Trinidad e Tobago
THE EDITOR: Amid the covid19 pandemic with hundreds of lives already lost and thousands of people being infected with the virus in TT, the cry for unity to deal with this crisis can be heard throughout the country. This cry for our politicians to come together and work as one to beat the coronavirus is well known by them.
As a concerned citizen, I endorse the many voices echoing across the land. This is not the time to be arrogant, self-opinionated, proud, haughty, or to carry the excess baggage of hurts from the past. The country needs unity and it must start from the top.
For this unity is to be realised, there must be respect for one other, which is greatly lacking in our country. When people are disrespected, treated unkindly, verbally abused and called all types of names, they will not want to join with those who disrespect them. This is why our politicians can never unite on anything. For example, it’s not right to say “if covid19 had a face it will be the UNC.”
There have been many other examples over the years where gross disrespect has been shown by our politicians on both sides. Hurtful statements only add gas to the fires of division.
Too often leaders use their various forums to insult each rather than call for support on bills, etc. That can never unite people in any cause. It is time our leaders update their people skills for unity in the land and the future of the country. Our leaders must stop sowing seeds of discord.
Do our leaders really want the disharmony to continue? If not, they must change the way they relate to one another. Citizens are fed up with childish behaviour in this hour of crisis. Let’s do it together for a better TT, for one people, one country working in unity.
THE EDITOR: Sometime around 2013 there was a project to create a national health card for all citizens using public healthcare and the CDAP system. This was a project to completely computerise – nowadays called digitalise – the health information of citizens. The information would be available on a card, similar to a bankcard, and accessible, with a swipe, to any doctor, health centre or hospital in the system.
I believe that by 2015 the development of this system was almost complete. People were being invited to register, and some have received their cards. Is the system now complete? If not, at what stage are we? Is it being used only for pharmaceuticals?
There was also a card introduced for the registration of people receiving social benefits – the biometric smartcard. Is this project complete? This should have been used to make the assistance payments to all in need. The database should have been already there.
If these systems were up to date, think how easy the vaccination of the elderly and ill would have been.
ANNE DE SILVA
Remote learning has upended traditional teaching methods and the manner in which students interact with tutors and even with each other over the past 15 months. From primary to tertiary, tutors have had to find creative ways to engage students and achieve curriculum goals, while still trying to maintain as normal a life as possible across the screens. Classes requiring greater physical interaction such as physical education, dance, drama and the like, have been particularly challenging to deliver in the online sphere. Dance schools,too, have had to find creative ways to engage students in the midst of pandemic restrictions. The Caribbean School of Dancing (CSD) and the University of the West Indies' Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA) have had to rise above challenges to motivate students to their best performance. Bridgette Wilson, Caribbean School of Dancing principal, said after the lockdowns her school saw a drop in the students attending classes as they could not deal with online anymore. The problem was not unique to her school but it was a national and global one, Wilson said. [caption id="attachment_897028" align="alignnone" width="850"] A University of the West Indies' Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA) student performs a Caribbean folk dance. -[/caption] In a interview published on June 17 in Newsday, Wilson said the school had to create programmes to inspire students who were having a hard time dealing with online classes instead of pursuing their craft in a dance studio. At the UWI St Augustine campus dance students also had to combat the difficulties of remote learning to accomplish results. The DCFA shares the experience of Danielle Ryan, Jerome Tang Kwok, and instructor Deboleena Paul who managed to work their way around the challenges of not being in a dance studio. Ryan, now in final year of her bachelor’s degree in dance, has been learning the art and science of movement in the DCFA’s dance unit, one of the Caribbean’s premier schools for the performing arts. The experience, she says, has been fulfilling. “Pursuing a formal education in my greatest passion has been a blessing,” Ryan, 34, said in a media release from the UWI. In March of 2020, her studies were dramatically changed. The national response to the covid19 pandemic required educational institutions to switch to remote learning. Well over a year later, schools are still teaching remotely. For traditional “classroom” students it's been a challenging shift. What about those whose learning experience requires movement and performance? “The pandemic restrictions and moving to online learning has been stressful,” Ryan said. That sentiment was shared by other students. They no longer have access to the DCFA’s spacious dance studios with flooring that made them less susceptible to injuries. During online classes they sometimes deal with audio delay. Following movements is sometimes more difficult through a computer screen. Apart from the practical challenges of online dance classes, there were also emotional ones. “The energy is different from an [in-person] class,” says Tang Kwok, a 31-year-old professional dancer, teacher, and choreographer. “It’s more emotionally taxing, not sharing a physical space with like-minded individuals.” However, far from discouraging them, the difficulties of online learning have helped to sharpen their focus. Dance is inherently a challenging discipline, both mentally and physically taxing, and studying dance at the DCFA requires students to bring their best efforts. [caption id="attachment_897029" align="alignnone" width="978"] Two students doing a modern-Indian dance routine. Students had to work their way around the challenges of not being in a dance studio. -[/caption] “Before the pandemic, studying at DCFA was rough mentally, and emotionally tasking, but extremely fulfilling because even though it was hard you still had the support of your lecturers to push you yet still give the support you need as a student,” said Tang Kwok, who is also a dance student with a minor in theatre. At the dance unit, students learn Caribbean dance, ballet technique, modern dance technique, dance education, dance injuries and conditioning, Indian dance, dance composition, dance history, and movement analysis. Students can do either a three-year Bachelor of Arts in dance or the three semester certificate in dance and dance education. “The UWI dance programme is very well developed and has great variety,” says Paul, instructor of Indian dance at the DCFA. “It is not only practise-based, it is also academic-based. Academics is very important to dance education because it gives you the purpose behind movements, the effect of movement on the body, and even history.” A master and scholar of Indian dance from South Asia, Paul has studied dance since her early childhood and came to the Caribbean as a diplomat and performer with the High Commission of India. Her love of the region caused her to decide to stay and apply for a job at the UWI. The expertise of DCFA’s instructors across several fields of the performing arts is another major advantage for its students, the UWI said. And like her students, Paul has been required to adapt to the online teaching environment. Unable to demonstrate movements to her classes in person, she records sessions beforehand and uses multiple cameras and monitors to capture different parts of the body in action. “As a teacher, I always want to watch my students and demonstrate the movement,” she said. It’s an enormous amount of work, but the students appreciate it. “My overall experience as a DCFA student has been fulfilling,” said Ryan. “Yes there were obstacles and trials. There were definitely some tears, but the good times far outweighed the bad. I was fortunate enough to expand my knowledge not just in dance but in other performing arts and other aspects of the entertainment and performing art education industry.” Ryan, who has extensive experience as a dancer and performer, plans on “joining the ranks of qualified and passionate visual and performing arts secondary school teachers.” Both the certificate and undergraduate DCFA programmes qualify graduates for jobs as dance teachers with the Ministry of Education, the UWI said. Tang Kwok’s ambition after graduation is to continue his studies at DCFA while also becoming a lecturer. He said, “My overall experience as a student has been one filled with self-development and growth. At DCFA you learn more than just your discipline – you learn about life, you learn to think critically and to watch the world through a new lens. You also learn about the business that comes with being a creative within the industry. I will say that you will leave DCFA a stronger person.” For more info on the Dance Unit and other DCFA programmes: https://sta.uwi.edu/fhe/dcfa/dance.asp
