Top Stories         Issue Released April 9 2003

How war is hurting TT

Saudi-born man being sought by FBI

US agency feels Adnan Shukrijumah might try entering the USA with TT passport

By Sandra Chouthi
Special to Indo Caribbean World

Port-of-Spain — The US-led war on Iraq has had at least three major effects on Trinidad and Tobago, two of them dealing with tourism and the airline industry, and a third involving the detention and questioning of a Trinidadian who housed an Al-Qaida suspect.

     The most pressing of the three has been the national airline, BWIA, in which the government has a 49 percent stake, appealing for a financial bailout. The airline retrenched 617 employees in January as part of a viable plan for its long-term survival.

   Airline officials, chairman Lawrence Duprey and president Conrad Aleong met with Prime Minister Patric Manning on March 26 at the Ministry of Finance.

Manning’s response to BWIA’s pleas for financial assistance has been firmly negative.

 “We met with BWIA again on Wednesday and we told them quite categorically that the government of Trinidad and Tobago is prepared to allow BWIA to go under. The government is only prepared to prevent that if BWIA is able to make certain internal adjustments. If they can’t make the adjustments, then the government is not prepared to support it,” Manning said on March 27.

    The airline’s financial woes come increased cancellations and high security and fuel prices.

 Clint Williams, the airline’s corporate communications manager, said: “Every minute that passes, BWIA loses more money, so why should we wait before presenting a viable plan as soon as is humanly possible?”

  The airline’s daily operating costs are (Can) $1.05 million, but the airline is not generating anything close to that figure in daily revenue.

    In 2002, the airline posted losses of more than $45.5 million. BWIA’s problems come at the same time that American Airlines is stepping up talks to secure (US) $1.5 billion in financing for a bankruptcy filing that could come this month.

    American Airlines has filed for bankruptcy since the start of the Iraq war, which have made bookings “terrible,” airline officials have said.

    Even as Manning turned down BWIA’s pleas for help, the government is one of four regional governments which have come to the assistance of the Caribbean airline, Liat.

    The government decided on March 18 to give a letter of comfort allowing regional carriers to access (Can) $7.25 million in financing to continue flying.

   Tobago, which is heavily dependent on the tourism sector, has also suffered because of the war on Iraq. Orville London, chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, said on March 24 that hoteliers were reporting cancellations.

If the current trend continued, London said, Tobago, which had only just begun recovering from the aftershocks of 9/11, would not achieve its target of 70,000 tourist arrivals. “People are not travelling,” London said.

The Iraq war has led to the FBI calling on local enforcement authorities for their help in locating a Saudi-born man, Adnan G El Shukrijumah, 27, wanted for allegedly plotting terrorists acts.

The FBI contacted officials of the Ministry of National Security in late March requesting their assistance. Members of the Special Branch are working with the FBI and Interpol to find Shukrijumah.

According to a FBI alert, Shukrijumah might try to enter the US with a Saudi, Canadian or Trinidad and Tobago passport.

“El Shukrijumah is possibly involved with Al Qaeda terrorist activities and, if true, poses a serious threat to US citizens and interests worldwide.”

It was reported that Shukrijumah came to Trinidad in May, 2001.

Franklyn Khan, Minister of Works and Transport, said on March 25: “Security has been increased at the major ports of call.”

Khan, who, on March 26, also signed a (US) $500,000 Inter-American Development Bank grant to finance a programme to strengthen airport security, said: “Airport security is no longer a guard standing up by a door and looking around in a uniform. It has become a very intellectual business and there is the need for very specialised training.”

Asked about the request for information on Shukrijumah’s whereabouts, Prime Minister Manning, who is also chairman of the National Security Council, said: “I know nothing of it.”

On March 27, Special Branch officers located a Trinidadian man, who is a friend of Shukrijumah’s father, believed to have offered the Saudi-born man accommodation.

Police have been tight-lipped on the man’s identity and whereabouts.

