@keith_in_tnt on Twitter.com


Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas and New Year Greetings...

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Where's Keith?

Time and energy are at a premium, but I should be back up to speed soon...

Between the demands of work and school, as well as the distraction of various personal challenges, it became difficult to sit and gather thoughts to write as extensively as I would like. I've found myself too writing in other forums and spaces, and have received commission to start another site - http://QRCLink.blogspot.com - a portal for school and Old Boy news and events for my alma mater, Queen's Royal College. That's off the ground and is beginning to take shape.

On Keith-In-Trinidad though, I was working on an article this weekend on young boxing phenom, Jizelle Salandy, but got a hard technology revision lesson - "Save early and save often" - and lost near three hours of research and writing. Attempts will be made though to get that piece re-done and posted before the end of the week.

In the new year, the intention is to generate a thought for readers to mull on at the very least, and that at least twice each week. That is not to say that longer expository pieces will not be produced, but shorter pieces will serve to break up the time between work of greater length and depth.

Thanks all for supporting. New material will be up soon.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Even the smallest gestures deserve thanks...

Since starting school again in September, I've found myself having to face the main transportation hub on an afternoon, and that several times a week. It was a pleasant surprise at the beginning to see uniformed police officers in the loading areas ensuring that maxi taxis arrived, picked up passengers and left the platforms in an orderly fashion. As such, the City Gate that I experience now is not that which I remember from just a few years ago. People do still rush for maxi taxis when they stop though, but the situation is not quite as bad as when PTSC staff tried in vain to control both milling crowd and recalcitrant drivers.

It was just beginning to get dark this evening as the maxi in which I travelled entered City Gate; I was on my way back into Port of Spain en route home. As we pulled into the transport hub, I was pleased to see our Policemen still at work. But I was even more pleased to see something done by the officer who was controlling the Arima Bus Route Platform.

A 25-seater air-conditioned maxi was coming down the chute as my maxi pulled into the offloading area. He pointed his baton, ordering the maxi to stop well before it made the turn to the loading bay, and then motioned three adults with eight or nine toddlers in tow toward the maxi. At the same time I noted that he kept a number of other persons from stepping off the platform to approach the maxi. Once he assured that the adults and their charges had all boarded and were seated, he motioned the maxi forward to finish picking up its load.

It was a very minor gesture, and I'm sure one that the Police do every evening at City Gate. I'm also positive that the parents, particularly those with two or more little children to marshal through the crush are happy to have that extra help getting their youngsters home. In a time where the Police are often maligned and castigated for doing little, I think the officers assigned to the City Gate and the other transportation hubs in the country are to be commended for these little things that they do in fact perform.

I hope that the parents make sure that their children say "thank you, Officer." Teaching the little ones gratitude ensures that they know that it's good to thank people for efforts made on their behalf. It also serves to ensure that they grow up knowing that preferential treatment is not something to which they're necessarily entitled. But even if they don't offer their sincere thanks, I do, as a member of the travelling public.

From me to all of the Officers so assigned, thank you for making passage through our transportation hubs easier. And do keep up the good work.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Press Responsibility... Oxymoron?

I received a call from a very annoyed acquaintance yesterday, and we had a long chat on the seeming absence of accountability and professionalism in the local mainstream press. They hit particularly hard on a story carried by one of the dailies where a member of the public's request for anonymity was very technically denied by the reporter covering the story. He said that he'd used the newspaper's comments form - again - to attempt to raise the issue of possibly endangering a potential witness in the crime that was being covered. But like his letters and other comments to the paper, largely constructive, his comment seemed to be ignored in favour of "uninformed and ignorant responses to the day's issues made by narrow-minded unthinkers."

My view of the particular media house already at a negative position given a previous "interaction" with their editorial staff, I still held some hope for them given their recent wave of new hires, and the now even-handed coverage of one particular reporter in the political space. But their editors still seem to permit release of inflammatory opinion masquerading as truth on an otherwise uninformed public. And, as in this case, operate irresponsibly in their crime coverage. Were the criminals in this case able to deduce the identity of the witness given the information provided by the story, certainly the newspaper and the reporter would have denied vehemently any culpability in the matter.

One would have hoped that a media group with their regional scope would focus more on public education, clear and even reporting, and a minimisation of sensationalism. But alas! Sensation is what sells newspapers, increases advertising revenue, and boosts the share price. And it can be surmised that their share price is way more important than their news coverage given its prominence on the front page of the group's web site.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Moral Compasses

Does any of the following conversation sound like something that we're likely to hear right here at home?

In television series based on crime scene investigations in a land seeming far removed from our own, a group of young people go on a spree of senseless violence before being apprehended. The following conversation takes place in the officers' locker room as they try to rationalise the events of the previous few days and the behaviour of the young perpetrators:

Catherine Willows: Pig... and the piglets... are in the pigpen.

Warrick Brown: About time. Finally some good news.

Catherine: Did you know Pig, aka Cole Tritt, was the only adult? The rest of them were under 18. One was 14.

Warrick: Are you kidding? Who raises these kids?

Catherine: They weren't all delinquents. Demetrius James was a college student...

Nick Stokes: Hanging out with the wrong crowd in the wrong town. I'm tellin' ya. A fake ID in Las Vegas is like having a free ticket on the hell train. Sex, drugs, gambling, no adult supervision, 24/7. By the time they're 21, they've done and seen it all...

Catherine: Make me slit my wrists, why don'tcha! I'm raising a teenager here!

Warrick: Aw, you're doing a great job. Lindsay's gonna turn out to be a beautiful young woman. Besides, I grew up in Vegas. I didn't turn out so bad, did I?

Nick: Yeah! That was pre-Mirage, back when you were a lil' squirt going to the casino playing the arcade games. Naw. Vegas is a different animal now.

Warrick: Yeah, those kids need to beat people up in the street to be entertained. They just need some discipline... they need... uh... a grandmother whuppin' their ass, like I had.

Nick: Yeah! (Smiles and nods) A good slap...

Sara Sidle: Y'know... it sounds like you guys are blaming everybody but these kids. I mean, you don't get a bye just because you grew up here, or your parents were on drugs. Those kids were perferctly capable of telling the difference between a wild night out and beating somebody to death.

Gil Grissom: The truth is a moral compass can only point you in the right direction. It can't make you go there. Our culture preaches that you shouldn't be ashamed of anything you do anymore. And unfortunately this city is built on the principle that there's no such thing as guilt. Do whatever you want. We won't tell. So without a conscience, there's nothing to stop you from killing someone. And evidently, you don't even have to feel bad about it.

- CSI, Season 7 Episode 4, "Fannysmackin'"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

HEALTHBOLT: What happens to your body if you stop smoking right now

I've been discussing the most infamous items in the 2006-07 National Budget with fellow QRC Alumni recently, that is, the decision to close down private members' clubs (read: casinos), and impose additional taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. It's interesting then that today on another blog, Healthbolt, I run across a post that details the impact on one's body of an immediate cessation of cigarette use. The original posting, found here , at Healthbolt.com follows.

I think one of the main reasons it’s so hard to quit smoking is because all the benefits of quitting and all the dangers of continuing seem very far away. Well, here’s a little timeline about some of the more immediate effects of quitting smoking and how that will affect your body RIGHT NOW.
  • In 20 minutes your blood pressure will drop back down to normal.

  • In 8 hours the carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) levels in your blood stream will drop by half, and oxygen levels will return to normal.

  • In 48 hours your chance of having a heart attack will have decreased. All nicotine will have left your body. Your sense of taste and smell will return to a normal level.

  • In 72 hours your bronchial tubes will relax, and your energy levels will increase.

  • In 2 weeks your circulation will increase, and it will continue to improve for the next 10 weeks.