From childhood, Toni Lee Aping has loved doodling and drawing. Now 18, the talented young artist is preparing to paint her way to an art career. Lee Aping topped the region in CAPE Unit 1 last year and has CAPE Unit 2 exams coming up. She also plans to do a degree in art. She chatted with Newsday about her passion for art during a recent interview. She explained whenever anyone asks when she first got involved in the visual arts she replies with "donkey years ago." "As a child, I used to doodle my parents and animals." What drew her to draw? Lee Aping said she enjoyed making something come out good and it was a natural feeling. "It felt good using my hands." Her parents would stick all her drawings in her bedroom, the Cascade resident said. It was at age 12 she began to "take art seriously" after she watched the dark fantasy anime (Japanese animation) film Blue Exorcist. "I sat down with a piece of paper and I wanted to draw the same characters. Ever since then I have just been drawing." [caption id="attachment_897019" align="alignnone" width="750"] Teen artist Toni Lee Aping topped the region in CAPE Unit 1 last year -[/caption] To pursue her art dream Lee Aping taught herself using YouTube tutorials that break down artists' work. "I would compare my artwork to the people who are more skilled and try to replicate their artwork." She began her art journey with pencil and pen but wanted to use all media. "I couldn't choose which medium I wanted to master. One year I was into colour pencils, next was watercolours. Eventually, I started to incorporate them all and use them all." In her traditional pieces, she uses a mixture of acrylic paint, colour pencil, markers and oil pastel. On her choice of subject, Lee Aping said she would "catch a vaps." "I see this and I want to draw it. It interests me. Yeah, this (thing) is good. (I'll add it) to a piece." In a statement, she said the majority of her work comes from moments of spontaneous creativity. "Once I identify a concept that interests me, I do the additional research to ensure that I have a complete picture before proceeding to the artwork. Other pieces come from moments of emotional distress. I transfer these emotions into creative work." Asked about the therapeutic benefit of her art, Lee Aping explained when she is in a bad mood she would sit down and start to draw. [caption id="attachment_897020" align="alignnone" width="750"] A Mind's Eye by Toni Lee Aping. Aping uses a mixture of acrylic paint, colour pencil, markers and oil pastel in her art. -[/caption] "I don't focus on anatomy but just the first thing that comes to mind. Just to get the emotions (and bad feelings) out of my system. I don't know why emotional pieces come out really good." On her use of vibrant colours, Lee Aping said it is subconscious as she just leans towards lighter and bright colours. She has about 30 pieces in her portfolio and said she cannot choose a favourite because they are like her children. "They all have their own special meaning to me." Lee Aping participated in her first exhibition last year, the annual Holy Name Convert exhibition featuring students from Form 5, Lower 6 and Upper 6. It was held online owing to the pandemic and she submitted six pieces. "It was nice. But scary at the same time. I am used to hiding in a corner and doing art. I am not used to (getting) attention." Asked to compare creating art for herself and doing it for school, she replied making art on her own is a bit more fun. [caption id="attachment_897021" align="alignnone" width="750"] Bunny bugeisha by Tony Lee Aping. The majority of Lee Aping's work comes from "moments of spontaneous creativity."
-[/caption] "And there is a less of a time restraint. But I kind of need the pressure in school to force me to improve and stand out from the rest. At the end of the day, it is still art so I'm happy doing it." Her work in the school exhibition received a very positive reaction. "People said, 'Wow. You did this?' Amazement." Lee Aping said she was not surprised by the reaction. "I know I did good. But I am just not used to the attention." She said her friends and schoolmates have very high hopes for her. "When someone in school mentions art, I am the first person they look at. Anything with art they call my name. That's 'the art child. Bring her.'" Lee Aping is hoping to have her own exhibitions in future and last year she began getting into digital work with simple illustrations. "I usually do portraits. I want to do more bodies in motion. I am considering getting into animation." She said she wants to have a career in art in some form but she still has to figure it out. "I can't see myself doing something else." She said her parents do not believe art can be a viable career but she still wants to do it. [caption id="attachment_897022" align="alignnone" width="750"] Toni Lee Aping's Caught in the headlights.
Lee Aping said her use of vibrant colours is subconscious as she just leans towards lighter and bright colours. -[/caption] "They don't want me to be a starving artist. But I don't mind starving here and there sometimes. If I'm happy that's what important." She also took the opportunity to send a "shout out" to God, her parents, her brother, and her friends. "Without them I would not be here."
THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY
PROBABLY the shortest statement ever made on Trinidadian national identity and attitudes came from the country’s best rock ’n’ roll band, Jointpop, who asked in song, simply: “Why Trini so?”
Indeed, lead singer-songwriter Gary Hector’s chorus could replace the entire sociology section of the UWI Library: “Of all the things we can do,” sang Hector, “and of all the things (we can choose)/We choose Crack, Pitbull & Gun/Some very strange people.”
At our current worst moment since the pandemic began, with covid19 killing people in double figures every firetrucking day of life (and death), Trinidadians choose to get enraged about whether the vaccines are safe enough to take!
Refusing to take the vaccine because you’re worried about the health risk – and, ergo, actively courting the virus itself – is like arguing over whether police engaged in a shootout with bandits should return fire with fines instead of bullets.
When all is said and done, you may indeed have a point about the efficacy of fines in discouraging criminal behaviour. But you will also be dead.
Even if you get 30 “likes” on Facebook from people who don’t know there is a difference between “your” and “you’re.” People who wouldn’t recognise what sodium chloride is, even as they demand salt, but yet feel they know more about science than Dr Fauci!
It would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic, but the Trinidadian ever-readiness to ignore the fabric of any argument and rip apart the hem took over the national debate this week.
Decades after Coke stopped being sold in glass bottles at all, the preferred Trini debate remains, “Which tastes better: small Cokes or big Cokes?” If I had a dollar for every time I sat through that quarrel over lunch, I’d be eating lobster at every meal. A small-Cokes advocate over age 50 would have to be held back from drop-kick-and-hurry-lash.
Small Cokes/big Cokes keeps its dominant place in what passes for Trinidadian intellectual discourse precisely because it involves no thinking whatever but nevertheless allows every participant to adopt a passionate stance “till they dead.” It’s not so much a debate as a clash of attitudes – no, a clash of two antagonists with the same attitude, whose major distinctive characteristic is that it doesn’t so much play to the gallery as simply gallery.
And, this week, Trinis, gallerying themselves, were up in arms and sworn to (make-as-eef) battle to the death to make sure an American actor named Michael B Jordan (Creed, Black Panther) did not appropriate the entirety of Trinidadian cultural identity by naming his new rum brand “J’Ouvert.”
We ent taking firetrucking dat!
It didn’t matter that most of the Trinis slamming his bold-face-ity almost certainly thought he was the or “A” Michael Jordan, the basketball player (and probably burned their Chicago Bulls shirts in a paroxysm of patriotism).
It didn’t matter that the B Michael Jordan apologised on Wednesday and promised to rename his product.
