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Prominent Citizen and Evironmentalist Bertram Manhin honoured
November 14, 2011

Prominent Citizen and environmentalist Bertram Manhin was honoured yesterday (28-12-2011) by the non-governmental organisation Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT). He was presented with the International Year of Forests Award for the significant contribution he has made towards preserving and enhancing the biodiversity of Plants in Trinidad and Tobago. The presentation function took place at his La Vega Estate home in Gran Couva. South Trinidad. Manhin, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 1968 Olympics Games in Mexico, once owned the popular Manhin’s Book Store on High Street, San Fernando.

Professor Gary Garcia, a senior lecturer in Animal Production at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus as well as a dedicated agricultural researcher, pointed out to the audience that many University, Secondary and Primary students had visited the La Vega Estate. “Before I came to La Vega I knew a lot about it because my wild life students did case studies on the Estate as an agro eco-tourism resort,” stated Dr. Garcia. “Clearly Manhin has put his money where his mouth is and his efforts where his desires are by actually creating a prototype botanic garden,” Professor Garcia said. He told the gathering that La Vega Estate was one of the best places of its kind in the Caribbean. “I have been to the Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Florida and that is probably the only other place with the kind of infrastructure comparable to La Vega Estate,” he pointed out. He stated that the Estate was well supplied and supported with both undergrad and postgraduate scientific support.

“La Vega Estate is a biological goldmine,” he added. “Any intelligent academic in plant science, crop production, ornamental horticulture and food production control should try to get to use La Vega as a living laboratory,” he said.

“Despite the indiscriminate exploitation of nature by some people, there are a handful of those like Bert Manhin that are relentlessly working to reverse the damaging effects of human activities on the environment,” said CBTT’s Chairman Harrack Balramsingh, who presented Manhin with the Award. “Without trees we will not exist on this planet because they are essential to life and are the ground troops on an environmental frontline,” he stated. Aston Brown, Director and Project Manager of CBTT, gave an overview of the environmental work done by the group which he said would place even greater emphasis in the future on tree-planting excercises.

Manhin’s only granddaughter Cashell Watsun paid glowing tribute to him. “Many of you may know Bertram Manhin for his accomplishment in Shooting and his involvement in La Vega Estate but there is a lot more to him that you do not know,” she told the audience. “He is a kind, loving and compassionate man. He may be a little bias but he is also smart, creative and funny,” she said. She added that he had always stressed the importance of family life to her and she considered him to be good news to the family. Miss Watsun thanked her granddad for not only what he had done for Trinidad and Tobago but for being her role model and for also being one of the greatest people she knew.

After buying La Vega in 1983, the quest for tropical fruits and ornamental plants continued in earnest. He collected dongs from Taiwan and sweet carambola and planted 200 carambola trees. By the process of elimination of tasting and aided by three fruit experts from the Rare Fruit Council of America, among them Robert Barnum, he selected only three trees from which worthwhile grafts were made. These were the beginnings of all of the sweet carambola fruits in Trinidad and Tobago.

In 1985 he got two seeds of the dwarf pommecythere from a nursery in Thailand and all the dwarf pommecythere trees in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, and indeed the Caribbean have come from the humble beginnings of these two seeds.Among the many fruit trees he brought in were Peewa, Camu Camu, Sweet passion fruit and Amazon Grape.

On the Ornamental side, the most popular tree that Manhin introduced to Trinidad was the Dwarf White Frangipani which flowers profusely and can be seen in many gardens throughout the country. This he introduced in 1990. The Yellow Leaf Duranta in 1993 also proved to be exceedingly popular. In the early nineties he also introduced almost twenty different varieties of bougainvilleas including the Thai White, Lavender Splash, Thai Gold and many more. He brought in many more ornamentals too numerous to mention.

There are many more fruit trees in his collection which have not fruited as yet and several of them hold the promise to produce excellent fruits. On an almost daily basis Manhin researches new tropical trees, ornamental plants and exotic fruits worldwide so keep your eyes and ears open for more and more from this indomitable man.

There are many more fruit trees in his collection which have not fruited as yet and several of them hold the promise to produce excellent fruits. On an almost daily basis Manhin researches new tropical trees, ornamental plants and exotic fruits worldwide so keep your eyes and ears open for more and more from this indomitable man.

In his 56-year career in the sport of rifle shooting, Manhin established himself as a legend on both the local and international shooting ranges, winning his first Trinidad and Tobago pistol championship title in 1963. He achieved one of his greatest international honours at the 1966 Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he won the gold medal in the national match pistol competition, and a bronze medal in the free pistol. He went on to win many more medals for his country including the free pistol bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1978.

Manhin said he was grateful to be honoured by CBTT with the International Year of Forests Award 2011. “I will treasure this award forever and will always be thankful to those who nominated me,” he stated. He said he was thankful to his brothers and sisters who had all been supportive of him. He praised his wife Patricia whom he said had stood by me through thick and thin. “Our marriage has been a joy to both of us and we give God thanks for all the good times we have spent together,” Manhin stated in his reply. “I plan to enjoy the future because my best days are ahead,” he said.


Parents, teachers and principals cannot abuse alcohol and drugs
and expect students to do otherwise says Balramsingh at IEP drug awareness week
November 14, 2011

“This annual Alcohol and Drug Awareness Week was established at the La Romaine Integrated Education Project in 1998 because substance abuse was a contributing factor to many of the social ills affecting our homes, communities and schools.” So said President of the La Romaine Integrated Education Project Harrack Balramsingh during his address at the formal opening of the IEP’s 14th annual Alcohol and Drug Awareness Week held at Servol’s auditorium in La Romaine this morning.

“The event has had success but we may have made a greater dent on substance abuse if more stakeholders had given us their unequivocal support,” Balramsingh said.

“Once the abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs continues, we will not win the war against crime and other anti-social behaviors,” he added. He stated that the drug trade was also causing havoc in our society and he added that it was going to take a herculean effort to find the real perpetrators and bring them all to justice.

“We always expected that this alcohol and drug awareness programme will not go down too well with substance abusers and those who are involved in the drug trade,” he said. He pointed out that when the curfew was on, alcohol abuse had subsided, but many drinkers could now be seen liming until the wee hours of the morning. “This is certainly a recipe for more road accidents, domestic violence and other crimes,” he noted.

Balramsingh said, “There are a lot of people with guns in their possession while drinking in bars and it is well known that people who are drunk lose their mental faculty. It may not be a bad idea to deliver severe punishment to those who carry legal and illegal weapons while drunk,” he stated.

“The message for parents is loud and clear,” he said. “If a teenager is drinking, the odds are that he or she is getting drunk. And teenagers who get drunk are much likelier to try marijuana and hang out with friends who are abusing other illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin,” he added. As a result, he called on parents to adopt a zero tolerance on alcohol abuse in their homes. He stated that one of the solutions to substance abuse was for parents, principals and teachers to lead by example. “They cannot abuse alcohol and drugs and expect their students to do otherwise,” he said.

“Today many of our sportsmen and sportswomen are passed as exemplars but too many of them have serious problems with either alcohol or illegal drugs,” Balramsingh pointed out. “Some of these sports personalities,” he added, “have had their careers come to a halt, because of substance abuse yet we insist in passing them off as exemplars to our young people.”

He called on students in the audience to take notice of the problems that alcohol and drug abuse had caused to their families, friends and neighbours and make a concerted effort not to emulate them. Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, he told them.


San Fernando East Secondary teachers told: The quality of education is tied to the quality of the teacher
October 5, 2011

“All teachers should observe punctuality and appropriate tidiness and dress since it is not possible to demand such behavior from students if the teacher doesn’t set the standards.” So said the Chairman of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) Harrack Balramsingh this morning while delivering the keynote address to teachers of the San Fernando East Secondary School on the occasion of World Teachers Day. He went on to state that as a teacher, students complained to him about shabby and untidy teachers.

Balramsingh said that the way a teacher carries himself or herself is a reflection on one’s classroom, school, community, and educational system. “Conduct also includes one’s ability to initiate and maintain quality communication with other stakeholders in education such as students, fellow teachers, administration, and parents,” he stated.

He noted that a teacher had a responsibility to make the teaching experience enjoyable for students. He said that as a teacher, he found that students tended to be more responsive to a learning experience that was associated with enjoyment than one associated with pain or worse, boredom.

\ “Proper preparation is another crucial requirement of professionalism,” Balramsingh said. “ When a teacher enters the classroom, he/she should have all the required materials and the lesson plan ready,” he stated. “ Nothing is sloppier than poor preparation,” he said.

Professional teachers, he added, should also present facts without distortion, bias, or personal prejudice. He warned teachers that making false statements about a colleague was unprofessional and should not be tolerated. He called on the San Fernando East Secondary School teachers to display true professionalism by accounting for all funds committed to his or her charge.

“Corruption is prevalent in our society and we must make a concerted effort to teach honesty to young people in our homes, schools and churches but we cannot do so if we are also corrupt,” he told teachers who were gathered in the school’s staffroom to observe World Teachers Day.

“It is a fact that most teachers are honest educators and deserve to be rewarded for their efforts,” he stated. “However, it is also true that there are enough incompetent teachers who we continue to protect,” Balramsingh pointed out. “There are perverts in our schools and they continue to flourish even though many of them have been reported to the Ministry of Education,” he told teachers.

Until this day, he said, he could not understand how one of his fellow teachers caught by security officers in a compromising position with a student on the school compound was transferred to another school instead of being dismissed. Only recently, he pointed out, a form six student was jailed for a year after he tried to extort money from a young female OJT teacher who lured him into a relationship.

“Our students will be the losers if Trinidad and Tobago continues to protect unprofessional and mediocre teachers,” Balramsingh stated. He added that It may not be a bad idea to revise the procedures that made it difficult to dismiss truly bad teachers including those who lacked good moral character. “CBTT has always supported professional teachers while calling for bad eggs to be removed,” he said.

He stated that education was a professional service which relied heavily on the quality of the teachers. “The quality of education is tied to the quality of the teacher,” he told the SESS teachers. “So it is important that teachers be compensated adequately because they are crucial to the development of the country,” Balramsingh said.


Elbert Redvers Blades celebrates 109th birthday
April 9, 2011

Elbert Redvers Blades has won the hearts of many citizens because of his longevity. Last Saturday, April 9, 2011, Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) joined with more than 100 of his family members and friends to celebrate the 109th birthday of the first General Secretary of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU). Fittingly, the Minister of Labour and former President of the OWTU Errol McLeod, Senator David Abdullah and other trade union officials were present to celebrate the birthday of Blades. Member of Parliament for the area and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs Jairam Seemungal was also on hand to recognise the great contribution Blades made to the labour movement.

Elbert Blades on the dance floor during his 109th birthday party

 


Chairman of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT)
Harrack Balramsingh and Labour Minister Errol McCleod
at the 109th Birthday celebration for Elbert Redvers Blades

Both Minister McLeod and Senator Abdullah paid glowing tribute to their labour colleague who helped save the struggle from collapse in 1937 when Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler went into hiding to avoid arrest. Elbert Blades was born on April 7, 1902... He demonstrated vision and tenacity in 1937 by coming forward to provide leadership of the working class at that crucial moment. Blades is actually the last surviving labour hero of the 1937 workers’ struggle for better wages and humane working conditions

Blades, who lives at Cumuto, Wallerfield, contributed significantly to the many benefits, which are now enjoyed by workers. He did his part in achieving better wages and conditions for the working class He has fond memories of working alongside Butler, Cipriani and Reinzi, all of whom made significant contribution to the working class. His face lights up whenever he speaks about nominating Reinzi Cola to be the first President of the OWTU.

E.R. Blades was awarded the Humming Bird Silver Medal in 1998 for his contribution to the trade union movement in Trinidad and Tobago. He also received the 15th National Republic Day Award from CBTT in 2007 for his tremendous contribution to the trade union movement and the working class people of Trinidad and Tobago. Harrack Balramsingh, Chairman of CBTT stated that the labour hero deserves the nation’s highest honour. The CBTT head who was present at the 100th birthday celebration for Blades at the Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain nine years ago, pointed out that at the time the labour hero looked and acted like a person 25 years younger. Back then, CBTT along with the Trinidad and Tobago Workers Forum for Progressive Trade Unionism, the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union, the Communication Workers Union, the Electronics Media Union of Trinidad and Tobago, the Organisation for Harmony and Inter-racial Solidarity and the Trinidad and Tobago League of Concerned Citizens came together to commemorate Blades 100th birthday. Not many people at the time thought he would live to be 109 not out, Balramsingh said.

The CBTT chairman stated that Elbert Blades was always critical of people, including politicians, who were interested only in power and their own particular well-being. He believes that we need more humble individuals to be leaders in our society. Until this day he continues to condemn racism, citing blatant discrimination against blacks in his early days. He appears to be still hurt by being refused entry into schools in those days to pursue aviation studies. Blades pointed out that in the 1930s there were no factors of ethnicity and party politics to distract and divide then. It was a straight case of building strong institutions of workers from which to continue the struggle of June 19, 1937, he said.

“Many of us should emulate the quality of life he has lived,”Balramsingh said. “He is close to his family and is often praised for his devotion to family life by his children and other close family members,” the CBTT chairman added. “Blades refutes the claim that good people don’t live long lives,”he said. E.R.Blades stated on numerous occasions that the answer to much of the crime, violence, delinquency and corruption in society was good parenting. “We look for all kinds of solution to our problems but the secret lies in the type of life parents live,” said Blades who is also the only lifetime member of CBTT.

The renowned labour hero of the 1930s is still able to make a few dance steps. He surprised the guests present on Saturday when he danced to the beat of well known songs from the 50s and 60s. E.R. Blades has six children, 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.


Early childhood teachers being paid less than old age pensioners
July 1, 2010

The Chairman of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) Harrack Balramsingh yesterday pleaded with the relevant authorities to assist early childhood teachers whose monthly salaries are lower than those of old age pensioners. He made the plea while delivering the feature address at the graduation ceremony of Servol’s La Romaine Early Childhood Centre at 2 Canaan Road, Bamboo Village La Romaine.

Balramsingh, who is also the chairman of the La Romaine Integrated Education Project (IEP) of Servol and the MInistry of Education, stated that the Government should be applauded for increasing the monthly pension of senior citizens to $3,000.00 but he lamented that many full-time pre-school teachers who attained five subjects and completed a two-year certificate in Early Childhood Education from either the University of the West Indies or Oxford University were being paid less than $3,000.00 monthly. He said, “Many of these affected teachers are employed by Servol and have not yet been contracted by the Ministry of Education.”

Balramsingh revealed that teachers who were contracted for three years by the Ministry of Education at Government ECCE Centres had so far been unable to have their contracts renewed on time. “Some are at home for months without a salary even though they have a family to support and bills to pay,” he stated. Apparently proper structures were not put in place to have these contracts renewed on time, he said. “It is also unfortunate that contracted teachers of the Government Early Childhood Centres have to attend school for the entire month of July while primary and secondary school teachers are home for eight weeks with full pay,” he noted.

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he/she is someone today,” he told parents and teachers attending the graduation exercise. He said, “It’s is our collective responsibility to guide and mold the leaders of tomorrow - for it is on them that the future will have to depend. Now is the time-when our children are very young- to train them the way they should go so that when they grow up to be young men and women they will become part of the answer instead of part of the problem.”

Balramsingh stated that life was not just about learning to read and write. “They are important, but just as important is love and friendship which will help all of us flourish,” he said. He pointed out that a sense of community was extremely important to the future of our nation and our children.

He told the young graduates that while they should be very proud of their school, their teachers and their parents, they should also take pride for all they did at the La Romaine Early Childhood School of Servol, which he pointed out was the first pre-school in the world to be built with a loan from the World Bank and the first also in Trinidad and Tobago to be built under the Education Project Co ordinating Unit (EPCU) of the Ministry of Education.


DR. ELIZABETH ROSABELLE SEESARAN

Eulogy by Harrack Balramsingh, Chairman, Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT)
at the Funeral Service for Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran
held at the Susamachar Presbyterian Church on October 20,2009

When I was told of the passing of Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran, a wave of sorrow swept over me for I realised that in this world I had lost a very dear friend. My mind reverted to those great words of the Apostle, and they are words which truly can be spoken of Dr. Seesaran: "I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the course."

During her illness, she lost her nephew Scott Zoba whom she regarded as her son. This brought tears to her eyes on her deathbed but as a good and genuine Christian, she never lost faith in God. Reflecting on her nephew’s death and her own ill-health she said like Job did: “I had nothing when I was born. And I will have nothing when I die. God gave many things to me. Now, God has taken these things from me. But I will still praise God.”

Dr. Elizabeth Rosabelle Bernice Seesaran is living proof that you are never too old to learn. After a teaching career and marriage that spanned almost four decades, she returned to the University of the West Indies to successfully complete her doctoral thesis. Having graduated from UWI in July 1996, this exceptional woman earned the right to add the title “Doctor” before her name.

For her it was the realisation of a dream nurtured by her father Francis Sampath, that his eight children would excel in their pursuit of academic excellence, as well as an opportunity to leave behind a legacy for the generations to come. Her father’s dream was for her to become a medical doctor. For various reasons he was unable to accomplish his dream, but he and his wife, the late Amelia Lucky Sampath instilled in all their children the desire to aim at the highest academic standard.

Through her four brothers who pursued medical careers, Doctors Martin, Roy, Hugh and Angus Sampath, her father, a school principal, lived his dream. Fascinated, like her father, with education, her entire career and life was punctuated with her pursuit for higher learning whether it was her BA honors Degree in History at Mc Gill’s University, MA in History, Diploma in Education and Diploma in Social Studies at UWI, St. Augustine, Diploma in Theology at Caracas, a one-year scholarship to the United Kingdom in Infant School Teaching Methods, or some other type of education course.

This unfulfilled passion for excellence, coupled with her career, domestic life and the numerous charitable organisations and church positions in which she served, kept her occupied for most of her life and prevented her from achieving her goal. However, with the death of her husband in 1985, retirement as Principal 11 in 1986 and a life of loneliness on the horizon, she was spurred on to finally pursue her dream.

After her husband, Isaac Deoraj Seesaran died in 1985, she had to decide what to do in life. She wanted a new vision for the future because she had to live alone. She prayed about it and after a while she felt she should retire from teaching.

She stayed on at Siparia Junior Secondary School until 1986, then left for a tour to India and returned some time later with the firm conviction that she was going to pursue her doctorate in History. She applied to UWI, St. Augustine and was accepted. Then she started doing research from about 1990 and finally her thesis was accepted and was awarded the degree in 1995.

At the graduation exercise, Dr. Seesaran was the oldest graduate but the proudest of them all when she received her scroll from the Chancellor of the University, Sir Shridath Ramphal. Her accomplishments inspired a number of older men and women to return to school and university.

Her thesis represented years of diligent work, persistence and application in a programme of research in which she had no colleagues except herself, but she emerged stronger because of that loneliness. She displayed great pride for having made an original contribution to knowledge.

Her thesis, “Social Mobility in the Indo-Trinidadian Community 1870 – 1917” was published. The thesis examined the process by which a middle class emerged among the Indian immigrants in Trinidad, their upward mobility through, among other things, the accumulation of cash, land and education. Dr. Seesaran always wanted to know more about our people, how they settled and advanced in society. She always said that she enjoyed her thesis because it gave her the opportunity to deliver into another world.

