‘Do so ent like so’: Raffique Shah looks at UNC’s reaction to Jwala’s sacking

I am surprised that so many people are surprised by the termination of services—firing, suspension, the euphemistically-couched “sent on administrative leave”—of several senior government officials, the most prominent being Governor of the Central Bank, Jwala Rambarran.

Photo: Former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambaran (left) and communications manager Charlene Ramdhanie.
Photo: Former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambaran (left) and communications manager Charlene Ramdhanie.

Clearing the politically-constructed State-stables of partisan appointees is a ritual that occurs every time a government changes.

The new regime moves with haste to terminate incumbents on State commissions and boards, starting with those entities and enterprises that they see as critical to the policies and programmes they wish to implement.

Hence, within weeks of taking office, the new PNM administration replaced directors at oil giant Petrotrin and the National Gas Company (NGC), the two pillars of the energy sector. Shortly afterwards, a few senior NGC executives were fired as investigations into certain transactions were undertaken.

The Government also hastily installed a new board to straddle the State-owned media houses CNMG and GISL, and in the process a number of heads at the organisations rolled.

Non-executive directors and politically-appointed executive officers know well that their tenure is tied to their political benefactors’ fortunes. Even those who are not members or supporters of the governments that appoint them become collateral damage when change comes.

Photo: Former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran.
Photo: Former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran.

In the case of ex-Governor Rambarran, his appointment has been contentious from the day he was elevated to the senior-most position in the country financial superstructure—other than the Minister of Finance—back in 2012.

Many persons, among them respected economists and experts in finance, posited that Rambarran was not experienced enough to hold the critical portfolio, and that there were others, including Alvin Hilaire who was a deputy governor, who were more eminently qualified and experienced.

Rambarran’s appointment was thus dogged by politics from day one. When a foreign exchange shortage erupted early in his watch, back when oil prices were high and export earnings healthy, it was said that a crisis arose where there had been none before.

So Rambarran was a marked man, and he seems to have facilitated his demise by naming recipients of foreign exchange, possibly breaching confidentiality. Those who applauded him for exposing the biggest users of foreign exchange will undoubtedly cry foul if their bankers should reveal their banking data.

I imagine Ramnarran’s dismissal, like Jerlean John’s “administrative leave” from the HDC, would end up in court, so I say no more.

Photo: New Central Bank governor Alvin Hilaire. (Copyright Loop TT)
Photo: New Central Bank governor Alvin Hilaire.
(Copyright Loop TT)

It is ironical, though, that those in the former PP Government who are screaming out loud over what they see as “PNM political victimisation” have conveniently forgotten similar actions they took shortly after coming to office in 2010.

The one that remains etched in my memory is the dismissal of Brigadier Peter Joseph as head of the Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT). Then PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar made the announcement at Piarco airport, just before she jetted off somewhere.

The dismantling of SAUTT was inevitable once the PP came to power. But the way Joseph was fired was scandalous. And as if to underscore how unjust his dismissal was, the Government quietly paid him a substantial sum to pre-empt the matter going to court.

In fact, the PP Government went on a wild firing spree, dismissing hundreds of directors from all State enterprises’ boards, replacing them with their own selectees, and in most cases expanding the boards “to the max” to accommodate sundry party loyalists.

They not only dismissed the directors, but persecuted and even prosecuted some of the more prominent.

Photo: Former UTT chairman Professor Ken Julien. (Courtesy news.gov.tt)
Photo: Former UTT chairman Professor Ken Julien.
(Courtesy news.gov.tt)

Let me jog some memories: at E-Teck, Professor Ken Julien, Dr Rene Monteil, Uric McNicol, Brian Copeland, Eugene Tiah and Sonia Noel were fired and sued for TT$30 million, state of lawsuit unknown.

At UTT, Julien (again!), Monteil (again!), Giselle Marfleet, Scott Hilton-Clarke, Ravindra “Raviji” Maharaj and Errol Pilgrim were fired and sued for TT$11.4 million. That case collapsed a few months ago.

Malcolm Jones, executive director at Petrotrin in 2010, was fired along with other directors. Jones was personally sued for TT$1.2 billion—status unknown.

Calder Hart and other directors at UDECOTT fired and sued for TT$500 million: status unknown.

These are but a sampling of the way the PP Government hounded prominent public personalities, persons who served their country, out of office.

Photo: Former Petrotrin executive chairman Malcolm Jones (centre). (Courtesy Firstmagazine.com)
Photo: Former Petrotrin executive chairman Malcolm Jones (centre).
(Courtesy Firstmagazine.com)

Professor Julien, a most respected energy expert who advised governments from as far back as the establishment of the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, fled to Ghana where his services were in demand.

Jones went into internal exile until he and Julien were summoned to serve by the new Government.

I have not mentioned other professionals—academics, doctors, lawyers, engineers, contractors—who were similarly punished by the PP.

