, and deal with them seriously.”

In August last year, Opposition Minority Leader in Tobago, Watson Duke, was arrested for a speech he had made in 2018. As part of the speech, Duke reportedly said: “I am sending the message clear. Let [PNM leader] Rowley them know that the day they come for us in WASA, we are prepared to die and the morgue would be picking up people.”

Duke was arrested, charged for sedition and released on TT$250,000 bail while Davy remains unscathed.

Hinds unscathed

On a political platform in Mafeking Junction, Mayaro, on November 16, 2016, PNM Minister Fitzgerald Hinds urged his mainly Afro audience supporters:

I said to my colleagues, as a younger parliamentarian then, I said the UNC is badly wounded. We need to finish them out. Kill them dead. I want you to understand that on November 28 [local elections day], you have the opportunity to drive a PNM balisier deep into the hearts of the wicked UNC vampires. Take a stake with a balisier on top and drive it deep within their heart and finish them off once and for all.”

His audience howled: “RAYYY!”

Hinds has never been questioned by the police, arrested or charged for sedition for having publicly expressed “feelings of ill-will or hostility” against a section of the community (The Sedition Act, Section 3 (i) and (ii)).

As with Davy, no leader in the PNM has distanced the party from, and denounced his hateful and violent racial and political instigation.

Trinidad Slams Door Shut on Trinis Stranded in Barbados

It has been reported the Trinidad and Tobago government through National Security Minister, Stuart Young has again refused to receive 33 CITIZENS stranded in Barbados since the week of March 23, 2020 back into the country.

The Barbados government attempted to piggyback on an arrangement with the European Union who sent a plane this week to collect Europeans stranded in the Caribbean. Barbados was the hub for the operation with the plane scheduled to pickup passengers in Tobago. It was an opportunity for the 33 stranded Trinidadians to bum a ride to Tobago which is a hop skip and a jump from Trinidad.

We are the only nationals in the world who are denied entry into our country. He said his countrymen who were mainly people over 65 all broke down in tears –

What is the reason for the Trinidad government exercising this level of intransigence towards its citizens? There is no logical explanation if the consideration was taken that the stranded Trinidadians have been in quarantine in Barbados since April 8, 2020. It also puzzles why the Trinidad government would have sent COVID 19 test kits to Barbados this week costing USD2500.00 after the group was quarantined with the expectation existing protocol in Trinidad requires the group enter quarantine again IF they eventually are allowed to return to the land of birth. All rather strange.

The blogmaster is of the view the Rowley government is ‘pissed’ at the group for engaging in non essential travel. Rowley should expect to see this issue when he checks the rear view mirror come general election time.

The Trinidad government owns a regional airline for crissakes.





GOVERNMENT has finally provided chartered surveyor Afra Raymond with a copy of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sandals Resort which provides crucial information on the deal for construction of a 500-700-room hotel in Tobago.

Senior Counsel Deborah Peake confirmed this to Justice Frank Seepersad this morning in the San Fernando High Court.

In October, the judge ruled for Raymond in a judicial review lawsuit he filed because of the State’s failure to provide him with details about the deal.

Raymond contended that the proposed hotel resort, to be constructed on prime state lands in Tobago, the cost of which the State will bear after which Sandals will operate, will impact on the use of water, electricity, solid waste and further infrastructural development of the airport in Tobago.

Gov’t hands over MoU with Sandals to Afra Raymond/Newsday

Read a copy of the MOU posted in the BU Library:

Click to access sandals-mou-scan.pdf


Prime Minister Rowley Can’t Count Indians


Submitted by Dr Kumar Mahabir

A few days ago, Prime Minster Dr Keith Rowley lashed out at mainly Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) critics by saying that they were “trying to stir up racial hatred” in the multi-ethnic society.

He was reported in the media as saying that his ruling PNM party “continues to be the only true national party” in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) where “every creed and race find an equal place.”

Rowley added: [J]ust remember half of the PNM Government is Indian” and that “those Indians [critics] are insulting the Indian population … please have a conversation with them [Indians in the Government].”