The idea came about following a journey to the Far East and her exposure to the Japanese tradition and ancestral worship. She felt that a similar journey into the background of her people, highlighting their accomplishments, would somehow inspire the younger generation to preserve some of what they have. She is also the author of several articles published in various journals and a book, “From Caste to Class” depicting the Social Mobility of the Indo-Trinidadian Community from 1870-1917.

Dr. Seesaran dedicated her entire life to helping others. She never had children of her own, but by establishing the Trinidad and Tobago Association for Retarded Children School in Penal (TTARC), she had been mother to hundreds of children.

She served for many years on the various Boards and Committees of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago and was an Honorary Elder of the Penal Congregation and an honorary adviser to its Girls’ Work Board. For more than a decade, she was on the Board of Education at the Integrated Education Project of SERVOL where along with the staff of the school, we organised the first Annual Drug Awareness week in schools in Trinidad and Tobago. She also served as an executive member of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) for many years and was Chairperson of the Republic Day Award Committee which selected outstanding citizens for the National Republic Day Award of Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Seesaran was a founder of the Church Women United in Trinidad and Tobago as well as the Penal Breakfast Centre Association which, until the advent of the Schools’ Nutrition Company, supplied free lunches to the needy children of the schools in the Penal environment. She was also a Life Member of the Association for the Mentally Retarded Children of T&T.

She obtained her early education at St. Gabriel’s R.C. School in San Fernando and later at St. Joseph’s Covent and Naparima Boys’ College which was the only school in the area offering Advanced levels. She started working as a teacher at Penal Presbyterian School where she met her husband of 35 years. That was the start of a teaching career that spanned over 42 years. She taught in schools such as Grant Memorial Presbyterian, Naparima Girls’ High School, Iere High School, Penal Junior Secondary School and Siparia Junior Secondary School.

She also taught at the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Education in San Fernando and amazingly came back in her seventies to work as a contract teacher at the Siparia Junior Secondary School. By now you must be wondering why this outstanding citizen never received a national award.

Dr. Seesaran was one of the most amazing people I had ever met and would probably ever meet. She spent her life caring for others. She would often go out of her way to reach those who were in need. In closing I must state that I have never in my life witnessed a better exemplar than Dr. Seesaran Her humility won her the hearts of people everywhere. I was often baffled as to why she was not called upon by the powers to be to play a more leading role in our society.

She was a national treasure who deserved more. It is very commendable to become involved in a church or social group but we will make no positive contribution to society if we fail to live the quality of life that Dr. Seesaran led. This country has lost a great citizen who served her God and country with great distinction.


Demand the removal of any liquor store from UWI

CXC and the Ministry must act to prevent exam cheating and leakage

August 24, 2008

The leader of a non-governmental organisation has again called on parents to lobby for the removal of alcohol and cigarette advertisements as well as for the breathalyser to be implemented. The Chairman of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, who was addressing parents at the group's Parent Outreach Programme held in La Romaine on Saturday, also renewed the call for parents to demand the removal of any liquor store from the compound of the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine.

Balramsingh said: "We have made alcohol drinking in Trinidad and Tobago very accessible to young people." He pointed out that in the United States, it was illegal for students under 21 years old to drink alcohol and called on the authorities to do the same here. He stated that a lot of social ills were related to alcohol abuse, "but all we do here is to sit idly by and allow this problem to continue unabated."

He said: "While the counsellors and psychologists are stating that domestic violence and other violent acts are not related to alcohol abuse, the truth is that there are thousands of victims in Trinidad and Tobago who are beaten up only when their spouses are drunk." He also told parents that many community councils were in the habit of selling alcohol to young people to raise funds. "What type of example are we setting for our young people?" he asked.

Balramsingh condemned clubs which gave away alcohol freely to young female university students as an incentive to visit their places. He said many parents were unaware that their innocent daughters were visiting these clubs. On the other hand, he added, some parents could not care less.

Balramsingh also touched on the topic of cheating in examinations. He pointed out that cheating was always a problem here but too many of us pretended that it was not happening. He pointed out that the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and the Education Ministry had a duty to make sure that examination papers were not leaked. He said that for years the Ministry insisted that the multiple choice papers at both the Common Entrance and CXC levels should not be taken by teachers and students outside the examination room; yet many teachers were able to receive copies. "This gave their students a distinct advantage since questions were regularly repeated in subsequent years," he pointed out.

One parent stated that it was unfair for her son to do his School Based Assessment (SBA) while his teacher manufactured marks for many students who did not hand in their SBAs. She said the teacher had the temerity to admit this irregularity to her son and other students. Responding to this, Balramsingh noted that there was room for this irregularity, since teachers knew in advance, the five samples they needed to send to the Ministry. He said that a teacher could be in serious trouble if the Education Ministry were to call for all the SBAs to be submitted in the subject in question.

He stated that we needed to place more emphasis on the education of the "whole man" because he added: "If our children do well intellectually but lack spiritual and physical knowledge, then they will always have serious shortcomings in their lives."


Disabled student Shamla Maharaj cops 2008 Balramsingh Memorial Scholarship

A 22-year-old student of Rochard Douglas Road, Barrackpore is the recipient of the Balramsingh Memorial Scholarship for 2008. Shamla Maharaj, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Agribusiness Management from the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, was selected from among 23 applicants for the scholarship worth $10,000.00.


        Shamla Maharaj

Before entering UWI, Miss Maharaj attended the Princess Elizabeth Special School (1989 - 2000) and the Barrackpore Secondary Comprehensive School (2000 – 2007). She said: "At Princess Elizabeth Special School where I did my primary school level, it was a task being away from my family from the age of 4 years. It was worth it when I graduated in the year 2000." She added: "I was the Valedictorian and got the award for best overall student both in academics and extracurricular activities such as music, speech and other voluntary activities. "I also did an article at the age of nine, on behalf of my primary school, talking about life as a physically disabled student," she pointed out.

"In my secondary level, I got an award for placing second in my end of term examinations at the form three level. She said: "In 2005, I graduated with 7 CXC subjects and an 'A' in computers at NESC. In 2007, I graduated with all four of my advanced level subjects in Geography Sociology, History and Caribbean Studies/Communication."

What made her success even more amazing was that she was the only student of her class doing this combination of subjects. Her problem was that her Geography and History classes were all held on the same days and at the same time. Actually, she attended advanced level classes in history only three times in two years, yet she passed this subject with flying colours.

She said: "When I had first asked to do both subjects at advanced level, the school refused but I was determined and they finally let me do them at my own risk. In the end, I proved I could do it since I performed at the same level as my classmates."

She is proud of her first-year achievement at UWI. "I successfully completed the year, passing four courses in my first semester and all seven courses in my second. I did a presentation on behalf of my group and thus far it has certainly been a challenge," said Miss Maharaj. "Being physically disabled with Cerebral Palsy," she said, "has restricted me in many ways and has certainly been a task that has affected both me and my family in all factors of life." She has some difficulty in writing quickly, so the university hires someone to write for her during examinations. This means that the designated writer puts down on paper the exact answers which are recited by Shamla... However, Shamla is very good at the computer and this allows her to do all her research papers on her own.

This physically challenged youth is determined to be a success. "My objective in life," she said, "is to achieve the highest education possible in my field and secure a reliable career by overcoming the obstacles that may challenge me in terms of infrastructure, maneuvering to and from my job etc." She speaks about owning her own car and hiring her own chauffeur. She also dreams of one day getting a decent job that will allow her to own her own home.

Maharaj said: "I would find a way and devise a plan to get what I want and set an example for others like me and even not like me, to demonstrate to them that once they have a goal they should go for it." She added: "Regardless of whether we are physically disabled or not, we are all equal in God's sight."

Shamla Maharaj said: We have all been created for a purpose, with something valuable to offer." She added: "God does not discriminate. People may discriminate, but God does not. People with disabilities," she said, "have much to offer their communities but, like everyone, they need an opening."

She praises her mother Chandra Mala Maharaj who stays with her at Milner Hall located on the UWI campus. "My Mom takes really good care of me." Mrs. Maharaj also wheels her daughter to and from classes. Her father Rajkumar Maharaj, a former cane-cutter before the collapse of the sugar cane industry, expressed great delight and satisfaction over his daughter's achievement, so far. "She is a wonderful child and a great inspiration to her family," he said. He believes that our schools should have wheelchair access Shamla has two brothers - Ganase Maharaj and Ravin Maharaj.- both of whom take great pride in their sister's sheer courage and determination. She is also planning to pursue her master's degree as soon as she completes her undergraduate degree.Previous recipients of the scholarship fund were Akini Gill, Stacey Lezama, Leigh Warner and Natalie Samaroo.


CBTT's Alfred John Graham passes away at the age of 90

He served Trinidad and Tobago with distinction

December 2, 2007

Ninety-year-old Alfred John Graham, an outstanding businessman and community worker known for his philanthropic work, passed away recently. Until his death, he was a long-standing member of the Board of Education of the La Romaine Integrated Education Project (IEP) as well as a member of the Republic Day Award Committee. He was only one of two members of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) to be accorded the honour of life membership.

This patriotic citizen served Trinidad and Tobago with great distinction. I worked closely alongside the late Graham for many years and I must admit that he was one of the most dedicated and committed citizens I had ever worked with. He deserved a national award for his achievements but he was not the type of person who expected any rewards for his good deeds. Fifty-six years ago, he started his philanthropic work by giving five dollars annually to each of the 280 boys in the Belmont Orphanage. Many years ago, while reading the newspapers, he was moved by the plight of Nathaniel Joseph, a poor and handicapped boy of Longdenville and decided to donate a wheelchair to Joseph's cause.

He also contributed $10,000 to the Marcus Garvey Statue project on Harris Promenade, San Fernando. In 1997, he made another contribution of $25,000 to the Marcus Garvey Institute. Today located on Harris Promenade San Fernando is a marble stone on the Marcus Garvey Statue bearing the name Alfred John Graham.

Seven years ago, he was honoured by the Afrikan Advancement Association (AAA) and the Marcus Garvey Institute of Afrikan Life Studies. He also received several awards for his charitable deeds. Nineteen years ago, the San Fernando City Police Association presented him with a citation for Sincerity and Dedication in service to the community. In 1991 he became a life member of the Blind Welfare Association. In 1992 Egbe Ilo Siwaju Ile Alkebulan of the AAA presented him with the Garvey Merit Award in the field of business. The City of San Fernando recognised Graham on August 21, 1999 for long-standing community service. In 1983, he was presented with a Golden Award by the Southern Sports and Cultural Organisation. That same year the joint parishes of St Clements/St John's Anglican Church inducted him in the Order of St Clements and Order of Emancipation

In 1963, he started a business with one bag of peanuts, which he parched and sold 1/4 lb for 12 cents. He always displayed a sense of pride when relating that just three years later, he was purchasing 100 bags at one time. In 1973 he purchased a plot of land at Pointe-a-Pierre Road where he later erected a building which is today named the Alfred Graham Building.

This nation and by extension the world would be a paradise if all of us lived our life like the late Graham did. It is ironic that he died in the middle of the IEP Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week which he supported unequivocally for 10 years. He used to relate cases of alcohol and drug abuse which contributed to the destruction of many families during his lifetime. He drove his own car until he was 88 but stopped driving two years ago because he became scared of road hogs and drunk drivers. This well-loved citizen fought for the breathalyser to be introduced but this was not to be until his death.

He was bothered by the present spate of criminal activities in our country but always felt that people could change if they heeded the words from his favourite hymn: Amazing Grace sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. Fittingly, the congregation sang “Amazing Grace” at his funeral service in tribute to a man who served his country and people well. Graham was buried on Saturday December 1, 2007 at the Roodal Cemetery in San Fernando after a service conducted by Fr. David Khan at the Roman Catholic Church on Harris Promenade, San Fernando.

Photo: Alfred Graham with Ravesh Balramsingh and Savitri Cindy Balramsingh at the 2006 Republic Day Award function at President's House


Tribute to 105 year-old former labour hero

April 20, 2007

A 105 year-old former trade unionist has been hailed as a hero by the non-governmental organisation Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT). . Elbert Redvers Blades, who was born on April 7, 1902, is the last surviving labour hero of the 1937 struggle for better wages and working conditions.

CBTT joined with friends and relatives of Blades at his home in Wallerfield, Cumuto on Sunday (April 15, 2007) to celebrate the grand occasion. The well-attended audience was treated with songs dating back from the 1940s to present. The 105 year-old Blades even demonstrated some of his dancing skills to the delight of those present.

Head of CBTT Harrack Balramsingh said that Blades was a true champion of the working class people. Stating that he placed his life on the line to help others live a better quality of life, Balramsingh said: "Our country needs more citizens like Blades to ensure that the working class is not exploited."

He added that God would be proud of the unselfish work of Blades and he called on others to emulate the concern and love he showed for others.

He stated that Blades had seen a lot, heard a lot and had been through many difficult times , but those impediment in his life turned out to be blessings. The CBTT head pointed out that one of the greatest sins in the early days of Blades life was the discrimination of both Africans and East Indians. He noted that Blades was refused entry into schools in those days to pursue aviation studies, "a situation which still bothers the 105 year-old to this day." He said: "While inequity still exists today," he said, "we are far better of than the days when Blades was growing up."

Blades who is the recipient of the Humming Bird Silver Medal, helped save the 1937 struggle from collapse when Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler went into hiding to avoid arrest.

He is a life-long executive member of CBTT and a member of the Republic Day Award Committee. Blades was also the first general secretary of the Oilfield Workers' Trade Union (OWTU). According to the first minutes of the union, he was the person who nominated Adrian Reinzi Cola to become president of the OWTU.

Blades pointed out at his birthday party that he lived a good life and never intentionally hurt anyone. He said that crime was a direct result of hate, envy jealousy and greed and he went on to advise citizens that they could help to eradicate criminal activites if they were prepared to love their relatives, friends and neighbours with greater intensity than before


Balramsingh appointed to head IEP Education Board for an unprecedented 10th straight year

Poor teachers would never improve in spite of salary increases

“If the Education Ministry and school principals had acted years ago to ban alcohol sales at school functions, we may not be experiencing the kind of social problems that exist today in our society.” So said the newly re-elected president of the Education Board of the La Romaine Integrated Education Project (IEP) Harrack Balramsingh while speaking at the IEP’s Annual General Meeting held yesterday at Canaan Road, Bamboo Village, La Romaine.

Balramsingh who was elected for an unprecedented 10th consecutive year as president of the IEP Board of Education, said: “Instead of selling alcohol to students at high school, principals and teachers should be encouraging them to lead more sober lives since many of the violence and other anti-social behaviour are alcohol and drug related.”

He pointed out that the IEP initiated the first alcohol and drug awareness week in schools in Trinidad and Tobago 10 years ago and pleaded with the Ministry year after year to ban the sale of alcohol at all school functions. He noted that it was only last year that the Ministry of Education heeded the IEP’s call and implemented a new policy prohibiting the use of tobacco and alcohol at the nation’s schools. “While this policy may have been too late in coming,” he said, “the Education Ministry should still be complimented for doing so.”

He went on to praise teachers of the IEP’s Early Childhood Centre, the Adolescent Development Programme, the Junior Life Centre and the Hi Tech Centre for their dedication to duty. “What makes the teachers at the IEP special,” he pointed out, “ is the fact that they deal with many students who are called failures and do a very creditable job in helping to turn their lives around in a very positive way.”

He said that if he had his way he would be paying all qualified IEP instructors the same salary as their counterparts in the government service. He called on the Ministry of Education to take notice of the honourable job these teachers are doing and assist them in whatever way it could. At the same time, he said: “We need to commend the Education Ministry for increasing early childhood teachers’ salaries but these are still very short of what their colleagues receive in the government primary schools.” However he recognised that salaries must be commensurate with experience and qualification.

He stated that poor teachers would never improve in spite of salary increases but he batted for the IEP teachers because he stated that they had a proven track record as being dedicated to their students. “Absenteeism, unpunctuality and running away from school without permission is almost non-existent among IEP’s instructors,” he pointed out. Other schools, he said, would do well to emulate the IEP and he again pleaded with the Ministry of Education to take note. “As far as finances are concerned, he said, “the IEP does not have a closed door approach. At every meeting, account balances are read out, so that everyone knows how money is raised and how it is spent.”

He told instructors, board members and teachers that they should not be afraid to point out any wrongs and other irregularities at the IEP “since cover-ups, which have happened in so many schools, will eventually lead to serious problems.” He said: “Some principals and teachers are against boards in their school because they don’t support openness and transparency. That’s why,” he added, “we have to commend the supervisors, field officers, teachers and support staff of the IEP for their willingness to work hand in hand with members of the board. Many schools in the country,” he pointed out, “will do well to emulate the cohesion that exists between the board members and staff of the IEP.

Other elected members at the AGM were: Roy Kissoon, vice president; Joanne Doolal, secretary; Geeta Lochan, assistant secretary; Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran public relations officer; Ann Joseph, treasurer; Ann Marie Pantor, John Thomas, Verlia Stafford and Sherron Floyd. The IEP is part of Servol and the Ministry of Education

Balramsingh criticises beer drinking contest on the Scouting for Talent show

November 07, 2006

The President of the Board of Education of the La Romaine Integrated Education Project (IEP) Harrack Balramsingh said yesterday (Monday) that the IEP’s annual Alcohol and Drug Awareness Week, which had been taking place for the past nine years, secured a moral victory at the beginning of this academic year when the Education Minister Hazel Manning implemented a new policy prohibiting the use of tobacco and alcohol at the nation’s schools.

Balramsingh, who was speaking on Monday November 6, 2006 at the 9th annual Alcohol and Drug Awareness Week at the IEP’s auditorium located at Canaan Road, La Romaine, stated that year after year, the La Romaine Board of Education had been calling for this policy, so its work was not in vain. For years, he pointed out, a well stocked bar could be seen at many of our school functions. Even minors, he added, were permitted to purchase alcohol at these events.

“Today,” he said, “the Education Ministry has recognised that alcohol is a major problem among many of our students and has rightfully implemented a new policy prohibiting the use of tobacco and alcohol at our schools.” He stated that principals and teachers who went against this policy should be exposed and dealt with accordingly.

He complimented Government for introducing the Breathalyser Bill in Parliament last Friday. “This was the first time,” he said, “a government has seen it fit to bring this important Bill to Parliament.” Unfortunately, he stated, the Bill was not passed in its present state but expressed hope that this important legislation would soon be brought back to Parliament in order to discourage drunk driving on the nation’s roadways.

He went on to criticise the beer drinking contest on the Scouting for Talent show. Here was a great show promoting the cultural talent of many of our young people but they had to mess it up by giving prizes to those with the talent to drink beers the fastest, he said. He noted: “There are probably no statistics on the number of homes in this country that have been ruined by substance abusers. What is absolutely sure,” he said, “is that thousands of citizens, including some of you in the audience, are being affected either directly or indirectly by people who abuse alcohol and illegal drugs.”

He stated that most drug addicts were unable to make any contribution to their family because of their drug habit. “Unlike a drunken person,” he noted, “they may look sober, but the truth is that their lives are messed up. Some of them,” he added, “have university degrees but don’t want to work. They cannot repay money that has been loaned to them. They cannot take care of their own selves much less other people,” he told students present. He stated that he was involved in programmes that try to help these addicts but many had gone too far to come back quickly. That’s why, he told the hundreds of students present at the opening of the awareness week, it was important to say “NO” to drugs from an early age.