Most of all, it didn’t matter that Trinidad Carnival itself, what Minsh used to call “the Mas,, is now effectively owned by one man, the Trinidad Jeff Bezos of the all-inclusive Stoosh Carnival.
Or that “Trinidad Carnival” now arrives in Trinidadian mas camps in a cardboard shoebox from China, complete with writing in Chinese characters on the outside.
It didn’t matter that the very firetrucking J’Ouvert itself, which used to be the greatest spiritual, mental and – crucially – socio-economic cleanser in the country (and, en passant, the world), is now just one more empty event that makes a charade out of Minshall’s mas, and means nothing lasting to anyone at all, except the very small group that turned the highpoint of our culture into their bottom line.
No. All that matters to the Trinidadian is how long they can play themselves and how much they can wine on someone else. Trinidadians prefer to “win” a meaningless debate than take issue with the most important aspects of themselves.
J’Ouvert could die. But we won’t let anyone else destroy the spirit of Trinidad by calling their rum that.
Of all the things we could do, of all the things we could choose, we choose crap, BS and fun.
Some very strange people in true.
BC Pires has walked and wined this road many times before. Read the full version of this column on Saturday at www.BCPires.com
DR R KUARSINGH I WRITE to express my frustration with the handling of the pandemic. I write both as a family physician and as a business owner. I write also as a deeply concerned citizen of this beautiful country. For the past couple of months we have grown accustomed to hundreds of new covid19cases and an appalling number of associated deaths. We have also grown accustomed to lockdowns and curfews which have started to become unbearable. Like accident and emergency physicians, family physicians are often the first port of call for suspected cases. Typically, patients will either call us for advice or present themselves to our offices seeking care. I have seen over the last 17-18 months a gradual evolution in our knowledge and handling of this novel virus amongst the international community. In its infancy, we instituted a strict lockdown of the borders, a self-isolation period of 14 days for all suspected cases, and a quarantine period of 14 days for all suspected contacts. People needed to have two negative PCR tests, 24 hours apart, in order to be released back to their homes and lives. This thinking rapidly changed – firstly in China and Italy as the virus hit both places particularly hard in the early stages of the pandemic. These countries moved towards rapid testing and early isolation of suspected cases. The PCR test, though more accurate, took too long and was therefore deemed to not be feasible or practical in containing the spread. As the virus took hold of the US, the UK and Europe, we also saw a shift in those countries towards rapid testing. They successfully navigated waves of outbreaks and, as vaccines became available, administered them and have gradually reopened their borders to some degree of practicality. TT has lagged behind massively. For starters, our country's borders have remained closed for more than a year, our vaccination rates are abysmal, the Ministry of Health has remained stubborn regarding rapid-testing, we have been under severe lockdown for the past couple months and we have seen very little results in terms of a decline in the numbers of new cases or deaths. Therein lies the problem. In order to successfully contain this virus, the solution has to be to rapidly identify cases, isolate them, trace their contacts and isolate them as well. Any other solution is doomed to failure due to the highly contagious nature of this virus and also its general lack of an effective method of screening such as temperature screening. And that's the frustrating part. As a physician, I have utilised rapid-testing to quickly identify patients who are suspicious and, as outlined by the Public Health Ordinance and as a responsible medical practitioner, I have submitted all of my cases to the relevant county medical offices for contact tracing. These patients have been rarely, if ever, contacted by anyone from the ministry to initiate contact tracing. The situation is as frustrating as it is embarrassing. [caption id="attachment_897015" align="alignnone" width="684"] A person has a PCR test carried out at an airport to check for covid19 in Guadeloupe. AFP PHOTO - LARA BALAIS[/caption] Contact tracing does not need to be rocket science. The medical guidelines have clearly established what we would consider a primary contact of an infected patient. A simple questionnaire can effectively elicit this information. This questionnaire can be asked over the phone to the patient by someone other than a physician or nurse (whose expertise would obviously be required elsewhere dealing with more pressing needs), and information gathered quickly. It literally takes about 20 minutes or so to do this (15 minutes to test a patient and receive a positive result, and about five to ten minutes to quickly elicit these contacts). If drastic changes are not made by the current management team, if more help is not elicited from the private sector, if these policy changes are not made, and if the quarantine authority cannot better manage its workforce to do these basics tasks, we will not be coming out of this pandemic anytime soon. The reality is that, in light of our current situation regarding vaccine supply and delivery, we may not achieve herd immunity before December. What are businesses supposed to do until then? Can we not simply institute a health and safety protocol at workplaces mandating that supervisors screen their workers before each workday for symptoms of covid19, sick relatives at home, and daily temperature checks? Can we not mandate supervisors to have their workers tested twice weekly with rapid antigen tests in order to facilitate their operations? Can we not allow curbside pickup for restaurants as long as their workers are tested regularly, screened daily before work, and pickups by customers are scheduled in an organised fashion? We have already had to borrow money from the Chinese government to continue to run our country. We have already recognised the reality that the IMF may be another borrowing option with even more strings attached. How long can we continue along this road of severe lockdowns, curfews, and generally unimaginative thinking? We need to do better. We need to move towards workplace testing using rapid tests. The Health Ministry has to be better at contact tracing and effectively quarantining primary contacts of suspected or confirmed cases, and there has to be more creativity on behalf of those in charge for us to achieve meaningful decreases in the numbers of new cases and deaths.