  • In three to nine months coughs, wheezing and breathing problems will dissipate as your lung capacity improves by 10%.

  • In 1 year your risk of having a heart attack will have dropped by half.

  • In 5 years your risk of having a stroke returns to that of a non-smoker.

  • In 10 years your risk of lung cancer will have returned to that of a non-smoker.

  • In 15 years your risk of heart attack will have returned to that of a non-smoker.
So, you have more immediate things to look forward to if you quit now besides just freaking out about not being able to smoke.

Of course, I assume that this only applies if you don't already have emphysema or some other chronic condition related to prolonged cigarette use. Further and very vivid discussion on what a smoker can expect when they quit can be found here.

This material though leads me to wonder what the impact will be on non-smokers who are similarly less exposed to cigarette smoke.

Healthbolt.com Article: What Happens to Your body if you stop smoking Right now?
Wikipedia Article: Emphysema
Reddit Discussion Board: What Happens to Your body if you stop smoking Right now?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sexual Assault & HIV Prevention

Rape, (n) the act of forcing penetrative sexual acts, against another's will through violence, force, threat of injury, or other duress, or where the victim is unable to decline, due to the effects of drugs or alcohol.
It is a scary fact that many people will know someone who has been sexually assaulted, and further that they may not ever know that the person was ever raped. Further, I make the careful distinction of using gender-neutral "person" because rape is not a male-on-female crime.

It is likely, especially if the victim is male, the attack has not been violent per se, or the assailant is known to the victim, that they will be unwilling to report the incident. Consequently, they will deny themselves of access to extremely important medical and other support services.

One of the more dire things about rape, apart from physical and mental trauma, is the possible contraction of sexually transmitted disease. Fortunately, most diseases are treatable with prescribed antibiotics. Further, if dealt with very early, the possibility of HIV infection is also significantly reduced or it can be completely preventable. However, administration of treatment inside of a seventy-two hour window is key and critical to treatment success.

I've been advised by a friend, a doctor involved in HIV research here in Trinidad, that it is extremely important for women and men alike to know that treatment and support are available to them locally, particularly with respect to HIV prevention. This is even if they do not want to make a formal report of the incident to the Police. Medical support and confidential counselling can be provided regardless.

The victim can visit any of the public health institutions in the country to seek initial assistance, where one of the first things on the agenda will be testing for HIV and other STDs. Immediately following this, treatment can begin which can include medication for pregnancy prevention, as well as antibiotics to prevent contraction of sexually transmitted disease.

Where the victim has tested HIV negative, medical treatment then includes HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP. HIV PEP can take many forms, but is usually delivered as a cocktail of antiretroviral medication taken over the course of four to six weeks. Again, given any possibility that the assailant was HIV positive, treatment needs to begin within seventy-two hours of the incident to be most effective.

Once PEP is administered, follow-up over the course of treatment is done at Ward 2 of the San Fernando General Hospital and at the Medical Research Centre in Port of Spain. Additional HIV testing is done after six weeks, three months and six months, this to ensure that infection has not taken place. All the while, the victim has access to counsellers at both centres, and at the Rape Crisis Centre.

There is though the occasion where the victim will test positive for HIV at the outset, will have already known themselves to be HIV positive, or will still contract the virus despite administration of HIV PEP. As my friend indicates, the public health care system does still take care of the victim, with on-going counselling and regular antiretroviral and antiretrofungal medication. This too is administered by Ward 2 at the San Fernando General Hospital and the Medical Research Centre in Post of Spain.

It is of extreme importance that a victim of sexual assault get help as soon as possible after the incident. The health of the victim is paramount, even if there is no desire to have the Police involved. Despite this, it is still highly recommended that the assault be reported so that steps can be taken to ensure that the perpetrator never has opportunity to rape again.

Rape Crisis Society of Trinidad & Tobago
40 Woodford St., Newtown, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Phone: (868) 622-7273 (Port of Spain), (868) 657-5355 (San Fernando)
Fax: (868) 622-1079
Email: rapetnt@tstt.net.tt

Medical Research Centre
7 Queen's Park East, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Phone: (868) 623-5834

San Fernando General Hospital
Independence Avenue, San Fernando, Trinidad
Phone: (868) 652-3581 to 86
Ask for Ward 2, then ask for the Counsellor

Types of Rape
A discussion of the different kinds of sexual assault, including child abuse, and acquaintance rape.

Effects of Rape & Aftermath
A discussion on the immediate and ongoing impact of sexual assault, and the societal victimization that can take place.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Animae Caribe 2006: Animation, Film & New Media

I was up at UWI yesterday on my way to class, and happened upon a bunch of students on my way across the JFK Quadrangle. They were spread out all over the ground, and seemed to be drawing on the Quad in chalk. By the time I got back from my class an hour later, a number of the concrete slabs had been transformed to some really nice pieces of artwork.

A few questions later, I found that the afternoon's activity was a promotional effort put on by students of the Creative Arts Centre for the 2006 Animae Caribe Caribbean Animation and New Media Festival. The festival runs from October 5th to 7th, 2006, and is to be held at the University of the West Indies' St. Augustine Campus. Full information on the festival, and on Animae Caribe in general, can be found at http://www.animaecaribe.com. The site lists as a contact Camille Selvon Abrahams (cabrahams@animaecaribe.com).

That aside though, the funny thing about the chalk drawings is that not all of them were done by students involved in the festival, nor only by students attached to the Creative Arts Centre. Some were produced by students who saw an opportunity to have some expressive fun on a relatively cool Monday afternoon.

I've tried to capture a few images with my phone. The photos are not bad, but they don't do full justice to some of these guys' work. They do serve though as a personal reminder that I need to start walking with a real camera for times such as these.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Smelter Backlash!

Today's newspapers carry a follow-up story on the motive behind the brutal assault of a Point Fortin woman.

The original story is at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161020850

Today's article can be found at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161021483

According to the Trinidad Express article, captioned "SMELTER RAPE ROW", the gang rape of the wife of man who was reportedly pro-smelter is linked by ALCOA representatives to the ongoing protests in Chatham. At the end of the article, one of the leaders of the protest movement is quoted as saying that, "whatever was happening against Alcoa and its supporters... was the result of a 'backfire' against the pro-smelter advocates."

According to our own Anil Roberts, Whaaaaaaaaaaat?!

You have got to be kidding me. It's early still, but I know that this man's opinion, this leader's veiled sanction, will not be singular.

Something is wrong with us. Something has gone horribly wrong.

Have we become so depraved as a people that now anything goes so that we can have our own way? When did it happen that we became so angry and so unsympathetic toward our fellow man, and in this particular case, woman? Why is the first response, "it good for them!" and not, "we condemn this action on the part of people that are not of us"?

We've gotten so angry.

We want to hang and lynch and burn, whether or not justice is being served. We must have our own way, no matter what the consequences are for our fellow man, whether or not we know that our turn is coming. We want heaven and earth to move to accomodate me and to accomodate me now. We can't even debate an issue anymore. And amazingly, the insular and riotous behaviour is being encouraged by people, senior statesmen, who should really know better.

People who saw what racial politics did to a harmonious underclass in pre-Independence Trinidad are working the same divisive tactics with amazing effect. People who saw the destruction caused by a righteous Black Power Movement in the 1970's are fanning flames of revolution without a plausible cause, leading to possible destruction without focussed rebuilding.

And sadly, nobody seems to have eyes to see, or wants to see, the forest from the trees.

The problem is not the bandits. It's not the Government. It's not the erstwhile Opposition. It's not the labour movement. It's not the merchants. It's not the upper class. It's not the Police and the Armed Forces.

The problem is us!.

