Daily Brief - Friday 24th February, 2017

NEWS

Fya Empress In Finals

St Vincent-born calypsonian Lornette “Fya Empress” Nedd will perform after all, in the National Calypso Monarch finals at Dimanche Gras, Queen’s Park Savannah. Justice Frank Seepersad, presiding over an injunction filed by Nedd’s attorneys, in the San Fernando High Court, ruled at nine o’ clock last night, that the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) breached her legitimate expectation of being allowed to compete on Sunday, after she not only qualified in the competition’s Tobago preliminary stage but also its semi-final round last Saturday. Attorney Keith Scotland made good on a threat contained in a pre-action protocol letter sent to TUCO on Wednesday, to fight the organisation’s decision to kick Nedd out of the finals based on objections raised by another calypsonian - Lynette “Lady Gypsy” Steele - that Nedd was ineligible to compete based on TUCO’s own rules that the Calypso Monarch competition is open only to nationals of this country. Read more here

Alexander: I’m not guilty

Former Beyond the Tape host Inspector Roger Alexander and another police officer, formerly assigned to the Police Service television production, appeared in court yesterday to answer private criminal charges brought by a man, who claims to have been assaulted by the duo last year. Alexander and constable Sheldon Mires appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court charged with assaulting Christopher Charles causing him actual bodily harm in July last year. The charges were laid indictably and both men were not called upon to plead. Mires was slapped with an additional charge for committing common assault on Charles during the same incident. Read more here

$4,000 fines for mas players caught defacing property

Masqueraders who deface the properties of homeowners may face a $4,000 fine. Minister of Arts and Community Development Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, responding to an urgent question from Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh in Parliament yesterday, said if homeowners present actual pictures of defacement of their property, this could expose the offending persons to a charge and fine under the Litter Act 1973. National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Kenny De Silva had informed Gadsby-Dolly that at a meeting held with bandleaders and homeowners in January there was general acknowledgement on the problem of property being defaced during the masquerade on Carnival Monday and possibly Tuesday. Read more here

 

POLITICS

Kamla: I never said to repeal it

Leader  of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar has said she never told US President Donald Trump that he must repeal the US Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Neither did anyone on the Opposition benches, she said, stated that the Opposition would not support the passage of the Tax Information Exchange Bill to make Trinidad and Tobago FATCA compliant “because Trump is going repeal it.” “I made an inquiry as to whether there was an intention. We have not received a response anyway,” Persad-Bissessar told the House of Representatives yesterday during the debate on the Joint Select Committee report dealing with the Bill. “Perhaps, the Prime Minister (Dr Keith Rowley) will be good enough to tell if he raised this pressing issue” with Trump when they spoke on Sunday. Persad-Bissessar, who moved a motion to amend one of the clauses to include a notification notice for the account holder to be notified before information on a bank account is referred to the US Internal Revenue Service and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (Fin- CEN). FinCEN cross checks the information and this may involve, she said, the account holder ending up in a tangled web. Read more here

Minister: Forensic audit a possibility for Tuco

With Government set to conduct a forensic audit into Pan Trinbago immediately after this year’s Carnival, officials have warned that it is a possibility the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (Tuco) could also suffer the same fate. According to Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, “We are still looking at the options we have.” Gadsby-Dolly made the statement following a press conference on Tuesday at the National Carnival Commission’s (NCC) Hospitality Suite, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain. Pressed to say more about the directive from Government for NCC to “step in” and collect ticketing revenue from the gates at Panorama and Calypso Fiesta respectively, Gadsby-Dolly confirmed the directive was handed down by her. Read more here

The time has come to end this, says PM

Sounding exaspera­ted, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday told the Opposition that a vote for the Tax Information Exchange Agreement Bill was no personal favour to him as he called for an end to Government's long-running effort to pass the bill. Wrapping up what Government hoped to be the last debate on the bill in Parliament, Rowley remarked on his own confusion with the Opposition's refusal to support this bill, given the legislation was started by the Opposition. Speaking prior to yesterday's vote in the Parliament at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, Rowley said he had no idea the Opposition would react to the bill in the way it has since Government is following up what the Opposition itself star­ted. Read more here

 

 