Over the pandemic year, creativity bloomed, many people found novel ways to express many ideas about the pandemic itself. One such person is local poet Jude Patrong. The Valencia poet’s latest work is called King Covid the Man in the Moon. In a phone interview he explained that many of the stories and narratives told about the pandemic were woven together to form his latest poem. These were also coupled with Carnival imagery. “Two months ago I decided to write a poem on the covid19 pandemic,” he said. He called the poem Man on the Moon because Latin word corona means wealth and crown and which, to him, “is like a circle around the moon.” In dissecting the poem, Patrong said the moon also has a lot to do with changes on earth and he wondered if the moon had a part to play with the pandemic. He also took some of the common stories told about the pandemic’s origins and wove it into his poem. “They said, I don’t have any proof of it, that the bats are responsible for the virus. It is transmitted to animals etc. I thought about bats in vampire movies. Vampires where bats bite people and they are infected. So I thought of the bat and the moon.” He writes in the opening verse: The moon ascended upon the wild west/ Bats delirious and erratic to and fro Whence they came from Mount Tamana Caves Midnight Robbers roaming the concrete jungle Whom behind the mask? Masks were also a recurring theme in Patrong’s poem. “When I thought of the mask I thought of Carnival, revelling. Everybody’s wearing masks so I tried to associate it with Carnival. He said revelling was not just mas(k) and ole mas. He said it was also chaos and confusion. “Which I choose to document.” He said masks were not only associated with revelling but they have also been used in performances and, even, death. In his work, Patrong alludes to the late Spanish artist Francisco de Goya’s The Burial of the Sardine. “The Burial of the Sardine was a celebration, like a revelling thing with masks and people dancing in the streets. That is what I thought of also in the poem…” Goya’s website says, “The painting displays a huge number of people dancing...Most of the revellers are masked and disguised and can be seen dancing their way to the banks of the Manzanares.” He addresses the issues of social displacement and sadness and despair caused by the pandemic. At the end of his poem Patrong asks, “Whom behind the death mask?” Patrong wants King Covid Man in the Moon to be part of a wider compilation but says that is going to take some time. He has self-published three books of his work: The Beauty of Love; The Garden of Valencia and Poems of the Caribbean Sun. His book the Garden of Valencia was translated into Spanish. Patrong said he is also a founding member of the Circle of Poets and has also recited his poetry at schools and other public venues. He began writing in 1995. He plays the guitar and back then, wrote songs. “I would compose songs and put music to it but unfortunately I realised the music was not taking me anywhere.” He said he went to work in Port of Spain one day and met a guy who showed him a book of poems he had published. Patrong then thought he could also take his songs and turn it into poetry and compile it in a book. Patrong, a part-time worker at Carib Brewery, goes door-to-door selling his poetry and hopes to continue doing so once public health restrictions are lifted. King Covid The Man in the Moon The moon ascended upon the wild west, bats delirious and erratic to and fro, whence they came from Mount Tamana Caves, Midnight Robbers roaming the concrete jungle, whom behind the mask? On dismal streets you can hear whistles, shadows flitting from pillar to post, Jaga-bats in the night-dress, “picking up all kind of strangers” vulnerable people could become afflicted by a malady. Pipers stealthy up and down, brass faces amidst the scene, Jab-jab in working rubber boots begging bread, gnashing of teeth, one dollar to pay de devil. J’Ouvert morning ole mas in the Croisee, on First Street grimier man in front, the shackled jab-molassie mumbling, eyes wondering upon the crowd; handout, the conga line stretching around a corner, many bound unto his chain. The multitude plodding along in their pajamas, Sailors’ candlelight vigil, others in colourful garbs, those on the loose romping and gallivanting in Goya’s Mask. Wineos cavorting and accosting passerby, queer faces brightly powdered amidst the melee, weeping and lamenting, whom behind the death mask?
The UNC is calling on government to explain the $2.1 billion dollar loss posted by the National Gas Company (NGC).
At a media conference on Thursday, Opposition MP David Lee said the loss was a result of the mismanagement by the government as this was the first time the company had recorded such a massive loss.
“NGC should never be making a loss, as it is essentially a middleman. It buys gas from the up-streamers and sells it to the down-streamers, and somewhere in the middle there is your profit.
“Was this loss the result of bad negotiations, bad policymaking, or bad management? It had to have been the result of the 2017 negotiations in Houston and we are now reaping the disaster.
“It will be interesting to see what the upcoming half-yearly report by NGC will have to say.”
Lee also questioned the government’s intentions towards Petrotrin and Patriotic. He said the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) had yet to get a response from government to a bid it had sent in March 2021. But when the UNC asked in Parliament recently, it was told that a request for proposals would be put out in the coming days.
“Everyone will be able to put in a proposal and Patriotic will be left out in the cold. Coming out of Monday’s virtual report, the Opposition Leader raised the issue of the refinery and asked for information on Project Calypso. There’s no clarity in the shutdown of Petrotrin. We must have transparency on the request for proposals.”
Lee said the downstream companies at Point Lisas were suffering.
He also speculated as to whether the Finance Minister had pushed through the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill 2021 in order to make up some of the tax revenue which had been lost.
Lee asked whether the objections raised by the AG on the bill when it was debated in 2016 had been resolved, as he said there had been no substantial changes to the bill since then.
“It will be challenged by institutions who feel their rights are being challenged. It won’t be operationalised for at least six months. What was the rush in passing the bill? I’m sure the Finance Minister will come back to Parliament to fix the bill.
“Were the issues the AG had with certain clauses of the bill fixed? One of the major ones was issues with the banking sector. Will employees now be able to go to the banks and open mortgage accounts, get credit cards, etc.?”
FORMER minister in the ministry of finance Vasant Bharath blamed the Government for the $2.1 billion loss the National Gas Company (NGC) reported at the end of last year.
NGC chairman Conrad Enill spoke about the loss in his report attached to the company's summary consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2020, published in a newspaper advertisement on Thursday.
Bharath said Government failed to heed the warnings of many reports and experts in the sector over the last five years.
"In 2015, Trinidad and Tobago was the world's largest exporter of methanol and ammonia. It has now lost half of its methanol production as well as significant ammonia production."
He said the Government has "continually ignored the advice to re-look at the gas value chain as cheaper shale became more available, the US became net exporters of natural gas, prices paid by NGC (negotiated by the PM and his team) to the upstreamers were higher and unworkable and curtailment issues by local producers."
Bharath said, "This confluence of events naturally led to significant plant closures in the Point Lisas estate primarily due to global uncompetitiveness."
He said the loss reflected reduced volumes, a downward revaluation of pipeline infrastructure, and a write down in the value of a contract of $2.1billion where the contract obligations exceeded the economic benefits.
Bharath said this meant NGC had to supply gas at a loss on the contract.
"It may very well be the case that there are other such contracts that will become due in 2021 and beyond."
Bharath said the petrochemical sector provides a valuable source of revenue to Government in the region of approximately $2 billion in taxes annually over the last ten years. He said the sector also contributes over 20 per cent of total exports, 25 per cent of foreign exchange inflows to the banks, employs over 1,500 skilled workers and over 30,000 more in support services.
"It is therefore of grave concern that their sole supplier finds itself in an economic tailspin with no real idea of the way forward and certainly no declared energy policies to address the industry challenges."
Bharath said, "The government seems hell bent by it's myopia and inaction to be driving away an economic powerhouse, 50 years in the making."
THE PRIME Minister’s highly defensive stance during Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament raised more questions than answers when it comes to Government’s vaccination programme.
Dr Rowley’s failure to clarify the custody chain of Pfizer vaccines donated by the US as well as his failure to clarify whether he had been administered or allocated one of these doses set a poor precedent on transparency and accountability.
It was all the more disturbing given that it was Dr Rowley’s first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions since he fell ill with covid19 in April.
Whatever the secret destination of the 80 Pfizer vials, the cat had already been let part of the way out of the bag.
Wednesday was an opportunity for the Government to clear the air definitively and to remove suspicions of favouritism or of a parallel vaccination programme in which a select few are granted access to what is seen as the most effective of all the vaccines currently available (the Pfizer jab has a 95 per cent efficacy rate, AstraZeneca 70 per cent.)
Dr Rowley described UNC MPs who asked him questions as “mischief-makers” and implied the questions put to him were “blatant lies.”
His reaction was disproportionate, given his own characterisation of this issue as being one of no mystery only a few days ago.
“It was so simple, so straightforward,” Dr Rowley last week told the media on the same matter. He said there was nothing to clarify because the matter was clear from day one.
This time around, in Parliament, the Prime Minister suggested he could not speak further because this would involve the Ministry of Health divulging patients’ details.
At the same time, he had no qualms deflecting queries by pointing fingers at Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar's health status through innuendo.