We're the ones who, unquestioning, take up other people's fire rage. We're the ones who are burning tyres in the road. We're the ones who are putting children not yet beyond the age of innocence in the front lines of boisterous protest action. We're the ones who curse like sailors when someone cuts us off in the road. We're the ones who have no love for anybody anymore other than ourselves. We're the ones who allow people to drag us into the kind of nonsense that if we stopped and thought, and maybe pursued other available channels, would find more effective resolution to our problems. Or, we might find that we never had a problem at all.

We're the ones who are letting people lead us like lemmings over a precipice to our mutual destruction.

And sadly, when some one voices an opinion that goes against the grain, like the poor woman in Point Fortin, they find themselves in the face of such ire, such hatred, such venom, and now, we have devolved to such violence.

It's no wonder then that truly right-thinking people no longer come forward to lead, to serve or simply to voice, for the simple fear that they will be crucified by the mob - now literally - for their views.

As postscript, it will be very interesting to see who comes forward to defend the perpetrators of this heinous crime when, not if, the Police catch up with them.

This one was a wake up call. Will my people stir from their slumber, or are we so far gone that will it have to hit us in our homes for us to care?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Baby Network

I've been hearing for quite a while about Nadella's work with the Baby Network. This is a charitable organisation that has for quite some time done a lot for mothers and children in need in Trinidad & Tobago.

Having received the following message from a similarly socially-conscious friend in email today, I've taken a little editing liberty and posted it here. Nadella's been in the media - print and electronic - promoting this more than worthy effort, and I feel in no little way privileged to be able to help spread the word through this medium.

Details on what they do, who they are, and how to contact them are available in the full post.

The Baby Network

OKAY FOLKS, we need to go into Baby Network OVERDRIVE!

There are a number of mothers (and babies!!!!) in need.

Firstly, a lovely young girl in her early 20's is in need of just about everything for her newborn twin – they are less than a week old. She needs clothes, blankets, hats, bibs, wash cloths, disposable diapers, baby bottles, bathing tubs, carriers, a crib - the whole kit and caboodle.

As you all know – the Baby Network family are strong supporters of breast feeding, but this new mother should not breast feed her babies, hence the reason we are asking for bottles and sterilizers etc. Let us give her and her babies the support she needs at this challenging time.

If you can donate new packs of disposable diapers or baby formula that would be a big help.

We have a few other mums who are due and also in need of a variety of items donated.

And we also have four HIV positive mums who are in dire need of support - not only for their babies but for their older children as well - books, clothes, shoes for school and of course food.

Also we have some other families who would like to purchase second hand car seats and strollers. So if anyone out there who has items to sell – please call us.

Our Baby Book and Toy Drive is also coming up - so please put all your books, toys, games and gadgets in a box and bring for us. There

Drop Off Point:
Belmont Studios – 27 Jerningham Avenue, Belmont.
If you are unable to make it to Belmont we will collect!

Thanks again for all your support and your efforts.
Let's keep the network going!!!!!

Blessings and Guidance,
Baby Network Family

The Baby Network
27 Jerningham Avenue , Belmont.
868 624 5562
868 625 7752
868 684 6480

The Baby Network
Better Babies ~ Better Families ~ Better World

Are you buried beneath piles of unused/ barely used/ almost new baby stuff?

Do you still have bags and bags of baby items still in "storage" ages after the last child started school?

Nadella, Suzanne, Kim and Nicole (the baby network team) are inviting you to join us in a "Baby Xchange". Sorry, we're not taking your kids L, just some of the stuff you may be ready to give away or sell at reduced prices to other parents who are less fortunate.

Baby Step 1:
If you are interested in participating you can send an email to babynetwork@gmail.com – we will add you to our mailing list and provide updates. Indicate what items you can DONATE to the Network OR what items you NEED.

Baby Step 2:
Start going through your stuff! Whether it's small items like toys, books, clothes, bath, sleep or feeding accessories, unused breast pumps and bags, or even larger items like cots, playpens, strollers and car seats

Baby Step 3:
Forward this email to other moms and dads and encourage them to participate!

Baby Step 4:
Everyone can be a part – Organize the other mums and dads in your office or workplace to get items together and you all can do one big drop off…or several small ones!

Thanks for reading this message.
We hope you'll be part of "The Baby Network"!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Dragging every issue into the 'race pit'" - Raffique Shah, 20-Feb-2005

I've been searching the 'Net for historical articles on the UNC's own record of conflict with the Judiciary, with particular emphasis on their attempted impeachment of former Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide, something that a caller on the radio yesterday took time to remind listeners. Eventually, I came across a page at the International Commission of Jurists website. Dated August 27th, 2002 and captioned "Attacks on Justice 2002 - Trinidad and Tobago", there are an interesting few paragraphs under the sub-caption, "Conflicts between the Government and the judiciary", and I strongly recommend a read, particularly given the fact that the article refers to attempts by the then Attorney General to legislate away the independence of the Judiciary.

According to the article [Emphasis mine]:
The political ramifications emanating from the judicial independence conflict became all the more serious in March 2001 when Attorney General Maharaj threatened legislation to fire judges for not delivering judgements with sufficient dispatch, stating that "if a judicial officer cannot give a judgement within a given time frame he must be considered incompetent and the Constitution should provide for his removal, as the justice system must not accommodate incompetent and inefficient judicial officers". Further undermining public confidence in Trinidadian judicial institutions, the strongest warning for the judiciary to bow at the feet of the executive was delivered by Prime Minister Panday, when he assured UNC supporters that his government would defend itself "with full force" against judicial meddling in governmental affairs. This concerted effort by the government to erode judicial independence and de-legitimise and stigmatise the judiciary seems to stem from allegations by the UNC that the judiciary is biased in its treatment of the Indian-supported political party. Unfortunately, in calling into question the legitimacy of the judiciary's work, the Trinidadian executive has effectively pitted authoritarian political party and racial group interests against the activities of an independent adjudicative system, which hinders the latter's ability to render substantive justice.
Given the historical record, what we seem to be seeing therefore is a case of "do so ent like so", to wax colloquial. Approaching Chief Justice Sharma, advising him of allegations made, and asking him to step down quietly given the allegations and supporting evidence presented to the Prime Minister for onward transmission to the President, is now being touted in the court of public opinion by various societal leaders (I can no longer refer to many of them as "eminent" in good conscience) as an all-out and racial attack on the entire Judiciary. And this because the feeling, it would seem, is that because we know what we try to do, they must be doing it too. The response by various parties supporting the CJ is akin to the intense and almost insane jealousy that a spouse that is horning their partner feels when they suspect that their own significant other is doing the same to them. Imagination becomes reality even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.

Further examination of search results on the UNC's record turned up another article, written by Raffique Shah, from which my own caption today is derived. Written on February 20th, 2005 and posted to his own website at http://www.trinicenter.com/Raffique/2005/Feb/202005.htm, Mr. Shah's article begins:
My attorney friend, who could pass for Indian in this callaloo society of ours, said to me in a very serious manner: We are fast approaching the point where, once you are an Indian, you can get away with anything, crime included. All you need to do, he added, is "bawl race" and you could steal, murder, do whatever, and if the police dare touch you, cry out "Race! Is because ah is ah Indian!" I later reflected on what he had said to me and realised that it might be perception, but in our daily lives, as in politics, perception becomes the truth.