“Learn from these people,” he warned them, “before you end up shaming yourselves and your family.” He told them that the time was now for them to quit drugs; otherwise it would not be too long before they become a liability to society. He said that parents, teachers, peers, clergy, doctors and people from the entertainment, fashion and advertising industries have a lot of influence on teenagers and called on them to help these young people develop the skill and will to say “no”.

He told students that young people was urgently needed to help their peers say “no” to drugs and issued a call to them to set up anti-drug groups in their communities to help create a more sober and sane society and promised to assist those who took up the challenge.


One of T&T's oldest citizens appointed lifetime executive member and honourary president of CBTT

Elbert Blades, 103 years old, and Alfred Graham, 88, honoured by CBTT


December 19, 2005

One of this country’s oldest citizens was yesterday honoured by the non-governmental organisation Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT). In a brief ceremony held at Wallerfield, Cumuto, 103 year old Elbert Redvers Blades was officially appointed a lifetime executive member and honorary president of the NGO.

Head of CBTT Harrack Balramsingh presented the former trade unionist with an award in honour of his achievement. Blades, who is a member of the Republic Day Award committee, is the last surviving labour hero of the 1937 workers struggle for better wages and working conditions.

He was also the first General Secretary of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), and helped save the struggle from collapse in 1937 when Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler went into hiding to avoid arrest. Balramsingh said that the 103 year- old former trade unionist demonstrated vision and tenacity in 1937 by coming forward to provide leadership of the working class at that crucial moment.

He noted that Blades contributed significantly to the many benefits, which were now enjoyed by workers. The former history teacher said that while Butler did his part in achieving better wages and conditions for the working class, Blades must be credited for saving the day for the struggle of workers in 1937 by mobilising them throughout the oil industry in the absence of Butler.

Retired businessman Alfred Graham, 89, was also honored by CBTT at yesterday’s ceremony at Cumuto. Balramsingh pointed out that both Blades and Graham are active CBTT members in spite of their age. “They show more commitment than people much younger than they,” he said. He added: “They are exemplary citizens who have contributed significantly to CBTT and the country as a whole and for this they must be singled out for their patriotism and love for their fellow citizens.”

At the ceremony, both expressed their unwavering support for CBTT and promised to continue to serve the group and their country. Blades is the recipient of a Humming Bird Silver Medal. Balramsingh stated: “Like Blades and Graham, many of us can live long and healthy lives if we take proper care of ourselves and demonstrate true love for others.

Yesterday, Blades spoke about his struggle for equal rights for Blacks. He stated that at one time, black people, especially people of African and Indian origins were not hired by banks and even by our own British West Indian Airways (BWIA). He pointed out that over six decades ago, he wanted to pursue aviation studies, but was prohibited from doing so because he was black. Blades said that black people had come a long way from those years. He expressed delight at having worked alongside Butler, Cipriani and Reinzi to help the working class live a better quality of life.

In his closing remark, Balramsingh thanked Blades and Graham for helping to make Trinidad and Tobago a better place for many of us and he advised fellow citizens to sacrifice some of their time to help uplift the lives of other people.

Photos 1 : Little Zaria Blades, great granddaughter of Elbert Blades congratulaing Alfred Graham
Photo 2: From Left are Margaret Springer who is Blades daughter, Elbert Blades, Alfred Graham and Blades daughter-in-Law Lorna Jackson Blades
Photo 3: From Left: CBTT chairman Harrack Balramsingh, Elbert Blades and Alfred Graham


CBTT Chairman honoured by the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation


October 18, 2005
Chairman of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh was honoured by the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation for his community and social work spanning more than 30 years. The civic reception and award ceremony took place at the Gulf City Auditorium on Friday October 7, 2005.

For the past eight years, he has also served as president of the Board of Education of the La Romain Integrated Education Project (IEP) where in 1998 he helped initiate the first ever annual Alcohol, Drug and AIDS Awareness Week among schools in Trinidad and Tobago.

He was a high school teacher in Trinidad for 24 years and in 1995 was appointed by Cabinet as a member of the National Curriculum Council (NCC). In 2000, he was presented with the Commonwealth Regional Youth Service Award for contribution to the development of society.


Governments must share the blame for the high crime rate in Trinidad and Tobago


October 16, 2005
"While we cannot blame government for all the murders and other crimes in Trinidad and Tobago, past and present governments must share the blame because of their failure to act decisively in implementing measures to protect citizens from criminals."

This statement was made by chairman of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) Harrack Balramsingh at a preparatory meeting of key stakeholders on victims’ rights and welfare. The meeting, held yesterday at the Crown Plaza in Port of Spain, was organised by the University of the West Indies' Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice and chaired by Professor Ramesh Deosaran.

During his brief presentation. Balramsingh pointed out that the lack of vehicles to carry out more police patrols was not the fault of citizens. The same, he noted, could be said of the failure of all past and present governments to introduce cameras and other devices years ago. He added that one of the deterrents to fighting crime was the element of rogue cops in the Police Service.

He supported the statement made by National Parent Teacher President Zena Ramatali that some parents were victimised when they pointed out the wrongs in the schools which their children attended. "As a teacher for many years," he said, "I was a witness to this and to many other irregularities in the school system."

He reiterated that alcohol and illegal drug were serious problems among many students. He went on to state that alcohol abuse was also a problem among some teachers and principals. He pointed out "that certain principals had been suspended for serious offences yet few were ever charged for any offence. This was the extent to which cover-up took place in schools," he said. He also blamed past and present governments for not implementing the breathalyser even though well over 90 percent of citizens supported its implementation.

He pointed to the bitterness among poor workers in society and related one instance where security guards at a prestige school were paid $70 for a 12-hour shift. He revealed that over the past he reported this matter on behalf of the affected workers to all the relevant authorities including the previous labour Minister, yet no one was able to help these workers. These employees, he said, had become enraged and angry which could lead to revenge.


It takes a special kind of people to become genuine voluntary social and community workers

“It takes a special kind of people to become serious and genuine social and community workers on a voluntary basis.” Chairman of the Board of Education of the La Romain Integrated Education Project (IEP) of Servol and the Ministry of Education, Harrack Balramsingh made the statement while speaking at the IEP’s eighth Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday at Canaan Road, Bamboo Village, La Romain.

Balramsingh, who was re-elected as head of the IEP board for an eighth consecutive term, said: “The only way to recognise a true social and community worker is when he or she relentlessly pursues a better life for others without being paid for such an effort.” He added that in accepting to become part of school and community boards, citizens should be selfless and willing to work with others to bring about a positive change in young people’s lives.

Balramsingh, who is also head of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), told parents and teachers present at the AGM that almost all successful educational systems in the world were managed by competent, efficient and no-nonsense Boards of Educations.

Balramsingh noted: “Officials of the Ministry of Education have been very keen in appointing Boards of Education to all schools because they have finally realised that there should be additional stakeholders in running the nation’s schools.” He said: “Over the years, there have been numerous complaints against mismanagement in our schools. Added to this,” he said, “violence is today a major problem among students while indiscipline, unpunctuality and absenteeism even among some of our beloved teachers have become the order of the day especially in our public schools.”

“There are a few school administrators who do not support the implementation of school boards,” he said, “because they wish to continue to function without being accountable to anyone.” He added that the Ministry of Education may eventually have to give more authority to school boards to help ensure that there was greater transparency and accountability in our schools. “If not,” he said, “boards will fail and the problems in schools will escalate and then become even more difficult to solve.” He stated: “Principals who mismanage their schools and discriminate against certain staff members are the ones who oppose boards the most because they don’t want anyone to interfere with their turf.”

Other members elected to the IEP Board of Education for the 2005-2006 term were: Asraf Hosein, Vice Chairman; Sassi Arjoonsingh, Secretary; Shameen Ramroop, Assistant Secretary; Ann Joseph, Treasurer; Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran, Welfare Officer; Roy Kissoon, Public Relations Officer. John Thomas, Alfred Graham and Errol Sinanan will serve as Trustees of the board.


CBTT: Bishop Mendes was a man of distinction

Courtesy Newsday - 27/06/2005

Bishop John Mendes, 78, who died last week was seen as a man who made a sterling contribution to society, according to the non-governmental organisation, Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT).

In a press statement yesterday, the group referred to Mendes as well respected and revered, not only in La Romaine, where he served for many years, but throughout areas he served as a priest.

Head of CBTT, Harrack Balramsingh who is also the chairman of the Board of Education at the La Romaine Integrated Education Project, pointed out that the Bishop was a great supporter of the IEP’s annual Alcohol and Drug Awareness Week because he felt that substance was a major problem among the young people of the country.

Balramsingh stated that in spite of noteworthy efforts of people like the late Bishop to keep young people away from drugs and alcohol, "little is done at the moment in our schools to highlight this serious social ill which continues to affect our families in Trinidad and Tobago." He added that present and past governments knew that drunk driving was responsible for a large percentage of the death and injuries on our roadways, "yet for some unknown reason they have not seen it fit to implement the breathalyser."

Balramsingh further stated, "Students of all races and religion admired and respected Bishop Mendes for his humility. Due to the quality of life he lived, Balramsingh added, the late Bishop was able to make a difference in the lives of the many students he dealt with.

He said, "Bishop Mendes made the type of contribution, which, if we all do, will lead to a better and safer society for all of us. The late John Mendes would be remembered as a Catholic Priest who served his church, and all those who came in contact with him, with great distinction."


TT Prime Minister Patrick Manning also praises CBTT on its 10th anniversary

August 03, 2003

Prime Minister Patrick Manning has congratulated the non-governmental organisation Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) on its tenth anniversary. In praising CBTT, Mr. Manning said: "My Government fully recognises the role non-governmental organisations play in addressing many of the social ills affecting our country. In fact, the Prime Minister said: " the need to bring civil society into the decision-making process is acknowledged, not just by the government of Trinidad and Tobago, but by most leaders in the country."

Prime Minister Manning said that CBTT's untiring efforts in addressing the social issues facing Trinidad and Tobago provide a sterling example of community participation. He added: "It is also recognition that the government cannot do it alone.It is for this reason," he said, "that the government encourages the building of partnerships with with non-governmental organisations in seeking to build a better Trinidad and Tobago."


TT President Professor George Maxwell Richards pays tribute to CBTT on its 10th anniversary

August 03, 2003

His Excellency President George Maxwell Richards has paid tribute to the outstanding community service of the non-governmental organisation Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) on its tenth anniversary. CBTT was 10 years old on August 1, 2003.

The president said: "Ten years in the life of an organisation is a good landmark," adding that he was pleased that CBTT had reached its first decade of service to communities in our beloved Trinidad and Tobago. In congratulating the group's members and their families, His Excellency said very often families involved in such groups were either actively involved in the work of voluntary groups or must be patient in respect of the many hours spent away from home by members who respond to the call to community service.

President Richards stated: "CBTT has taken on many tasks and to its credit, provides opportunities for the growth of volunteerism in the society. This," he added, "is a most encouraging aspect of life in this nation that needs to be more widely known."

"Often," he said, "the stories that make the headlines are true in their negative details and truth must not be denied." However he noted: "There is another truth that must be published far and wide." He said: "It is the truth of the selfless giving that is taking place on a daily basis all over this country; and CBTT," he added, " is participating in this work of mercy towards the less fortunate among us, on a voluntary basis."

The President noted particularly that while CBTT assisted in food, clothing and shelter, it was mindful of the need to encourage self-help and assist in employment as well. He said that this aspect of CBTT's service was bound to have a positive effect, especially on young people who must never be encouraged to depend on the charity of others as a way of life.

He said he hoped that the group would continue to have the cooperation of parents in every community in th war against substance abuse in which CBTT, he added, was engaged in. He encouraged the NGO saying: "Regretably, you cannot look forward to a swift operation. He stated that the battles would be prolonged but he hoped the citizens group would be equal to the task through perseverance.

President Richards said: "We can build no strong society when our young men and women are lost to the dehumanizing influences of drugs" He added: "We cannot build a nation on fixes and Halluncinations. It therefore behoves all of us to snatch back our youth who are being decieved by predators so that they may participate in building their own lives and contribute to the upward mobility of our people as our country consolidates its place among the nations of the world.

"This," he said, "is not an impossible task though it is a difficult one. He noted that CBTT had made room for an annual month of prayer and went on to state that he was sure the group was well aware of the truth of the dictum, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams off."


Help sexually-abused children says CBTT

By RADHICA SOOKRAJ

Courtesy The Trinidad Guardian

March 10, 2003

Society must protect sexually-abused children or face increased suicide, AIDS, crime and drug abuse.

So said the president of the group Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, in his International Women’s Day message.

Balramsingh noted that sex abuse of children is rampant locally, with 612 cases having been investigated by the police in the year 2000 alone.

He explained: “The numbers of such cases are more since many of these criminal acts go unreported.”

He said CBTT, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has dealt with numerous incest cases.

“On many occasions, incest victims have lodged complaints to CBTT’s volunteers but they, along with their relatives, are hesitant to take the matter to the police, because of the shame and scandal it will cause the family,” Balramsingh said.

He called on fathers to protect their young defenceless daughters, saying: “Those who sexually molest their own daughters are criminals of the highest order.”

The CBTT president said the long-term effects of sexual abuse include fear, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, inappropriate sexual behaviour, poor self-esteem, tendency toward substance abuse and difficulty in close relationships.

He warned that if sexual- abuse is not checked or eradicated, society will have greater problems with increased crime, drug abuse, suicide and promiscuity.

Balramsingh noted that adolescent with a history of sexual abuse were more likely to engage in sexual behaviour and put themselves at risk for HIV infection.


Ban alcohol sales at all-inclusive fetes in schools

February 28, 2003

“Ban alcohol sales at all-inclusive fetes in schools.” Harrack Balramsingh, head of the non-governmental organization Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) made the statement on last night while speaking at an alcohol awareness programme organised by the Association of Psychiatrists of Trinidad and Tobago (APTT) held at the Botticelli’s Restaurant, Grand Bazaar, Valsayn.

He lamented the increase of these all-inclusive fetes at many of the nation’s schools including some of our prestige schools where, he said: “alcohol is sold to students and even to minors.”

He noted: “Many parents and teachers condone such fetes and see nothing wrong with the wining, jamming and drinking that takes place at these all-inclusive fetes.”

He told the audience, which included mainly medical students and doctors, that some school administrators were hesitant to support regular alcohol and drug awareness programmes in their schools because they themselves needed help to deal with problems related to substance abuse.

He said: “For years now, principals have permitted the sale of alcohol at their school functions and they are now wondering why there are so much violence in our schools and society.”


CBTT calls for UWI bar removal

December 27, 2002

Courtesy The Trinidad Express Newspaper

HARRACK BALRAMSINGH, president of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), has called for the removal of the Infinity Bar from the campus of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine (UWI).

Balramsingh’s call came in a statement on the death of renowned psychiatrist of Dr Michael Beaubrun, who did extensive research on the effects of and prevention of alcoholism.

Balramsingh said: “As a mark of respect for Professor Beaubrun, UWI should remove the Infinity Bar from the school compound because our highest educational institute needs to set an example for our youth. The late Professor was not in support of alcohol being sold at UWI during class hours nor did he believe that it was appropriate to have a bar on the compound of the school. Let’s heed the late Professor’s advice if we wish to have fewer crimes and broken homes.”

Balramsingh also called on the government “to do all in its power to implement the breathalyser test in tribute to Beaubrun’s outstanding work in the prevention of substance abuse.”

Balramsingh continued: “The Professor’s work must not go to waste. It is a pity that his struggle to get the breathalyser passed in parliament did not materialise while he was alive. However, it would still be a great honour to Professor Beaubrun if the breathalyser were passed. It would prevent much of the carnage on the nation's roadways.”

Last September Dr Beaubrun received the 2002 Republic Day Award from the CBTT for his contribution to national development in the alleviation of alcohol and illegal drug addiction.

He died last week after suffering a heart attack.

Balramsingh yesterday blamed alcohol abuse and the illegal drug trade for many of the crimes in the country.

He elaborated: “The illegal drug trade is growing rapidly in spite of the many police arrests of people caught with large quantities of narcotics. “But there are still too many selling cocaine and other hard drugs to our young people and getting away with it. “People believe their lives are in danger if they report drug lords and traders especially since these dangerous people may be protected by some police officers."

Agreeing with Prime Minister Patrick Manning that the full force of the law should be applied to protect citizens, Balramsingh noted that his organisation was willing to assist in any way possible to decrease crime in Trinidad and Tobago.


New book on East Indian immigrants by Rosabelle Seesaran gets high ratings from CBTT and the University of the West Indies

December 6, 2002

A new book entitled From Caste to Class was launched on December 5, 2002 at the St. Augustine Campus Library of the University of the West Indies. The book written by former school principal Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran, examines the process by which a middle class emerged among the Indian immigrants in Trinidad.

In her feature address, Vice Principal of UWI, Professor Bridget Brereton described Dr. Seesaran’s book as one of high quality. Stating that she has great admiration for the author, Professor Brereton revealed that Dr. Seesaran’s doctorial thesis was the first she had successfully supervised.

She said: “Unlike so many books which are published now-a-days, especially with the techniques of desk-top publishing, this work is the fruit of many years of painstaking research, careful analysis and several revisions.” Professor Brereton believes the book makes significant contribution to new knowledge about the history of the Indo-Trinidadian community as well as to the historiography of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. Professor Bridget Brereton and Dr. Brinsley Samaroo described From Caste to Class as an original contribution to knowledge.

Dr. Samaroo said Dr. Seesaran’s work represented years of diligent work, persistence and application in a programme of research. In congratulating the author, he stated that she could praise herself for having made an original contribution to knowledge.

Harrack Balramsingh, president of the non-governmental organisation Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), as well as chairman of the La Romaine Integrated Education Project IEP) of Servol and the Ministry of Education, told the audience present at the launching that From Caste to Class “is a journey into the background of East Indians, highlighting their accomplishments, as well as an inspiration to the younger generation to preserve some of what they have.”

He said Dr. Seesaran always wanted to know more about our people, how they settled and advanced in society. He added: “She has always said that she enjoyed writing From Caste to Class because it gave her the opportunity to delve into another world.” He stated: Dr Seesaran’s achievement “is an example of the great strides made by Indo-Trinidadian women.”

Balramsingh noted: “The book is a scholarly report and should be read by every student of history. He commended the author and other women who attained a high level of academic excellence at a time when higher education in this country was offered to few women. The CBTT head referred to Dr. Seesaran as a genuine role model for young girls and an outstanding voluntary worker in her community.

The entry of Indo-Trinidadians into the civil service and teaching, the professions, social and civic organizations, and political life is carefully documented. Dr. Seesaran also discusses the consequences for Trinidad of the rise of a “Presbyterian elite” and, more generally of an upper and middle stratum.

Other speakers at the launching included Justice Anthony Lucky, who chaired proceedings, Rev. Harold Sitahal, Rev. Bruce Kramer, Rawlins Rampersad, Andrew Lucky, Dr. Glenroy Taitt, Jerome Teelucksingh and Jacqulin Seupaul. CBTT's soloist Cindy Balramsingh rendered a special song entitled “Go Light Your World”.

