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Under age marriages will soon officially be illegal in Trinidad and Tobago as the PNM agreed to raise the legal age of matrimony to 18, in line with the Children’s Act, passed last year.
 
Chairman Franklin Khan confirmed the party's General Council voted for the act to be amended, which adds to the protection of children.  
 
The topic of child marriage has the talking point this past week, and it's caught the attention of the PNM's general council on Saturday.
 
Party Chairman Franklin Khan confirmed members voted unanimously for the marriage act to be amended.
 
The motion was raised by former Arima MP Penelope Beckles.
 
The issue has been contentious, sparking debates across the country. Particularly following the comments of head of the Inter-Religious Organisation Brother Harrypersad Maharaj, who said his organization still supported child marriages.
 
However, many public figures have objected to this stance, including Archbishop Joseph Harris and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who called for the change on Friday.
 
Khan said the council had been mindful of the public opinion.
 
This decision paves the way for law to be changed within weeks.
 
C news contacted brother Harrypersad Maharaj following the PNM's announcement, but he said he would be unable to comment until he spoke with the other members of the IRO.
Can Trinidad and Tobago benefit from Venezuelans both living and visiting here and if so, what are the challenges facing them and businesses who want to hire them?
 
Venezuela may be at its closest point, seven nautical miles from Trinidad’s Chaguaramas - but despite the proximity, when it comes to culture, food and language - both countries are worlds apart.
 
Despite that, scores come to these shores weekly, either through the airport, or northern and southern boat terminals - to buy much needed basic items, and seek much needed us-dollars either through legal, or illegal work.
 
However, for those that are highly qualified and hired by Trinidadian companies - it's never plain sailing.
 
Nicholas Galt has over 35 years doing business across Central and Latin American.
 
However, whilst he doesn't speak Spanish, he doesn't see it as a barrier to cross border commerce.
 
One of the other issues that can act as a barrier or conduit to international trade is understanding culture.
 
Hugh Howard, the former AMCHAM president said whilst traditionally, there’re been a lot of Venezuelans coming here to learn English and adapt to Trini- culture - the reverse really hasn't occurred.
 
The questions though being asked - is whether (a) the T&T economy here can afford to support them since there's no welfare system per se, (b) how many are working illegally and (c) whether those currently here with various skills - which include Spanish , can be gainfully employed without placing a burden on an economy in stagnation.

Venezuelans in Cedros

On Monday, the Venezuelan President- Nicolas Maduro will arrive in Trinidad and Tobago for a one-day state visit but as any one walking through the streets can tell, a number of Venezuelans are already here.
 
In Cedros, where the people are closer to Venezuela than they are to Port of Spain, four boats go back and forth between our two countries, twice a week and when they arrive they are packed with Venezuelans eager to leave the troubling situation in that country behind.
 
Several Venezuelans wait down in Cedros for their relatives to come through immigration. 
 
Kenny Marcano, a Venezuelan who has been in Trinidad for the last three years, is waiting for his aunt. 
 
He says the process to enter this country has become more involved for Venezuelan nationals.
 
The Venezuelan boats come to Trinidad via the Guardia Nacional port at Tupacpita and the Venezuelans rush off to our local supermarkets.
 
On Monday President Maduro declared a three month state of emergency across Venezuela, flouting the Opposition led-National Congress, which is like our Parliament. 
 
Mr. Marcano describes the reaction from his relatives who are still in Venezuela to this latest turn of events.
 
A trip on the boat costs 1,200 TT dollars one way, which is more than a year's salary for an average Venezuelan, some of whom are willing to mortgage their homes, take a loan or sell their cars to get the fare and find money to ensure that they get to a place where there is food and medicine readily available.
The Prime Minister has confirmed the country won't be caught unaware if economic problems in Venezuela continue and there's an influx of refugees here.
 
Dr Keith Rowley said when he speaks with president Nicholas Maduro on Monday - one of the top agenda topics will be the crisis engulfing T&T's Spanish-speaking neighbor.
The number of Venezuelans currently in Trinidad and Tobago has increased to 20,000.
 
The categories they fall into vary - from three-month visitors, to economic migrants seeking a better standard of living, to those who come and go after buying basic items or the highly prized US currency.
 
However, with the crisis getting worse in the Latin American country - inflation is at 700 % - there's concerns that sooner or later, if the economy collapses - Trinidad could see an influx of Venezuelans coming here seeking refuge.
 
The economic situation in Venezuela, according to leading economists, business writers and international experts, is getting worse daily.
 
Speaking at a parliament on Friday, the Prime Minister said Trinidad and Tobago has an obligation under international law to take in refugees, regardless of where they may originate.
 
