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    The final list of candidates by the People’s Partnership as presented at their rally at the Ato Boldon Stadium last Sunday has again confirmed that the People’s Partnership is not using the party card as the sole method for selecting candidates for elected office.

    Controversy has been generated around the nomination of Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, as the UNC candidate for Caroni Central even though he is a member of the COP, another party in the coalition.

    The controversy that has erupted seems to revolve around the issue of whether someone who is a member of one party can seek election under the ticket of another party. 

    This is where it seems that the People’s Partnership has moved in the direction of relaxing rigid internal party rules in favour of being able to broaden the base of talent available to contest seats under strategically chosen party symbols among the partners.

    This broadens the pool of political talent to be offered to the electorate which can be contrasted with the belief that one has to belong to a political party and have a party card in order to participate under a party symbol.

    In many respects, the Tewarie controversy is nothing new. 

    In 2010, Justice Herbert Volney resigned as a judge in order to contest the St Joseph seat. According to Andre Bagoo, writing in the Newsday for Tuesday May 4, 2010, under the headline “UNC’s Volney gets through,” this is what occurred:

    “Former high court judge Herbert Volney was yesterday accepted as the UNC’s candidate for St Joseph despite a glitch in his paperwork which had to be ironed-out at the last minute by the party. ‘He needed a letter stating he was a member of the UNC and it was done,’ UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday. She noted that the party held a special executive meeting just to confirm that Volney was officially a party member.”

    In essence, these are internal party matters, however their significance relates more to the Constitution of the country than to the constitution of the party. In 1978, the country’s Constitution was amended by Act No 15 of 1978 to provide a new ground upon which an elected MP would be required to vacate his or her seat.

    Section 49(2) (e) was added which reads as follows:

    “(2) A member of the House of Representatives shall also vacate his seat in the House where—

    (e) having been a candidate of a party and elected to the House, he resigns from or is expelled by that party.”

    These provisions were later used as the basis for the commencement of political action in the House of Representatives to remove Volney as the MP for St Joseph when he changed his loyalty, because on nomination day, he was deemed to be a member of the UNC as the party symbol was assigned to his candidacy.

    The UNC has exercised its party jurisdiction over Dr Tewarie and he has consented to that for this general election. 

    If there should be any difficulties in the future with regard to his loyalty, the UNC party leader would have jurisdiction over his membership of the House of Representatives.

    The issue of party loyalty is broader under the People’s Partnership as it seems to apply to Partnership loyalty, which makes it more flexible. 

    In 2010, both Errol Mc Leod (Pointe-a-Pierre) and Ernesto Kesar (La Brea) of the MSJ contested under the UNC ticket, while Makandal Daaga (Laventille West), Kwasi Mutema (Laventille East/Morvant) and Nayahuma Obika (Point Fortin) all contested under the COP symbol, despite being members of NJAC.

    The PNM has continued to drive a hard line on the issue of party membership and election candidacy. Having a party card is primary before one can run for office as a candidate of the party. When Dr Vincent Lasse and Dr Rupert Griffith crossed the floor from the PNM to the UNC in February 1997, the party initiated action to have their seats declared vacant which Speaker Hector Mc Clean rejected.

    Then political leader Patrick Manning went to court to vary the Speaker’s decision and subsequently withdrew the case at great cost to himself. Then attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj had this to say in reply to a question for oral answer in the House of Representatives on July 23, 1999:

    “There is a case in which the unsuccessful applicant made a request of the State for it to waive costs. In that case, Patrick Manning vs The Attorney General and others, No 1000 of 1997 and No 834 of 1997. There was a judicial review application and a constitutional motion which were both consolidated. The attorney for the applicant on April 20, 1997, before Madam Justice Warner, informed the court during the hearing of the matter that he could not continue the matter. The judge dismissed the consolidated action and awarded costs to the State. The costs were taxed in the amount of $1,153,811.08.”

    Is the party card as paramount today as it was before?


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  • 08/30/15--01:04: MANIFESTO WARS
  • The launch of the People’s Partnership manifesto on August 7, and the launch of the PNM manifesto on August 20, has pushed the general election campaign into a phase that can be called “manifesto wars.” 

    Among the major criticisms of the PNM manifesto by the People’s Partnership are the recycling of older promises made in earlier manifestos. A very significant one had to do with the reduction of the Value Added Tax. In 1991, the PNM promised under the heading “Assistance to Low Income Groups” as follows:

    “…the rate of the Value Added Tax (VAT) will be reduced…...” (Sunday Guardian PNM manifesto advertising supplement, December 1, 1991, p 5).