Rowley was trying to deflect criticism by ethnic, religious and women’s groups that his party had promoted violence on a sari-clad Hindu and Indian woman in a skit at its Sports and Family Day on Sunday August 12, 2018.

There are 23 PNM Members of Parliament (MP) in the House of Representatives. Of these, there are only two (2) Indians: Faris Al-Rawi and Terrence Deyalsingh. Indians, therefore, constitute a trifle nine percent (9%) of PNM MPs in Parliament.

Apparently Rowley miscounted. Half of the PNM Government is not Indian. There are only 26 percent (or 6) Indians in Cabinet as Ministers viz Clarence Rambharath, Terrence Deyalsingh, Kazim Hosein, Rohan Sinanan, Franklin Khan, and I reluctantly threw in Faris Al-Rawri too in the daal pot.

Seventy-four percent (74%) or 17 Ministers in government are non-Indians. There is a margin of error of plus or minus one minister whose ethnicity could not be determined.

The PNM Indian minsters are neither recognised nor respected by the vast majority of Indians long before the PNM’s refusal to select Kamaluddin Mohammed or Errol Mahabir as the Prime Minister on the death of Dr. Williams in 1981.

According to Government’s CSO population survey in 2011, Indians consist of 35 percent of the population, the largest ethnic group in the country. Comprising 26 percent in the government, Indian ministers are, therefore, underrepresented and do not find a proportionate “equal place” in Rowley’s PNM administration.

The Ministers in Rowley’s Government who are all members and representatives of the PNM have tremendous rights, powers and privileges. Pursuant to Chapter 5, Section 74.1 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister and Ministers in his Cabinet have been empowered to “have the general direction and control of the government of Trinidad and Tobago …”.

Rohan Sinanan is the only Hindu in Cabinet and Kazim Hosein is the only Muslim. These two non-Christians were installed in the Cabinet in June and November 2016 consecutively, more than a year after the PNM took Government in September 2015.

Rowley appointed these two non-Christian Ministers after complaints by Hindus and Muslims that they were not represented in Government. Sinanan represents six percent (6%) of the Hindus and Kazim 20 percent (20%) respectively in the population. According to the CSO population survey in 2011, Hindus comprise 18% of the population and Muslims 5%. Sinanan can, therefore, be seen as a window dressing because Hindus are grossly underrepresented in Government.

Operating under a republican constitution, the Prime Minister in T&T heads a cabinet of ministers who are chosen by him or her. In the current administration, Rowley has the power to appoint and revoke ministers in his cabinet who are executive, high-ranking decision-makers.

The book Caribbean Islands (1989), edited by Sandra Meditz and Dennis Hanratty, states that in T&T: “The prime minister is by far the most powerful figure in the government and is responsible for running the government. The prime minister chooses cabinet ministers from Parliament, who are then appointed by the president, and he can change ministers and ministries at will.”

There are 19 ambassadors chosen by Rowley to embassies abroad. Of the 19 ambassadors, only three (or 16%) are Indians: H.E. Garth Chatoor in Ottawa in Canada, H.E. Roger Gopaul in South Africa, and H.E. Stephen Seedansingh in China. Sixteen percent (16%) is not half (50%), Mr Prime Minister and Political Leader.

Despite the etymology of her last name, Jenelle Pariag is not an Indian. Pariag is the Acting Consul General in Miami in the USA. His Excellency Dave Persad was T&T’s High Commissioner in India until he resigned in July due to reportedly corrupt “financial accountability” in the embassy.

An attorney and former chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation under the People’s Partnership Government, Persad joined the PNM campaign during the general election in 2015. It is widely believed that he was awarded the diplomatic post for his betrayal of the People’s Partnership.

Appointments of High Commissioners/Ambassadors are made by the President in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister. They are highest-ranking representatives of T&T in their respective host countries and represent the interests and policies of their home country.

The abysmally small number of Indians as directors and heads of State boards would be another article for another day.