People have a right to ask questions, particularly of our leaders. If there is misinformation or misunderstanding, that adds even more urgency to their duty to clarify issues through clear responses.
There are often moments when national security interests or genuine sensitivities may arise. However, that threshold has not even been properly established on the threadbare facts known to us thus far on this matter.
In response to the Prime Minister, Ms Persad-Bissessar issued a statement saying she is not covid19-positive and has never contracted the virus.
However, her response was in some ways as bizarre as Dr Rowley’s. She could have set an appropriate tone for the entire topic by just giving a straightforward answer rather than claiming, yet again, the Prime Minister has a “creepy infatuation” with her.
While these leaders on Wednesday engaged in needless jabs, ordinary people are contracting and dying of covid19 at an alarmingly high rate in circumstances that are growing harder to account for with each passing day.
THE EDITOR: The J’Ouvert rum imbroglio once again indicated that we know what we do not want but have no idea of what we want. TT has the potential to make every citizen in this country independently prosperous with income outside of government handouts and the energy sector. We simply lack the vision and will to explore our potential. When others explore the neglected sectors we make noise, then return to our quiet comfortable place of ineptitude, corruption, race talk and bacchanal.
Today I wish to take you on a journey of the untouched potential that can positively change the lives of all our citizens forever.
Imagine, if you can, electric cars (so as not to disturb the environment) on a winding roadway sensitively cut through the mountains to the top of El Cerro Del Aripo and El Tucuche, the highest and second highest peaks in Trinidad. At the top there are observatory towers offering a panoramic view of the entire island, camping sites and a restaurant. Imagine this endeavour done in conjunction with the personnel from the Wild Fowl Trust and the Asa Wright people. No one will find it too expensive to pay a minimum $300-$500 to access the mountain top.
Let your imagination take you to one of the best underground caves in the world, the Gasparee caves, outfitted with its own natural pool. With proper lighting, safe tracks, appropriate access to the site and gift shops and restaurants, a visit to Gasparee can be a unique experience.
Consider, if you can, getting off the highway in Caroni and safely parking in the well-lit parking lot that leads to a beautiful gift shop with stuffed birds and a plethora of TT souvenirs. There you purchase a ticket and enter an environmentally sensitive clean boat with experienced tour guides, and meander through the lush mangrove of the Caroni Swamp, observing one of the best views of birds and other animals through a maze of calm waters.
After the tour you pass back through the store where you can purchase pictures of yourself and friends taken by tour guides on your journey. Ditto for the Nariva Swamp, Mayaro and Moruga River.
Think of the recultivating of sugar cane for local sugar consumption and rum production. Of tours of the factory where the entire process of making Trinidad rum is explained to visitors and concludes with a walk through a gift shop with rum packages and a bar to sample the different rums of TT.
The Pitch Lake, the many waterfalls, our pristine rivers, our beaches, our oil bird caves, our mud volcanoes, Carnival, the steel pan and all its runoff competitions and panyards, Hosay, our many religious celebrations and our unique foods are more than enough to make TT the most unique, diverse tourist experience in the Caribbean.
Through tourism we can find permanent employment for every sector of our economy. Developed countries with billions more than us make tourism a critical part of their investment, we simply pay the sector lip service. We only make noise when others dare to tap into what we leave to rot.
Dr Daniela Fifi has been appointed as reviewer and editorial board member of Viewfinder and The Art Education Journal; two main publications of the National Art Education Association (NAEA) based in the US.
She has also been invited to address students at MIT as a guest speaker to present lectures on the interdisciplinary nature of Caribbean arts. Her presentation will be one in a series of talks there about the importance of creativity in science and innovation.
Viewfinder is an experimental digital journal hosted by the NAEA, focused on the intersection of social justice and museum education. ViewFinder features experiments, invites critiques, and encourages cross-generational dialogue.
So far, Fifi has overseen two peer-reviewed publications including a publication centred on the discourse of change within the museum education community, said a media release from Black Collar Creative.
For this publication, Fifi reviewed several submissions that highlighted how the international arts community has been affected by covid19 and the subsequent implications that the pandemic has forced creative communities to confront. The publication advocates for change within arts and cultural institutions.
Art Education Journal is a bi-monthly publication covering a diverse range of topics of professional interest to art educators and visual arts education. The NAEA was founded in 1947 and is the leading professional membership organisation exclusively for visual arts and design education professionals in the US.
Fifi’s nomination as an editorial board member for the Art Education journal positions her on one of the most accredited editorial boards in the field of art education. Fifi will be one of the few female Caribbean editorial board members ever to have held this position. These appointments create an opportunity for essential Caribbean representation at this level, and at the intersection of Caribbean culture and global arts in education, the release said.
Fifi is a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, where she attained her doctorate in art and art education, the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, where she received her masters degree in art gallery and museum studies and of the Pratt Institute, New York, where she received a bachelor of fine art in communication design.
Her most recent work is the 2021 publication of Art Collecting in the English-Speaking Caribbean, co-written with Nimah Zakuri for In Haitham Eid and Robert Janes (editors) in Museum Innovation, published by Routledge Press. Her next upcoming research and publication includes a book on the art and life of Geoffrey Holder, which has been fully funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.
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TT ATHLETES Kirdell McIntosh and Jonathan Farinha believe lack of competition and limited access to training facilities have hindered their progress and they have not been given the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Several TT track and field athletes have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) has arranged two local meets to give others an opportunity to qualify for the Games, which run from July 23-August 8.
The Olympics were postponed for a year because of the covid19 pandemic.
TT athletes based in the US have been competing regularly over the past few months, as covid19 cases there are on the decline. Jereem Richards and Michelle-Lee Ahye, who have both qualified for the Olympics, are competing often in the US.
Local athletes, based at home, have not been as lucky, as meets have been few and far between.
The first NAAA meet was held last Monday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, with the second scheduled to be held on Sunday at the same venue. None of the athletes who competed on Monday achieved the Olympic standard.
McIntosh clocked 49.12 seconds to win the men’s 400-metre event, but did not achieve the Olympic time of 44.90.
On Wednesday, McIntosh told Newsday he felt he was in with a golden opportunity to earn selection on the men’s 4x400m team for the Olympics.
“I think that I had a fairly good chance of being a part of the men’s 4x4 team this year…currently the athletes who are abroad, within the college system, most have not had a good season due to injuries or whatever personal struggles they would have faced.”
McIntosh said if he could complete the race near the 46-second mark on Sunday he may be included in the relay team, which includes four starters and two reserves.
“How I started my season…I think that within the couple months that I had I would have been able to attain it.”
McIntosh opened his season running 48 seconds and believes with regular competition he could have trimmed a second or two off that time.
His training regime has not been ideal.
“The last year was difficult,” he said.
Athletes have been allowed to use stadiums such as Hasely Crawford and Larry Gomes (in Arima), but just three or four days a week at times during the pandemic.
“It was kind of difficult getting yourself prepared for this moment (Olympic trials),” McIntosh said. He was limited to training in his yard, doing various exercises in an effort to stay fit.
McIntosh also decided recently to abandon training, as there was no confirmation of meets.
“I took it upon myself to stop training because there wasn’t any improvement in the situation pertaining to us having any competition.”