...Sharma is not being targeted because he is Indian, but because of certain other issues that have a bearing on the quality of justice being meted out. Instead of allowing the matter to take its natural course, which is what Prime Minister Patrick Manning is doing, Panday and many others in this country are "bawling race". Race my foot! It is time Indians-and other ethnic groups-wake up and smell the race pit we are being dragged into, by our own.
With Mr. Shah's article as prelude, Dr. Selwyn Cudjoe, in February 2005, presented a lecture on issues of allegations against the Chief Justice's, dishonesty and deception in his defence, and race, religion and equality before the law in Trinidad & Tobago. Here, he dissects and analyses statements made to that time from various quarters, statements that to date have still not changed. Of many of the statements made, Dr. Cudjoe states:
Not only are these damn lies and needless sophistries. They reveal a mind that has a constitutional inability to distinguish between truth and falsity; a mind that is capable of being arranging any set of factoids to achieve any deceptive end.

...we must be aware that certain elements in our society are playing a dangerous game with the nation's psyche: they claim that Indians are under attack and that all of us must bend our backs over backward to accommodate their wishes. The trick is simple. If they claim that the whole society has ganged up to deny them their just rights, then all of us have to be on guard and the benefit of the doubt must always go to the Indian. The trick is this: if you claim racial discrimination long and loud enough then the whole chorus of the media begins to do the dirty work that Sat Maharaj and his boys have been doing.
It is a well-researched piece supported by facts, whether or not one agrees with Dr. Cudjoe's politics, showing clearly that facts are not available to support racial allegations made in several quarters.

It is sad though that these are the depths to which the country has descended.

It is sadder still that many right-thinking people in the country either say nothing, try to ignore and hope that it goes away, or only very quietly dissent. The fact is that the madness is not going away as long as it can continue to be used a power play.

A line needs to be drawn, and it needs to be drawn now. There is no good that can come out of the hate and devisiveness being espoused by various political and quasi-political bodies. It's no longer two half-drunk men in a rumshop, one shouting unreasonably, when they diasgree on some point of debate, "yuh racial or wha'?!" It is being used, without hope of appropriate response, in the highest corridors of power.

Trinidadians and Tobagonians have lived too well together for too long to be split like this for the sake of ascendance and empowerment of a few.

People of other ethnic stock must be careful though to not respond in kind. If it is not right for one side, it is defintely not right for any other. In fact, Dr. Cudjoe says it best in his piece.
We [must] insist that no one is above the law and demand that Justice [and good sense] must be allowed to prevail. We [must] not be intimidated by the noises and false positions of those whose only concerns are those of their group rather than the welfare of the country. It must not be said that an Indian cannot be trusted with the sacred responsibilities of the direction of the State. They must be encouraged to assume their Tribagonianness and to understand that here, in this country, every creed and race find an equal place. None is better than the other; none is above the law; and with the help of the powers above and those around us, let us all proclaim the brotherhood of man and the desire to reduce the relevance of ethnicity and religion when we make decisions about what is in the best interest of the State.

Friday, July 21, 2006

An Interesting Read on the CJ and the UNC...

I've always enjoyed reading BC Pires. His regular column, "Thank God It's Friday", was something that I'd looked forward to every week growing up, entertained and informed by his jocular and poignant take on the nation's and extra-national affairs. It was peculiar vision that drew us one year to invite him to speak at a UWI Guild function. And there, in what would seem to be typical fashion, he began his address drawing a chuckle from the gathered crowd, indicating at the outset that he didn't know why people felt that he could speak just because he writes. His address though was, as his column is, very insightful and on that night, inspiring.

Today's issue of the Trinidad Express features BC's regular "Thank God It's Friday" column, under the caption, "UNC or CJ?"

I highly recommend a read of this Friday's piece which begins:
It's becoming kind of interesting to see which will fall apart first, the UNC or the CJ. You kind of want to bet on the UNC, still the putative Opposition party (at least up to press time last night) because there are so many people tugging at the little that remains of it, it really ought to have been torn apart long ago.
Having drawn your chuckle, or at least raised your eyebrow, the rest of what he has to say is quite discerning.

[BC's column for Friday 21st June is at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_opinion?id=160985808]

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Section 137 of the Constitution states...

The full text of the Constitution of Trinidad & Tobago is available for download from the Trinidad & Tobago Parliament web site at http://parliament.gov.tt/docs/constitution/ttconst.pdf.

The Constitution is also in print once again and hardcopy is available from the Government Printery at a cost of 50 dollars.

Section 137 of the Constitution, REMOVAL FROM OFFICE OF JUDGE, reads as follows. [Emphasis mine throughout]
1. A Judge may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office, (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause), or for misbehaviour, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.

2. A Judge shall be removed from office by the President where the question of removal of that Judge has been referred by the President to the Judicial Committee and the Judicial Committee has advised the President that the Judge ought to be removed from office for such inability or for misbehaviour.

3. Where the Prime Minister, in the case of the Chief Justice, or the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, in the case of a Judge, other than the Chief Justice, represents to the President that the question of removing a Judge under this section ought to be investigated, then-

a. the President shall appoint a tribunal, which shall consist of a chairman and not less than two other members, selected by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister in the case of the Chief Justice or the Prime Minister after consultation with the Judicial and Legal Service Commission in the case of a Judge, from among persons who hold or have held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court;

b. the tribunal shall enquire into the matter and report on the facts thereof to the President and recommend to the President whether he should refer the question of removal of that Judge from office to the Judicial Committee; and

c. where the tribunal so recommends, the President shall refer the question accordingly.

4. Where the question of removing a Judge from office has been referred to a tribunal under subsection (3), the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister in the case of the Chief Justice or the Chief Justice in the case of a Judge, other than the Chief Justice, may suspend the Judge from performing the functions of his office, and any such suspension may at any time be revoked by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister in the case of the Chief Justice or the Chief Justice in the case of a Judge, other than the Chief Justice, and shall in any case cease to have effect-

a. where the tribunal recommends to the President that he should not refer the question of removal of the Judge from office to the Judicial Committee; or

b. where the Judicial Committee advises the President that the Judges ought not to be removed from office.

The process for impeachment of a judge, specifically, the Chief Justice, reads fairly clearly, in that:
  1. The Prime Minister refers a report of misbehaviour to the President.
  2. The President calls a tribunal of eminent judges to investigate the allegation.
  3. The tribunal gets back to the President with the results of their investigation and, if necessary, a recommendation.
  4. Where necessary, the matter is either handled immediately, or taken to the Judicial Committee.
  5. If suspension of the judge is required, it is at the President's discretion to revoke the suspension, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister.
In the current case, the Prime Minister has been blocked by injunction from approaching the President with any allegation, if I understand correctly, of misbehaviour by the Chief Justice.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I'm concerned about justice in Trinidad & Tobago...

I'm worried about the justice system in the country, but not for the reasons that most people seem to be in the press and other public forums. Of course I'm worried about a number of things that other people are worried about, like the ability to legally block arrest, but there's something else that concerns me when I look at the situation with the Chief Justice more holistically.

When we look at what is in play at present, I can see two camps that have forming in our judicial system - those who are for the Chief Justice and those who believe that he is to be removed.

Those for the Chief Justice are the ones that have been the most vocal over time, making assertions and allegations about assault on the Constitution and the Judiciary. Joining that camp are persons with political, religious and racial agendas, or combinations of the three in some cases. They now claim that the removal of the Chief Justice is moved by one or more of those three motivations - politics, race or religion.

Tune out all of the noise though and we have the facts that very eminent members of the judiciary and in legal practice have come forward independently to make two different sets of allegations against the Chief Justice. One involves his alleged interference in the Narayansingh Murder Trial and the other his alleged interference in the Basdeo Panday Intergrity Trial.