Racial Imbalance in the Police Service: Defending Attorney Israel Khan


Submitted by Dr Kumar Mahabir

I wish to take issue with the editorial in the Trinidad and Tobago Express dated Thursday August 2, 2018 entitled Israel Khan’s cheap shot.

The editorial severely reprimanded the distinguished attorney for using race to analyse the composition of the local police service which he found to be heavily Afro-dominated. It unfairly denounced the Senior Council by using the following words: “Such loose talk is truly disappointing …. Equally disappointing is the hollowness of Mr Khan’s public statement.”

The editorial continued the rebuke by stating that Khan “indulges in the stunning leap of illogic that the large presence of Trinbagonians of African descent in the TTPS ‘does not augur well for a cosmopolitan nation’”. The editorial persisted in pounding Khan for being allegedly being irresponsible, “superficial,” and “cavalier” on a “sensitive and potentially divisive” issue.

Whew! Please allow me a second to exhale.

In an effort to flog Khan again, the Express Editor-in-Chief, Omatie Lutchman-Lyder, published a hard-hitting letter the following day. It was purportedly written by Dwight Hall and entitled “Shame on you, Israel Khan.” In his letter, Hall accused the learned attorney of “being purely racist” and “very asinine.”

Nizam, Ryan and La Guerre made the same observation

Another attorney, Nizam Mohammed, who was chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), had made the same observation as that of Khan on the racial imbalance in the police service. For this public statement, Mohammed was fired from the PSC in April 2011. But Mohammed had his day in court and won!

Incidentally, Mohammed also won a defamation case against the Express. In his lawsuit, Mohammed claimed that an article on him in the Express was “irresponsibly published” and was against the “tenets of responsible journalism.” The High Court judge ordered the Express to pay TT$325,000 in damages to Mohammed. In her witness statement, Editor-in-Chief Lutchman-Lyder said she wrote the correction and thought it sufficient to correct the errors in the article.

Twenty-five years ago, Drs Selwyn Ryan and John La Guerre had made the same observation as that of Khan and Mohammed. The two professors were lead researchers in the Centre for Ethnic Studies at the UWI.

Ryan and La Guerre reported that in 1991, out of a total of 109 Special Reserve Police (SRP) officers enlisted into the Regular Police Service, only 17 (16%) were Indo-Trinidadians (Indians). The researchers found that Indian police applicants were “generally better qualified (academically)” but scored lower before the interview panel which comprised exclusively of Afro-Trinidadians.

Ryan and La Guerre wrote that “it is expected that cultural factors could account for differentials in interview performance in favour of Afro-Trinidadians. …. In an interview, it is virtually impossible for an interviewer to be detached from his/her ethnic community.”

The two professors stated that “it must however be realised that there are cultural differences in the society, and that for Indo-Trinidadians to fully identify, they need to see their ‘own people’ as authority figures and role models” (pages 232-233).

Dear Editor-in-Chief Lutchman-Lyder, were the findings by Ryan and La Guerre also a “cheap shot”? Were their empirical observations also “loose talk” that were “truly disappointing” as you have ascribed to Israel Khan? Was the establishment of a Centre for Ethnic Studies at UWI also insensitive and potentially divisive?

Racial composition of the police in the UK

Why this harsh, unjustified, unnecessary and excessive criticism of Israel Khan? What is wrong with using race to analyse the composition of any social group? In my article entitled “Why we SHOULD talk about race,” published in, I wrote that race, ethnicity, class, sex, religion, nationality, geography, etc. are valid, legitimate and appropriate social categories of difference in examining historical and contemporary issues. To sometimes overlook race is to ignore the elephant in the room.

For her Ph.D. dissertation, Bela Bhugowandeen studied the ethnic composition of the police service in England. Bhugowandeen wrote: “All forty-three police forces in England and Wales were required to meet targets set by the government to increase the number of recruits from minority ethnic communities.”

For highlighting this statement, is this Ph.D. student at the University of Poitiers in France racist like the accused Israel Khan? Or equally irresponsible, “superficial” and “cavalier” on a “sensitive and potentially divisive” issue?