He said it was like training in vain. A week before the first trial meet he discovered there would be an event to compete in.
McIntosh is not letting the situation stop him from his goals, as he is targeting meets in the coming years if his Olympic dream does not become a reality.
McIntosh and Farinha will vie for Olympic qualification again on Sunday at the second NAAA meet.
Farinha won the men’s 100m event in 10.39, falling short of the standard of 10.05.
Speaking about Monday’s meet, Farinha said, “This is my second race for the season. All the athletes in the United States have run approximately ten races or eight races…this is my second race and I am currently ranked sixth or seventh among everyone and I have only run two races.”
Farinha said a lack of competition is holding him back from attaining his potential.
“I am expecting something faster this coming weekend…my Olympic dream is not cut short yet.”
Farinha has been representing TT since the junior level, alongside his twin brother Nathan.
“Many times we wanted to give up within the past year or two,” Farinha said. However, making TT proud has propelled them to keep fighting.
“At the end of the day it has been a total challenge not being able to get the support from TT, not being able to train properly, (such as) going to the stadium…this year has been a total challenge.”
On not being able to compete often, Farinha said, “As athletes, the more you compete is the better you perform.”
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SINCE his appointment as interim national men’s football coach 10 days ago, Angus Eve is impressed with the professionalism and application displayed by his recently selected 26-man squad.
The 49-year-old former national midfielder and captain is gearing up for his first official stint as TT coach against Montserrat in the Concacaf Gold Cup qualifier on July 2.
The recently-trimmed TT team charted off to Guyana at 2 am on Thursday, en route to Miami, United States for a residential training camp ahead of their opening qualifier.
This match will be played at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US. If victorious, TT will face the winners of a French Guiana/Cuba clash in their second Gold Cup qualifier.
Eve and his coaching staff held intense training sessions at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. He expressed pleasure with the team’s drive on the field and welcomed his forthcoming challenges.
Eve, TT’s most capped player (117 international appearances), replaced English-born Terry Fenwick as head coach on June 15 after the latter’s failed 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying bid.
“The training so far has been really intensive," said Eve. "The level of professionalism I have seen from the guys and the application...I’m pleasantly surprised with the level of fitness some of them have, seeing that we haven’t been playing football for a while in the country.
“Some of them have been training with the national senior team before but it’s a breath of fresh air to actually work with some of the new guys who have come in the team. I’m only looking forward to good things from them,” he said.
On Friday, in Florida, Eve plans to do two sessions; one focused on how they will approach the game and the other geared towards more tactical and technique work. The team will also play one closed-door match to give some of the guys who have not been playing matches on a regular, some minutes in their legs.
“The only problem with these guys is that they haven’t been in match action on a regular basis. Their match fitness; we are trying to duplicate that by the sessions that we’re doing to raise that level of intensity and to get them a little bit sharp. That’s the reason why we are doing the type of sessions that we are,” he added.
Eve and his coaching staff (assistant coaches Reynold Carrington and Hutson Charles, along with goalkeeper coach Clayton Ince), have been working assiduously to educate themselves and the players on the Montserrat team - its strengths and weaknesses.
Their skipper Lyle Taylor, who plays for Nottingham Forest in the English Football League Championship division, was dubbed as “phenomenal” by Eve.
“We know that most of the players (Montserrat) play in the lower league. They have a bit of quality in midfield, up front, the captain is a phenomenal player. We’ve seen him.
“We have done our homework. We see the way they try to play. They’re organised in what they’re trying to do. We’ve taken on board the information. We had help from people on the outside who would have watched their games,” he said.
Asked about his managerial style, Eve noted that although training has been intense, the players have easily adapted under his stewardship.
At the stadium on Wednesday, the players took part in an interactive but action-packed half-field training session to which Eve altered the rules of the game to mimic different situations on the field of play. The players communicated well while the interim coach served as referee.
On his coaching style, Eve said, “I’m sure you all were hearing the players laughing. You see them enjoying the game, they’re applying themselves. The intensity of the training is very high but they’re also enjoying themselves.
“I’m a player’s coach. You will see sometimes I stop and get into (put emphasis on) certain men at particular times. It’s just to get them right. They have the ability, it’s just to do things consistently,” he said.
Looking ahead, the TT coach has asked his team to play with the pride, passion and the ability he knows they have. Even though it’s been only a couple weeks he has been coach, Eve believes the teams can churn out a positive result and progress further into the Gold Cup.
“Anybody who knows me knows how I represented my country, the way that I’ve played and I touched every blade of grass when I used to play the game. And I’m asking the same thing from the players.
“It is a short space of time, I’m not complaining about that because I’ve accepted the role (as coach). There would be no excuses from me and I would take all responsibility for whatever the team does in the tournament,” he said.
ONE OF the things I enjoy most as a practicing sport psychologist is the ability to work with a diverse athlete/coach/parent population. I work with athletes and coaches across all backgrounds, sports, and competitive levels: from grassroots to Olympics. And while I spend much time researching and learning with each new sport I work in, within my field, there is really no need for, “specialisation,” in any one sport.
This is simply because no matter the rules of the game, the psychological, emotional, behavioural, and cognitive factors that influence performance remain unchanging.
What DOES influence the way I interact and my focus with any one athlete or team, however, is their age. This might seem obvious to some, “of course Alex, you can’t teach a 10-year-old the same mental skills and cognitive habits that you would an adult,” and you’d be quite right, you can’t.
Similarly, we don’t expect young primary-school children to be able to write university level essays. Instead we know that general education such as reading, writing and arithmetic must come first: foundational pillars made from strong developmental blocks, on which we build.
Herein lies my question for this week’s article…Why, then, do we not always follow a similar pathway when it comes to sport and athlete development?
One of the very first things we teach young, aspiring athletes, of any sport, is to win. It’s almost the very purpose of competitive sport. We join clubs, academies, camps and strive to represent our country…to win. Competitions such as the Olympics, World Cups, Pan Am Championships et al. are all designed to identify victors.
But for those coaches interacting with the younger athlete population in particular: should winning really be everything? Is the best mindset that of win at all costs? The answer according to research is a resounding no…development is!
This does not mean, however, that the two are mutually exclusive, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Winning and consistent athletic success is directly linked to strong foundational player development in the early childhood and adolescent stages.
The value of a young child participating in multiple sports, engaging in structured play and skill acquisition through free play can oftentimes be overlooked by coaches for the sake of specialisation in one sport. Indeed, throughout my practice I have witnessed parents and coaches alike, debate that the appropriate age of specialisation and training for sport-specific skills should begin from as early as six years old. At this very juncture there are a few key things that should be noted:
Although we are led to believe that early specialisation in one sport may give a young athlete an edge in competition, and facilitate their way into professional elite sports, this is not the case…According to studies conducted by Feeley, Agel and LaPrade (2016), Brenner, (2016) and DiFiori, Brenner and Comstock, (2017) “early sport specialisation does not lead to a competitive advantage over other athletes and can even lead to an increased risk of sport abandonment or burnout.”
