31 August, 2009

Happy 47th Independence Day

We celebrate our 47th year of political Independence from our former colonial master, Great Britain.

This is a time to reflect on our progress, development, achievements and successes. Conversely we must also be mindful of our mistakes, lost opportunities and the road ahead.

Consider events around the world, learn from the mistakes of other countries. Develop and implement policies and laws that is best for our citizens, not just what the UN says is best.

As we prepare to host another billion dollar international meeting, this time on an even grander scale than the 5th SOA, we should consider what’s best for our citizens. Be good hosts and make all our visitors feel welcome, safe and secure, but do not disrupt the lives of ordinary citizens. Learn from the mistakes of the 5 SOA. There were many.

The CHOGM 2009 can have positive repercussions for T&T, but only if managed properly, and I don’t just mean shuttling VIPs around with no adverse incidents or photo ops with Queen Elizabeth 2nd. That should not be the only measure of success. How well do the citizens buy-in to the event; how free are they to protest some aspect of the event they did not like? Can they take their drums and other musical instruments and use them to protest several miles away from the main events? What tangible benefits does it bring the country?

We still import a lot of our arms and ammunition from Great Britain for defence. What about security independence?
We sill import numerous food items from Great Britain, what about food independence and food security?

If we continue doing what we’re doing, in the same manner, then we’ll continue to get what we always got.

If our laws relating to crime, housing, squatting, the environment, local government, firearms, and the financial industry don’t work well enough, then let’s take the time to re-examine them closely and make corrections.

The time is ripe to introduce Castle Doctrine law. Our citizens are so fed up of violent home invasions that they’d support this bold legislation, without hesitation.

Recent events, such as the Balandra bridge collapse that affected nine communities, shows we need an effective civil defence programme. If one man with one piece of heavy equipment can physically isolate nine communities - with hundreds of households - from the rest of the country, then we are in real trouble should Colombia and Venezuela escalate their long-running spat into full war. Or even Venezuela and Honduras, as was recently threatened.

Congratulations to Dianne Avalone Baptiste, who received the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) for gallantry. Baptiste, a 41-year-old Williamsville resident, disarmed a bandit, broke a flower pot on his head and restrained him until the police arrived.

She is one citizen who has displayed the spirit of independence.

29 August, 2009

New supply of air rifles

A new shipment of air rifles has arrived at Buckshots Ltd., Tunapuna. The Turkish made Hatsan 125, which boasts 1250 fps in .177 is being sold at $3,200 each.


Apple releases Snow Leopard, Mac OS X version 10.6 today. Mac OS X is arguably the best operating system in the world. It’s certainly much more secure than any version of Windows. Just ask Gordon, at Right Enterprises, in Maraval.

Once you go Mac, you never go back.


More misbehaviour in public office. This time by an elite police unit called to arrest a man with a gun At a casino in Duncan Village, San Fernando. The four-member team was caught on the casino’s surveillance cameras stuffing their pockets “with wads of cash”.
They four are being questioned by the Anti Corruption Investigation Bureau.

23 August, 2009

Non-English speaking immigrant allowed to own gun

Jun Lan Chen, an immigrant who obtained a Firearm User's Licence in 1998, was arrested for having more than the stipulated amount of ammunition allowed in her license. The interesting thing is, she does not speak, read, nor understand English.

“MORE questions were yesterday raised about how a non-English-speaking businesswoman was granted a Firearm User's Licence (FUL) that is written in English yesterday.

Chen, who is allowed to have 25 rounds of ammunition, had three extra rounds. Chen raised suspicion when she told the police she could not speak or write English and that she was out of the country for two years, preventing her from renewing her permit in 2007, since according to law, gun owners must renew their permit every year.”

The law only allows one person the authority to grant a Firearm User’s License: the Police Commissioner. Kenny Mohammed was Police Commissioner in 1998.

It’s difficult to imagine an immigrant living over 11 years in a country and not bothering to learn a word of the official national language. What does that say about community involvement?

Thousands of Trinidad and Tobago citizens who are born, raised and live here, speak, read and write English, own businesses, have families to protect have been refused FULs.

Draw your own conclusions.


“Balandra bridge has collapsed, causing distress to nine communities along Trinidad’s north-east coast. The bridge—which provides access to areas such as Toco, Rampanalgas and far-flung Matelot—collapsed around 12.45 pm yesterday.”

Apparently, someone tried to drive a 50-ton crane over the old bridge. No reports indicate if there were signs indicating maximum tonnage allowed over the bridge.

One wonders if those residents of the nine affected communities have enough food, water, fuel and other necessities to survive the coming days.

16 August, 2009

Economist predicts $7b budget shortfall

Well-known economist, Dr Dhaneshwar Mahabir has estimated that the government of Trinidad and Tobago will experience a $7b shortfall in the coming fiscal year.

“Mahabir estimated that the coming National Budget will be close to $45 billion, even though maximum revenues are projected to be $38 billion.
Describing the economic scenario as gloomy, the economist said he could not say when T&T would recover but noted that the country would experience a major revenue shortfall for 2009 and 2010.

Mahabir said if things got really bad, the Government may even be forced to borrow money from the International Monetary Fund, which would require an adjustment programme in return.”