Now I'm sure that in a different place and space, the Chief Justice for the integrity of the Office alone, would have stepped down. But not so in a country where "Honourable Member of Parliament" and "Honourble Justice" seems to be quickly joining laughable local oxymorons like "Police Intelligence" and "TSTT service". Instead, the Chief Justice obtained a stay, issued by one of his juniors to block, the Prime Minister from approaching the President with the allegations until the matter can be reviewed. I've posted separately the details of how the process of impeachment of a judge or Chief Justice is to work according to the Constitution. Section 137 of the Constitution - Removal from Office of a Judge - has been oft cited but little quoted.

In the second matter, that of the Basdeo Panday Integrity Trial, the Police investigated, and between them and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions have determined that there is a criminal charge that can be made against the man, Satnarine Sharma, for attemtpting to pervert the course of public justice. Again, the Chief Justice has applied for an obtained a stay from one of his juniors that, eventually after several amendments, prevents any member of the service from arresting him to face the charge.

What concerns me here is the vehemence of the defence of the man, Satnarine Sharma, by leading members of the judiciary and the legal profession, even as others quietly stand in support of the prosecution effort.

People have spoken broadly and made much noise about an alleged Governemt attack on the Judiciary. But I fear that what we really have going on is a Judicial attack on the law and the Constitution that stands at its core. In the first instance, the natural course of the very Constitution is blocked, and in the second, the ability of the Police to do their work is stymied.

What is even more disconcerting is one question that keeps arising in my mind. And that is the question of what a lawyer or judge has to gain from supporting and having in office a Chief Justice that is alleged to have attempted to pervert the course of justice, and for which in both sets of allegations to date, evidence exists to support the charges. Why should a judge deemed to be of incorrect stance not face justice themselves? There's provision for it in the Constitution. There is even the benefit of facing a panel of peers, I assume to be able to spout all the legalese that is necessary and still be clearly understood. But why the difference in stance between those who readily quote law and cite the Constitution, and those who impugn racial and political motivation for impeachment and arrest?

There's already the perception in the country that there is one law for the wealthy and one for the rest of us. There is also the perception that corruption exists at the highest levels of society. But does the battle to keep a tainted judicial official in office, and the highest seated judicial official at that, now raise questions about the dispensers of justice?

In a country where it is said that the major economic driver after oil and gas is the drug trade, crime is rampant, and man has lost respect for his fellow man, should the Judiciary, and even if just the Judiciary, not at least seem to be completely above reproach? Should the public not be left with that impression and small comfort instead of having to face the reality of having a Chief Justice roundly and robustly defended in the face of startling allegations?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And as we cast our eyes back home...

Now that the World Cup is over, Italy having won and Zinadine Zidane having eloquently expressed the frustration of the French with a butt and a short right jab, we can try to turn our attention home again.

Between our Warriors' homecoming and Sunday's final, stadia and community grounds are being renamed in their honour, and players from Trinidad & Tobago are being given more serious looks by European club teams. Kenwyne Jones has indicated that his new fans had better be on the lookout for him in the new season at Southampton, several club teams are said to be interested in standout players like Chris Birchall, Jason Scotland and Densill Theobald, Carlos Edwards is said to have caught the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and goalkeeper Kelvin Jack has signed on with English First Division team, Gillingham. Finally, Leo Beenhakker has now signed on with the Polish national team to take them to Euro Cup 2008, and his assistant Wim Rijsbergen has accepted the position of head coach of the national senior football team for four years through 2010. Fear not though, because according to the terms of the agreement documented by Jack Warner, Coach Leo will continue to work with Team Trinidad & Tobago as a special advisor on an as-needs basis and could be back on board in full after 2008.

Turning attention now to regional and domestic sport, the Stanford 20/20 Cricket Tournament got underway yesterday with two games at the Stanford Cricket Ground in Antigua. In Match 1, the US Virgin Islands got past St. Maarten by 48 runs, and advance to play St. Vincent & the Grenadines on July 18th. In Match 2, the Cayman Island beat the Bahamas, and they will advance to meet Trinidad & Tobago on July 25th.

The full match schedule is available at the Stanford 20/20 Cricket Tournament website and Cricinfo.com is carrying live online commentary.

For readers who use Google Calendar, you can click on the button below to add the match schedule to your personal calendars.

For those who still have the football bug, the Trinidad & Tobago Professional Football League resumed competition yesterday with matches at four venues. And if the match schedules read right, there's a lot of football to be played all over the country from now until December.

After 11 rounds, just three points separate top-of-the-table North East Stars on 25 from fourth placed W Connection on 22. Joe Public and San Juan Jabloteh are tied on 23, but Jabloteh has a game in hand. By way of note, national senior team players Aurtis Whitley and Anthony Wolfe both start for San Juan Jabloteh.

It's important that we not only follow but support local and regional sport, even if it's to ride and deride players for not doing as well as we know they can.

In the former case, the visible support lets the young people know that we're there for them to cheer them on. In the latter, it let's them know that we care enough to get upset about sub-par performance. Both reactions help to boost players' performance and confidence because they know that they have more than just themselves and their team mates to play for. Riding with them is the spirit of a community.

A classic example of this spirit is seen in the community around the Malick Senior Comprehensive School. Malick entered the Secondary School Football League a number of years ago on the back of a very talented young team. The school and their success was embraced by the Malick Barataria neighbourhood who now travel with their team to their games during the school season. Malick is never without school and neighbourhood support, no matter where they go. And no matter what the quality of the team or the players in a particular year, the community support buoys them on because they play for more than the enjoyment of the game and for themselves; they represent the pride of their neighbourhood.

Such was the reason, I'm sure, that the Trinidad & Tobago national senior team played the way that they did. Not only were they on stage for themselves, playing on the grandest platform of their careers, but they played for Trinbagonian Pride. And we were there, visibly and vocally, to cheer them on.

If really we want to make it to South Africa in 2010, that visible and vocal support needs to continue here at home. And "Home" doesn't translate to friendly international matches and zonal qualifiers alone either, but also includes domestic club games and school football. The players don't only play big international matches. Many, like Whitley and Wolfe, play their ball and earn their pay right here at home. And I'm certain that there will be at least one standout player in the schools' league starting in September that will feature in Trinidad & Tobago's qualifiers for South Africa, so the schools' football requires a look-see too.

According to the PFL match schedule, there are at least three sets of matches per week across the country, most starting after four in the afternoon. Schools' football starts soon too, and their matches are generally after four in the afternoon as well. Instead of heading into traffic or straight home immediately after work, it could be a good idea to kill some time in town or wherever you are and take in a PFL or a schoolboy - or schoolgirl - game. It's worth noting at this point that Malick and Providence, if memory serves, have also produced formidable girls' teams in recent years. Saturday games also provide a decent opportunity for an afternoon outing with friends and family to lend support to a community team. I'm fairly certain that the players will appreciate seeing new faces, and faces other than their own family and close friends, in the stands.

So having worn red and flown flags on our vehicles, let's bring that ardour home and support our sportsmen and women. Show the sporting associations, NGOs and Ministry of Sport that we're serious about our young (and old!) sportspeople - footballers, cricketers, netballers and basketballers, tennis, squash and badminton players, table tennis enthusiasts, sprinters and distance runners, field athletes, swimmers, checkers and dominoes champions, all competitive athletes - by being out there with them. You just might find that you get an entertaining afternoon or two out of the effort.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Video Tribute to our Warriors...

Someone going by the tag huaidan83 on Youtube.com has as the only video in his library a most touching tribute to the Trinidad & Tobago team that went to the FIFA World Cup 2006. At time of writing, it had already been viewed some 1,500 times. It's moving, jaw-dropping, tear-jerking... add your own "-ing".

Watch the clip - it's about seven and a half minutes long - and then go to huaidan83's profile at Youtube.com and send him your thanks.

Friday, July 07, 2006

More from FIFA...