Further adding to the importance of development in young athletes: research conducted on the motivational climate created by coaches and parents of young swimmers (9-14 years) showed that when the coaches/parents placed emphasis on winning, creating what is known as an ego-climate, the young swimmers had lower self-esteem, lower intrinsic motivation, and higher competition anxiety. Whilst young swimmers in a learning climate (mastery climate) had lower competition anxiety, and higher self-esteem and intrinsic motivation (O’Rourke, Smith, Smoll and Cumming, 2014).
Additionally, an environment developed by coaches that emphasises effort, personal development and achievement based on personal progress, leads to higher rates of enjoyment, commitment to the sport, and intrinsic motivation in junior athletes (Jaakkola, Ntoumanix, Liukkonen, 2016).
In summary, winning, and indeed losing, is a main component of competitive sport. As coaches and parents, however, it is imperative to create environments that focus not solely on winning but on the holistic development of our young athletes. Otherwise we are simply extracting what we can for the short-term outcomes and impeding any chances of sustainable sport and ultimately long-term success.
Feel free to submit any questions you might have to [email protected]
VICE-CAPTAIN Nicholas Pooran said many players would relish the opportunity to play on a team like the star-studded and experienced West Indies T20 team preparing to face South Africa in the CG Insurance T20 International five-match series.
The entire series will be played at the National Cricket Stadium in St George's, Grenada starting on Saturday at 2 pm. Matches will also be played on Sunday, Tuesday, July 1 and July 3. All matches bowl off at 2 pm.
Several players on the squad have featured in all the major T20 leagues in the world including the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Big Bash in Australia. Jamaican all-rounder Andre Russell has made a return to the squad after battling with injury and contracting covid19 in February.
Opener Chris Gayle and fast bowler Fidel Edwards made a return to the squad for the Sri Lanka series earlier this year.
The team also includes captain Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons and Shimron Hetmyer.
Pollard has played the most T20 matches in history as he has lined up in 540 contests. Bravo is second on the list with 477 matches and Gayle is tied for third place with 424.
On Thursday, speaking to journalists on Zoom, Pooran said, “I think the confidence from the group is very good. We have all our senior players back with the inclusion of Russell. We have the most exciting T20 players in the world back together in one team. A lot of teams would love a team like this, players like this.”
West Indies are aiming to rebound after being crushed 2-0 in the Betway two-match Test series against South Africa which ended earlier this week in St Lucia.
Holder is the only West Indies player in the T20 squad who featured in the Test series.
The Windies batting struggled in the series as the team failed to reach 200 on four attempts.
Pooran thinks the Windies batting can deliver in the T20 series.
“I believe once we do our jobs right we are going to get the rewards at the end of the day. Again, we have the best T20 players in the world - no doubt about it – but once we can play our roles exactly what the team requires from us we will put up some scores. It is not guaranteed, but once we do the right things then we are giving ourselves the best chance to put some scores on the board.”
Pooran had a dismal run of form in the 2021 IPL before it was suspended at the halfway point because of the covid19 pandemic. The left-handed wicket-keeper/batsman is still confident in his ability.
“I did not get the scores I wanted in the IPL this year, but things happen…it is a part of cricket, it’s life. We all have our down times, but to me it is just keeping it simple, believing in myself and backing my skills and ability. To me it is just about going out there and enjoying the game. At the end of the day I don’t want to put too much of pressure on myself.”
West Indies won their only T20 series in 2021 with a 2-1 win over Sri Lanka in Antigua in March.
It was a memorable series for Pollard as he struck six sixes in an over off spinner Akila Dananjaya.
West Indies provisional 18-man squad: Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Kevin Sinclair, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh.
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Newsday photographers captured some of these images reflecting the past 24 hours in Trinidad and Tobago. If you'd like to be featured in our daily photo galleries, please e-mail us a photo to [email protected] with the caption "Photo of the Day" and we will pick one photo each day to feature, with a few sentences about the photographer. [caption id="attachment_896978" align="alignnone" width="1024"] These dogs stood guard on top the roof of a car at their owner's Kelly Village home for a better view of passers-by. - Photo by Marvin Hamilton[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896980" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Despite the rainfall, these pedestrians make their way safely across the Churchill Roosevelt Highway using the pedestrian overpass near the Courts Megastore in San Juan. - Photo by Roger Jacob[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896981" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Umbrellas were out in full force as San Fernando taxi drivers jockeyed for passengers in the afternoon rain at Broadway in Port of Spain. - Photo by Sureash Cholai[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896982" align="alignnone" width="1024"] After the rainfall on Thursday, flood water spilled onto the roadway crippling the flow of traffic along Independence Square in Port of Spain. - Photo by Sureash Cholai[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896983" align="alignnone" width="1024"] This young man uses a plastic bag to prevent his head from getting wet during a rain shower on Thursday afternoon. - Photo by Sureash Cholai[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896984" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Drivers pass a landslip on the Lady Young Road, near the visitor lookout in upper Belmont. - Photo by Marvin Hamilton[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896985" align="alignnone" width="1024"] A farmer sprays his seedlings for pests early Thursday morning along the Southern Main Road in Cunupia. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896986" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The emptiness of the Brian Lara Promenade in downtown Port of Spain on Thursday, as public health restrictions prohibiting congregrating in public spaces remains in effect. - Photo by Sureash Cholai[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896987" align="alignnone" width="1024"] This man without a mask skillfully rides his bicycle along High Street in San Fernando seemingly unaware of the risk of contracting the coronavirus from others on Thursday. - Photo by Lincoln Holder[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896988" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Members of the Highway Patrol Unit parked at the Brian Lara Promenade to watch citizens and the flow of traffic entering Port of Spain on Thursday morning. - Photo by Sureash Cholai[/caption]
Wherever there is a Carnival, there is a J'Ouvert. Cultural activist Rubadiri Victor said there are more than 300 Trinidad-style carnivals around the world, and the Caribbean islands' carnivals evolved together. For the past week, citizens have been up in arms against US actor and businessman Michael B Jordan, who decided to name his new rum brand J'Ouvert. His business partner trademarked the name, saying J'Ouvert meant nothing in a foreign language. Jordan was accused of appropriating Trinidad and Tobago's culture. He later apologised and swore to rename his rum. While some locals felt victorious about stopping Jordan from using the word J'Ouvert, other people in the region noted that TT is not the only country that has J'Ouvert. Victor, who has a J'Ouvert band called Generation Lion, said: "Wherever there is a carnival, there is something that resembles a J'Ouvert...Africans across the diaspora borrow from one another all the time, cross-fertilise work and all these things. Even though we are the metropolis of the form, we evolved together borrowing from each other and including one another." [caption id="attachment_896973" align="alignnone" width="1024"] In this file photo, clultural activist Rubadiri Victor (left) and Kirk Langtan of the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago carry the headpiece of Jagessar's 2020 Queen ' Shamaran' to be put on display in Woodford Square. - Photo by Sureash Cholai[/caption] He said TT is a migrant society and people from other islands would come for work and a better way of life, and their artistic talents helped develop TT's Carnival culture. "Some of our greatest contributors and heroes, be it Peter Minshall, Sparrow or Ella Andall were all born in other territories. That's a part of being a metropolis, not just a financial metropolis but a cultural metropolis. Cultural forms come here to succeed." Sparrow, whose real name is Slinger Francisco, was born in Grenada. The Pierrot Grenade Carnival character evolved from Grenada's Pierrot and the name comes from the country. Victor said Grenada's whole carnival is made up of J'Ouvert, and because of it, is more authentic. "Grenada's carnival is J'Ouvert. It ain't have no pretty mas. The power of Grenada's carnival is almost black devil mas all day. "In the last decade, the people who have been pushing the resurgence of J'Ouvert are Grenadians. It is powered by that jab rhythm. They have embraced that festival for what it is. They haven't tried to water it down." He said other countries made the decision to have pretty mas, but Grenada didn't, and the profits of cultural tourism and music development have benefited. "It has paid dividends. Their music has taken off. In Trinidad we have this impulse, this status quo, to make things bourgeois like in music, production and mas. Jamaica and Grenada were the opposite. It leads into blackness of it and it is paying. They are authentic, with crazy crazy J'Ouvert, like what we used to play 25, 30 years ago." [caption id="attachment_746303" align="alignnone" width="620"] Slinger Francisco also known as Sparrow[/caption] J'Ouvert, he said, is an "African impulse" that accompanied Emancipation celebrations. "The form it took in Trinidad was particularly sophisticated in its anarchy and revolutionary power. J'Ouvert is primordial. It is a primordial festival. The reason why J'Ouvert works is because it is the most elemental form of human art and worship. "It is the naked human body covered in mud and masked in dye, dancing communally to drums. Trinidadians, for all kinds of reasons, are the ones who kind of hooked into that power, the sacred and sensual power of J'Ouvert and jealously guarded it for a century-plus."
