Who is Juliana Pena?
She remains elusive and mysterious to the population and has been labelled Prime Minister Patrick Manning's prophetess.
She was once a member of the Jesus the Light of This World Ministries on Cemetery Street, Heights of Guanapo, Arima. Evangelist Shirlan Fermin said there was a rift and Pena left, taking some members of the flock with her. Fermin said: "She adios out of town." Pena's name is now linked to the contentious church, named Lighthouse Ministries of Christ.
Pena's an Arimian
But there are other facts on Pena – she is an Arimian, her family are the Pereiras and her childhood home is at Arima Old Road, Arima. It is located a stone's throw from the Dial and on the way to the Arima Senior Comprehensive School. On Thursday, clad in a floral duster, Pena's mother didn't say much on her daughter's whereabouts. Her mother, known as "Ms Pereira," is believed to be in her 80s. Her mother said: "She (Pena) is a big woman and whatever she does is her business." She didn't say whether Pena was in the country or not. Pushing aside the curtains, a woman said she was Pena's sister-in-law and, she, too, doesn't know her whereabouts.
She (the sister-in-law) did not give her name but said she just lived there with her husband (Pena's brother) and her children and mother-in-law. "I don' know much about her...Just what we are reading in the papers," she said. She admitted that Pena kept in contact with her mother. She said Pena would would call on the telephone and say, "Can I speak to mummy?" "I would pass the telephone to her," she said. But she did say "the church at Guanapo is hers." (Pena). Pena's father, known as "Mr Shobee the butcher," died in April 2009.
Spotted at the end of January
An Arimian resident said Pena was spotted about "two to three weeks ago" when she visited her mother. Pena was described as a person of mixed descent, about 60-something and someone who still looks good, by a male resident. She is also the mother of three and her daughter lives in Boston. Other neighbours said they remembered her when around 16, as "a small, slim girl with long hair." "She left and went away...I did not see her for years after," said a neighbour. Another neighbour said when they first heard the news, they didn't know Pena was the girl next door.
"We kept hearing Juliana Pena...we did not know that name. She is a Pereira. I was shocked to be hearing about her links with the Prime Minister," she said. But whenever anyone inquired about her, her mother always said "she good." Another resident said Pena was always "spiritual." "From her youth she would always be going to church and praying for people...She was always spiritual," the man said.
Evangelist Shirlain Fermin said Pena possesses "extraordinary powers." Fermin said: "She is very unique. She is extraordinary. She doesn't speak like us. She is very educated. She knows how to carry about herself. She can carry on a conversation with anyone. She can speak well. She is very pleasant." Fermin related a story in which her sister Yuklan was cured by Pena. She said: "She discovered lumps on her breast. Pena prayed for her and she was cured. Pena is extraordinary," said Fermin. Before Pena and her reputation for having the ear of Manning, Fermin said the Lord raised her up. She said: "At one time, she was living in her car in the US. The Lord raised her up. She cried out to him."
Fermin said Pena started getting prophecy and took it to Manning. "The Lord used her to carry messages to him. He sent her to him to guide so she could hear God's voice." On the issue of the controversial church, Fermin said: "The Reverend (Pena) had the plans before. There were plans for the vegetable gardens and a house for the pastor on the premises. "All that happened is we were in a house and we had plans to build the church over there," she said. "The Lord gave us the vision. The middle of the building is glass. That is for the light of the Lord to come in." On the flip side, Fermin said Manning was chosen to lead T&T.
She also said when Pena was in Africa, she remembered the congregation. "Because of her closeness to Manning, we got hampers for Christmas...I got a hamper," said Fermin. She also said Pena had "gotten arrogant and that led to her downfall." There was a quarrel between the prophetess Cindy Blanc and Pena. Fermin said she had to intervene to quell the controversy by praying with her niece Blanc. Fermin said Pena still visits her big brother in Valencia. "She is very close to my sister-in-law. She hangs out with my brother and his wife," she said.
Religious leaders comment
In his popular calypso, In A Palace State of Mind, calypsonian Winston Scarborough enquired: "Manning did you get rid of the obeah woman?" Some religious leaders have claimed that divine revelation told them Manning should get rid of her. But he hasn't. There are leaders who said they can confirm her linkages with Manning. One leader, who asked not to be identified, said: "Pena sat on the platform at a religious convention (2006) in which Nigerian Pastor Daniel Ekechukwu was the special guest.
"She (Pena) was on the platform (Woodford Square) by special request from the Prime Minister that his friend get a seat. She was representing the Prime Minister." After the convention, she even visited South Africa. The leader also said: "One pastor even had a word for Manning, that there was a lady close to him, and he has to be careful."