According to a 60 Minutes report, aired on March 26 on CBS, FBI agents were looking for El Shukrijumah, whom they said could be the next Mohammad Atta of 9/11 fame. According to the report, El Shukrijumah attended terrorist camps in Afghanistan and is an expert in explosives.

Pat D’Amuro, head of counter-terrorism for the FBI, said: “This individual will rate in the top five with respect to protection of the homeland. I will say, for domestic reasons, within the continental United States, this individual is very important for the FBI to find.”

According to the report, Gulshair, father of Shukrijumah, denied, when questioned by FBI officers, that his son was a terrorist.

The report said that El Shukrijumah, whose nickname is “Jaafaral, the pilot,” moved to the US from Saudi Arabia in 1995 with his family and eventually settled in Miramar, Florida.

He attended a community college and majored in computers, eventually making friends with Imran Mandhai, who was convicted in 2002 of plotting to blow up power plants, among other things.

Tobago, which is heavily dependent on the tourism sector, has also suffered because of the war on Iraq. Orville London, chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, said on March 24 that hoteliers were reporting cancellations.

If the current trend continued, London said, Tobago, which had only just begun recovering from the aftershocks of 9/11, would not achieve its target of 70,000 tourist arrivals. "People are not travelling," London said.

The Iraq war has led to the FBI calling on local enforcement authorities for their help in locating a Saudi-born man, Adnan G El Shukrijumah, 27, wanted for allegedly plotting terrorists acts.

The FBI contacted officials of the Ministry of National Security in late March requesting their assistance. Members of the Special Branch are working with the FBI and Interpol to find Shukrijumah.

According to a FBI alert, Shukrijumah might try to enter the US with a Saudi, Canadian or Trinidad and Tobago passport.

"El Shukrijumah is possibly involved with Al Qaeda terrorist activities and, if true, poses a serious threat to US citizens and interests worldwide."

It was reported that Shukrijumah came to Trinidad in May, 2001.

Franklyn Khan, Minister of Works and Transport, said on March 25: "Security has been increased at the major ports of call."

Khan, who, on March 26, also signed a (US) $500,000 Inter-American Development Bank grant to finance a programme to strengthen airport security, said: "Airport security is no longer a guard standing up by a door and looking around in a uniform. It has become a very intellectual business and there is the need for very specialised training."

Asked about the request for information on Shukrijumah’s whereabouts, Prime Minister Manning, who is also chairman of the National Security Council, said: "I know nothing of it."

On March 27, Special Branch officers located a Trinidadian man, who is a friend of Shukrijumah’s father, believed to have offered the Saudi-born man accommodation.

Police have been tight-lipped on the man’s identity and whereabouts.

According to a 60 Minutes report, aired on March 26 on CBS, FBI agents were looking for El Shukrijumah, whom they said could be the next Mohammad Atta of 9/11 fame. According to the report, El Shukrijumah attended terrorist camps in Afghanistan and is an expert in explosives.

Pat D’Amuro, head of counter-terrorism for the FBI, said: "This individual will rate in the top five with respect to protection of the homeland. I will say, for domestic reasons, within the continental United States, this individual is very important for the FBI to find."

According to the report, Gulshair, father of Shukrijumah, denied, when questioned by FBI officers, that his son was a terrorist.

The report said that El Shukrijumah, whose nickname is "Jaafaral, the pilot," moved to the US from Saudi Arabia in 1995 with his family and eventually settled in Miramar, Florida.

He attended a community college and majored in computers, eventually making friends with Imran Mandhai, who was convicted in 2002 of plotting to blow up power plants, among other things.

 

Young Talents: These members of the Sharada family of Pickering were among the several contributors who performed at the Annual Dinner and Entertainment hosted by the Hindu Institute of Learning last Saturday at the VCC. In picture are, from left, Serena, Shyam (6-year old on tabla), Bindiya and Jaiya. Other persons also made appearances including famous All India Radio singer Sri Vinayak Phatak, Kampta Singh, Bhaskarananda, Anjali Misir, Radha Sampat Ayangar, Savita Maraj, Kiran Rambissoon and Vivek (tabla) and Neeraj (Sitar).