    This particular measure has been repeated in the 2015 PNM manifesto as follows:

    “Reduce VAT to 12.5% to provide much-needed relief to all consumers and lower the cost of living, while aggressively improving tax collections.” (p 77).

    The proposal for the reduction of the VAT has led to a fierce retort from the PNM against Cambridge University-trained UWI economist, Dr Roger Hosein. Last week, the Sunday Guardian reported that Hosein had said that the country stood to lose “close to $5.5 billion in revenues over a five-year period.” The PNM’s attack on Hosein sought to challenge his credibility by saying that his comments were “unempirical and unscientific.”

    That debate is ongoing because Hosein stuck to his position and was still asking the question about where the lost revenue will be found.

    Another PNM manifesto promise that was challenged by the People’s Partnership was the issue of land records in Tobago. In their 1961 manifesto, the PNM had promised that for Tobago, “Efforts will be made to clarify and regularise land titles. With titles firmly established, more medium and long-term loans would be made by the Agricultural Credit Bank.” [PNM 1961 Manifesto, Priority 6 (a)].

    However, in their 2015 manifesto, the PNM is promising to “collaborate with the THA to formalise land rights in Tobago as a prerequisite for improved security of land tenure and sustainable economic development.” (p 74).

    The issue of land titles in Tobago came to a head in January 2013 during the THA election campaign in a ceremony on January 14, 2013, when Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar gave out land title deeds to people who had been waiting for several years. 

    On the other hand, the People’s Partnership has come under fire from the PNM over the issue of the property tax. At a PNM meeting at Five Rivers, Arouca, two Saturdays ago, PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley told the crowd:

    “So when I told the reporter that we the PNM have nothing to do because this Government had laid a framework since 2014, and that’s in place, Mr Howai jumps up the next morning and calls me a liar.” That was in response to Finance Minister Larry Howai’s recent statements that no property tax was planned for next year, and that the Cabinet had not considered any resumption of the property tax.

    The position of the Government is that there will be no property tax, while the position of the PNM is that they are powerless to do anything because they are of the opinion that the framework for the property tax is already in place. 

    The PNM have not said that, if they should win, they would use their parliamentary majority to prevent a property tax. Instead, they are saying that they cannot do anything to change it. The Government has said it will not happen.

    Perhaps the most contentious issue in the manifesto wars has been the question of building a highway to Point Fortin. According to the PNM 2015 manifesto, the party has promised to “complete the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway in a manner that best serves the national interest and the interest of all affected parties and stakeholders.” (p 39). 

    The People’s Partnership has responded by saying that they are already building the highway and that they will complete it. They also said that the PNM promised to build the highway in previous manifestos and did not deliver that promise. In the PNM 1961 manifesto, there was a promise for “construction of a highway from St Mary’s to Point Fortin.” [Priority 5]. In their 1966 manifesto it was stated that “Studies and surveys are in progress in respect of the highway from St Mary’s to Point Fortin.” (p 9). In their 1981 manifesto, the PNM promised “the extension of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin…” (p 140). In their 1991 manifesto, the PNM again promised “Extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin….” (Sunday Guardian PNM manifesto advertising supplement, December 1, 1991, p 10). In the 2007 PNM manifesto, they again promised “Extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway from Golconda to La Brea and Point Fortin. Design work is almost complete for this initiative.” (p. 36).

    The manifesto wars have come late in the campaign. The PNM chose their candidates ahead of presenting their manifesto. On the other hand, the People’s Partnership did the opposite and presented their manifesto ahead of deciding on their candidates.


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  • 09/06/15--03:11: CALCULATING MARGINALITY
  • One of the key academic issues that has arisen in this general election campaign has been the question of deciding which constituencies may be considered marginal and which ones are not. There are many ways in which a constituency may be deemed to be marginal that can range from emotion to scientific calculation.

    I invented a formula for the calculation of the outer limit of marginality back in 2002. The inner limit of marginality will always be zero. The outer limit of marginality is a moving target from election to election. My marginality formula is designed to calculate an outer limit for marginality rather than guessing what might be marginal.

    The symbols for this formula are M for marginality and D for the mid-point spread of the deposit level for the largest (L) and smallest (S) constituencies if everyone were to vote. This formula applies to electoral systems that use the first past-the-post method where the retention of the deposit of every candidate is calculated at one-eighth of the total votes cast in a constituency. The deposit is a fundamental statistical benchmark and can serve as a guide to determine where a survey should be conducted if marginality is the key element in the search for truly mixed political opinions. In marginal constituencies, the first and second candidates will always save their deposits owing to the fact that marginality always tends to move closer to zero as the difference between the first and second candidates.