The author holds a BA honors Degree in History from Mc Gill’s University as well as an MA and PhD in History, Diploma in Education and Diploma in Social Studies from UWI, St. Augustine and a Diploma in Theology at Caracas.


International Men’s Day observed for the 4th consecutive year in TT

November 20, 2002

International Men’s Day was celebrated for the fourth consecutive year on November 19, 2002 in Trinidad and Tobago where the observance originated in 1999. An official function was held at the Young Men Christian Association (YMCA), Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.

The International Men's Day Committee is hopeful that the United Nations would soon recognise the day because of its obvious importance to men around the world.

Speaking at this year’s men’s observance was Rakib Buckridan, a renowned psychologist; Harrack Balramsingh, social activist and IMD coordinator; Sam Lewis, director of the South Regional Mediation Centres; Luke Sinnette, co-coordinator of the Mentoring Programme at the YMCA; Jerome Teelucksingh, IMD coordinator and John Hackshaw, author and former trade unionist.

Cindy Balramsingh and Rudolph Sitahal entertained the audience in song and music. Other contributions came from representatives of Raja Yoga Centre, Jesus Christ of the latter Day Saints, the Pentecostal Church, Rebirth House, the Bahai Faith and a number of other non-governmental organizations.

Many of the social ills affecting the society including marriage, domestic violence, parenting, drug abuse and crime were discussed. The International Men’s Day Committee pleaded with religious and community leaders as well as heads of educational institutions in Trinidad and around the world to join in the observation of International Men’s Day every year on November 19.


Balramsingh honoured by Fyzabad School

Cricketer Darren Ganga advises students to remember TT watchwords

September 24, 2002

West Indies Test cricketer Darren Ganga told students they should be loyal and patriotic to their country. Ganga was at the time speaking at the 20th anniversary Republic Day Programme at Fyzabad Composite Secondary School on Monday. He advised them to remember the watchwords of the nation at all times since “these are powerful influences in moulding our character.”

School Supervisor III in the Ministry of Education, Anthony Dalrymple called on the nation’s schoolchildren to be more responsible, adding, “students should have the kind of values which they are taught in their schools and homes to ensure that as a nation we continue pressing on.”

He said: “We want less of our students involved in marijuana, smoking and gambling in our schools, so as to produce more of the kinds of values we want in our schools and nation."

Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police Peter John called on the nation’s children to conform to the rules of their teachers and the society in general if they do not wish to have a problem with crime and their character.

The Assistant Commissioner, who was representing Police Commissioner Hilton Guy at the 20th anniversary Republic Day observance of the Fyzabad Composite School, told the1200 students present that they should not bow to peer pressure but instead depend on the strength of their parents.

Nyari Ramroopsingh and Rebekah Ramkissoon won this year’s “Know Your Country” quiz and were presented with special awards for their achievement. All students of the school participated in the quiz.

CBTT president Harrack Balramsingh was honoured by the Fyzabad Composite School for initiating the observance at the institution and keeping it alive for 20 consecutive years


Abolish the shift system in schools now

Shift system still in existent after more than 30 years.

July 03, 2002

The head of a non-governmental organization has called on the government to make a serious attempt to abolish the shift system in all junior secondary schools.

President of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago Harrack Balramsingh made the call while delivering the feature address at yesterday’s graduation ceremony of the Siparia Road Kabir Panth Association (KPA) Primary School.

He said it was unfortunate that these schools continue to operate on a shift system more than 30 years after they were first introduced in the country. Balramsingh added: “ There have been repeated promises to get rid of the shift system but so far these promises have not been kept. As a result ,” he said, “ many of our young students continue to be out of their homes at odd hours of the day.” He stated: “If the Education Ministry cares about the nation’s children it will place the de-shifting of schools on its priority list.”

He chided those who look down on students who passed for junior secondary schools pointing out that many past students of these schools were contributing just as much to society as students who went to so-called prestige schools.

He commended graduates of the Siparia Road KPA Primary School who were successful in gaining entry to a five year school but told those who passed for junior secondary schools that they should feel proud of their success and not listen to those who made them feel less worthy even if they happen to be their own parents.

Some classes without teachers for an entire year

Balramsingh told the KPA graduates and their parents present that the Education Ministry should never again allow final year high school students to be without teachers in key subject areas for an entire academic year. He said: “If university graduates are not available to fill teacher vacancies then A-level graduates should be hired on a temporary basis.”

He added: “If no university graduates or individuals with A-Level passes can be found to teach Math, English and other key subjects in our secondary schools, then the education system is in real trouble. This is one of the reasons my colleagues and I have called for an inquiry into the system,” he said. He stated that CBTT officials would love to be part of such an inquiry so that they could point out the major problems affecting our education system.”

He lamented the failure of the Teaching Service Commission to openly state the reason that Form Five students cannot get either a graduate teacher or an A-Level teacher for an entire academic year.


An educator and social worker call for inquiry into the education system

June 1, 2002

“The problems in education will get worse unless drastic measures are implemented immediately by the Ministry of Education.”

Head of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) Harrack Balramsingh made the statement during his feature address to parents at the group’s parenting skills seminar held at La Romain on yesterday.

Stating that he is as qualified as anyone else to speak on educational matters in Trinidad and Tobago, Balramsingh took to task those who contributed to the growing problems in our schools adding, “many of the people involved in education, never took the necessary action when it mattered, thus causing the problems to reach unprecedented levels.”

He reiterated his call for an open inquiry into the education system, not necessarily to punish the guilty but to let the national community become more aware of how the problems were created in our schools and how they could be solved.

He said: “For years people with hidden agendas have been covering up the problems in our schools by referring to teachers and others who complain as troublemakers.”

He stated that the situation in schools would not improve unless drastic action is taken immediately to correct the many wrongs in our education system.

He warned that there would be no improvement if the people at the top of the educational ladder were not scrutinised properly. “They must also be exemplars to the students of the nation because children today are better able to identify those who are hypocrites,” he said. He added: “We can introduce as many programmes as we want for our students but no improvement will come by if we are not role models to them in our homes, schools and communities.”

He said: “We have done a disservice to our students by refusing them a voice on a national level. It is likely people are afraid that students may expose their wrongdoings and are therefore not in support of any National Student Association. In the meantime,” he pointed out, “students all over the country are crying out to be heard.”

The CBTT head said: ‘It’s a national scandal when no replacements are sent for teachers who go on three months maternity leave or when vacancies take an entire academic year to fill.” He added: “Certain school principals actually conned the Ministry of Education into opening A-level classes without additional staff. Now,” he noted, “ they are complaining of staff shortage.

“What is not being highlighted,” he said, “ is the injustice done to those CXC students whose teachers left them in preference for A-level students.” He stated: “The affected students are bitter and are not likely to forget this grave injustice done to them.”

He said: “There were more talk than action among many of the stakeholders” and called for the replacement of those unable do the job at improving our education system.

He wondered whether the Teaching Service Commission was accepting any blame for the problems in our schools or whether the Commission feels others are to be blamed. Balramsingh said: “Rules and regulations prohibiting teachers from openly criticising the education system should be removed because many people who do as they please have been protected by these archaic rules. Freedom of speech is the way to go,” he added.

He said: “Teachers are aware of the many problems in their schools but remain quiet for fear of reprisal. He noted: “Thousands of parents as well as teachers can bear witness to the fact that certain principals lack manners and communicative skills even though they have done courses to become good managers.” He said: “ Such skills originate mainly from the person’s background and not only after a few crash courses.”

Balramsingh stated: “ Some teachers feel that administrators who were poor role models as teachers, do not have the moral authority to tell them what to do. That’s why the Ministry of Education should shift these principals and vice principals to schools other than where they were teaching. At least,” he added, “ they may get some respect from those who are unaware of their performance as teachers.”

Balramsingh said he was prepared to face the consequences for his views on education because he felt someone had to come out and openly defend the system against those who tried to bring it into disrepute.

He told parents present that there were good principals as well as thousands of good teachers in the country but lamented that the bad eggs within the system sometimes overshadowed their very good work.

He said he was willing to publicly join with others in protest against those who do not have the nation’s children at heart. Balramsingh ended by telling parents that the wrongs in schools which CBTT had been pointing out in our schools for years were gradually coming out into the open and added: “CBTT will be vindicated even further when more of the ills it has been addressing come out in the open. He pointed out that volunteers of his group were not troublemakers but genuine citizens with the nation at heart. He said some who fear accountability are attempting to silence the group. It would be a sad day for the country if they were allowed to succeed, he said.

Last surviving labour hero of the 1937 workers struggle celebrates 100th birthday

April 8, 2002

The last surviving labour hero of the 1937 workers’ struggle for better wages and humane working conditions celebrated his 100th birthday on April 7, 2002.

Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) along with a few groups and trade unions joined in celebrating his birthday with a Thanksgiving Service conducted by Dean Knolly Clarke at the Holy Trinity Cathedral on April 6, 2002.

Dean Clarke, as well as former trade unionist John Hackshaw and newly appointed senator and head of the IRO Noble Khan, paid glowing tribute to the labour hero for his struggle for a better life for the working class.

CBTT was disappointed that more people from the labour movement failed to turn out at the thanksgiving service for Blades especially since the former trade unionist contributed significantly to many of the benefits enjoyed by today’s working class. However, we notice time and again that many worthwhile citizens have no honour in their own country.

While it is not an easy task to heal the present rift within the trade union movement, the occasion could have been used to bridge the fragmentation. Blades was no ordinary trade unionist and must be recognised as one of our national heroes especially since he saved the 1937 struggle from collapse when Butler went into hiding.

CBTT agrees with Dean Knolly Clarke, Noble Khan and John Hackshaw that Blades, the first general secretary of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), deserves to be given great credit for investing his God-given talent to assist the working class.

It was certainly a great moment for us to be there to celebrate the 100th birthday of this labour hero. CBTT wishes to thank all those who attended the Thanksgiving Service as well as the picnic at Wallerfield, Cumuto in appreciation for what he had done in 1937 for the working people.

Violence in schools is getting worse

February 25, 2002

“There are too many acts of violence committed by the nation’s schoolchildren and the situation is getting worse because of the delay by the Ministry of Education to implement measures to deal with the problem.”

So said the non-governmental organisation Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) which added that indiscipline and violence in schools have escalated because over the years, there has been more talk than action by the Ministry of Education.

Spoksperson for the group Harrack Balramsingh pointed out that as far back as 1989 recommendations made by a select committee to deal with indiscipline and violence in schools went unheeded. He also stated that in 2000 another committee headed by former Minister of Education Clive Pantin was appointed to look into indiscipline and violence in schools.

Balramsingh, who has taught for 23 years at the high school level, and who also heads the Servol’s La Romaine Board of Education , said that the failure of the Education Ministry to implement the recommendations of the various committees had added to the problem of violence and indiscipline in the nation’s schools.

He pointed out: “Many teachers are fearful of students especially in the junior and senior secondary schools adding that “the time has come to provide teachers with the skills to deal with violent students.”

He stated: “The days of a teacher just being trained to simply teach a subject for the sole purpose of passing examinations are over.” He said: “ Class management skills are becoming tougher in classrooms that consist of violent students, many of whom abuse alcohol and illegal drugs.”

He said: “The threat to teachers by parents who don’t want their kids to be disciplined in school is also a matter for concern,” adding that “many of these same parents have children who drink alcohol, smoke, curse, gamble and mess with illegal drugs on the school compound.

He said: “The stark reality is that we may have to introduce metal detectors in our schools sooner than later because the Ministry of Education has allowed the problem to get worse by its failure to act when it counted the most.”

He noted: “The reports forwarded to the Ministry of Education by school supervisors may not be a true reflection of the many problems in schools because they are hardly present at these institutions” He said: “Their knowledge of the problems at schools are based to a large extent on what the administrators tell them,” adding, “it is a known fact that many principals want to project a good name for their schools so they are hesitant to reveal the many wrongs which take place at their institutions.”

Balramsingh warned the Education Ministry that violence and indiscipline in the nation’s schools would get even worse than it was at the moment if it continued to select committees to make recommendations without implementing them.

Money cannot buy good behaviour for children

February 24, 2002

The head of a non-governmental organisation, has blamed the lack of role models in the home for many of the crimes committed by young people.

President of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago, Harrack Balramsingh, said: “Parents cannot be doing the best for their children if they abuse alcohol and illegal drugs, beat their spouses, use obscene language in the presence of their children or make racial comments in their homes.”

He noted: “The same can be said of parents who find more time to lime with their friends than they do with their family at home.”

He added: “Such parents are the very ones who time and again believe that they are not to be blamed for their children’s delinquent habits.” He stated: “The most effective parents, teachers and guidance officers are those who set proper examples for children under their charge.”

He went on to say: “Any parent, teacher or guidance officer who seduce their children or students should be ashamed of himself or herself because they contribute to the decadence of society.”

Balramsingh said: “Money cannot buy good behaviour for our children. But parents who practise what they preach can contribute to less delinquent young people in our society,” he added.

“Too many of us want to do our own thing and then expect our children to follow us,” he stated. He said: “ Today’s children are rejecting such adults who are really the ones to be blamed for most of the indiscipline and violence among the youth of the nation.”

Too many guns in T&T

February 23, 2002

The non-governmental organisation Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) laments the easy accessibility of guns to young people in the country. The group said: “Guns continue to be illegally shipped into the country,” and it issued a call to the authorities to “get tough on the perpetrators as well as those who assist them in this illegal activity.”

Spokesperson for the organisation, Harrack Balramsingh said: “The lives of people will always be at great risk once people are allowed to get away with illegal shipments of guns into the country.”

He added: “The police must do all in their power to seize these dangerous unlicensed weapons from young people whose sole intention is to endanger the lives of citizens.” He believes that there should be an amnesty to allow people to voluntary give up their illegal weapons to the police. He said: “Those who fail to meet the deadline should be severely punished.”

Balramsingh pointed out: “We also need to address the problem of deportees from North America since many of them have criminal records.” He said: “ Most of them are unable to get decent jobs so they participate in criminal activities in order to survive.” He revealed that many of them had problems with drugs which made them even more dangerous to society.

He called for the removal of corrupt police officers “who are involved in criminal activities or who accept bribes to protect dangerous criminals.” He added: “Once we continue to deny there is incompetence, brutality and corruption by some police officers, the safety of citizens will be threatened.”

Balramsingh said that decent cops should be permitted to perform their job of serving and protecting citizens without fear and victimisation from their corrupt colleagues. He noted that the war against corruption must continue unabated since this type of crime has been known to make people poorer and lead to even more crimes in society.

He advised parents to behave themselves in their homes because their children were looking at them for guidance and protection. He said: “As long as we beat our spouses and abuse our children, we are never going to witness a decrease in crime.”

He pointed out that there was a noticeable increase in the number of students selling drugs to their peers and added that crime among young people would escalate to unprecedented levels in Trinidad and Tobago if drastic measures were not taken immediately to remedy this grave social ill.

He added, “We must step up the fight against drug barons and drug traders since many crimes are drug related.” The group also said that any crime prevention programme must include a genuine attempt to address the problem of alcohol abuse by both adults and young people.

Men’s Day observance well attended

November 21, 2001

People of all walks of life assembled at the Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resource Centre in Couva on November 19 to celebrate the third International Men’s Day (IMD) observance hosted by the non-governmental organization Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT).

Topics discussed included the secrets to a successful marriage, how to handle the trauma of divorce, the scourge of domestic violence, self-esteem and gender equality.

The Men’s Day, which was initiated in this country in 1999, received the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). A number of organisations in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean also joined in this year’s celebrations.

Among the presenters at the Men’s Day function on November 19 were Gregory Sloane-Seale, executive member of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition on the Rights of the Child; Jacqueline Burgess a founding member of the organisation Women Working for Social Progress; Sattie Sundar, head of the Bronte Village Women’s group, Dalip Soobarsingh of Alcohol Anonymous, Pastor Kenneth Niles, Dr. Robert Mulctrie, Director of the International Institute of Self-Esteem, health, peace and anger, Dr. Rakib Buckridan, a family and marriage counselor and co-coordinators Harrack Balramsingh and Jerome Teelucksingh

Other contributions came from Arjun Teeluck Janki of the Divine Life Society of T&T, former school principal Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran, Sam Lewis of the South Regional Mediation Centres, Dr. F. Rahimi of the Bahai Faith, Cindy Balramsingh of CBTT and Helen Pounder of the Rape Crises Centre.

Representatives of the Kabir Panth, Califonia Hindu Temple, Wesleyan Holiness Church, HOPE, Church of God of Prophecy, CAFRA, Rebirth House, St. Vincent De Paul, YMCA, Emanuel Christian Church and Family in Action were also present.

Men told to improve their self-esteem

Movember 20, 2001

“Low self esteem can cause poor and dysfunctional relationships, lead to depression and can create in one’s mind a very bleak and negative outlook on life.”

So said female activist Jacqueline Burgess while speaking at the third International Men’s Day (IMD) observance hosted by Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) at the Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resource Centre, McBean, Couva on Monday.

Burgess, a founding member of the organisation Women Working for Social Progress, known also as Workingwomen, added: “once you realize you are being overcome by a negative sense of yourself, there is the possibility of improving your self-esteem.” She said it was not always easy for the affected individual to articulate what was taking place and therefore, those who were around and observing must take the responsibility of restoring that life.

She pointed out: “A variety of factors can contribute to low self-esteem, including but not limited to poor relationships with parents or siblings, being victims or perpetrators of physically, sexually or mentally abusive relationships and the experiencing of discriminatory practices in your personal or professional life.”

Burgess said that from her observance, “many young males exude high self-esteem.” However, she added, it seems during their adolescent years, they tend to go through some rough patches and their self-esteem seems to dip. This,” she added, “ may come about through cruelty of their peers or perhaps the inability to be with the in crowd, in terms of wearing ‘brands’.”

She continued: “During this period of stress and storm, life’s changes and the passages to manhood, we find that young men are faced with making important decisions. They are faced with life questions, which may have to do with the importance of education, employment, relationships and life in general.” She said: “ These questions no doubt are challenging for many, and how they are dealt with can determine the sense of self, realised. Women too,” she added, “ go through enormous pressures in adolescent, but presumably because of their socialization the manifestations are different.”

Burgess said: “From a very young age, some males are not viewed by others in a positive light, and are told of it constantly, and thus they tend to grow up with a negative sense of self. She pointed out: “Men are sometimes at the receiving end of derogatory remarks surrounding their endowments. They are required to be well endowed physically especially where it concerns their physical prowess. These expectations,” she said, “contribute to a diminishing of their sense of self.”

She continued: “Jokes about men’s inadequacies, how they look, how they smell, how short they are, are damaging to some. The vision of a tall, dark, handsome, sleek and hard man is a wish for most, but reality for few, but men are made to feel wanting if they do not fit that statuesque model of how a man should look.”

She said: Money or the lack of it, is another contributing factor to the low self-esteem.” Burgess added: “Again to be recognised as a ‘real man’ you must be able to demonstrate that you are in a position of driving a car, sometimes it could be old and half-way beaten up, but you are driving a car. Along with the wheels the man should be able to have enough money to entertain women, flash his cell phone and from all appearances look wealthy. A man who cannot appear to be so favoured is overlooked for others.”