According to the CSO population survey (2011), Indians constitute the largest ethnic group (35.4%) in T&T. Africans form the second largest (34.2%). Mixed Afros and Indos (Douglas) make up 8%. Why doesn’t the Express also make a big hullaballoo about the marginalisation of Indian men in visual advertisements? And the proportionately under-representation of Indians as recipients of the Government’s housing scheme? Of the three daily newspapers, why was it only the Express that refused to cover the public street protests that followed the firing of mainly Indian lectures from UTT on May 11, 2018? Shame on you, Express.

CL Financial Bailout – filling the gaps, Part II

clf-bailout2This article provides more details of the games being played in this Information War. It seems that the concealment of the details of the CL Financial bailout is of high importance.

First item is this acknowledgment from the PS in the Ministry of Finance which would be funny, if this entire matter were not so very serious – Read full article at

Due Process Not Followed in UTT Firings


Submitted by Dr Kumar Mahabir

Due process was not followed by the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) in dismissing about 70 lecturers on May 11, 2018. On that day, I was one of eleven lecturers who were wrongly and arbitrarily fired from the Centre for Education Programmes (CEP) as part of the University’s stated “restructuring exercise.”

Due process is a universal industrial relations procedure which must be afforded to each individual – in an orderly sequence of steps – to avoid prejudicial or unequal treatment culminating in court action against a company, organisation or institution.

The steps of this process include the following: (i) consultation with the affected employee, (ii) prior notice of dismissal, (iii) presentation of evidence by the employer, (iv) an opportunity for the employee to respond, (v) representation of the employee by an attorney, (vi) notice of dismissal, (vii) a right to appeal, and (viii) a right to judicial review.

To deny due process to a dismissed employee is to violate and deprive him/her of his/her procedural, substantive and constitutional rights especially from a public institution like the UTT. Due process does not prescribe the reasons why a worker may be dismissed, but rather the procedures an employer must follow before dismissal.

The UTT breached its own human resources policy outlined in its official published Handbook. In Policy Ref. No. HR 17, Clause iv, the Separation Policy states: “Before an employee is dismissed, the University will ensure that due process has been followed in arriving at the decision to dismiss.” The Separation Policy was signed by UTT’s Chairman Professor Kenneth Julien on 17th March 2009.

Section 4 (a) of the Constitution also recognizes the fundamental human right of an individual to due process. The landmark judgment of TD No. 130 of 1994 – delivered on 17th June 1996 by His Honour Mr. Addison M. Khan – made it clear that due process is the underlying philosophy of good industrial relations practice in T&T.

No consultation before dismissal

One of the due process steps to be followed – before formal notice of dismissal is given to the affected employees – is consultation. The purpose of this type of meeting is to explore all reasonable options to save jobs while cutting costs in the operation of the workplace. The UTT failed to consult with us (and I assume with the other 60+ lecturers in other campuses) before the premature termination of our 3-year contracts. Consultations were never afforded to us, either individually or collectively.

The Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act NO. 32 of 1985 of T&T stipulates that “prior to the giving of formal notice in writing of retrenchment,” [the employer] is expected “to enter into consultation” with the affected employees or their representative union “with a view to exploring the possibility of averting, reducing or mitigating the effects of the proposed retrenchment.”

Dr Judy Rocke, Head of the Centre for Education Programmes, had summoned each one of us by phone mere hours before to attend an “urgent meeting” at the Valsayn Campus. Some lecturers were called out of their vacation. Without any prior consultation or notice, eleven of us appeared before her. Although we had asked Rocke about the nature of the meeting, she did not reveal to us that we were going to be dismissed that same day. In the presence of the Human Resources Officer, Al Salandy, she served us dismissal letters.

We were astonished!! A couple of lecturers became emotional, broke down in tears and collapsed. One became so weak and disoriented that she had to call her sister at her workplace to come and walk her to her car and drive her home. Another was hit with a sharp migraine headache and became temporarily blinded.