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The life of former journalist Ramdeo “Hero” Heeralal was one of generosity, caring and sharing. His widow Nardaroon said he was loved, admired and respected by those who knew him. Heeralal died on Tuesday, a week before his 66th birthday. Nardaroon said Heeralal was born in Edinburgh Village, Chaguanas, in 1955. His parents loved gardening and he went to work at an early age, selling produce from his bicycle, which earned him the nickname of "Tomato Boy." He worked at a Chinese shop, gas station and the cinema. In his early 20s, he worked at Lalloo’s, after which he went to the Public Transport Service Corporation as a conductor, bus driver, and security officer. It was during this time he met Nardaroon, whom he courted for three years. She said they had been married for 37 years when he died. “We had two beautiful daughters, Rheisa and Rheia. We used his initals RH for their first names, and my initial N for their middle names, Natisha and Narissa, so they are a part of us in many ways. "Kind-hearted, caring, willing and generous were all words used to describe him. He made me proud. He used to bring me a sandwich and when I said I could have made it, he said he had to preserve me, because he didn’t marry a slave. He used to say I should sit and enjoy it, and he would bring a bowl of water and a towel for me to wash my hands. I have so many beautiful memories with him to cherish.” After working at the PTSC, Heeralal moved into journalism. Beginning at Gayelle, he then expanded to supply stories to TV and radio. Nardaroon said he was the best in the business. “He earned the name Hero because he was first with the news. He filmed, edited, and wrote his stories. He was number one in the media fraternity.” She said he was also well known for his cooking, famous for his fry bake, and would invite people over for meals all the time. He was also a perfectionist who enjoyed making furniture and other projects for the home. Tragedy struck the family in 2015 when Rheia died in a fire at their home. Heeralal was injured and had to be hospitalised. The Rev Daniel Teelucksingh, who officiated at the funeral, said the “sorrow was too much for him and the grief added to the weakness the body had to experience since that time. I am sure he will say thanks over and over to Nandaroon and Rheisa for the support they gave him during this period.” [caption id="attachment_896965" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Photo courtesy a relative[/caption] Nardaroon also said Heeralal was not the same after losing Rheia. She said it would be difficult for her and Rheisa to move on without him, and there would be huge adjustments to be made, as their family is now down to two. Media colleagues and friends also paid tribute to him. Heeralal will be buried at the family plot at the Tunapuna Public Cemetery.
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T&TEC general manager Kelvin Ramsook said on Thursday that T&TEC has a $1.1 billion shortfall which has left it in debt to the National Gas Company (NGC). He was speaking at a virtual meeting of Parliament's Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Land and Physical Infrastructure. This news prompted committee member Senator Anil Roberts to predict a steep rise in electricity rates for consumers. Ramsook said, "T&TECat this time is suffering a loss of $1.1 billion that we are unable to pay for gas to the National Gas Company, even at a subsidised rate (which) is one half what the value of the gas is on the open market." He said the subsidised price T&TEC pays to NGC is US$1.5882 per MMBTU. Roberts remarked, "The population can now look forward to vast increases in their electricity (bills). This is going to be pain for the citizens." Roberts predicted consumers might see "a doubling or tripling" of their electricity bill. He denied he has been badgering the officials facing the JSC, saying the general public would like the information he had sought. Committee chairman Deoroop Teemal said the witnesses were public servants who should be given room to answer, as they were trying their best and were genuine in their responses, and in reply to Roberts said he was not muting nor controlling anyone at the sitting. Committee member Saddam Hosein noted WASA's now-stalled disconnection drive and asked if T&TEC would also initiate disconnections. Ramsook replied T&TEC encourages all customers to pay their bills. "Given the nature of the business, it is absolutely necessary that we collect our money." Hosein asked about the ministry's utility assistance programme, saying he knew constituents who could not pay their T&TEC bill. Ministry of Public Utilities permanent secretary Nicolette Duke said this programme was based on Cabinet policy. Deputy permanent secretary Beverly Khan said anyone earning less than $5,000 a month can apply. "In respect of the electricity bill, it's a maximum of $1,200 per annum that can be applied. In respect of WASA, it is $200." Duke said the ministry also gives a 25 per cent rebate/discount on any T&TEC bill under $300. "Almost 50 per cent of residential customers are benefiting from that facility." Hosein said he did not wish T&TEC consumers to face disconnection like a number of WASA customers recently. Ramsook said T&TEC has 210,000 customers whose bill is $300 or less, out of its 445,000-strong customer base, and they get a 25 per cent rebate. He said T&TEC had bought 1.6 million LED bulbs, of which 895,000 had been distributed. He estimated someone with a $300 bill could get an extra savings of $15 overall by installing four LED bulbs. This also benefits T&TEC through less gas usage being required, he said. He noted "a significant reduction" in industrial electricity consumption in the pandemic, but an increase in domestic usage, as people were at home more. In the past month he had signed 30 applications for a reduction in reserve capacity, reducing demand on T&TEC, for businesses migrating from an industrial to a commercial designation. "You are seeing a number of businesses not operating." Roberts asked if Cabinet had given T&TEC any directive not to disconnect customers during the pandemic. Ramsook said the ministry had given T&TEC guidelines, while he encouraged people to pay their bills. "We don't disconnect for a first bill, so after four months, the second bill, when we send to customers, we do encourage them (to pay.)" He said there were no complaints of disconnection, but added that to run T&TEC it was essential people pay their bills.
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