However, Dr Rowley said one of the distinctions his government has observed so far is the Venezuelans coming here are more economic migrants buying everyday items.
 
President Maduro’s visit on Monday has tossed up some interesting questions amongst international commentators and Venezuelans working and living here - not least the fact the country has been described as being in economic meltdown and the sitting leader has chosen to leave at such a crucial time, when there's been riots, looting and general sense of civil unrest.
 
The general thinking is this visit is twofold - diplomatically it could be inferred Mr. Maduro is attempting to sure up international support in the face of political un-ease and calls for him to step down and, he's also looking for much needed foreign exchange - possibly gained by advancing energy agreements related to both oil refining and LNG from the Loran-Manatee field - which in essence will benefit both countries.
The Chief Justice Ivor Archie says judicial independence must be supported by financial, institutional administrative autonomy and maintained by IT.
 
Speaking at the 11th Annual Conference of the International Association of Court Administrators, Chief Justice Archie said the judiciary's lack of control over its finances and the management of its Human Resources have placed severe limitations on the organization’s ability to achieve its goals.
 
The CJ said the net overall impact is "an erosion of judicial independence and an ability to successfully fulfill its mandate.''

Pensioner murdered after land dispute

A dispute over land is believed to have cost a pensioner his life.
 
Shortly after 4 am on Sunday, 65 year Mookram Kanhai got into an argument with a relative concerning electricity for a plot of land at his Rio Claro home.
 
The argument escalated into violence as the 35-year old relative pulled out cutlass.
 
He severed the right hand of Kanhai, as well as dealing deadly blows to Mr Kanhai's face and head.
 
Following the incident, the relative called police - who detained him.
 
He’s expected to be charged in relation to the crime.
The Environmental group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea is once again calling on the Government and the Environmental Management Authority to look again look at reviewing the policies for seismic testing.
 
The group, along with some fishermen across the country believes the lack of regulation has brought the fishing industry to its knees.
 
The rains have meant that watercourses across the country are being replenished, but for fishermen it hasn't meant their nets are getting any fuller.
 
The fishermen are struggling to put a finger on what exactly is causing this problem.
 
But they believe that pollution and seismic testing may have a part to play.
 
As the industry continues to flounder, the fishermen believe they have been left to dry by the authorities and are pleading for their intervention.
 
The environmental group fisherman and friends of the sea had been defeated in the high court in March as the challenged the EMA's decision to grant certificates of environmental clearance to the PETROTRIN for seismic testing.
 
However now, they believe they have new data to sway the EMA.
 
The fishermen are hopeful they will listen this time, as they believe the industry can aid the current economic climate in the country.
 
But that's if the fish come back.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has called on the nation's young people to continue raising their voices on matters of public interest.
 
The Prime Minister was speaking at the University of the Southern Caribbean's Graduation ceremony at the Queen's Park Savannah.
 
Using the recent debate on child marriages as a reference, he urged the graduates to continue speaking out for positive, societal change.
 
On Saturday the P-N-M voted unanimously to have the age of marriage changed to be in line with the Children's Act - which will be tabled for Parliamentary debate shortly.
 
Also during his speech, the Prime Minister also called for more of the public to speak out on criminal acts.

Police investigating several deaths

Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a 32 year old Central man.
 
According to reports at around 2:30am, Saisnarine Baliram of Nolan Street, Felicity was found dead by his brother.
 
Baliram, a laborer at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, was lying on his back with a white and blue cloth belt tied around his neck. 
 
The DMO and police officers visited the area and pronounced the man dead
 
The body was taken to the forensic science where a postmortem is expected to take place today.
 
In an unrelated incident, Cnews also understands that at about 3 o clock this morning there was a robbery and shooting outside Republic Bank Fyzabad where one person was shot twice in the leg. 
 
He is being treated for injuries.
 
Police are also investigating two murders.
 
In one incident, at around 7:30 pm on Sunday, officers responded to a call by residents of Stone Road, Piparo saying they heard several explosions. 
 
On their arrival the officers discovered the body of lucky Mohammed of Chickland Road, Caparo lying in a pool of blood. 
 
His body bore several gunshot wounds to the back of the head.  
 
And police are also investigating the murder of Akil Francis.
 
The 31 year old was from Reid Road, Point Fortin. 
 
We understand he was walking along the roadway when two men came out of a vehicle and fired several shots at him.
 
Francis was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

More protests in Oropuche North

It was another day of protest for residents of Oropuche North, Sangre Grande as bad roads continue to be a major problem.
 
Residents say 2two years ago the road was fixed and WASA came in and began work.
 
Now the road is in a bad condition. 
 
One resident Joel Guevara told us the local government representative has been speaking with them but has only making false promises.
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