Now, they accuse the PNM of discrimination and victimisation. Check the ethnic imbalance of their State-boards.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections. (Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)
Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections.
(Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)

This is a classic case of “do so ‘ent like so.”

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About Raffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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  1. The PNM accused the UNC and their financiers of laundering money hence the unavailability of FOREX. The former CBG revealed that it was the PNM financiers who used up the money and as such he was dismissed.

    Breach of confidentiality? Was he under a statutory duty to keep the info that he revealed confidential? Banks do have a statutory and contractual duty to keep customers data confidential. The issue with the CBG is different from a ‘Bank/Customer’ relationship.

    The media didn’t ‘get hold of Reshmi’s CV’, it came out due to a cat fight among a group of friends some of whom worked within certain media places.
    Once upon a time, there were two women who were after one man. One of the women had a child for the man while the other was being favoured by him. The first one then behaved like a woman scorned. All the friends got involved, and they started revealing each others’ secrets. One of the friends became a liability as she knew too much, and had to be brought down.

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  3. Reading todays express article on Jwala, 2 words describe him….he is an Arrogant & insubordinate bitch…..

  4. as i said at one time put Jwala case to music,Don’t cry for me Argentina ,why shed tears for this gentleman who has been responsible for his own demise,what happened has been of his own creation,public relations is no substitute for good sense,we forgot Dr Euric Bobwho was run out of time by another regime.

  5. In today’s Express, Gerald Yet Ming also made the same comment and reminded us of when he and Carolyn John were fired by the same Jwala and given no notice or opportunity to offer a comment. Unlike the nonsense with JW, there was nothing in the papers to give them fore-warning.

  6. when ppp did ethnic cleansing not voice was raised in protest ,now the shoe is on the other foot ,foul is now called,the central bank is not the place for on the job learning .the gentleman exuded arrogance from the start,if he wants to be a politician then join the unc if he is not a member already,why shed tears for him.

    • U may have erred there sir, a lot of NOISE was made just NOT in the courts, see i had mentioned one simple fact in 2011 which was “how risky is it for a country to appoint Lawyers as politicians and key political positions” today this lesson has been learnt in the most arrogant display of SILKy self appointments and bold and reckless behavior in 34 sections, followed with pre-action protocalls at will, and lady SUE (for this and that) being the major player in many of the end games etc.. the list became endless…… hopefully we have gained many a lesson from all this chaos…

  7. the UNC govt gave Ewart Williams hell and they didn t care ..all they did was to have their own people in place because they want control of this country and to enslave people … with all that money the PP stole they nearly did… we need to clean out or purge this country of this UNC filth they re poisonous and detriment to this nation because when you look at them they have nothing to offer but to full their pockets …just look around and see who have the money while other people catching their arses

  8. JR is just full of arrogance, good riddance

  9. That Raffique felt the need to pen this piece suggests that many Trinidadians now calling Jwala’s sacking politically motivated refuse to acknowledge this is precisely what the former administration did, however I don’t get the impression this is a political witch hunt.

  10. On what basis do you think they will be awarded sums Nerisha? You don’t win court for being unhappy.
    Of course the PNM will have to answer if they lose cases for wrongful dismissal. But here there is some evidence of misbehavior in office.
    There was none in some cases of the previous government. The ministry of sport was a prime example of that where Anil sacked over a dozen people in three months and lost almost every case. And he didn’t sack PNM people. He sacked people to bring in PP loyalists.
    Having said I’m sure a few of the PP sackings–like Malcolm Jones–were also justified.

    • Process-natural justice, right to be heard etc. In my mind, if disclosing such information constituted a breach of confidentiality etc, why wasn’t he sent on leave immediately while legal opinion is sought instead of continuing to make critical decisions on country’s finances. This happened a couple weeks ago, why the great urgency now. I am looking at the timeline of events in both instances, and U am not satisfied due process was followed. All we can do now us wait for years for these matters to be cleared up at court.

    • No need to send someone on leave for a legal opinion but need to send on leave for an audit.

    • After Jwala sent out a press release to the entire nation to justify giving out personal information, what judge can he convince that he did not get the chance to be heard Nerisha? I would love to be in that court room. Haha.

    • Judy-ann Stewart…if they lost confidence in him to do his job, they could have suspended him pending investigation. I am not sure it makes sense to have him continue making decisions if some of the public and business community lost confidence in the manner and fact of disclosure.

    • They didn’t lose confidence in him Nerisha. They can’t lose what wasn’t there in the first place. All that happened is he gave them a legal opening to sack him.
      I rather he has an extra week and the government is sure about the dismissal than they act with haste and get it wrong.
      Why would we want a situation when you are sent on leave as soon as someone doesn’t like them?
      I see nothing wrong with them lining up their ducks first.

    • Lasana Liburd…after the fact of his termination though. The whole situation stinks to be honest. Plus, it is not a secret the current administration’s sentiments towards his appointment. Suppose the gov’t play into his plans?

    • Well, if the gov’t gets it wrong then they will pay the consequences for it. But it isn’t just the current administration that is unhappy with Jwala. He is a lightweight and should never have been there in the first place.