    In using electoral data from the general election that immediately precedes the one that is being measured, there can be challenges involving the emergence of strong third parties. Such was the case in the 2010 general election where 2007 data was used. In that situation, the votes for the second and third candidates from 2007 were added together and calculations made in relation to the first candidate to determine marginality.

    The constituencies with the largest electorate (L) and the smallest electorate (S) must be divided by eight, and then their difference divided by two in order to calculate D which is the deposit mid-point. Therefore, the formula is: (L/8–S/8)/2=D

    Once D is determined, then the statistical formula for calculating the outer limit of marginality (M) is: {(L/8)–D =(S/8)+D}=M.

    Using my marginality formula with the 2015 revised list of electors, the following emerged:

    L = Toco/Sangre Grande 30,148/8=3768.5

    S = Port-of-Spain South 23,777/8=2972.125

    3,768.5 – 2,972.125=796.375 

    765.375/2=398.1875

    3,768.5 – 398.1875=3,370.3125

    2,972.125 + 398.1875=3,370.3125 

    M=3,370.3125

    Under the circumstances, M would be rounded down to the nearest whole number so that M = > 3,370.

    When the value of M (> 3,370) was applied to the results of the 2010 general election on the basis of measuring the difference between the first and second candidates in all constituencies, the following marginal constituencies in Trinidad emerged with a difference between first and second that was less than the outer limit of marginality (> 3,370):

    Arima (364) 

    Diego Martin North East (463) 

    Point Fortin (655) 

    Toco/Sangre Grande (700) 

    Diego Martin Central (993) 

    Lopinot/Bon Air West (1,003) 

    Diego Martin West (1,046) 

    La Horquetta/Talparo (1,079) 

    San Fernando West (1,251) 

    D’Abadie/O’Meara (1,343) 

    Tunapuna (2,297) 

    La Brea (2,564) 

    Port-of-Spain South (2,770) 

    St Ann’s East (2,776) 

    Moruga/Tableland (2,947) 

    Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West (2,968) 

    St Joseph (3,057) 

    When the boundary changes recommended by the Elections and Boundaries Commission in their report dated January 29, 2014, are factored in, the following constituencies emerged with adjusted first over second place figures: 

    Diego Martin North East (was 463 now 618) 

    Diego Martin Central (was 993 now 832) 

    Diego Martin West (was 1,046 now 1,269) 

    San Fernando West (was 1,251 now 1,084) 

    San Fernando East (was 3,627 now 2,610) (now in the marginal zone) 

    Port-of-Spain South (was 2,770 now 2,813) 

    Port-of-Spain North /St Ann’s West (was 2,968 now 2,751)

    These marginal constituencies emerged on the basis of using the difference between the first and second candidates in the results of the 2010 general election and then re-calculating the differences between first and second candidates on the basis of boundary changes implemented by the EBC for the 2015 general election.

    The results of the by-election in 2013 in St Joseph confirmed its continued status as a marginal constituency owing to the fact that its 2010 and 2013 electoral data fell inside of 3,370 (3,057 in 2010 down to 780 in 2013).

    The application of a zoom lens to the data that captures the perennial marginal constituency of Tunapuna (2,297) by reducing the number of constituencies on a scientific basis using a value of M (>2,300) which falls inside the actual value of M (>3,370) would give scientific certainty (not emotional assertiveness) that those constituencies selected were marginal whichever way the result would go as long as they fell inside the zone of marginality. That would then constitute the data set for the next general election in respect of marginality.


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  • 09/13/15--05:04: THE TRANSFER OF POWER
  • For the sixth time in T&T’s post-independence history, there has been a transfer of power from one political grouping to another. The five other changes took place in 1986, 1991, 1995, 2001 and 2010. Last Monday, the PNM returned to power.

    It was apparent that there was a late swing among the undecided voters who broke in favour of the PNM moreso than for the People’s Partnership. This could be seen in the fact that the Solution by Simulation poll in early August was showing a 21-20 seat lead and greater popularity for the People’s Partnership. The last Capsu poll, that was done over the period August 21-24, also showed that the People’s Partnership was ahead at that time.