The blog will be back in full swing with all its social bent as soon as this distraction that is the World Cup is over.

But on the topic of the World Cup, I'm sure that all Trinidadians & Tobagonians will remember June 15th, 2006, the day that the country's national football team was robbed again by unfair play. It will join November 1989 and December 1973 as a sad day in our sporting annals.

We were afforded some relief when several publications reported that the referee for the Trinidad & Tobago versus England match, Japan's Toru Kamikawa, may have been sanctioned permamently. (See Newsday article of June 17th, 2006).

As it turns out, not only has the referee not been sanctioned. After all the huff and guff and old talk, he's been given responsibility for the Third Place playoff match between Germany and Portugal to be held on Saturday July 8th.

I guess though that this should come as no surprise. Our own CONCACAF President and TTFF special advisor has been involved in various affairs and come out clean, as it were. He's gone from avoiding public lynching as a result of ticket over-sales in 1989, to his family being major beneficiaries of lucrative contracts in the Under-17 World Cup held here in Trinidad & Tobago in 2001, to scrutiny and possible sanction, and thence exoneration for Simpaul's Travel Agency's "exclusive ticket distribution" for Germany 2006. Not only did he get off, but the TTFF was awarded with more tickets than the original allocation.

But then not everybody seems to meet FIFA's mysterious reprieve criteria. Take Botswanan FIFA executive official who was kicked out of Germany for touting. He sold 12 tickets for the Trinidad & Tobago vs. England game for three times their face value, promising more for Englands' remaining games. More recently, German midfielder Torsten Frings was suspended for a game when video footage showed that he threw a punch at Argentine Julio Cruz after the Germany vs Argentina quarter final match. And that's funny, because many video angles and still photography showed Peter Crouch using Brent Sancho's hair as a crutch to score England's first goal against Trinidad & Tobago, and other than Brent's reported disappointment, the most that was heard out of FIFA was that nothing could be done about it.

Imagine trying to explain all that in the context of fairplay to a five-year old.

Monday, June 19, 2006

QUICKIE: The "Hand of Crouch" and the Warriors' Anthem

Having now gathered myself, here's one of the clips from German television of England's Peter Crouch using our Brent Sancho's hair for leverage, now available forever for viewing at your leisure thanks to the wonder that is the Internet.

Posted to the streaming video site YouTube.com, the contributor OrangeGuru states,
"When Crouch scored the decisive goal against Trinidad and Tobago he was pulling the defence players hair very rudely. Nobody saw it..."

Now for Trinidad & Tobago to make it to the next round, we must beat Paraguay on June 20th at 3:00PM TT-time, a team we've played and drawn against twice in 1989. Hapless England is also required to beat Sweden for only the first time in the nations' footballing history. England needs help desperately from Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen to score some real goals against a Swedish defence anchored by captain Olof Mellberg. Perhaps we will see something in Sven Goran Eriksson's bag of tricks other than an own-goal, a foul on a defender, and assistance from the stadium announcer (...sorry, I can't find the reference again...) to tide Beckham's boys over.

And so, quite grudgingly, Go England!!! Beat Sweden!!!

Frankly, I'm not worried for Coach Beenhakker and our Warriors. The unofficial-official anthem "Fighter" by Maximus Dan is available for download as an MP3 file at ttgapers.com.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A lesson in the defiance of damning expectations...

Written off by the punters as not having a snowball's chance in hell, noted as being from the smallest country to ever qualify for a World Cup, and recorded as having the oldest team on average at 29 years 5 months, the Trinidad & Tobago football team shocked the world by holding Sweden to a nil-nil draw in their Group B match on June 10th, 2006.

Even some faithful Trinidadians and Tobagonians had written off the boys' chances in Germany, having to face World Cup veterans Sweden and England in Group play. Many expressed that the team might be able to pull off a win against Paraguay, but that a full-strength Sweden, arguably the best team in the Group, and England, riding on their best hope for World Cup glory in many a decade would be too much for our beloved Soca Warriors.

A poor record in friendly matches after qualifying did nothing to bolster public confidence in the Trinidad & Tobago team. Were one to look only at the score lines, it would be easy to believe that the team had gotten worse since beating Bahrain, that the defence had deteriorated and that the attack was even less effective than before.

Anyone who had closely followed the team's fortunes though would have been able to see a marked difference in their fitness, but more so in their structure and play. Most evident in the 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic, the number two ranked team in the world, the T&T players were no longer a collection of individuals, each struggling in their own capacities at forward, midfield and defence. The team was now passing the ball better and keeping possession, getting into space and losing their markers, and this against a full strength team of champion-class internationals. Hindsight suggests that this game showed no real attacking intent in the Trinidad & Tobago team, just good ball possession in the final and middle third of the field. And in what may be a tell, coach Leo Beenhakker appeared unphased by the result of this game. He seemed unphased by the results of any of the friendlies for that matter.

The crafty coaching veteran has been quoted as saying that Trinidad & Tobago will not win the World Cup, but has not really said much else. He will commit verbally to no strategy other than that he will be using Stern John up front and will not play Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke together. His nonchalance has left all to speculate that the Soca Warriors will in fact just be tourists in Germany, despite Beenhakker's claims that they won't be. And then came the draw with Sweden.

Reported as being under-strength in the absence of Marvin Andrews at the back, and with the sudden insertion of second-choice keeper Shaka Hislop in the uprights, Sweden came out to exceed the five-nil score line that had been anticipated even before the first whistle.

Although the score at the half was still nil-nil, commentators expected that a surprisingly resilient Trinidad & Tobago defensive effort would eventually crack and that Swedish stars Ibrahimovic, Ljungberg and Larsson would eventually break through.

The Soca Warriors down to ten men for the majority of the second half continued to hold though, and in holding off the Swedish attack showed the utility of players like Carlos Edwards and captain Dwight Yorke. All the players on the field suddenly showed an incredible defender's ability to take the ball off the feet of the Swedish players, isolate them, intercept their passes, and read their plays. Sweden were forced to run hard at the T&T citadel to take quick, low-percentage shots at keeper Shaka Hislop, while heavily covered by Trinidad & Tobago players. It was late in the game when it was noted that a number of Trinidad & Tobago players would routinely push Sweden's attack out to approximately 40-yards from the T&T goal before quickly running back into defensive positions.

The further insertion of T&T striker Cornell Glen helped to keep the pressure off the Soca Warriors' defence. Swedish last stopper Mellberg could not commit himself and his back line to the attack with both Stern John and Glen to worry about.

At the end of it all, Trinidad & Tobago came away with an historic draw against top opposition at the highest level of the sport.

And while the team has achieved some small degree of respect, it has been grudgingly given. Commentators still speak of what Sweden did not do to couch statements on what Trinidad & Tobago did to prevent Sweden from securing a win.

This is good for the Trinidad & Tobago team though.

In the first round, each team is required to play three matches. Sweden now has two matches to win against Paraguay and England, not only to be sure of a place in the next round, but also to recover from the embarrassment of their performance against a team still considered competition minnows. They will be seeking to put their stamp on their remaining two games, sinking England in the process.

England had a decidedly poor showing against Paraguay, earning a win off an own-goal. While Sven Goran Eriksson's unit certainly won't be taking Trinidad & Tobago for granted, they probably won't take the team too seriously either. This makes them an excellent victim for Beenhakker's boys, defying people's poor expectations with another show of excellent defensive work and something new out of the cagey coach's bag of tricks.

By the time the world gets to understand what's happened, all that will be left for Trinidad & Tobago will be Paraguay, a team whose play we'll have come to understand after the game against Peru, and a team that will have been run ragged by a Swedish attack running on "bad mind".