    • The only way they could get rid of him was for cause. Otherwise they would have had to stomach him for the rest of his term. He gave them cause while they waited.

    • Imagine if the media didn’t pick up on Reshmi’s false CV? She would have also been trying to claim political victimisation all now.

    • Yup….I agree as I recall the issues surrounding his appointment. Qualified persons submitted cv’s and one was selected, no interview etc. I only now know about his affiliation. Well, I still would not compare Reshmi in tjis instance, as he is at least qualified albeit maybe the least qualified unless he submitted false info on his cv.

    • Mark Murrell as I said I only recently found out about his affiliation but suspected something was up…the highlight of his achievement/ the selling point was his relative ‘youth’. As I say, to take politics out of the appointment of such important office holders, we need an independent body to source, vet and appoint best candidates. But that will never happen as it’s convenient for us to have political appointees. And things like these may deter best candidates from accepting post/s in the future as they may be seen as political apoointees.

    • maybe …. maybe not .. and by that i mean, once ppl feel that they are able to carry out their jobs without the fear of political victimization and or threat they will perform, and YES the idea of INDEPENDENT bodies for these and other such appointment is much needed here…

    • lol… Bread and Butter Fact!!… and No Mrs Mohammed to date there is no evidence of him having any “False Papers” however his appointment does however show signs of nepotism, a habit of Both present and past administrations one which we all hope someday can be stamped out of our system, which would in turn give jack they jacket and allow due process, as well as have the RIGHT/QUALIFIED person(s) fill the suitable positions..

  11. While the PP did go on a firing spree we need to correct one thing here – Calder Hart was not one of those fired by the PP… he resigned when the evidence of his links to the company building the Legal Affairs towers became overwhelming ….. seriously he is one of those the country needs to bring back to account for millions that were spent ….. he is just another example of a senior executive involved in the waste of public resources through the State agencies and the fact this sector needs to be reigned in and held accountable….

  12. Both as bad as each other. As long as we have these tribal games going on in our politics and governance, the country suffers, and its potential severely handicapped. Developed countries are better at this because the turnover is handled professionally without jeopardising national development. In a small country with just under a million and a half people, these things have a much bigger impact as they take up an inordinate amount of time in rancour and point scoring and courts and yes, legal fees, and costs borne by the State and so it goes. Depressing.

  13. Well written, the nitty gritty simply expained

  14. Before the last government, the appointees to the position of governor were never in question. That government is the same on that broke all ethical rules that people thought were in place for governments. For example, they threw the leader of the opposition out of Parliament. In Jearlean John’s case, it is not a political move as she was there since Patrick Manning’s government and she also was in Panday’s own, I think. In her case, she was sent on administrative leave to allow an audit to take place. She is simply ‘taking infront’ because she should wait until the results of the audit are known. Maybe she knows that she would not be cleared and this is her attempt to stop the audit. Clearly there are issues in the HDC and Jearlean’s attempt to stop the audit is questionable.

    I would also say that before the last government, changes only took place at board level and not at management level. They turned us on our head and have us thinking that we have to legislate for every action. We can’t.

  15. I don’t have an issue with action against Jearlean John or Jwala Rambarran, but I do take issue with the manner in which it is done. Both are and others would take legal action and probably be awarded sums from the public purse. Why do we not demand an end to party appointees to serve the state and demand appointments through a committee/board to screen and select persons to serve. All of this changing of the guard also can result in unstable policies and administration etc.

  16. As the youths say give that man a cookie hell give the whole cookie jar!! Excellent piece even better when read in conjunction with article yesterday in the Guardian on JR firing. … Lasana help a girl out the the guy name please??

  17. So the finance minister has to hear that the country in a recession at the same time the citizens do but this man demands courtesy and say he found out he was fired via the media !!!! “Do so ain’t like so” is most appropriate ??

  18. When the shoe is on the other foot….its such an akward feeling…and there is no comparison with last govt here….it is clearly a legal issue…which us did he breach or not breach CBTT Act ??? Lets not be distracted….secondly on tge last CBTT board they expanded the composition of the board, so as to out vote those who they could not fire….take note

  19. They even wearing MATCHING SPECS….what is wrong with these people…

  20. The way to deal with Kamla et al was best described by Dr Williams. Let the jackass bray

  21. Very true Judy-ann Stewart. We cannot afford to use the last government to offer context for the PNM’s performance.
    Compare the last government only to entities like FIFA and the WICB.

  22. The way UNC performed in government, it makes me wonder whether their message will be lost because of those actions. It will be important for us to consider carefully the actions of this government without thinking of the last one as, in comparison, everything will be wonderful. While I do have concerns about the timing in terms of Powers’s absence, I feel that JR’s behaviour warranted the action and also that he will not have a leg to stand on in Court. I hope that any other actions taken are clearly in order and raise no red flags. Things will be bad enough in the next 5 years so I don’t want any additional governance issues.

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