Former TT Consul General Blanchfield passes on

The Trinidad and Tobago Consulate General in Toronto has regretfully an-nounced the untimely death of Cyril Blanchfield, former Consul General in Toronto for several years. Mr Blanchfield died in Trinidad on Monday evening. The funeral will be held in Trinidad.
The Toronto Con-sulate, in association with members of the community, will be holding a memorial service in celebration of the life of Cyril Blanchfield on Wednesday April 16, at 6.30 p.m. at the Woodbine Banquet and Convention Centre, 30 Vice Regent Blvd., Room North A (Highway 27 and Rexdale Blvd.) For more information call the Consulate at 416-495-9443. The Late Cyril Blanchfield                

 

Speaker cites protesting opposition members for contempt of Parliament

Speaker cautions offending MPs, policemen

Georgetown — Jerome Khan and Abdul Kadir, two PNCR Members of Parliament, were on Monday cited for contempt of the House by Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, Speaker of Guyana’s National Assembly. The PNCR is continuing their boycott of Parliament which started when they walked out of the House over a year ago at the time of the 2002 Budget presentation. As such, they were present to hear the Speaker’s admonitions. The Speaker said he expected the two offenders to “purge” themselves of the contempt at the first opportunity. He has forwarded the matter to the Committee of Privileges of Parliament for action to be taken.

Khan and Kadir were part of a rowdy gang of protestors who briefly halted the presentation of the Budget on March 28. They sidestepped police barricades and entered the compound of the Ocean View Convention Centre where the official government business was taking place. Kadir and Khan entered the centre holding their placards for a short time during which there was a heated argument between Khan and PPP/C MP Cyril Belgrave.

The interruption of Parliament lasted for at least 45 minutes as some of the protestors took up position outside the doors of the building and chanted loudly while hitting against the ground and on the glass wall with sticks.

As soon as the sitting recommenced, the Speaker issued a strong condemnation of the behaviour of the protestors "The conduct of those gathered outside was extremely disgraceful and disrespectful," he declared. In his view, the attitude displayed by the two men was most disrespectful and sought to desecrate Parliament, one of the highest symbols of democracy.

Mr Ramkarran also criticized the police for their poor response to the invasion. He contended that their failure to arrest PNCR MPs Jerome Khan and Abdul Kadir placed them "in dereliction of their duty." The Speaker wanted the police to approach the security of parliament with more "seriousness" noting that such an interruption had occurred before and could take place again.

At Monday’s session the Speaker warned members of parliament that they had no immunity from arrest if they behave in an unruly manner.

He restated his position that the police had the authority to stop the breach of peace anywhere and at anytime and did not have to await his authority to do so.


Hindu Institute looks ahead

Speaking at the VCC is Shri Jagadish Chandra Sharada, President of the Hindu Institute of Learning. Sharadaji is a founding member of the Institute and teaches Hindi and Sanskrit. He was given accolades for his humility and extreme dedication to the work of the Institute.

 

Toronto — Last Saturday the Hindu Institute of Learning held its Annual Dinner & Entertainment Evening at the Vedic Cultural Centre in Markham.

The well attended affair was studded with music, songs and messages pertaining to some of the future plans of the organization. One of the main items on the Institute’s agenda is the acquisition of a building to centralize its varied activities which are now conducted at rented facilities.

Since its inception 15 years ago, the Institute has been teaching Indian languages, mainly Hindi and Sanskrit, to adults, and singing and dancing to kids. The age restrictions on these programs are now to be lifted.

The Institute will commence a Montessori in September of this year to teach juniors and pre-schoolers. Also on the cards is the establishment of a day school to teach the same curriculum as in the public schools, but with an Indian language/s, that must include Hindi, and Indian culture as compulsory subjects. The Institute’s classes start on the second week of May, September and January.

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