Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 8th 2014 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
Monday, December 8, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
for 05TH DECEMBER, 2014
Despite growing concern about this
country s economic stability in light of
the falling oil price, Prime Minister Per-
sad-Bissessar is insisting that T&T can
afford the $55 million Christmas gift to
She made the comment yesterday in
response to criticism meted out to her
Government over the decision.
Fielding questions from the media during
her annual a toy drive at the St Augustine
Girls High School yesterday, Persad-
Bissessar said, "We continue to monitor
what is happening with the energy price.
Thus far there is no cause for panic.
"We are of the respectful view, based
on what the Minister of Energy and what
the Minister of Finance has said, we can
afford to treat the most vulnerable, the
most needy during the Christmas time,
which is one of the most blessed times of
The PM said she was also upset by state-
ments that the initiative was an attempt
to "buy out" the Christian community,
especially with the general election right
around the corner.
Describing such claims as an "insult"
to Christians, Persad-Bissessar said, "I
would hate to think that anyone in the
Christian community could be bought
She also made it clear that the churches
were not obligated to accept the money.
"Those who think it is not appropriate
do not have to accept. This is a democratic
country," she said.
"I was very upset when they said this
was an attempt to buy out the Christians.
I do not think any Hindu, any Muslim or
any other one can be bought out. Last
year we did it, but this year we are doing
it, I would think, in a more equitable man-
Persad-Bissessar said the purpose of the
gift was simply based on "good will."
"It is a time for giving and that is why
we have done a little more this year than
last year. Each year we have done better
quite frankly," Persad-Bissessar said.
Saying that churches had a great role
to play in the national community, espe-
cially in shaping a better society, Persad-
Bissessar said according to statistics from
the Central Statistical Office, the Christian
community was the largest compared to
other religious groups.
"So it is not a vie-ki-vie decision. I
looked at the statistics and we made the
grants and disbursements according to
each denominational group and even with-
in the Christian community some will be
larger groups and some will be not so large.
"So we will do it equitably and using
the statistics as to how we give out these
grants," Persad-Bissessar said.
Every member of parliament, the PM
added, will recommend a name and those
letters should reach the Office of the Prime
Minister by today.
"That way there would be equality of
treatment, and no discrimination across
the country," Persad-Bissessar said.
On the issue of accountability, she said
she did not believe that MPs would send
groups that were non-existent or that
would not be accountable after they collect
"But we would have a system in place
to make sure the grants are disbursed
appropriately and everyone would have to
sign. The MPs will recommend and we
will go forward.
"I have no regrets of this particular step
that we have taken," Persad-Bissessar said.
Criticism over $55m gift an insult
can't be bought
Police are investigating the circumstances
surrounding the deaths of two toddlers in sep-
arate incidents at their homes in east Trinidad
between Saturday afternoon and yesterday
In the first incident around 2.30 pm on Sat-
urday, St Joseph police were called to Arnold
Bates Circular, Santa Margarita, St Augustine,
where three-year-old Aijah King drowned in a
The owner of the property, Paul Carr and the
child s mother Reshma John, told police that
they were walking in the yard when they noticed
King lying face down in the pool. They quickly
removed his body and attempted to resuscitate
him but were unsuccessful.
Emergency Health Services (EHS) personnel
arrived at the scene soon after and took the
unconscious child to the Eric Williams Medical
Sciences Complex in Mt Hope, where he was
pronounced dead on arrival.
When a team from the T&T Guardian visited
the house yesterday, a car was parked in the
driveway and another in front of the house, but
no one responded to the doorbell.
A little over 12 hours later, 42-year-old Maria
Villafanna contacted the Cumuto Police Station
after she awoke to find her six-week-old son
dead in his bed.
Villafanna told investigators the child fell
asleep after she fed him around 1.45 am. When
she got up two hours later she noticed that the
child was unresponsive and was not breathing.
Both Villafanna and the baby were taken from
their Jubilee Street, Guaico/Tamana Road,
Cumuto home to the Sangre Grande District
Hospital. Doctors on duty at the Accident and
Emergency department examined the baby and
pronounced him dead.
Police said they have not ruled out negligence
in both cases, but said they will wait on autopsies
at the Forensic Science Centre, St James, today
before they decide on how to proceed with their
Cpl Stevenson and WPC Skeete are inves-
tigating King s death, while WPC Collins of the
Cumuto Police Station is probing the death of
Villafanna s son.
Two babies die in
T&T Guardian editor-in chief Judy Raymond, left, presents the award for Reporter of the Year to Jensen LaVende during the
Guardian Media Ltd's annual Christmas Dinner and Awards Ceremony at the Anchorage Beach Club, Chaguaramas, on Saturday
night. LaVende won the award for his sterling coverage of the court/crime beat during the year. PHOTO: DARREN RAMPERSAD
Persad-Bissessar said negative statements
over the distribution of Christmas hampers
during the previous years will not stop her
Government from continuing to do so this
year, as people were very happy to receive
"This year we will continue to give the
hampers out," she said.
"Sometimes I think we forget that when we
reach into these positions, what it is when a
mother or father with five or six children...and
they have to find food at Christmas time and
they have to find a gift...could they afford to
buy six toys?"
HAMPER DRIVE CONTINUES
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