The Object Lesson for Trinidad & Tobago

I received a very disturbing piece of email from a friend this week. It describes in fair detail an incident that is purported to have taken place on the Audrey Jeffers Highway. The writer and her husband's reactions to the incident in their missive is as follows:
I was infuriated. I wanted to shout and cuss at [the perpetrators] but my husband held my hand and said "Hun, stay quiet and act like you doh know what goin on, you want them to come and kill us?" He was right, those ignorant fellas would have walked up to us and beat me and my husband for protesting to the wrong that they were doing. And you know what, there is no justice for something like this, take the car number and it won't make a difference. I've been in too many hit and run accidents where taking the car number and giving it to the police is a waste of time, they could never find the vehicle or driver that wronged you.

This is what we live in, this is what we face, this is what our kids have to grow up in. FEAR [Emphasis hers]. And it'’s getting worse. Please, I urge you, be careful, in fetes, on the road in traffic, wherever, don't give anyone bad eye, don'’t try to stand-up for what is right, cause in Trinidad, this will get you killed and for what, they will get away and be able to do it again.

To the young men in the SENTRA [Emphasis hers] [vehicle number given], I think you are all big stupid cowards!!!! To the man in the Subaru, I understand what you were doing, but not in this country, think about your life and family first before you do something like that again, it will only get you killed.

Thanks to the police who could never find the car even though you have the license plate number, thank you for never being there when we need you. To the government, thanks for letting the crime reach this stage and still being able to steal our money and get away with it. Maybe when it's your son or daughter, maybe then you'll do something about it. Until then, we live in fear!!!!

Please pass this on to all your trini frens and relatives that you care about!

Concerned and scared citizen!!!
The incident is described as having taken place on June 2nd, 2006 and is pretty fantastic. It's so fantastic in fact that I'm really surprised that it didn't end up on the newspapers of June 3rd. But that aside, if the account has any truth in it, I'm disappointed in the reaction of the writer and her husband.

The writer could have gotten on her cell and dialled 999 or 555 and provided a full description of what was taking place. If she were so equipped, in the same way that someone took a camera phone picture of the 13-year-old accused of Sean Luke's murder, she could have taken a snap or two of the criminals engaged in the assault completely unknown to them and then driven straightaway to the St. James Police Station to make a report.

Instead she encourages others to do just what the criminals want us to do I'm sure, which is to throw up our hands and do nothing at all.

What would have happened if Chris Birchall had dropped his shoulders and lost heart in that game against Bahrain at the Hasely Crawford Stadium?

What would have been the result if Carlos Edwards had decided that the Swedish attack was too much and he failed to operate in defence when Avery John was sent off?

What would have been the result if Shaka Hislop had not given up his body to save more that half a dozen shots?

What would have happened on a hot evening on June 10th, 2006 if the entire Trinidad & Tobago team had not committed itself to spirited defence to earn a draw and our first point in World Cup finals competition?

Each player could have looked at his fellows and said to themselves that they weren't going to do anything more than they were specifically required to do, especially if other players couldn't handle their assignments. But each one helped the other and the unit came together in the face of seeming insurmountable odds and damning public opinion. They showed that working together, the Swedish attack that was written as certain to destroy Trinidad & Tobago was not quite as potent, and that on the day, we could very well prevail.

The situation in Trinidad & Tobago is similarly neither helpless nor hopeless. We don't have to effect dramatic citizen's arrests or run into burning houses to save crippled old ladies. No grand effort is at all required. We just need to effect some common sense and discipline.

We need to stop condemning the security forces wholesale too. There are those among them who really are desperately trying to help. But we do them no favour every time we put them on trial and sentence them in the court of public opinion. Further, they're stretched having to deal with both criminal activity and our own silly indiscretions, like needing to be on the bus route to ticket us when they should really be preventing or investigating another more serious crime somewhere.

Instead of throwing up our hands in despair, and making disparaging and discouraging statements about those around us, let's try to go back to principles earlier espoused, and work together to improve our lot.

Our Soca Warriors have done it, and will continue to do it. So too can we.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Good Luck and God Speed...

Keith in Trinidad would like to take this opportunity to wish we boys all the best as they embark today on a footballer's greatest journey - the quest for gold at the FIFA World Cup.

May there be clean sheets in the defence, fair play on the field, and scoring opportunities converted to realities.

On behalf of all of us at home and abroad, and those in Germany with you all, we wish the best and all success, and let you know that win, lose or draw, you've done us proud and we're with you all the way.

Good luck, Soca Warriors!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


There's so much craziness going on in Trinidad & Tobago recently that my head spins...

The UNC continues to fight in the public space, with this faction in arms against that faction, and this group at cross purposes with another, and who doesn't like whom, and this one making fun of that one in open forums. It's downright disturbing that adults can stoop unashamed to the level of childishness and pettiness that's in evidence. Six pages I counted in one daily newspaper last week of accusations and telling tales out of school. And I was disgusted as one member made the monkey of another on a public platform. It's as if they're all running around and shouting, "Nah-nee-nah-nee-boo-boo! Stick yuh head in..." and throwing people out of the club because they didn't like each other anymore.

I could swear last week, though I can't find an article or anything to support it, that I heard one of our business leaders on the radio making a very disturbing statement. It was something to the effect that he hears that the public is calling on big business to do something about the decay of Trinbagonian society, but that the same public calling for action is indisciplined and has no respect for order themselves. I don't understand what one has to do with the other. So because the public has little responsibility in your view, you're not going to do whatever you can as a leader in industry and commerce to assist? Sounds a lot like, "I don't want to do it... So-and-so down the road not doing it..."

Then there's the whole issue of the Chief Justice and his alleged interference in a some very high profile cases. The funny thing is that it's not just one accusation. Emphasis is being placed on the allegation being made by Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicholls. But I seem to recall Timothy Cassell, prosecutor in the recent Panday case, reporting a very odd conversation with the CJ while they were on a flight together. I could be wrong, but I think I'd heard that the CJ also is reported to have exerted some influence on the Narayansingh cases in South. In another place and space, for the sake of the office, the individual would have stepped down, even if at the end of the day they were exonerated. But not here in Trinidad, it seems. Here, we have tantrums being thrown in various quarters, and persons making statements that seem to suggest that the Judiciary is a law unto itself. I can almost hear, "Ah not going!!! Ah don't want to gooooooo!!!" followed by the sound of a thumb being popped into a sucking mouth.

When our prominent adults behave this way, with such spoiled-baby behaviour, what are our children supposed to learn about what's appropriate?

Instead, they learn that the ends justifies the means.

At the simplest level, they learn that doing the wrong thing is okay if you're doing it for a good cause. So, for example, if you burn things in the road and create an obstruction, it's alright because you just want to get your roads fixed. They learn that it's alright too to burn alleged criminals' homes down because they're surely going to be convicted anyway, yes? So the lesson is that it's alright to take the law into one's own hands.

Further, they learn that it doesn't matter who you have to take advantage of or who you cheat or who you steal from. What matters is that there's a benefit at the end of the day, like a new airport terminal or a national team going to the World Cup.

Even further, they learn that people aren't equal under the law. Apparently, some persons deserve different treatment because of who they are or who they're associated with. Guilt isn't guilt. Guilt depends.

They learn that keeping promises isn't what is important. Making much ado about making the promise itself is what's critical, not the timeliness of delivery or delivering at all. Ent TSTT? It's 12 days later. Is the new child abuse hotline number 1-3-1 working yet?

They learn from the media that the facts aren't important and it's quite okay to say something that's not true about someone, as long as you use the word "alleged".

The children learn that the public good is for naught and is superceded by the rights of the individual. As such, because one person is said to want see a man all up inside a woman's business on TV at eight o'clock in the night, everybody has to be exposed to it.