She stated that another expression of low self-esteem was jealousy. “It is with this reaction that we find the occurrences of domestic violence, rape, incest, and economic violence being played out, which could also result in murder.” She pointed out: “A hurting ego seeks revenge and the revenge manifests itself in many ways, including self-destruction – suicide.”

Burgess told men that to improve their self-esteem they should believe in themselves, plan and set attainable goals, let go of the past hurt and forgive others, and exercise and look good.

Jerome Teelucksingh: We should strive for gender equality

November 20, 2001

CBTT’s Jerome Teelucksingh, a postgraduate student at UWI said: “In public forums, discussion groups and conferences, attempts are being made to address and seek solutions to the problems facing males in today's society.” He expressed hope that men interested in improving themselves and reforming other males would be part of this ongoing "Men's Revolution" and annually celebrate International Men's Day.

Teelucksingh, who along with Harrack Balramsingh coordinated the IMD, added: “We should strive for gender equality and reform whilst we remove the stereotypes and the stigma usually associated with men in our society.”

Balramsingh pleaded with men to support the IMD in order to promote better relationships with women and to help their sons become more responsible adults in society. He said: There are many good men in society who are concerned about the increase of incest, rape, domestic violence and substance abuse in the home and are willing to help alleviate these serious social ills, most of which are committed by males.”

Balramsingh lamented the scarcity of male teachers in many schools, adding that “in a society where many families are headed by women, it is sad if our young men cannot see male role models in our homes and schools. No wonder we are having so many problems with our young men.” He said: “Our society does not provide enough positive male role models and pointed out that “the family, church and school have all fallen short.”

Also speaking at the third International Men's Day observance at the Capildeo Learning Resource Centre, McBean, Couva yesterday were Sattie Sundar, head of the Bronte Village Women’s group; Dalip Singh of Alcohol Anonymous: Mr. Gregory Sloane-Seale of the YMCA; Ms. Jacquie Burgess of Caribbean Association For Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA); Pastor and columnist Kenneth Niles, Dr. Robert Mulctrie, Director of the International Institute of Self-Esteem, health, peace and anger, and Dr. Rakib Buckridan, a family and marriage counsellor.

Gregory Sloane-Seale: Many males taught to solve problems through violence

November 20, 2001

The executive member of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition on the Rights of the Child, Gregory Sloane-Seale said: “Many of our young males are taught to solve problems through violence.”

Sloane- Seale, who was speaking on Monday at the third International Men’s Day (IMD) observance sponsored by the non-governmental organization, Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) at the Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resource Centre, McBean, Couva, pointed out that there was too much male directed and male perpetuated violence in the media especially on television, adding, “this is what we grow up experiencing.”

He said: “Not only are men suppressing their emotions, they are also being socialised to be violent.” He told the Men’s Day audience: “When today’s students get into a disagreement, they solve it with violence instead of discourse.”

He described our education system as very authoritative and controlling. He said: “A lot of what we do is what we are told, so many of us are not raised to really engage in expression or communication.” He added that as children and adolescents coming up, we should be equipped with the tools to communicate in order to deal with conflicts in a non-aggressive manner.

He stated that many males became violent because they had not been socialised with proper coping skills and had not developed coping mechanisms to deal with relationships in general.

“And when we get into a relationship in a close confines like a marriage, we get a lot of the ugliness coming out, “ he said. “It’s safe to say when it comes out, it is usually the manifestation of great pain and hurt pent up in that individual.” he added.

Sloane-Seale said, “ When a man acts out with rage and anger, people tend to think that he is a beast and has no feeling and emotion, but in reality,” he added, “ that man sort of gets a double dose in a lot of ways in the sense that he is abusing someone he is fond of and loves and that he has chosen to be with.”

Domestic Violence has to do with control and authority. He pointed out: “Through the education system and through a lot of our religious doctrines and upbringing, we get into a sort of male dominance and find all sorts of demeaning quotes in scriptures towards women.”

He urged men to form support groups in their communities and be a light and an example to other men. Stating that Trinidadian males don’t get enough positive role modeling and support. Sloane –Seale also called on men to “ take up the mantle among friends and liming partners and begin igniting some positive thoughts regarding who they are as individuals and human beings and where they will like to be and how they will like to grow.”

Soobarsingh: Men losing dominance in the home because of excessive drinking

November 20, 2001

“Recreational drinking and drug usage is very common place because people are looking for happiness and other pleasures in the bottle.”

The statement was made by Dalip Soobarsingh, a member of Alcohol Anonymous (AA) while speaking at the third International Men’s Day (IMD) observance hosted by Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) at the Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resource Centre, McBean, Couva on yesterday.

He pointed out that many men were losing their dominance in the homes because of excessive drinking. He warned: “Many men have become vagrants and derelicts because of drinking,” and pleaded with members of the audience to refer anyone with a drinking problem to AA. He advised parents against keeping alcohol and drugs in the home and told them: “If you must keep it in the house, then keep it under lock and key.” Treat it like a firearm, he said.

Soobarsingh added that alcoholics had lost their search for God and called on the national community to come to their assistance before they completely destroyed themselves and their families. He said he was not embarrassed to state that he drank for 29 years and during those years he spent more of his grocery money on rum and beer.

He pointed out that we were not supposed to sell alcohol and cigarettes to children under 18 and advised that we should not introduce machines that sell cigarettes because “machines don’t know who they sell cigarettes too.” He said many people in the USA and Canada were lobbying for these dangerous machines to be removed.

Head of Bronte Village Women's Group condemns acts of violence against Women

November 20, 2001

Head of the Bronte Village Women’s Group, Satie Sundar said the widespread violence against women around the world is as a result of the high degree of official and social tolerance of abuse against women. She was at the time speaking at the third International Men Day observance hosted by Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) at the Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resource Centre, McBean, Couva yesterday.

She added: “This tolerance of violence against women, constitutes a major social problem which has been largely ignored as a human rights issue.” Mrs. Sundar said: “Not only are women denied equality but also personal dignity as a result of physical and mental abuse.”

She said her group supported CBTT’s initiative in having a special Men’s Day which citizens of all races and religion can attend because “women are crying out for good and honest men who will treat them with dignity and respect.” She promised that the Bronte Village Women’s Group would work closely with CBTT to organise programmes for both men and women especially in the rural areas.

She stated: “Women are generally depicted more as housekeepers and sexual partners rather than prominent executives, doctors and lawyers who make a great contribution to society.”

She said: “ Women feel they are in a secondary position in society and they learn as they are growing up to value themselves in relation to their male partners or the men they work with.”

UNESCO comes out in Support of International Men's Day

November 20, 2001

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has come out in support of International Men’s Day (IMD) which started in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999.

Speaking on behalf of UNESCO, Ms. Ingeborg BREINES, Director of Women and Culture of Peace, said: “This is an excellent idea and would give some gender balance.” She added that her organisation was looking forward to cooperating with the organisers of the IMD.

The objectives of celebrating an International Men's Day include improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, producing responsible males and highlighting positive male role models.”

Editor against recruitment of Caribbean teachers

October 14, 2001

The managing editor of the Caribbean Camera Newspaper in Canada said he had no problem with New York City recruiting teachers in developed countries such as Canada because they had the resources to ensure there would be no shortage of teachers or any extensive brain drain.

However, Raynier Maharaj added, “It worries me when they're coming down to the Caribbean to take away teachers from countries which have limited resources to continue training them.”

Maharaj said, “What is really interesting in all this is that the USA is always reluctant to accept the educational qualifications of Caribbean people in whatever field, forcing most to go back to school to ‘meet US standards’, yet they're after our teachers.”

“In other words,” he pointed out, “ they recognise that the quality of our education is high, yet they give graduates from the Caribbean who are seeking access to university or the work force in the USA a hard time.”

In a statement to CBTT, the Caribbean Camera editor revealed that New York actually sent a recruiting team to Toronto as well, in an effort to get teachers from there.

Fyzabad Composite School celebrates Republic Day

September 25, 2001

“The principal, staff and students of the Fyzabad Composite School have demonstrated to the nation their commitment to nation building by observing the country’s status as a Republic even though Republic Day is no longer a public holiday.”

So said the president of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh as he addressed students and teachers at the school’s 19th annual Republic Day Programme on Monday (Republic Day).

The programme was dedicated to the country 25th anniversary as a Republic and also the school’s silver anniversary. Balramsingh said, “What Fyzabad Composite School and other schools that celebrate Republic Day have shown is that it is possible to observe important occasions without the need for public holidays.”

He added, “Those who say that the country’s Republican status is not important are ignorant of the country’s history.” He publicly praise the present principal, Vera Nibbs, and all other principals and teachers of the school over the past two-and-a-half- decades, for making the school one of the best public educational institutions in the country.

Balramsingh, who initiated the Republic Day Programme at the school in 1983, pleaded with the more than 1000 students present to help make their school an exemplary institution.

Former Trade Unionist launches new book

September 25, 2001

Author and former trade unionist John Hackshaw was commended by the leader of a non-governmental organisation for seeking to promote unity among the races in Trinidad and Tobago in his new book, The History of the Nationalist Struggle for Democracy and national Independence.

Head of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago, Harrack Balramsingh, who was speaking at the official launching of Mr. Hackshaw’s latest book, at the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union Hall on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain yesterday (Republic Day), agreed with the 80-year-old author that “those who seek to divide us on the basis of creed and race are finding it more difficult.”

Balramsingh said, “In Trinidad and Tobago, it’s always sad when racial issues start to crop up, not that we must not face them.” He added, “The real racial problems lie with the older generation and not with the young ones.” He supported Hackshaw’s view that the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) was a unique group which “seeks to promote inter-religious harmony, solidarity and unity of purpose.”

He said, “ Citizens should react strongly against politicians and others who attempt to divide our people along racial lines to suit their own ends.” However, he advised them that if they wanted to protest against this sin they must not use violence.

Balramsingh stated, “ Racial equality in Trinidad and Tobago is possible despite all our setbacks. In order to achieve this racial equality,” he said, “ people must first get rid of selfishness and look at each other as a brother or sister.”

Among those present at the launching of the book were Dr. Karl Theodore of the University of the West Indies; Terrence Regis, Chairman of Workers Forum for Progressive Trade Unionism; Augustus Thomas and Douglas Williams of the League of Concerned Citizens; Francis Mungroo, President General of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union; Arjun Teeluck of the Janki Jyoti Ashram; Kingsley Andrews who chaired proceedings; Canon Knolly Clarke of the Anglican Church; former head of the PSA James Manswell; former school principal Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran and Professor Hugh Sampath who resides in Canada.

Apart from being a former trade unionist, the author, John Hackshaw, was General Manager of the New York Office of the T&T Tourist Board. He also worked in the Diplomatic Service as Labour Attache in Canada.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

PM asked to help Trini convict denied parole in Canada

Carlton F. Rojas
Mr. Carlton Felix Rojas
By Darryl Dean
Courtesy the Trinidad Guardian - August 12, 2001

KINGSTON, Ontario - "I am innocent of the crime," Trinidad-born Carlton Felix Rojas keeps saying, as he talks about his conviction 17 years ago for the murder of a striptease dancer who sold drugs.

Rojas was sentenced in a Canadian court to life (15 years) imprisonment for killing Layla Underwood, 27, of Burnaby, British Columbia, and became eligible for full parole in July 1998.

The case was brought to the attention of the organisation Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) through Rojas' immigration consultant Jessie Hardman. CBTT, which since has written to Prime Minister Basdeo Panday to intervene, after having brought the case to the attention of T&T High Commissioner to Canada, Robert Sabga.

In an exclusive interview at the Kingston Penitentiary, where some of Canada's most notorious criminals are locked-up, Rojas said he was at a loss to understand why he is still kept behind bars.

Sitting in a tent-like, make-shift "interview room" near his cell, the 49-year-old prisoner looked like a basketball player (he's six feet, seven inches tall) no longer fit enough for the game. "I should have been out of jail a long time ago," he said, wiping perspiration from his face and chest with his hand as he tried to cope with the oppressive summer heat.

Rojas, who grew up in Santa Cruz and came to Canada when he was 16 years old, had been ordered deported in 1985. He would like to return to Trinidad to "make a fresh start in life". "I am a machinist, and once I get to Trinidad, I can do something constructive. And my wife is prepared to go to Trinidad with me," he added. Rojas also would like to clear his name. "I did not kill Layla Underwood," he said.

He has been saying the same thing to prison authorities; members of the Parole Board; Joanita, his Dutch-born wife; and Jessie Hardman, his immigration consultant, who was present in the "tent" during the interview. But Rojas believes his declaration of innocence may be "one of the reasons" he has not yet been "let out of jail". "Yes, I do have feelings for what happened that day in the woman's apartment, but I did not commit the crime and so I do not have the remorse they (members of the parole board) expect me to have before they think about releasing me."

He begged the question: "How can someone show remorse for a crime he did not commit?" At his trial in the British Columbia Supreme Court in 1984, Ingrid Jennifer Smith, then 22, a cosmetician who had been living with him in Vancouver, said on the morning of March 17, 1983, she was in bed when he left their apartment.

Smith said Rojas returned later that morning with bloodstains on his jeans and told her that he had killed Underwood while robbing her, and he showed her some jewelry.

But Rojas said it was Smith who killed the woman in a jealous rage. He testified Smith was with him in his car when he drove to Underwood's apartment to buy marijuana.

Rojas said Smith had been waiting in the car, but after he had been in Underwood's apartment for about 20 minutes to half an hour, she (Smith) came to the apartment and noticed Underwood was scantily clad. Rojas said Underwood was wearing a short T-shirt and "everything was showing".

He said he went to the bathroom and, when he came out, he saw Smith on top of Underwood with her (Smith's) knees on Underwood's back, sawing at her neck with a knife.

Rojas also testified Smith stabbed the woman in the back and on the leg. Smith, who denied killing the woman, admitted in court she cut the blood-stained legs from the pants Rojas had been wearing, washed blood from some jewelry and a knife, and drove with him to a remote mountain area in British Columbia where he buried the jewelry.

She also testified Rojas threw the knife and the legs cut from the pants into a wooded area. Smith said she did not report the matter to the police because she was afraid and she continued to live with Rojas until July 22, 1983, when they both were arrested.

Smith was not charged in connection with the murder, but became the key witness for the prosecution at Rojas' trial. In the interview at the jail, Rojas said proving his innocence "could be expensive and could take a lot of time. "So far, I have not had the kind of legal help I would need to clear my name," he said.

Meanwhile, he remains "in segregation" 23 hours a day in a small cell - eight feet long by five feet wide - where he spends most of his waking hours contemplating his fate and watching television. (Once every six to eight weeks, Rojas and his wife are allowed 72-hour "conjugal visits" in a trailer within the prison). He said back in his cell his sleep often is disturbed by prisoners who "scream and shout.

Rojas was happy to learn CBTT has taken an interest in his case. "Whatever help CBTT can offer would be appreciated."

More than 'hard rock' music behind suicide

Printed in Newsday July 19, 2001

THE EDITOR: I do not believe that hard rock music alone contributed to the recent suicide of the Iere High School student. An unstable environment or broken home can also lead to abnormal behaviour by a young person.

Not every child can cope with a home in which parents are having serious problems of their own. Unstable parents are likely to produce unstable children, so it's important that parents seek professional help if they are unable to cope with the rigours of life.

Alcohol and illegal drugs have also contributed to many suicides among young people, especially those who drink when they have problems at home or school; so we need to encourage our children from an early age to remain drug free.

I agree with the Iere High School principal that there are unscrupulous producers of music who exploit the market among young people. The same can be said of movies and drugs. There are rock songs with decent lyrics, but I wish to warn parents that many of the lyrics attached to hard rock music may have a negative effect on their children. I am not trying to force my values on others but I will be very concerned if my children's favourite music is hard rock music.

Members of one of the most popular hard rock groups in history-Slayer-considered themselves as "Warriors from the gates of hell." Their records sold in the millions and song after song they sang praises to Satan. The fact is that parents need to monitor the type of lyrics their children listen to from a very young age just as they must do in the case of alcohol and illegal drug use.

I advise young people to refrain from listening to the damaging lyrics of dub, rap, hard rock music, or other types of music that preach about suicide, drugs and Satan. Be warned that there are many deviants-many of them superstars-whose satanic lyrics lead young people to the path of destruction.

A Jamaican artiste was actually arrested recently for using obscene language while performing on stage. However, there are many people who believe that freedom of expression gives artistes the right to use obscene language and satanic lyrics in songs. No wonder our society continues to decay.

Music is not usually a danger for a teenager whose life is happy and healthy. But if a teenager is persistently preoccupied with music that has seriously destructive themes, and there are changes in behaviour such as isolation, depression, alcohol or other drug abuse, he must receive help immediately.

HARRACK BALRAMSINGH
La Romaine

CBTT calls for drug testing in high schools

July 18, 2001

The social and community organization, Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) has called on the Ministry of Education to introduce drug testing in the nation’s high schools.

While there are bound to be some objections to drug testing in our schools, the time has come to introduce it because drug abuse among students has escalated to an unprecedented level. Drug testing would help remedy the serious drug abuse problem that exists in our schools.

Drug testing may not be the complete cure for our student’s drug abuse problems in Trinidad and Tobago but it will certainly be one of the single best solutions currently at our disposal.

Dr. Seesaran chastises teachers who hardly teach during the day

July 09, 2001

A retired secondary school principal has criticised some Presbyterian primary school teachers, especially those in the Secondary Education Assessment (SEA) classes for operating as if they are in secular schools.

Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran, who is also a prominent member of the group, Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) and the Presbyterian Church, chastised those teachers who “hardly teach during the day, but have huge evening classes where a fee is charged.”

Dr. Seesaran, who was delivering the keynote address on Friday at the Graduation Ceremony of the St. Andrew’s Theological College in San Fernando, stated, “To add insult to injury, many teachers take the full amount of sick and casual leave allotted to them.”

She lamented those who use the church for personal gain, saying, “A young person hoping to become a teacher, attends church regularly, helps in one or more of the church’s groups, and then according to his/her priority rating gets a teaching job.” However, she added that after they graduated from Training College, “it’s goodbye to the church.”

Dr. Seesaran pointed out that “some Presbyterians come to church for jobs but go to the Pentecostal and other evangelical churches for spiritual refreshments.”

She told the congregation to “pray with the family as much as possible because when we live prayerfully, God’s love transform our lives and we cease to be selfish.” She said, “We then want to share that love with members of our family, workplace, community and church.”

She spoke out against arrogance in the church saying to the graduates, “Never for one moment feel proud and exalted above the other members of the congregation since there is no place for selfish pride in God’s work.” She added, “Satan’s downfall was attributed to his pride,” and pointed out that in the Presbyterian church, some had fallen because they lacked humility and failed to recognise that they were servants of the church.

She told the graduates that they were being sent out “as lambs in the midst of wolves” and warned them that they and their family would be under close scrutiny from the Local and Official Church Boards as well as the congregation.

Dr. Seesaran said the pulpit should not be used as a soapbox or for airing opinions or censuring the congregation. She added, “The latter is highly distasteful and will discourage the fainthearted.” She advised the graduates to live what they preached since failure to do so had led to the downfall of many talented persons in the Ministry.

She said the church should not appoint lovers of alcohol to any of its boards.