BUSINESS

Support for ADB to become commercial bank

President General of the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union Nirvan Maharaj says he fully supports a call by Liaquat Ali President of the Couva/ Pt Lisas Chamber of Commerce for the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) to be converted into a commercial bank. He is calling on the Minister of Agriculture to immediately begin talks with the Minister of Finance and other relevant stakeholders to start the process to make the idea a reality as quickly as possible. In a statement Maharaj who is also political leader of the National Solidarity Assembly said “There is no doubt that innovative ways must be found to stimulate the agriculture sector in order to assist in the diversification of the economy and allow this sector to be the foundation upon which the diversification stands. This is especially in light of the fact that Trinidad and Tobago imports billions of dollars of food every year.” He added that converting the ADB into a commercial bank will allow for a more enabling agricultural environment with the ADB operating on the basis of profit making but with a flexibility based social conscience and understanding of the unique circumstances in which the country’s agriculturists sometimes have to undergo such as natural disasters and surplus of reduced produce. He said Ali’s suggestion should be considered by those in authority and subjected to a proper logistical study after which the necessary legislative reforms could be drafted. Read more here

BATT head: Banks charge fees for services provided

President of the Bankers’ Association of T&T (BATT) Anya Schnoor has described the ongoing public debate on bank fees and charges as being misinformed. She said a lot of the utterances on bank charges and fees have been made without using actual data provided by the banks or studies done in the Caribbean. Her comments come on the heels of RBC Royal Bank’s announcement that it would increase some of its bank charges and fees from March 27 and its customers’ complaints about those increases. Also, last Friday, Central Bank Governor Dr Alvin Hilaire appeared before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament saying that the different rates charged by banks are driven by competition in the market. Speaking to members of the media after Wednesday’s news conference hosted by BATT, at the Scotia Centre, Corner Richmond and Park Streets, Port-of-Spain, Schnoor said: “There have been a number of studies throughout the Caribbean, comparing the rates and charges from various financial institutions and the products that they offer to the public. We (the banking sector) are probably the only sector in T&T that actually publishes our fees and services.” Read more here

Witco records $515.5m profit

Cigarette producer West Indian Tobacco Ltd (Witco) has recorded a $515.5 million profit for 2016. This despite what its chairman said was a challenging year. “I am pleased to report that, in a year of economic challenges, West Indian Tobacco has recorded profit before taxation of $693.7 million whilst maintaining profit for the year at $515.5 million in line with 2015,” chairman Anthony Phillip said in the company's published financial statements for year ended December 31, 2016. Read more here

 

 REGONAL

Court of appeal grants order in favour of Grenada hotel

The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday that Rex Resorts “be permitted to continue to remain in possession of and to continue to operate the hotel known as the Grenadian by Rex Resorts.”  The government of Grenada has been trying to enforce a compulsory purchase order in respect of the property in circumstances that have raised a number of questions locally concerning its motives. A legal challenge to the government’s first attempt was upheld by the court last year, with an oral decision handed down just before Christmas that essentially said the government erred in the compulsory acquisition process, but was given leave to start the procedure over again, which it has done. Read more here

Fresh Hope For J’cans – Holness Admits Difficult First Year, But Confident Country Now Positioned For Economic Growth

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is confident that his administration has brought fresh hope to Jamaicans in the almost one year that it has formed the Government. Tomorrow marks one year since he led the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to a one-seat win over the People's National Party (PNP) in the general elections. Reflecting on what he admits was a difficult year, Holness says that the administration's management of the economy has made more Jamaicans confident in the country's economic future. According to the prime minister, the fact that his administration was able to implement the campaign promise to increase the income tax threshold, without an economic disruption, has been a major positive. "We were able to fulfil our promises of tax relief for persons earning $1.5 million or less, and that will contribute significantly to the economic growth in the future. I believe it has restored a sense of hopefulness to the working classes in the country," Holness told The Gleaner. Read more here

 

INTERNATIONAL

Kim Jong-nam killing: 'VX nerve agent' found on his face

Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader, was killed by a highly toxic nerve agent, says Malaysia. Mr Kim died last week after two women accosted him briefly in a check-in hall at a Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysian toxicology reports indicate he was attacked using VX nerve agent, which is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations. There is widespread suspicion that North Korea was responsible for the attack, which it fiercely denies. It responded furiously to Malaysia's insistence on conducting a post-mortem examination and has accused Malaysia of having "sinister" purposes. Read more here

FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories

The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate. White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14. Read more here

24th February 2017

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