No prior notice before dismissal

Like that of the other lecturers, my letter, dated May 11, 2018, stated: “This letter serves as forty-five (45) days’ notice of the termination of your employment by reason of redundancy.” Our dismissal letters were not letters of advance notice of dismissal; they were in fact notices of instant dismissal. The letters notified us that we were not permitted “to report for duty” thereof, but “permitted a period of one (1) week from the date hereof to collect your personal effects from your workspace.”

Although we were paid up to the end of the notice period, the dismissal was administratively and procedurally wrong. It was a “wrongful” act because of the method used to terminate our employment at UTT. Section 10(5) of the Industrial Relations Act 1972 stipulates that dismissal in such circumstances is “harsh and oppressive” and “not in accordance with the principles of good industrial relations practice.”

The dismissal was too abrupt. Done without consultation, and any prior oral or written notice, my attorney, Roshni Balkaran, described this sudden dismissal as “an ambush.”

Dr Mahabir taught several courses at UTT including Written Communication.

MASSIVE FIRING AT UTT BEGINS: UTT lecturers dismissed amidst Imbert’s bright forecast

Submitted by Fatimah Mohammed

About 40 lecturers from the Centre for Education Programmes at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) have been marked to be dismissed.

Eleven of them from the Corinth and Valsayn Campuses have already received their dismissal letter on Friday11th May 2018.

This dismissal came in the wake of Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s boast that the economy is turning around. In his mid-term budget review in Parliament on Thursday, Imbert sang the words of Johnny Nash, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.” What is actually gone is the dismissal of lectures at UTT.

Minister Imbert boasted in the mid-term budget review that the economy is turning around, revenue collection is up, the energy sector is booming and the non-oil sector is also growing. Most of the population however have not seen any tangible evidence of that turn around.

Those UTT lecturers whose services have been terminated in the first wave of firings so far are Rudrunath Singh, Omar Maraj, Aarti Persad, Balmatee Sukha, Kumar Mahabir, Solomon Ragnathsingh, Amanda Rambaran-Sookraj, Rhonda Dookwah, Carol La Chapelle, Joseph Sanchez and Patricia Bascombe-Fletcher.

The Head of the Centre, Dr Judy Rocke, distributed the termination letters at the Valsayn Campus at 2:30 p.m.  She disclosed that the decision was taken as part of a restructuring exercise and that the dismissed lecturers were sent home because of “redundancy.” Interestingly the termination letters were delivered almost in the middle of the semester when there are four (4) more teaching weeks. UTT has given the dismissed lecturers one week to vacate the premises

At the meeting, Rocke revealed that the first round of dismissals was based on lecturers who taught students who were graduating to teach at secondary schools. However, the lecturers believed that this criteria was contradictory and arbitrary because some of the secondary school specialisation lecturers were not dismissed. Moreover, some lecturers who do not teach that specialisation were sent home yesterday. Rocke also disclosed that she kept some of these specialisation lecturers because they were close to the retirement age of 70.

As a means of cutting cost, it was suggested that UTT should dissolve some of its programmes such as Carnival Studies, Criminology and Marine Sciences which are already being offered by UWI. Moreover, the appointment of the president, Professor Sarim N. Al-Zubaidy, should be revoked. He is a foreigner from the Middle East who is reported to be paid TT$240,000 per month in US currency.

The sacked lecturers intend to meet with attorney Anand Ramlogan soon to take this matter to court. They want clarification on two issues: (1) what criteria was used for dismissal, and (2) was this criteria used across the board.

National Environmental Policy (NEP) | What is Behind the Curtain

Submitted by Cathal Healy-Singh (Environmental Engineer, Public Interest Advocate, Advisor to Fishermen & Friends of the Sea, FFOS) comments on the August 2017 T&T draft of the National Environmental Policy (NEP) Trinidad.

BU finds the comments by Healy-Singh contained in the 12 page document interesting and suggest similarly qualified individuals in the Barbados space similarly accept the responsibility to educate a “national environmental” illiterate public.