Graduates of Claxton Bay Union Presbyterian Primary School told to resist temptation

July 1, 2001

Graduating students of Union Presbyterian Primary School in Claxton Bay have been told to resist the temptation of their fellow students who encourage them to drink alcohol, smoke, gamble or try illegal drugs.

The advice came from head of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh who was at the time delivering the feature address at the school’s graduation exercise on Thursday. He also told the students to leave obscene language out of their vocabulary since it was against the law.

A major part of Balramsingh’s address was spent in trying to convince student to bluntly refuse to experiment with illegal drugs since, he said, many youths out there were hell-bent in pressuring their peers to become involved in illegal substances.

He pointed out to the parents present that if they “set a good example, talk openly about the dangers of illegal drugs and alcohol, and live and teach a drug-free lifestyle they are more likely to raise children who don't become statistics.”

'Satanist' Music dangerous - CBTT

Courtesy the Sunday Guardian - July 1, 2001

PRESIDENT of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, has advised youths to stay away from hard rock music, as it was “dangerous and satanic”.

At a graduation exercise at Union Claxton Bay Presbyterian Primary School on Thursday, Balramsingh said children should not allow anyone to encourage them to listen to heavy metal, hard rock.

“Most rock superstars are deviants whose lyrics lead young people to the path of destruction, Balramsingh said. The CBTT head noted, “Music is not usually a danger for a teenager whose life is healthy and happy. "But if a teenager is persistently preoccupied with music that has seriously destructive themes and there are changes in behavior such as isolation, depression and misuse of alcohol, he will need to see a psychiatrist immediately,” Balramsingh said.

Recently, principal of Iere High School, Irving Hosainie, also expressed similar sentiments after a pupil of the school committed suicide.

But Minister of Education Kamla Persad- Bissessar, in an interview with the media in San Fernando, said it seemed unlikely, in her view, that rock music may have been the cause of the suicide. “It may well be some emotional reaction that the child had. The causes may be many,” Persad-Bissessar said. She stated that parents, educators and teachers should be sensitized as to what are the signs of suicides and how it could be avoided. (RS)

SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY SCHOOL BOARDS IN T&T

June 13, 2001

The head of the non-governmental organization Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) has supported the establisment of community school boards to help run the nation’s schools.

Speaking at the third Annual General Meeting of the Integrated Education Project (IEP) of Servol and the Ministry of Education at 2 Canaan Road, Bamboo Village, La Romain today, Harrack Balramsingh recommended that the Ministry of Education select people with integrity and honesty on community school boards in order to enhance the quality of education in the country.

Balramsingh, who was re-elected at the AGM as Chairman of Servol’s IEP Board of Education for the fourth consecutive term, predicted that “community boards of education will fail if they are used as window dressing and not given specific duties to ensure accountability of school funds, fair treatment of staff members and adequate staffing.”

He said, “The community school boards should also be part of the decision making process to deal with indiscipline and violence in the nation’s schools.”

He added, “While there are bound to be objections from principals and teachers who want to continue to do their own thing, the Ministry of Education has a duty to appoint community boards to deal with serious problems affecting our schools.”

He said, “School supervisors have done little to improve the situation at their schools, and predicted that community boards will be much more effective.”

During his contribution, he took time out to pay special tribute to Servol’s Fr. Gerry Pantin and Sr. Ruth Montrichard, whom he described as “ two of Trinidad and Tobago’s greatest citizens ever.” He said, “Both have brought hope to thousands of disadvantaged young people, adding, “This country would have been poorer were it not for these two honourable people.”

Suspended high school students to benefit from Servol's ADP

Continuing his address at the AGM, Balramsingh lauded the Education Ministry’s decision to send suspended secondary school students to Servol’s Adolescent Development Programme( ADP). He said, “ADP instructors will do a very commendable job in helping to improve the behaviour of these children” and assured instructors that he and members of his IEP board stood ready and willing to assist them at all times. He believes the Ministry of Education would provide the necessary funds for the programme’s extension.

He pointed out, “The most effective adults in a school environment or in a community are those who live by example,” adding, “ All the teacher training, management and human relations courses mean nothing if we are not exemplars to our children at home, school or in our community.” Balramsingh said, “It is no secret that most of the indiscipline and violence among students are as a result of parents and to lesser extent teachers, who have failed their children by their poor example.”

He stated that ADP instructors across the country were well trained to handle the suspended secondary school students. “They are exemplars and committed persons who have a positive effect on the lives of young people. That’s why they are able to reach out to most of the troubled students in the classroom.”

According to Balramsingh: "The ADP helps the youth to understand who they are, and are waned away from drugs and crime. They are also trained in parenting skills," he said. He added, "Many students who created disciplinary problems in the junior and senior secondary schools, subsequently entered Servol's ADP and became role models to other young people."

CBTT to assist T&T deportees

By Carol Matroo
Trinidad Guardian
May 28, 2001

Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), a non-profit group, has vowed to continue assisting Trinidadian deportees to find a way back into society. The group has been counselling and providing support to deportees and is appealing to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to assist these persons who may become homeless and dangerous to society.

The CBTT, whose latest case involved a 38-year-old woman deported after serving over three years in a California prison for child endangerment, in a statement yesterday said it would continue to look seriously at persons incarcerated in the United States and Canada.

President of CBTT, Harrack Balramsingh said: "Too many US and Canadian-based Trinidadians get themselves in trouble because they take the authorities there for granted. They are jailed for offences they will normally get away with in Trinidad.

Balramsingh added that while parents send their indisciplined or delinquent children to North America believing they may change, due to the many negative influences there, a lot of them continue to abuse alcohol, illegal drugs and engage in anti-social behaviour. He said this inevitably leads to their downfall.

He added: We look for scapegoats instead of blaming ourselves for contributing to much of the crime and delinquency among our citizens."

CBTT President wants Arrival Day for all other races in T&T

By Nalinee Seelal
Newsday
May 28, 2001

PRESIDENT of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) Harrack Balramsingh told a large audience at Indian Arrival Day celebrations at Bronte Village on Saturday, that “East Indians are not the only people who arrived in this country.”

Balramsingh said, “Other races also arrived in Trinidad and Tobago and, like Indo-Trinidadians, have contributed significantly to the development of the country.” He further stated “there should be an arrival day for all other races in the country.

“We have not truly arrived if we are perpetrators of domestic violence, rape, and incest or fail to be responsible fathers and mothers to our children.”

He added that “many of our women are brutally attacked by men who profess to love and care for them, and the more we try to find solutions, the more the violence continues.” He feels a major solution to the problem is honesty and commitment in a relationship.

In a brief address, Minister of Telecommunications, Ralph Maraj, who is also the area’s Parliamentary representative, commended Indo-Trinidadians for the significant contribution to the nation in the areas of teaching, law, medicine, politics and business. He said Indians have their aspirations and hopes for the future and also the determination, dedication and commitment to work for their future.

CBTT calls for zero tolerance for errant cops

Courtesy Newsday,
May 22, 2001

Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) are requesting that Police Commissioner, ensures that criminal activity by police officers are no longer covered up and have said they believe that his recent interventions in criminal charges against police officers are long overdue.

Head of CBTT, Harrack Balramsingh stated that “police officers who consume alcohol while on duty should be disciplined. You cannot have a drunk cop carrying a gun.” He believes that if we are serious bout reducing the crime rate, crooked cops need to be exposed. Furthermore many cases of rape and domestic violence are not reported because female victims lack confidence in the police as some police officers investigating these crimes are themselves perpetrators.

According to Balramsingh, “The public perception of the police is not a good one because too many citizens have suffered at the hands of police officers.”

Teach by example says CBTT

By Radica Sookraj
Guardian South Bureau
April 16, 2001

While the introduction of religious studies may help to solve some of the indiscipline and violence among students, “there is also the need for principals, teachers and parents to get their lives right with God,” said the group Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT).

President of the group, Harrack Balramsingh, said parents, teachers, and those teaching students religious studies, “must practise what they preach if the exercise is to have any positive impact on our students.”

He said: “The greatest teacher, parent or priest is one whose life is his or her message.” He emphasised, “God is not going to help us solve problems we can solve ourselves,” and also called on the Ministry of Education to act with haste to help improve the situation in the schools.

Balramsingh said, as a teacher in the local education system for 22 years, he had witnessed many serious problems the Ministry of Education either turned a blind eye to or simply failed to address with urgency.

He declared: “Until this day, many of the problems that take place in our schools are swept under the carpet because few principals and teachers want to be associated with a school that has a bad reputation.”

Balramsingh also spoke of teachers who had serious mental problems and allegations of principals of “prestige schools” taking bribes to accept students in their schools. He lamented the Education Ministry seemed powerless to do anything.

'Citizens' gives key to true unity

By JANELLE SOLOMON
Trinidad Guardian
April 16, 2001

HARRACK BALRAMSINGH, president of the group, Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) is appealing to the population to emulate the life of Christ to achieve true national unity.

Balramsingh, in his Good Friday address at the group's headquarters in La Romain, said everyone in this country should strive to emulate Christ who "demonstrated unwavering love to all people regardless of race, colour or gender"

He said: "If we hope to achieve true national unity in Trinidad and Tobago, we must act and behave in a manner in which other racial and religious groups will not feel alienated."

He told the congregation: "While we may be different in race, colour, gender or religion, we were all created by the creator, not to live in difference, but to dwell in unity with each other."

He warned those who attend churches, temples or mosques "just to look good in the eyes of others" that it is hard to fool God.

Balramsingh said: "The greatest citizens of the nation are those who propagate equality and fairplay." "Too many of us are often captured by evil contaminants such as pride, deception, confusion and cold apathy.

"Perhaps we have a battle-scarred heart or a wound that won't heal because of bitterness or the inability to forgive," he said.

Organisation warns of Nigerian Scam

Sunday Newsday
April 8, 2001

A non-governmental organization has warned citizens of a Nigerian scam going around via personal e-mail account. The group Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) stated that Trinidadians have received the e-mail through their Yahoo and other personal accounts.

It said: “This scam claims to be from officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) or legal representatives of the former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha’s family.” CBTT pointed out: “They ask you to send them the name and address of your bank, account number, phone/fax number, home address and name to be used as beneficiary of millions of dollars which originated from over inflated contract given out by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).”

In other cases, according to CBTT, fictitious attorneys for the former dictator’s wife, Mariama Abacha claimed that US$60 millions or thereabout were illegally sent out the country by the late dictator and help was needed on behalf of their client to transfer the over $60 million that was in custody of a security company in the nearby Republic of Benin.

“They ask for thousands of US dollars in fees before the transfer to your account can be made,” said the group’s president,” Harrack Balramsingh. He pointed out: “The whole deal is fictitious so there is actually no money to transfer.” He said, “CBTT is advising Trinidadians who receive such letters to ignore them since many people have already lost thousands of dollars.”

3 years for wife killer too lenient says CBTT

Guardian South Bureau
April 02, 2001

THE non-governmental organisation Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) has come out against the three-year sentence handed down last Tuesday to wife killer Parasram "Jit" Dookeran.

In a statement yesterday, CBTT said it supported Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mark Mohammed's appeal against Justice Herbert Volney's sentence.

CBTT President Harrack Balramsingh said the sentence was "a lenient one which sent a clear message that it's OK to injure or murder a spouse accused of having an extra-marital affair."

Dookeran, of McBean, Couva, was charged with the murder of his wife, Debbie-Ann George-Dookeran, in August 1999. The truck driver, who was found guilty on the lesser count of manslaughter, claimed he was provoked by his wife's extra-marital affairs.

Various women's rights activists have since criticised the sentence as being too lenient. The victim's mother also said over the weekend she felt justice had not prevailed, even though Dookeran had confessed to the act.

In the statement, Balramsingh said: "Many perpetrators of domestic violence are overjoyed with Volney's decision, because they can now claim 'provocation' in murdering their spouse and expect to receive a light sentence in court.

"If a judge's decision is upheld in the Appeal Court, there are going to be many more murders of its kind and an increase in domestic violence under the guise of provocation."

The CBTT head said he believes domestic violence is the most common crime in Trinidad and Tobago, adding the light sentence will cause the situation to get worse.

Since the sentence, Balramsingh said, the CBTT has been deluged with calls from irate citizens, mostly women, condemning the sentence handed down by Justice Volney.

"The judge's decision is a slap in the face of those who are trying to combat domestic violence and is a clear indication that we are heading in the wrong direction," he added.

Walsh a symbol of hope for Caribbean youth

THE EDITOR: This letter is in tribute to the great and likeable Courtney Walsh. He is presently playing his last Test match in Trinidad, which is actually the 50th Test being played at the Queen’s Park Oval. That’s why so many people in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and elsewhere, supported Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago when it honoured Courtney with the T&T Republic Day Award in 1999. CBTT is the first foreign organisation to honour Walsh.

The Government of this country was also kind to Walsh when they gave the Jamaican this country’s Chaconia Gold Medal last year.

Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board of Control Alloy Lequay said during his speech at the Republic Day Award function for Walsh: “In today’s unstable environment where the social fabric of our societies is being torn apart through the vices of greed and rampant materialism, it is refreshing to be able to identify Walsh as a true role model, and an individual whose virtues of selflessness, national pride, courage and dedication stand out as a beacon of hope for the future.”

The late great head of the Catholic Church Archbishop Anthony Pantin said: “Walsh is a good role model for young people interested in sports. Our young people badly need role models and, thank God, Courtney Walsh can be confidently put forward as one of them.”

Minister of Telecommunication Ralph Maraj had this to say at our award function for Walsh: “He is an example to all men everywhere, and a special example to West Indians in all fields of endeavour. Walsh has set very high standards which may be emulated by young people everywhere.”

In accepting the T&T Republic Day Award, Walsh said: “It is not often one gets an award away from one’s own country. To know that I am the first overseas person to come and collect the award in Trinidad makes me even prouder. While I am not from the land of Trinidad, I consider myself a Caribbean person, representing the West Indies. I have always had that oneness that I am a Caribbean man and a West Indies cricketer who believes the team comes first.”

No one can deny that the great fast bowler has mixed with the high and mighty and still maintains the common touch. Unlike Walsh, there are too many arrogant men in society who believe education, fame, wealth and power make them superior to others.

Courtney will go on to be recognised as one of the greatest human beings to ever play the game of cricket. He is truly an exemplar and a symbol of hope for our young people. Well done Courtney Walsh!

HARRACK BALRAMSINGH
La Romaine

Abusers are most dangerous when they feel they may lose their partner

March 11, 2001

“Domestic violence victims who remain with abusers are condoning and enabling the abuse, and helping their partners to stay sick.”

So said Harrack Balramsingh, the head of the non-governmental organization Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), while delivering the keynote address on Saturday at an International Women’s Day forum held at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando. The Soka Gakkai International Women’s Group, which is affiliated to the Buddhist faith, organized the women’s day observance.

He stated, “ If your partner is unwilling to get help, the only safe course of action is to totally remove yourself from the situation and seek help on your own.This is painful,” he said, “ but is generally safer and ultimately better for both parties than allowing the cycle of abuse to continue.”

Balramsingh added, “ Those who encourage you to remain with someone who batters you day in and day out are themselves sick and need help,” and pointed to the many women who had died or been damaged beyond repair because they chose to remain in the abusive relationship for one reason or the other.

He told the women present that they should be prepared for the abuse to increase after they left since “stepping out of the relationship enrages the abuser, as it shatters their illusion of control.” He warned: “Perpetrators of domestic violence are most dangerous when they feel they may lose their partner, or when the relationship ends,” and quoted statistics showing that 75 percent of women killed by their abusive partners were murdered after they left.

He pointed out, “We need to remember that many perpetrators of domestic violence are often survivors of abuse themselves or may have witnessed violence in their homes while growing up. They act out of deep-seated shame and feelings of inadequacy, and seek to pull their partner down to make themselves feel better.”

Weed out rogue cops says CBTT

By SASHA MOHAMMED
Trinidad Guardian
March 05, 2001

ACTIVIST group, Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) has come out in strong condemnation of the "few rogue cops" in the Police Service, and has subsequently called for a thorough investigation into the service "to help weed (them) out."

In a statement issued yesterday, CBTT leader Harrack Balramsingh charged that even though the majority of police officers are not corrupt, these few exceptions have remained unpunished for too many years. This, he added, is the reason for the unsavoury reputation and distrust of the Police Service.

"Like indiscipline and violence in schools, incompetence and brutality among policemen have been swept under the carpet for years.

As a result, the safety and welfare of many of our citizens have been threatened," Balramsingh said. He added the "rogue cops" have been guilty of not only criminal acts like being involved in the drug trade, but also threatening both "good" police officers and civilians with "victimisation, or even losing their lives" if they reveal their illegal activities.

"Witnesses against corrupt officers have already lost their lives. That's why citizens turn a blind eye to rogue cops and allow them to continue their crookedness," Balramsingh said.

He also said having "more sting operations" throughout the country could be a possible solution for the problem. He further called on the authorities to take legal action against not only corrupt policemen, but also "all corrupt teachers, principals, civil servants and public officers in the country."

And, Balramsingh said, if the CBTT's previous warnings and recommendations had been taken seriously, "there may have been less indiscipline and violence in the nation today."

Bronte Women’s Group encouraged to fight for zero tolerance against domestic violence

February 16, 2001

“Wife battery may be the most frequently committed crime in Trinidad and Tobago.” So said Harrack Balramsingh, head of the non-governmental organization Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) while addressing members of the Bronte Women’s Group, at Sugar Road, Bronte Village on today (16-02-2001).

He said, “It’s time we wake up to the fact that domestic violence is one of the obstacles to the advancement of women, and to the development of families.”

He commended the group’s leader Satie Soondar and members of the Bronte Women’s Group for trying to assist abused women in their community and he encouraged them and other women’s group throughout the nation to strive for zero tolerance against domestic violence. He told them, “The fight against domestic violence has to be one of total involvement, since women cannot solve the problems by themselves.”

He warned that if we fail to curb the rise of violence in the home, the country’s social and economic development would be affected since domestic violence leads to many family break-ups. He said domestic violence contributed to about 25 percent of workplace problems, such as absenteeism, lower productivity, turnover and excessive use of medical benefits. He also pointed out that “ violence is becoming more and more a major reason for divorce in Trinidad and Tobago."

Balramsingh urged men and women to seek professional help now if they were physically, emotionally and psychologically abusive to their spouses and children, since “violence at home breathes violence in the society.”

He said, “Surveys have shown that over 50% of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children. Child abuse,” he added, “ is 15 times more likely to occur in families where domestic violence is present.” He stated, “Men who have witnessed their parents' domestic violence are three times more likely to abuse their own wives than children of non violent parents.

Teachers urged to set better example

By RADHICA SOOKRAJ
South Bureau
Trinidad Guardian
February 12, 2001

President of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, said yesterday that problems of school violence will never be corrected until the Education Ministry appoints efficient administrators to govern the schools.

In light of an ongoing war between students and teachers of the Marabella Junior Secondary School, where students threatened to kill teachers, Balramsingh said: "We would never lessen the problems of violence and indiscipline in schools if we don't have efficient administrators to run our schools."

Balramsingh, who has been a high school teacher for over two years, said: "Many students are retaliating against teachers who call them dunces, stupid and a waste of time."

He explained: "Children are not stupid. They witness principals and teachers cursing, abusing alcohol, committing acts of indecency against students and they object when these same teachers try to discipline them."