We teach them that even though we're pretty much on the right side all the time, it's okay every now and again to take a chance and do something wrong.

And then we all want to sit and wonder why our children have no respect for authority, why they challenge us on every issue, and why we simply can't control them anymore.

We, as a society, have quite simply given up the right to do so.

Friday, May 12, 2006

You say I can call overseas for TT$0.13 per minute...? (Part 2)

I called TSTT's Internet Helpdesk to ask that I be faxed a copy of the terms and conditions of their dial-up and DSL services; I could find none in my own records. While I can remember signing something when I registered for the ADSL service, I did not recall any restrictions on the use of the service myself. In any case, I was informed that there are no documented conditions or service restrictions.

And so, with that indemnification, we press on.

At present, I have a New York phone number in the 347 area code, and approximately US$8.00 in outbound calling credit remaining; I've been using the service for about a month and a half, and started with US$10 of calling credit. Calls quality is better than even local landline calls and, for those of us that have gone Digicel, is better than a Digicel-to-Digicel call. Call quality though is dependant on the speed and quality of your Internet connection.

So wha' ah need to start wid?

For starters, you'll need three things:
  1. Internet Access - To use the Skype service, you'll need a PC or a Mac with access to the Internet. That's as basic as it gets. Your access can be either dialup or some form of high speed access like ADSL or TSTT's new EV-DO service, though I've not checked the terms and conditions on the latter.
  2. Skype - You'll need to go to http://www.skype.com and download the version of the software appropriate to your machine, whether PC or Mac. You'll also need to sign up for your own Skype username and password to access the service. Don't pay for SkypeOut and SkypeIn add-on services yet, because you'll need to check the quality of your line first using a facility that the Skype application provides.
  3. Speakers and microphone - In order to use the service, you'll need speakers and a mic, or a cheap headset with a boom mic. Right now, I'm using a TT$25 boom mic with earpiece, reminescent of the early wired cellulr phone earpieces. There should be a few more where I got it at Creative Computers on upper Frederick Street.

Ah have all dat. Wha' ah doin' now?

The first thing you should do, and the Skype installation should have walked you through it when you logged on for the first time, is check the quality of your voice connection. Attempt to connect to user named "echo123". Echo123 is a Skype-provided automated system that speaks to you briefly, records 10 seconds of your voice, and then plays back to you what you recorded. Do this as often as you feel you the need to; Echo123 neither gets tired nor does it sleep.

What this is supposed to exhibit is what other Skype users will sound like on your Internet connection, and what you will sound like to people on the other end of the line. If you hear horrible slurs, delays and gaps, then it makes no sense going any further, unless you're going to upgrade your Internet service; you're probably on a slow dialup connection, and there's not much that you can do on your existing Internet service to improve the situation. Note that this is not to say that all dialup services will give you a poor Skype connection because not all dialup is the same. So test it using Echo123 first before you sign off on using Skype.

If you're still not convinced by the "echo123" test though, sign up for Skype (it's free), post a comment to this article with your new Skype username, and I'll get in touch with you. We can chat Skype-to-Skype for a short while so that you can try out the service.

If you are satisfied with what you hear, now you can consider spending some money to expand the Skype experience.

A'right... Ah ready to call Tantie Jean in DC... What's next?

You'll need a credit card to purchase additional Skype services, whether SkypeOut or SkypeIn. A card issued by one of the local commercial banks should be okay. The Skype site accepted mine just fine with no odd queries or ill effects.

For those skeptical about using their credit card online, one of the local banks suggests having a card with a very modest limit just for online purchases. If you have a card already, it shouldn't be a problem to get another; just tell them that you want to make small purchases online and you would like to have a second card with a minimal balance.

To recap, there are two main paid services. These are SkypeOut and SkypeIn.

The former, SkypeOut, is where you purchase calling credit, like Top-Up cards for prepaid cell phones. This you use to call landline numbers abroad. I won't go into details. You can read all about SkypeOut on the product page here. I will say though that SkypeOut credit is available for purchase in US$10 blocks, and at US$0.021 per minute to call a long list of major destinations, 10 dollars goes a long way.

The latter service, SkypeIn, is where you can purchase up to 10 foreign phone numbers in various countries. Those numbers are assigned to your Skype username. Again, I'll let you read about that here. SkypeIn comes with voicemail, so even if you miss a call, you won't necessarily miss the caller. Phone numbers are sold on a subscription basis. You get a user-selected number for 3-months renewable for US$12, or a year renewable for US$38.

Which services you purchase depends on what you need. I, for example, have opted to purchase both. I have a New York SkypeIn number because my intended lives and works in New York state. Her landline and cellular calling plan allows her to make unlimited New York calls for free. I have SkypeOut so that I can call her too. More often than not though, it's the ubiquitous, "call mih back!" The combination also allows me to make toll-free US calls toll-free because I, for all intents and purposes, are making calls from a US phone.

Let's say that you run a small business and make heavy use of one of the Skybox services based in Miami. It makes sense then to purchase a Florida number to match your Florida address. It adds a more professional edge to your website, call cards and purchase orders, and gives your business a little more legitimacy. It also saves your overseas vendor partners the burden of having to place an international call to get in touch with you.

For the parents who will still be sending children abroad to school, keeping in touch with them is easier and less expensive with SkypeOut and SkypeIn. Using the service, the youngsters can get themselves an inexpensive prepaid cell phone and make in-state calls to parents' and friends' Skype numbers back at home. Homesickness is more easily averted, and the money that would have been spent on international calling can be diverted to other things.

At the end of the day then, for as little as US$10 for outbound calling and US$12 for inbound calling, a Trinbagonian never has to see another overseas call on their phone bill again.

But dis headset t'ing... Ah ent able wid de wire...

It's no longer necessary to sit at the computer with an uncomfortable headset on, staring at the screen and doing nothing while you talk. From time to time, I disconnect the microphone cable on my headset and listen to my callers on the speakers. Thus I have a speakerphone on the cheap.

Skype though offers a wealth of options for making the calling experience more like using a landline phone. The Skype Shop sells various corded and cordless units that look, feel and are used just like traditional phones. There are also add-on boxes for your PC that allow you to use your current land line as your Skype phone too. There are even conference calling kits that you can plug into the PC for use.

It's also possible to use your cellphone's Bluetooth earpiece with your PC or Mac. If the computer isn't Bluetooth-ready, you can get yourself a Bluetooth dongle to plug into your USB port, pair your headset with the PC and your headset becomes your wireless headset for use with Skype.

Sign up. Try it out. Purchase add-ons. Buy additional hardware to make Skype even easier to use. Save money. Be happy.

And now the pitch...

By now, you know that I'm not showing you all of this for nothing. There are people and businesses that are going to save hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars using voice-over-IP services like Skype. Having saved it, it's not going to hurt much to spend a little bit of it doing something good for someone. There's a long list of charitable organisations that need help, from well known ones like the Rape Crisis Centre, to ones that are far from our minds like the various orphanages and drug rehab centres around the country.

Like I said in the first post of the "We wore black..." series, it doesn't have to be any kind of grand or even press-worthy effort. Do something within your reach and for your own satisfaction. Every little bit helps, no matter how humble the effort seems. You don't need to start a campaign to get everybody in the country to wear black, drive with their headlights on, or sign a referendum. Two five-dollar tins of pigeon peas could break the monotony of rice-and-corned beef for a halfway house. A hundred dollars could save a charitable organisation from having their phone disconnected, breaking their link with the outside world. Calling your friends and family overseas using Skype and telling them how this blog has helped you find ways to help can direct them to avenues for assisting from abroad.

Remember always that every little bit - from those here at home and those away - together can go a very long way...

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