The following is the last paragraph of the report. Given the unstable national environmental climate in Barbados read South Coast Sewage plant, proposed Hyatt hotel build on lower Broad Street, Eugene Melnyk’s recent claim about an unsafe cliff at the Crane, an ineffective and inefficient waste management system, proposal to drill for oil off the West Coast …the absence of a comprehensive National Environment Policy is a worry to the environmental literate. The BU household recommends the attached document to assist with the demystification process of an important issue which has import locally and regionally.

Finally, the most recent national environmental literacy rates published in 2016 by the EMA alarmingly reveal that only 2% of the national population is even aware that a National Environmental Policy exists. This in my view is a public interest crisis. If the 2018 NEP does not in fact “belong to the people” and is perceived to belong to the “1%” (special interests) and their attendant politicians, then the 2% who are actually aware of not only its existence, but its inherent weaknesses (including technocrats), may become increasingly apathetic and disillusioned. The other 98%, especially the youths, already feel betrayed and even angry at how a place as rich and blessed as we once were, could have succumbed to so much crime, corruption, pollution and poverty. Any NEP will remain insignificant to them unless it is crafted to serve their very best interests.

Property Matters – Tobago Sandals

by Afra Raymond

Is there a link between the Uff Report and Tobago Sandals? Is Tobago Sandals such a unique opportunity that we ought to adopt unique standards to assess its costs and benefits? What are the various benefits being proclaimed by the supporters of that project? This article will examine some of those claims against the factual background.

I returned to the large-scale and controversial proposals for Tobago Sandals by using that important Uff Report recommendation as my opener. The Uff Enquiry into the Construction Industry arose due to strong protests and complaints from the JCC, T&T Transparency Institute, myself and other individuals. One of the most decisive voices calling for those operations to be probed was Dr Keith Rowley, who was at that stage at loggerheads with his colleagues in government. I think Dr Rowley gained considerable kudos for taking a stand against the improper practices of his colleagues in that area.

Read full ARTICLEProperty Matters – Tobago Sandals

Bond Issues

by Afra Raymond

One of the major issues facing the country as this recession unfolds is the pressing need to review the State Enterprise sector. A Cabinet-appointed committee, chaired by Dr Terrence Farrell, was established to examine the SOE sector, but we have no idea yet as to their recommendations.

One of the hugest State Enterprises is Petrotrin, a major player in the national economy, with the immense influence of the OWTU on the side of its workers. A great deal of discussion is now emerging on whether or how Petrotrin could be restructured or privatised.

Read full articleBond Issues

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – The Populist Solution and the Oxford Comma

Jeff Cumberbatch – Columnist, Barbados Advocate

It should be clear maybe even to the proverbial blind (or rather visually impaired) man on a trotting horse that what we choose, in our quaint way of using expressions to mean precisely what we want them to mean despite their traditional usage elsewhere, to call the “silly season”, has begun in Barbados. Most dictionaries choose to define the silly season as referring to a period when there is an absence of serious news available for publication in the newspapers; for example, the Cambridge English Dictionary posits the following – “The time of year, usually in the summer, when newspapers are full of stories that are not important because there is no important, especially political, news

However, as Humpty Dumpty would have done in Alice in Wonderland, we use the term to describe that period when political news is at its most prevalent, the period of the electoral campaign, whether official or unofficial. That it might now be accurately described as an extraordinarily premature delivery, given that the Prime Minister might have as many as 12 months at his disposal to dissolve Parliament will scarcely bother those who are yearning for an electoral war for the coveted spoils of the reins of office.

So we have had the laughable scenario of some of the members and supporters of one party condemning the presence of a youngster, far braver than I could have ever claimed to be at his age, on a platform mounted by the opposition. He is censured not for what he is reported to have said or even how he said it, but simply for where he said it. The lad might consider ruefully that he would have suffered an equivalent panning from those who now defend his perspicuity had the metaphorical boot been on the other leg. That is realpolitik, I suppose.

As far as I am concerned, there will be time enough for musing on the engagement political, especially given the anticipated duration of this “silly season”.