"As long as principals are promoted only on basis of length of service, there are bound to be problems in schools, since many of them are poor exemplars to their students," he added. Balramsingh stated that, as long as there is indiscipline at the top, the chances of lessening violence among students will be slim.

He called on the Ministry of Education to investigate cases of victimisation against teachers who were afraid to seek redress because they feared further reprisals.

Meanwhile, Minister of Housing and Settlements, Sadiq Baksh, said the problem of school violence should be treated the old-time way. Speaking at a domestic violence march at the Vistabella Presbyterian Primary School yesterday, Baksh said a child is moulded not only by parents, but also by teachers.

"So it's rather strange that children at such tender ages are now turning against their teachers," Baksh, the Member of Parliament for San Fernando West, said. He added that the issue of violence must be dealt with by the old-time values ­ treat people the way we want to be treated.

Recalling his childhood days, Baksh said: "In my days, all teachers were respected. It was not abnormal for me to put my shirt in my pants when I saw my teacher, even when I was a teenager. That's the type of respect we had for our teachers. But then again our teachers were from the community and we had developed that type of respect for them." He said traditional values had to be upheld in order to deal with school violence.

CBTT supports corporal punishment ban

By MICHELLE DOODHAI
Guardian South Bureau,
Trinidad Guardian
January 29, 2001

The non-governmental organisation, Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), has come out in support of the ban on corporal punishment in the nation's schools.

"The use of corporal punishment in schools is intrinsically related to child maltreatment," CBTT president Harrack Balramsingh said yesterday.

"It contributes to a climate of violence, implies that society approves of the physical violation of children, and establishes an unhealthy norm."

Although he described corporal punishment as a "cruel and obsolete weapon," Balramsingh maintained that the organisation is not against students being punished for disobeying school rules and regulations.

He pointed out that corporal punishment in schools has not improved student behaviour and may have even reinforced the very behaviour teachers are trying to eliminate. Balramsingh said parents are to be blamed for children's indiscipline and maintained that they should be strict without being cruel in their disciplining.

"Good behaviour does not come by accident, it is the family which lays the foundation of a child's good or bad behaviour," he said. Corporal punishment is no longer legal in any country in Europe, Central or South America, China or Japan.

Calls for breathalyser test

By MICHELLE DOODHAI
South Bureau, Trinidad Guardian
December 28, 2000

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) has blamed alcohol consumption, coupled with excessive speeding, for the accidents which took place over the Christmas holidays.

In addition, the organisation is calling for the implementation of the breathalyser test, in an attempt to curb the increasing number of accidents on the nation's roads.

Harrack Balramsingh, president of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), said: "While we delay the introduction of the breathalyser, more and more accidents are taking place on our roads because too many people ignore the warnings that serious injury or death can occur, if people drive while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs."

He is calling on authorities to take the results of a poll conducted by the organisation seriously, in which ten per cent of the 500 people interviewed supported the implementation of the breathalyser.

Pointing out the media has attempted to warn motorists against speeding, drinking and driving, Balramsingh said motorists continue to show no regard for the speed limit, pedestrians and other law-abiding citizens.

National Day of Prayer - Leaders get full marks

By ALWYN DE COTEAU
Express South Bureau
December 18, 2000

"THE PEOPLE of Trinidad and Tobago should be thankful to their five Prime Ministers and three Presidents because they have all sacrificed many years of their lives for their country, and have all contributed significantly to the peaceful democracy in which we live."

The comment came from the head of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, as he spoke to members at a special inter-faith service yesterday at the group's headquarters at Dumfries Road, La Romaine to mark the National Day of Prayer which Prime Minister Basdeo Panday called for.

Balramsingh said, "Anyone who denies that every Prime Minister and President of this country has made worthwhile contributions to the nation is not being fair and honest.

He said, "We should continue to pray on a daily basis for racial acceptance and religious tolerance among all our people, and also for the leaders of the country, so that God would grant them the wisdom to run the affairs of the nation without fear and favour."

Balramsingh said relationships between men and women "are not improving because many of them refuse to prayer together. They don't show the love and commitment necessary to make their relationships successful because God is not at work in their lives."

There was a lot of hypocrisy in society, he said, adding, "there are people, including some religious leaders, who counsel couples with marital problems while their own relationships with their spouses are in shambles." He advised such counsellors to first put their lives and homes in order because their "own spouses and children are not impressed by their double standards."

"We can identify a godly person by the quality of life a person lives, and not by the frequency he or she visits the Church, Mandir or Mosque," Balramsingh said. He made it clear that "a godly person does not ill-speak others or discriminates against his brothers and sisters on the basis of race, colour, religion or sex."

The CBTT head told the congregation of some 120 people that he blamed such hypocrisy in the home for many of the juvenile delinquency in society.

Balramsingh said the real problem with many of us is that "we wait until a crisis arises to pray. The only way to face many of the personal crises in our lives is through daily pray because God gives us the strength and courage to cope with those who try to make our lives a living hell."

"That is why," Balramsingh added, CBTT supports the National Day of Prayer."

CBTT calls for the breathalyser

By Phoolo Danny
South Bureau Express - December 16, 2000

Bring on the breathalyser, ban the sale of alcohol at gas stations, and ban all advertisements on alcohol.

Harrack Balramsingh, president of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), made the call at the Adolescent Development Programme at Servol's Hi-Tech Centre, La Romaine yesterday. Balramsingh urged youths to note carefully the shame and destruction that substance abuse had brought to many individuals and families.

He advised students who drink alcohol or use drugs to "emulate the Unites States president-elect George Bush, who recognised many years ago that he could not hold his liquor and decided to quit.

"Next month, he will become the leader of the most powerful and influential country in the world. But many of our young talented youths and adults never made it because, unlike Bush, they allowed the alcohol and illegal drugs to get the better of them," Balramsingh said.

He called on young people to join in the National Day of Prayers on Sunday and ask God to let the leaders of Trinidad and Tobago implement the breathalyser in "order to stop further carnage on the nation's roadways." Balramsingh also called for action to be taken on those who sell alcohol to minors and for the banning of the sale of alcohol at the new NP gas stations. He urged a ban on alcohol advertisements and for parents to keep their homes alcohol free.

He invited the youths to join him and the CBTT in their crusade against substance abuse, the illegal drug trade, AIDS, incest, child abuse, domestic violence and other social ills in society.

Political leaders commended by CBTT

Courtesy Newsday- December 12, 2000

Political Party leaders, Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning have been commended for contributing to a peaceful and non-violent election campaign.

Harrack Balramsingh, president of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), in complimenting both the United National Congress (UNC) and People's National Movement (PNM) leaders also called on the electorate to elect a new government and reject politicians who find it difficult to accept people of other races and religions.

"They are a serious threat to the peace and stability of Trinidad and Tobago," he said. The CBTT head also met last month with the Commonwealth Secretariat Assessment Mission.

Double standards destroying T & T

By Phoolo Danny
South Bureau, Express Newspaper

November 22, 2000

Double standards in public and private life are destroying Trinidad, said presenters at an International Men's Day observance in South last weekend.

The second observance of Men's Day by the Citizens for A Better Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with The Association for the Reorientation and Transformation of Masculinity (ARTOM), was held at Palm's Club, San Fernando.

Sunday was International Men's Day. Chaitram Kapoor Rampersad, co-ordinator and counsellor of HEAL Drug Rehab Centre of Couva, knocked double standards. He said: "We are living in a society where there are people in the highest institutions in the country, such as UWI, saying that it's okay to smoke marijuana, and suggesting it be legalised.

"They are sending the messages when they say their families have smoked the marijuana and ate marijuana cookies, so it's okay for everyone else to do so."

"On television," he continued, "children are being told if they want to see football in Italy, they must drink stag, and we are also seeing most sporting advertisements where Carib is advertised to the youths of the nation.

"We have seen these double standards everywhere. We are lacking role models in society, in relation especially to deal with drug issue and alcoholism in society. He urged the CBTT and ARTOM to be encouraged despite the small crowd, noting that Alcoholics Anonymous had started with a small crowd too.

Harrack balramsingh, CBTT's president, advised parents to take "stock of themselves because children emulate them." Balramsingh said everything possible should be done to encourage men to be proper role models in their homes because a lack of exemplary behaviour by many men had contributed to a lot of today's violence, broken homes, and juvenile delinquency.

Although education was important, Balramsingh stressed, "we must not emphasise intellectualism and scholarship alone because an educated person who has little or no values and principles is a liability to a society."

CBTT head calls for National Alcohol and Drug Awareness Week in school

September 29, 2000

The head of a non-governmental organisation in Trinidad and Tobago has pleaded with the Education Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, to lend her support to a National Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week in the nation's schools.

Harrack Balramsingh, president of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) made the plea during his address last Monday to a large audience present at the opening of the 3rd annual Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week of the La Romaine Integrated Education Project (IEP), which is affiliated to SERVOL and the Ministry of Education.

Balramsingh, who is also president of the IEP's Board of Education, warned that measures must be put in place immediately to deal with the growing number of alcoholics and drug addicts in the country.

He warned that indiscipline, violence and anti-social behaviour among schoolchildren would get much worse if we don't address the problem of alcohol and drug abuse among students.as a matter of urgency.

Balramsingh said, "What is most worrying is that many schoolgirls are now drinking alcohol and messing with illegal drugs more than at any time in the past."

He stated in his address that "sex and drugs are co-related." and pointed out that "children who have a tendency to use drugs at an early age are by and large the same children who are sexually active at a young age. When these young children use drugs," he said, "their judgement are impaired, so they are more likely to have unprotected sex, which can result in unwanted pregnancy and/or lead to them contracting sexually transmitted diseases."

The function was attended by Justice Noor Hassanali and his wife Zalayhar, along with Minister of Works and Transport, Sadiq Baksh , Independent Senator Rev. Daniel Teelucksingh and FR. Gerry Pantin, head of SERVOL.

CBTT calls on Government to name stadium after Boldon despite third place finish in 200m

Ato Boldon wins Silver and Bronze at 2000 Sydney Olympics

September 29, 2000

The organisation Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) has called on the Ministry of Sports to go ahead with plans to name a stadium after Ato Boldon in spite of his third place finish in the 200 metres at the Sydney Olympic Games.

CBTT said, "While all the people of Trinidad and Tobago were rooting for Boldon to win the gold medal in his pet race, we now need to show him that we appreciate his effort and achievement at both the Sydney and Atlanta Games.

The organisation added, "There is no need to mourn or shed tears for his third place finish because he won a silver and bronze at the Games along with two bronze medals in Atlanta."

Spokesperson for the group, Harrack Balramsingh , called on the nation to rally around the ace sprinter because he may be more disappointed than us in not bringing home a gold medal.

However, Balramsingh pointed out that Boldon had won four Olympic medals - a feat unmatched by any other Trinidad and Tobago athlete. He also referred to Ato's 200 metres victory at the World Championship a few years ago as a major achievement.

He said "The nation should refrain from calling him a failure." Instead," he added, "we must all salute him and honour him for making our nation proud over the years."

CBTT: Dads who sexually abuse their daughters ought to be incarcerated for life

August 21, 2000. Re-printed Courtesy Newsday

FATHERS who sexually abuse their daughters must be ostracised from society and incarcerated for life.

This is the view of the non-governmental organisation Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT). According to CBTT, "Young girls seek protection and security from their fathers, not sex. When a father betrays the trust of his own daughter , she may grow up with permanent psychological scars which are likely to affect her relationship with other males."

CBTT stated that media reports about fathers and step-fathers abusing their daughters were "a drop in the bucket" because the vast majority of these cases never reach the public.

The president of CBTT, Harrack Balramsingh, said, "If men cannot be trusted with their own daughters then it's impossible to trust them with any other young female because if they cannot control their own sexual desires among close family members , then they pose a serious threat to other women in society ."

Senator supports anti-drug campaign

August 13, 2000

Senator Professor Kenneth Ramchand has assured CBTT that he is committed to a drug free life for young people of the country. In a telephone conversation with the group's president, Harrack Balramsingh today, the Senator openly stated that he was not against CBTT’s anti-drug campaign and was in no way advocating that young people mess with drugs.

As a matter of fact, Senator Ramchand sent a clear message that drug abuse was not to be taken lightly because it contributed to anti-social behaviour and many family problems in society.

CBTT calls on US officials to respond to marijuana accusations made in the Trinidad and Tobago Senate

August 13, 2000

The head of a non-governmental organisation says that Unites States officials should clear the air on accusations made in the Senate that Americans are storing marijuana so that when it is decriminalised they would be in a good position to market it.

Harrack Balramsingh, president of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), said, "An urgent response to this recent recent allegation made by Senator Muhammed Shabazz is needed in light of US Attorney General Janet Reno’s recent visit to this country during which she gave assurance of her country’s assistance in mobilising US and T&T agencies to prevent laundering of proceeds from drug trafficking. Reno also applauded Trinidad and Tobago’s decision to turn a 110- acre ranch, which executed drug lord Dole Chadee once occupied, into a drug rehabilitation centre.

Balramsingh also described as unfortunate the statement made by Independent Senator Kenneth Ramchand in the Senate that "All those marijuana fields we burning down, we should seize it, compress it, start to process it and since we have to do what America say, when they decriminalise, bust the market.."

In reference to decriminalising marijuana, the CBTT president added that "we need to make drunken driving a criminal offence in Trinidad and Tobago before we even entertain the thought of decriminalising an illegal drug, especially since alcohol contributes to much of the carnage on the nation’s roads."

He added that like Alcohol Anonymous (AA) groups, "there are Marijuana Anonymous (MA) organisations cropping up in the Unites States to help men and women share their experience, strength and hope, to help themselves and others recover from marijuana addiction."

He called on parents and adults to encourage and teach their children from small to say "no" not only to all types of illegal drugs but to alcohol and cigarettes as well. He assured them that studies also show that a person has much more to gain in life if he or she never messes with alcohol or illegal drugs.

CBTT against decriminalisation of marijuana

August 10, 2000

The head of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago(CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, has lamented the call by Independent Senator Kenneth Ramchand to decriminalise marijuana, stating he hoped the nation’s youth and the country as a whole would ignore such a call.

Professor Ramchand, former UWI lecturer, who was speaking during the senate debate on the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Bill on Tuesday, stated that if he had his way he would decriminalise marijuana since he used it before and experienced beneficial effects from using it in small amounts.

Balramsingh said, "While not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted, the risk of using cocaine is 104 times greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it."

The CBTT president added that "using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs. So there is more of a risk that a marijuana user will be exposed to and urged to try more drugs."

He said, "Ramchand’s comments could have negative effects on the nation’s youth because they may believe that marijuana is okay since a senator admitted using it and is now pushing for it to be legalised."

He added that "if Senator Ramchand wants to make soup and tea with marijuana, which he said he did during his contribution to the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Bill, then he can go ahead and do so without trying to convince others that since it worked for him, it will work for others." He said, "Parliamentarians like Professor Ramchand should be encouraging the youth of the nation to say ‘no’ from the very beginning to all illegal drugs since very few people have the will-power to control their intake of marijuana, cocaine and heroin to name a few."

Balramsingh warned that marijuana affects memory,judgement and perception and can make young people mess up in school or sports. He said countless lives have been destroyed by marijuana use and went on to point out that "since marijuana use can affect thinking and judgement, users can forget to have safe sex and possibly expose themselves to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

He stated that "smoking marijuana causes some changes in the brain that are like those caused by cocaine, heroin and alcohol." He called on senators and other Parliamentarians to help lessen the carnage on our nation’s roads by implementing the breathalyser.

Balramsingh reminded young people that "it’s a myth that everybody is using drugs," and he advised them to stay away from peers who tried to convince them to mess with alcohol and drugs.

He commended the Lower House for passing the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Bill and issued a call for the Upper House of Parliament to do likewise since he said, "Many robberies, murders and destruction of lives of individuals, families and communities are a direct result of drug use and drug trafficking."

He warned that "marijuana and other drugs are very seductive and so many people who try them become addicts, willing to sell assets, ruin a marriage or family, and lose a career before admitting to being an addict."

2000 Republic Day Award recipient to be named shortly

August 8, 2000

The 2000 Republic Day Award recipient will be announced at the beginning of September. The award is highly acclaimed both here and abroad because of the outstanding quality of service and exemplary efficiency which are required of its recipients.

Eleven nominees are being considered by the Republic Day Award Committee for this year’s award. They are Trevor McDonald (Journalist), Vidya Naipaul (Writer), A.N.R. Robinson (Public Service), Alloy Lequay (Cricket), Kamaluddin Mohammed (Public Service and Culture), Jack Warner (Soccer Administrator), Ras Shorty I (Calypso), Clive Pantin (Education/Charitable Work), Dianne Wyatt Mahabir ( Social Work), Professor Michael Beaubrun (Psychiatry/Substance Abuse) and Anthony Sabga (businessman).

The 1999 recipient was Courtney Walsh for his outstanding contribution to West Indies cricket. The award is in keeping with the Republican Status of Trinidad and Tobago.

Emancipation Day should highlight the injustices in society

August 1, 2000

In its Emancipation Day message, the organization Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) said, The day is of great significance because it marks the end of the most brutal treatment of a people for almost 200 years."

The group believes that Emancipation Day celebrations should highlight the injustices in society, and draw attention to the plight of many voiceless people who suffer in silence.

CBTT called on citizens to emulate the life of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi who sacrificed their personal freedom for the benefit of millions. It stated that "because of this, many have been encouraged to stand taller, speak louder and fight more passionately."

The organisation said, "We should all devote ourselves to the progress of humanity, since it's only those who feel compassion for others, regardless of race, will be able to make a difference to society."

CBTT added that "many people say they want a colourblind society, but they continue to count people by race and skin pigment.

It warned that "the more we discriminate against others on the basis of race, the more God distances Himself from us."

CBTT’s most senior volunteer celebrates 75th birthday and 57 years of wedded bliss

June 25, 2000

Click here for a larger image
Rev. Balram Singh and
his wife Sumintra
The most senior volunteer of Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) was honoured recently and praised for his sterling contribution to family life.

A gala function was held on June 7, 2000 at Dumfries Road, La Romain to celebrate the 75th birthday of Rev.Balram Singh and 57 years of marriage to his wife Sumintra.

This outstanding social, community and religious worker was lauded by villagers and members of the wider community for his more than 50 years of dedicated service to the nation.

The many speakers at the function, including ministers of religion Pooran Sankar and Kelvin Ramkissoon, spoke of Singh’s exemplary life and his contribution to family values. They all hailed him as a man who treated everyone, regardless of race, as members of his own family.

Joyce Barrow, a retired worker with the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW), told the many well- wishers present that as an Afro-Trinidadian, she felt proud to be associated with Balram Singh because he made her feel like a close family member during the more than 30 years she had known him.

"If Trinidad and Tobago had more citizens like Mr. Singh," she said, "there would be no racism and ill-will towards others."

In his brief address he said, "This nation will be a better place if people in public life set proper examples for young people to follow." Singh, who has served for 40 years as a minister of religion, added, "Children do not listen to parents who fail to practise what they preach," and he called on social, community and church workers to come clean if they were to be respected by the people of their various communities.

CBTT salutes this passionate citizen of T&T for his commitment to a better life for all.

Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran joins CBTT

June 24, 2000

One of Trinidad and Tobago’s most outstanding citizens has joined the social and community organisation Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT).

Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran, a retired secondary school principal and founder of the Penal Home for the Handicapped, was confirmed yesterday by the Executive of CBTT as an official member of the organisation.

Dr. Seesaran, who was a former Guardian nominee for Woman of the Year in 1997, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree in history from McGill’s University in Canada. She also acquired a PhD , also in history, from the University of the West Indies.

She is a past president of the Church Women United of Trinidad and Tobago (CWU) and is also a lay preacher in the Presbyterian Church. She is presently the Public Relations Officer of the La Romain Integrated Education Project (IEP) of Servol and the Ministry of Education and is involved in several projects aimed at helping the disadvantaged.

Dr. Seesaran has also been assisting CBTT in the past as a member of its award committee. She will be assisting the group in the formation of a National Student Association (NSA).

She is a well-known educator, having taught for many years at Iere High School in Siparia before moving to both the Penal and Siparia Junior Secondary Schools.

Youth told: Respect, honour your father

Guardian South Bureau

June 19, 2000

PRESIDENT of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago Harrack Balramsingh yesterday urged youths to value their relationship with their fathers even if they had failed them.

Speaking at a Father's Day function attended by over 180 people at the Kasheendath Mandir at Siparia Old Road, Fyzabad yesterday morning, Balramsingh said, "Your father deserves your honour and respect for all he means to you , if for no other reason than simply that he is your father."

" If you feel that he has failed you, honouring him doesn't mean endorsing his irresponsibility, " Balramsingh said.

Yesterday, the Guardian featured the exclusive story of 14 -year-old Crystal Khadoo who explained in excruciating detail her life without a father. This was followed by the woes of a 23-year-old Cap-de-Ville woman forced to bring up her three children single-handedly, after her husband walked out.

Balramsingh explained yesterday that despite the failings of a father, children must show respect. By honouring him you are not denying the pain he caused you…..you are choosing to place great value on your relationship because he is your father….you are taking the initiative to improve the relationship."

Balramsingh pointed out that as human beings all fathers fall short of the original design for fathers. "Absent fathers, abusive fathers, critical fathers, we have no control over that, we can however control our response to our fathers, we can choose to forgive."

He reminded fathers that research have shown "the do as I say and not do as I do policy " does not work with kids. "Few things do more damage to children than fathers who talk about moral values and then live a double standard."

If fathers feel they are losing touch with their children then they should make an effort to develop the relationship. "All we can do is to start from today and do a better job at consistently spending regular time with our kids," Balramsingh said.

Courtesy the Trinidad Guardian

Support of Family and Friends is Important

A touching story of an exemplar and role model to all young people

By Nicole Holmes

June 16, 2000

Living with Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) has been very difficult. You constantly ask yourself, why me? Not only does it get painful at times, but you must always remember to take your medication every day, in the right doses, and at the right times. It is a constant struggle to get up in the morning when your body aches, and continue your day as if all is well. The added pressure of school, extracurricular activities, and finding time for family and friends takes a toll on your body and mind.

Facing these obstacles myself for the past three years, I’ve learned to rely on three things. God, family, and friends. They have given me love, peace, and reassurance. Having this disease has been debilitating at times, but I still continue to be strong. My life has not stopped, although at times my disease takes an emotional toil on me. I still continue to push on. I managed to graduate magna cum laude and start a new life as a newlywed. I now hold a full-time job, am involved in an international organization, and am currently applying to graduate school.

God has tested me time and time again, and continues to do so, though he does not give me more than I can handle. He has provided me with a wonderful group of people that care. I am a true example that anything is possible. Although I continue to struggle with my disease and the barriers that I sometimes encounter, I know that with support from family and friends I will conquer all. They have been there through everything, holding my hand and comforting me every step of the way. I still have a long way to go to get to recovery, but I am reassured by the knowledge that I am not alone.

Let me be an example and role model to all young people. Fight for your beliefs, work hard, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is always someone out there waiting and willing to listen.

Nicole Holmes is a youth counsellor attached to CBTT. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pace University in New York.

We must not allow East Indian Arrival Day and Emancipation Day to divide the nation

May 30, 2000

"There can be no national unity in Trinidad and Tobago unless hatred can be replaced by compassion, and unless we can be truthful, honest and just in our dealings one with the other."So said the President of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, while delivering the keynote address at the Rambert Village Indian Arrival Day celebrations held on May 30, 2000 at Dumfries Road, Rambert Village in South Trinidad.

Balramsingh went on to state that "if we are serious about becoming a healthy nation, we must replace our selfcentredness with a genuine concern for others."

He called on the large Indian Arrival Day audience to "remember their brothers and sisters of other races who also arrived in the country, and who have made tremendous contributions in every facet of national building." He said, "We must never fail to recognise them for their worthwhile contribution to Trinidad and Tobago."

Balramsingh said, "We must never allow East Indian Arrival Day and Emancipation Day to divide the nation. Instead, we must celebrate such days by recognising the rich contribution made by our people of all races in the growth and emergence of the rainbow culture of Trinidad and Tobago."

The CBTT head pointed out that "the East Indian stay in this country has been a saga of struggle, survival, hard work, thrift, foresight and emergence." He said, "Indian Arrival Day, like Emancipation Day, should be remembered because it reminds people of their journey from the past into the future."

Balramsingh told the very appreciative audience that he felt honored to be speaking at Rambert Village where he grew up. He described the community as "one of the greatest places in Trinidad and Tobago because many wonderful and outstanding people live there."

CBTT to launch National Student Association

May 28, 2000

Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) will officially launch a National Student Association (NSA) in June 2000.

It will be the first time in the country’s history that such an organisation will be formed to represent the nation’s young people. Harrack Balramsingh, speaking on behalf of the organisation, said that officials of the National Student Association would include students from the traditional high schools as well the junior and senior secondary schools.

He lamented the growing disregard for students’ voices to be heard on important national issues and went on to point out that "while there are both parents and teachers’ associations in Trinidad and Tobago, no recognised group exists in the country to speak on behalf of students.

Balramsingh added that "we need to listen to our young people who may be able to help us solve many of the social ills in the nation." He said, " They see many irregularities taking place in their schools but they cannot respond to them because they have no voice."

He stated that "CBTT is especially interested in exemplary students who will call a spade a spade." He said , "It’s time we bring these young voices out of the wilderness and allow them the freedom to speak out on issues which affect the school system and the home."

He called for measures to be put in place to protect students from intimidation and victimisation from those who oppose the views of our students.

Many drug lords posing as businessmen

May, 21, 2000

The Non-Governmental Organisation, Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), has come out in support of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission’s (CICAD) fight against drug abuse and drug trafficking throughout the region.

The Commission, which has the support of 34 countries as member States, begins a workshop on May 22, 2000 entitled "Modernisation Of The National Anti-Drug Plan." The workshop is scheduled to take place at the Cascadia Hotel commencing at 8.30 am.

The organisation said, "In dealing with drug abuse and drug trafficking, we must also highlight the fact that alcohol, although legal, is a drug which is doing untold damages to many individuals and their families." It added, "Any attempt to cover up the evils of alcohol abuse at anti-drug projects, will most likely lead to more and more alcoholics and drug addicts among our young people.

CBTT’s president Harrack Balramsingh, speaking on behalf of the group, laments the growing number of young people who are abusing alcohol and illegal drugs. He said, "There is also a noticeable increase in the number of teenagers selling drugs to students and other young people," and went on to state that "crime among young people will escalate to unprecedented levels in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean if drastic measures are not taken immediately to remedy this grave social ill."

Stating that "there are many drug lords posing as businessmen," Balramsingh said, "Many of them are seldom caught for smuggling drugs into the country because they are able to protect their trade by paying big bribes to do so."

He added, "The fight to eradicate these drug barons and their cohorts must continue unabated, otherwise they will contribute to the destruction of more and more lives in the country and the region." He said, "They are criminals and must be quickly brought to justice."

Balramsingh lauded the anti-drug work of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission throughout the region and offered his group’s services in helping to rid the society of drug and alcohol abuse, and illicit trafficking. He said, "CBTT is ready and willing to be part of the answer instead of part of the problem."

Pace University Grad joins CBTT

May 02, 2000

NICOLE HOLMES, a young graduate of Pace University in New York has officially joined Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT).

Miss Holmes, a Trinidadian, who presently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Relations (Psychology), and was Treasurer of a student run organisation called the Women’s Action Network (WAN). Working with this organisation, she helped co-ordinate programmes to address various women’s issues such as domestic violence and rape. She also helped raise funds for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Holmes, who was a member and Public Relations Officer of Psi Chi (the National Honour Society in Psychology), believes she would be a great asset to CBTT. She said, "I would serve to bridge the gap between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States, since the U.S.A. is home to many of our country’s citizens."

She is willing to provide Trinidadian students who have access to the internet, with information about colleges and universities, and is also ready and willing to help them with their problems. She is available to listen to and help solve young people’s problem because as a youth herself, she knows what many of them are going through.

Younger and younger children are using drugs

February 26,2000

The head of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, told a group of parents today that "there is no disputing that drug abuse is a critical problem facing young people today."

Mr. Balramsingh, who was speaking at the group’s quarterly outreach programme for parents at CBTT’s headquarters on Dumfries Road, La Romaine, said, "Illegal drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine deliver incredible ‘highs’ too irresistible for some individuals to pass up. If they didn’t, these drugs would not be a problem."

He added that "we cannot intelligently discuss heroin and crack cocaine without acknowledging that these drugs are dangerous because they have the ability to make people feel so wonderful that they will overlook or disregard the huge price tag the substance abuser has to pay, such as loss of self, loss of family, impoverishment and even loss of life."

The CBTT head said, "If we are to dissuade our youth from indulging in illicit drug use, we need to focus on their perils and consequences. As parents and adults," he stated, "we have a responsibility to create a safe and secure environment that from which our children will be less likely to seek escape."

Balramsingh said, "Younger and younger children are using drugs" and he went on to point out that, sex and drugs are co-related." He added that "children who have a tendency to use drugs at an early age are by and large the same children who are sexually active at a young age." He said, "When these young children use drugs, their judgement are impaired, so they are more likely to have unprotected sex, which can result in unwanted pregnancy and/or lead to them contracting sexually transmitted diseases."

He called on citizens interested in forming "Parents Against Drugs" (PAD) groups to use the expertise of CBTT so that "we can help keep our children drug free." He praised the media for the part it has played in informing the national community of the dangers of drug abuse.

Balramsingh warned that "we must never stop talking about drug abuse and AIDS because we know that once an issue dies down people have a tendency to think it has gone away." Stating that "we need to protect our children and ourselves from predators who spread AIDS, he said, "People are walking around infected others," and he called on people to come forward to be tested for AIDS. He pointed out that many people are not coming forward because they believe others will become aware of their plight. We need to protect the privacy of individuals who have the HIV so that they can get treated."

He said, "It should be a crime to knowingly infect someone with HIV," adding that about half of the States in America, it’s a crime."

NGOs against sale of alcohol at new gas stations

February 18, 2000

The non-governmental organisations Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago(CBTT), Families In Action (FIA), and the Trinidad and Tobago National Council on Alcoholism and Other Drugs have lamented the sale of liquor at some of the new gas stations built by the National Petroleum Company Limited (NP).

They said, "It is unfortunate that alcohol is displayed and sold to motorists at gas stations, especially since it is a well-know fact that drinking is responsible for much of the carnage on the nation’s roads."

The three well-known organisations added that they were disturbed that strong liquor was being sold at gas stations, more so, because their organisations had been lobbying for many years for the implementation of the breathalyser.

They believe that "the sale of alcohol at NP’s new gas stations and at school fetes is a clear indication that more and more citizens are being persuaded to drink alcohol without the least concern for their health and safety."

The organisations said, "This added to the failure, so far, to introduce the breathalyser, will no doubt lead to the destruction of many more families, and also to an increase in more accidents and violent crimes in the country."

The NGOs stated that "what is even more disturbing is that many people who cannot control their intake of alcohol, and who embarrass their family and friends by their anti-social behaviour when drunk, are the very ones who defend those who sell liquor to minors and recovering alcoholics."

All three renewed the call for the introduction of the breathalyser to help stop many of the accidents on the nation’s roadway due to drunk driving.

Alcoholics and drug addicts bring shame to families

February 6, 2000

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of National Security have come in for praise from the non-governmental organisation Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago(CBTT) for it latest anti-drug campaign which targets students 10 to 13 years old.

However, the group said, "While the campaign, known as The Drug Abuse Resistance Programme(DARE), is a commendable effort, the fact remains that only limited success will be achieved unless principals and teachers stop the sale of alcohol at all school functions."

CBTT added that "instead of selling alcohol to their students, principals should encourage their teachers to make students aware of the dangers of alcohol and drugs." It said, "The authorities should accept some of the blame because they have so far failed to act on those adults who sell alcohol to minors. That’s why there are so many drug addicts and alcoholics whose anti-social behaviour bring shame and disgrace to themselves and their families."

According to the citizens’ group: "They are waiting until the situation worsens further before taking action against the perpetrators ." It said, "In order for any anti- drug campaign to be successful, there must be a zero tolerance policy on alcohol and drugs in the home and school."

CBTT said, "The damages alcohol and drugs have done and are still doing to our students are enough evidence for the authorities to prohibit the sale of alcohol at all school fetes, in or out of the school, and to take drastic action against anyone in the country selling alcohol to minors." The group pointed out that "a principal, teacher or any other adult who sells or permits the sale of alcohol to minors, is a danger to society."

CBTT added, "Many of the violence and indiscipline in the schools and society are due largely to alcohol and drugs, yet we keep quiet when we see alcohol being sold to our students." The organisation said, "Alcohol abuse among the nation’s students has not received the attention it should because many principals are more interested in profit-making from the sale of alcohol than the welfare and health of those under their charge."

It stated that "at least the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of National Security, in targeting youths 10 to 13 years old, have recognised that the younger a person begins to drink, the more likely he or she may become an alcoholic and turn to illegal drugs."

CBTT said, "It has been pointing this out for years, but few took us seriously. That’s why we commend the two Ministries. Better late than never," the organisation added. It called on Community Councils and non-governmental organisations to do their part in helping to keep young people away from drugs and alcohol.

The organisation also renewed its call for the breathalyser to be introduced to prevent further carnage on the nation’s roads.

Domestic Violence is the least reported and most commited crime in the Caribbean

January 29, 2000

"The majority of perpetrators of domestic violence have two common traits: they have witnessed domestic violence in their family of origin and are male."

So said the president of Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago(CBTT), Harrack Balramsingh, while delivering the feature address at the 29th Annual General Meeting of the National Church Women United(NCW) held at the Marabella Presbyterian Church Hall on January 29, 2000.

Stating that "domestic violence is now a disease of epidemic proportions that is the least reported and most committed crime in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean," Balramsingh said, "According to official statistics in the United States, 90 to 95 percent of domestic violence victims are women, and as many as 95 percent of domestic violence perpetrators are male."

He told the mixed audience of Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian women that "studies also show women are six times more likely to experience violence by an intimate partner than men, and the chance of being victimised by an intimate is 10 times greater for a woman than a man." In 1993, he revealed,approximately 575,000 men were arrested for committing violence against women while approximately 49,000 women were arrested for committing violence against men.

"And it must be pointed out," he said, "that much of female violence is committed in self-defense. It is also a fact that 70 percent of intimate homicide victims are women, while 28 percent of all violence against women is perpetrated by intimates."

Balramsingh told the NCW members present that "from these statistics we can conclude that the men who are supposed to love and support them have declared war on many of today's women."

He said, "We need to recognise men not only as perpetrators or potential offenders, but as bystanders who can confront abusive males." He urged males to seek professional help now if they were physically, emotionally and psychologically abusive to women and children. "Men," he added, "should not look the other way, if they have a brother, friend, co-worker or neighbour who is abusing his female partner. Instead they should encourage these perpetrators of domestic violence to seek help."

Balramsingh continued: "The problem of domestic violence would get worse once it continues in the home because it would most likely be passed on to the next generation." He said, "The home has become a training ground for domestic violence. Many children observe that aggressors in a 'love' relationship achieve their goals by using violence, which may result in them modelling the aggressive behaviour themselves. " He went on to state that "parental aggressive behaviour and violence are confusing to the child who receives nurturance, food and warmth from the same person."

The CBTT head said, "As long as we teach violence and domination at the core in our homes and allow them to permeate children's lives from the beginning, we are never going to be able to end the violence that dominates other relations around differences of race or religion or nationality."

He added, "Children are taught very early to accept domination based on differences and to see violence as an acceptable solution to conflict and to believe that they have to be either victims or the conquerors. To alter this violence in public life requires eliminating it in private life as well."



Editorial

Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Two exemplary lives

We totally and unreservedly support the decision of the Non-Governmental Organisation, Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), which has named Mahatma Gandhi, of India, and Mother Theresa, of Albania, as Man and Woman of the Century.

The exemplary lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa serve as role models, not only for citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, but for people everywhere.

The CBTT, a six-year-old organisation which promotes national and regional development, recently honoured West Indian cricketer, Courtney Walsh, for making an outstanding contribution to the game in the Caribbean.

A Wider Stage

But on a wider stage, the organisation singled out the Indian statesman and the Albanian nun for their selfless contributions to the welfare of people. Gandhi, who was born in India in 1869, became one of the most respected spiritual and political leaders of the 20th century. Mother Theresa, who was born in Albania in 1910, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work among the poor and homeless in India.

Gandhi, who as a young lawyer experienced discrimination in South Africa where apartheid was the norm, returned home to lead a campaign for India's independence.

Despite being imprisoned by the British, he continued to advocate non-violent resistance and, in the end, the colonial power gave in and granted India its independence in 1948.

It was later partitioned into separate Hindu and Muslim nations, with the Muslim portion becoming Pakistan.

Hindu and Muslim riots followed, but Gandhi persisted in his campaign for supporters of the sub-continent's two major religions to live together in peace.

His efforts at reconciliation failed and the region is still plagued today by conflict between the two religious groups.

For his efforts to bring peace to the sub-continent, Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu fanatic.

Mother Theresa joined the Irish order, Sisters of Loreto in Dublin in 1928. The order had a mission in Calcutta, India, and Mother Theresa travelled there one year later to begin nearly 20 years of service as a teacher at a Loreto school for girls.

In 1946, while travelling on a train to Darjeeling, she said she received a ''call within a call'' to help the poor. She heeded the call and spent the rest of her life working among the poor and homeless while living among them.

To Be Emulated

In 1948, she received permission from the Archbishop of Calcutta to work outside the convent and two years later she founded the Missionaries of Charity.

In 1954, she established a home in Calcutta for people abandoned and left to die on the streets and in 1964 she started a leper colony in West Bengal. In 1975, she published a book entitled ''Gift from God'' and in 1985 she opened the first church-sponsored hospital for patients suffering with AIDS in New York City.

That same year, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honour by President Ronald Reagan. Mother Theresa died of cardiac arrest on September 6, 1997 in eastern India.

The exemplary lives of these two spiritual personalities, one a devout Catholic and other a committed Hindu, serve as universal examples of selflessness.

Their actions should be emulated by all and their way of dealing with issues serves as a force for negotiations.

Courtesy the Trinidad Guardian


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