The respected economist admits that we are in the midst of a recession, contrary to what Central Bank Governor, Ewart Williams has been saying at a recent press conference.

There are myriad reports on how to cope with a recession. They all have two strategies at their core: earn more, spend less. This advice is so elegant in its simplicity that we may ignore it, choosing instead to look for some magic bullet; some esoteric answer to the problem.

In spending, one must be prudent. Spending on tangibles, such as real estate, tools, equipment, open-pollinated seeds, fuels, etc. Of course we should never forget to add to the mandatory stockpile of beans, bullets and band-aids.

Panic now. Avoid the rush.

14 August, 2009

Police officer arrested

Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) officers raided the Arouca home of a police corporal (acting) yesterday. They found a quantity of packaged narcotics used as evidence in recently concluded court cases.

The Express editorial today argues that either all 38 police officers working at the St Joseph police station (who were transferred to other stations) be charged with possession of the 6 guns and 160 packets of illegal drugs or at the very least, the senior officer in charge of the station be charged.

“Section 29 of the Dangerous Drugs Act states that "a person, until the contrary is proven, shall be deemed to be the occupier of premises, if he has, or appears to have, the care, control or management of such premises''. And it is well-known that, when official raids are made on private homes, the police usually arrest everyone living there, including youths and sometimes the aged who are unlikely to be involved in any nefarious activity. So what is the legal difference if the premises is a police station?”

In related news, yet another illegal firearm was found at the controversial St Joseph police station, yesterday. This time by a replacement police officer from the Arima CID, who found the .380 pistol while clearing out a desk drawer.

12 August, 2009

One solution to violence in schools

Image: Oleg Volk

Our nation is becoming ever more violent. We have developed a national culture of being reactive, rather than proactive. Sometimes it’s better to be ahead of the curve. Our schools reflect our society. If our society is becoming more violent, then this becomes evident in our schools.

The USA has had problems with extreme violence in schools resulting in multiple killings. The Columbine High School massacre of 1999 immediately comes to mind. But there were many others, such as the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives, including the shooter.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago we have not experienced this extreme level of violence. Yet. However, the MTS security company that is charged with the security of our nation’s government schools does not – or cannot – prevent violence in schools. One former Education Minister said school violence was "very normal at this time of year."

Waiting for school violence levels to reach US “standards” before we form radical solutions (as conventional solutions have not worked) would be counterproductive. What to do?

David Thweatt, a Texas school district superintendent (we call them supervisors) and his school board, decided to allow select teachers and staff members to carry guns on campus at one school. It’s been one year since the guns-in-campus policy was enacted, and there hasn’t been a single shooting.

Would that work here? Every other Education Ministry initiative, related to reducing crime in our schools has failed. Why not try this? We have teachers who are hunters, former police officers, former military personnel, and others, who are already trained in firearms safety and use. This would be a natural next-step. As a bonus, the children would learn a valuable lesson:

Guns can be used to PREVENT violence.

10 August, 2009

Bandits rob beachgoers opposite Army HQ

Criminals arriving by, and leaving in small fishing boats, have been targeting sea-bathers at Chagville Beach in Chaguaramas. What makes this particularly frustrating is that this beach is across the street from the TT Defense Force Headquarters. The TTDF has a proud history of serving this nation, so it’s ironic that these violent crimes occur within line-of-sight of their HQ.

One may argue that the classical role of a defence force is not law enforcement. True; but if that is the case in our country, then why do we have police/army “joint patrols”? Surely TTDF Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Edmund Dillon is taking this as a personal assault on the reputation of the TTDF. After all, one of it’s stated responsibilities is, “cooperate with and assist the civil power in maintaining law and order.”
Additionally, every Chief of Defence Staff has included these words (in one form or another) in their speeches: “The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force is fully prepared to defend the sovereign good of our nation from all enemies, foreign or domestic.”

How about starting with enemies across the street?

The primary agency charged with the responsibility of policing the Western peninsula is the Chaguaramas Development Authority Police. Inspector Abdul Singh, the highest ranking officer of the CDA police, has many challenges, including acute shortages of personnel, arms, ammunition and vehicles. We empathise, but your responsibilities still stand. Do your job, or leave and make room for someone who will.

05 August, 2009

Guard shoots self

Children in TT Cadet Force consistently display better muzzle discipline than many ‘pros’

Allied Security officer Victor Persad, 31, shot himself in the arm and leg on Monday, and was treated at the San Fernando General Hospital hospital.

Read the Express story here.

“…accidentally went off”
“…seated in a parked car outside a fast food outlet”
“…told investigators that he was cleaning his pistol when it went off.”

So, he was in a parked car, cleaning his gun, when it accidentally went off. Cleaning a gun in a car? While loaded? Outside a fast food outlet? So he’s not just a danger to himself, but also the general public. Let’s just see if the Police Commissioner will renew his Firearms User’s Employees Certificate (FUEC).

Who trained this man in handling guns? Has he heard of “muzzle sweep” or “muzzle discipline”? Perhaps we can introduce him to The Four Universal Gun Safety Rules:

Rule 1: Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.

Rule 2: Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy (this includes your own body parts).

Rule 3: Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.

Rule 4: Be sure of your target and what’s in line with your target.

Mr Persad, please pay particular attention to Rule 2.
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