I have chosen rather this week to comment on a development in another regional jurisdiction that speaks to the politics of crime fighting and of the lengths to which an administration will go to protect the lives of the citizenry and, simultaneously, to avoid being tarred with the partisan brush of being held hostage to the criminal element.

I refer, of course to the scenario in Trinidad & Tobago where, in order to wrestle a burgeoning murder rate to the ground, the governing Keith Rowley led administration is seriously contemplating a reinstitution of the execution of convicted murderers by hanging. The gravity of their concern might be evidenced by the fact that, as reported in last Sunday’s edition of the Barbados Advocate, Dr Rowley himself has openly requested the assistance of former Attorney General and quondam political foe, Mr. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, “to ensure the death penalty for convicted killers can be executed (sic) in T&T.

In light of the number of murders in that jurisdiction in recent years, – for 2017 alone, there have been, when last I checked on Monday, 106 murders in the 78 days of the year that had elapsed so far; an alarming rate of 1.37 murders per day-it comes as no surprise that a political administration should feel compelled to “try a t’ing”.

What most bears remarking about the current initiative, however, is not the conscription of a political foe to assist in the effort, but rather that all previous attempts since 1999 to follow the identical course of action in that jurisdiction have spectacularly failed. This apart, there are also the legal barriers in the jurisprudence of Trinidad & Tobago’s highest court, the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, that would stymie the likelihood of the currently proposed measure passing constitutional muster.

Perhaps the Rowley administration is spoiling for a legal fight; which might explain the praying in aid of Mr Maharaj’s forensic legal skills and perhaps even his reputation as a previous administration’s chief legal adviser. After all, in that guise many years ago, he achieved the dubious distinction of “hanging nine with one blow”, reminding so much of the Brothers Grimm’s “Brave Little Tailor”. The Republic will, nevertheless, have to speed up its curial practices if it is going to overcome the Pratt & Morgan “elephant in the room” of having to effect the ultimate punishment within five years of the conviction. Indeed, because it withdrew some years from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, T& T has an even shorter period to do what it considers must be done once a conviction has been secured.

The Oxford Comma

One of the social media sites that I frequent carried a report this week as to how the absence of a comma led to a rather surprising legal decision. I thought it sufficiently amusing to serve as an end-piece to this week’s column. Frequent readers of this space may recall that on more occasions than one, I have referred to the importance of the placement of the comma in the phrase, “Hang him not let him go”. Position it after him and one obtains a markedly different result from when it is sited after the “not”. One might say it would be the difference between life and death. There are others too. For example, the unvarnished and unpunctuated, “ A woman without her man is nothing” might offer some controversial insights whether the comma is placed after “woman” or, indeed, after “man”.

The piece on LinkedIn, interestingly enough, refers to the use of a comma many of us would have been taught as infants to avoid as being superfluous. This is the infamous Oxford comma that, contrary to traditional lore, is employed before “and” and before “or”.

The anecdote, written by one Zamira Rahim. Is self-explanatory.

According to his report, a group of dairy drivers in the dispute argued that they deserved overtime pay and the appeals court agreed with them. Why?

Because the guidelines setting out the types of work that don’t require overtime pay lacked clarity. The case turned on one particular statutory extract:

“The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.”

The lack of an Oxford comma between “packing for shipment” and “or distribution of” meant that it was unclear whether the guidelines meant distribution and packing for shipment were separate things, or whether the exemption applied to jobs involving either packing for shipment or packing for distribution.

According to the court, the dairy drivers in question only distributed but didn’t pack perishable food, so weren’t necessarily covered by the clause. The judge added that where such rules are unclear, labor laws are structured to benefit employees, so the dairy drivers won.

“For want of a comma, we have this case,” the judge wrote.

Property Matters – Invaders’ Bay (ii)

 by AfraRaymond

 invaders-bayThere is a rising tide of confusion at Invaders’ Bay, so it is time to bring some understanding to this situation. The previous column delved into the Appeal Court rulings and the State’s application to appeal to the Privy Council. There is a lot more to be derived from those important rulings, but this week […]

Read more of this post