    While Capsu did not do any polling in the first week of September, H.H.B. and Associates for the Guardian, Solution by Simulation for the Express and Nacta, on its own, were able to go into the field at that time. There were differing findings among them which ranged from a narrow PP win (Nacta) to an inconclusive prediction (Solution by Simulation), to a narrow PNM victory (H.H.B. and Associates). The closest that any of those polling organisations who polled the field in that last week came to a correct seat allocation was H.H.B. and Associates who projected 22-19 for the PNM and confessed to not polling Moruga-Tableland because of resource constraints.

    Louis Bertrand and his colleagues at H.H.B. and Associates must be congratulated for coming the closest to the actual result among those who did polling in the field in that final week.

    The official results have only recently been released. My initial finding is that there was a clear shift towards the PNM by the undecided swing voters identified in all of the polls.

    Last week, I explained my formula for calculating the outer limit of marginality and I indicated that the results of the 2015 general election will provide the data set for the next general election. On my formula, the outer limit of marginality was calculated at 3,370 as the margin between first and second in order to classify a seat as marginal.

    Based on the official results that have been published, it would appear that there are now nine marginal constituencies based on the difference between first and second places that fell inside of 3,370. 

    These are:

    1. Moruga/Tableland (533)

    2. Barataria/San Juan (540)

    3. Chaguanas East (1,424)

    4. Pointe-a-Pierre (1,506)

    5. St Joseph (1,633)

    6. La Horquetta/Talparo (2,822)

    7. Mayaro (2,894)

    8. Cumuto/Manzanilla (3,179)

    9. San Fernando West (3,310)

    Three constituencies ended up on the cusp of marginality by falling just outside my own outer limit for marginality of 3,370 based on the first over the second place candidates. 

    These were:

    1. Tunapuna (3,615)

    2. Point Fortin (3,743)

    3. Toco/Sangre Grande (3,904)

    Based on these outcomes, the perennial marginal constituency of Tunapuna can now be deemed to have lost its marginal status coming out of this general election, while Point Fortin and Toco/Sangre Grande will remain clustered with it.

    The formal transfer of power that commenced last Wednesday with the swearing-in ceremony for the new Prime Minister Dr Rowley, his Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, and his Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon was marred by a most unfortunate event that was clearly avoidable.

    There is no way that the appointments of Al-Rawi and Dillon could have been valid if they took their oath of office before Prime Minister Rowley. Until such time as the Prime Minister took his oath, no other appointment could have been constitutionally valid.

    There are some who have argued that the President (as a former High Court judge) ought to have known better, and others who have argued that the new Attorney General (as the principal legal adviser to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet) ought to have declined to take his oath before that of his Prime Minister. 

    Whichever it may be, it was embarrassing for both Al-Rawi and Dillon to be required to take their oaths a second time behind closed doors and to be issued with fresh instruments of appointment as neither of their appointments, in strict constitutional terms, were valid up until the second oath was taken. It was not a matter of protocol, but rather elementary constitutional law.

    The second swearing-in ceremony saw Prime Minister Rowley adopt the formula of former prime minister Basdeo Panday by appointing two defeated candidates as senators. Clarence Rambharat (defeated in Mayaro) was appointed minister of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries and Avinash Singh (defeated in Caroni Central) was appointed as his parliamentary secretary.

    This was a fundamental departure from the PNM policy of not appointing defeated candidates to the Senate. Dr Eric Williams established it in 1976 when he refused to appoint Basil Pitt and Wilbert Winchester who lost, while George Chambers and Patrick Manning copied that policy. The PNM criticised Panday for this after the 2000 general election and then president Robinson delayed those appointments for 55 days, but Dr Rowley has now embraced the Panday model of appointing defeated candidates to the Parliament.​


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    On Monday September 20, 1976, one week after the PNM won the 1976 general election, Dr Eric Williams, in an address to a public meeting at the corner of Piccadilly Street and Town Council Street in Port-of-Spain, said, “The electorate has spoken. I am absolutely convinced that it will be wrong for any party or for the PNM to take a candidate who was defeated at the polls and put him in the Senate.” (Trinidad Guardian, September 21, 1976, lead story by Errol Pilgrim).

    Thus was born the Williams doctrine on defeated candidates, in general, and defeated PNM candidates in particular, being appointed as senators after a general election.

    This doctrine stood in stark contrast to the decision by the then leader of the opposition, Basdeo Panday, who led the new party called the ULF, to appoint a defeated candidate as a senator. His six senators consisted of Lennox Pierre, Dr George Sammy, George Weekes, Joseph Young, Dora Bridgemohan and Allan Alexander. 

    The latter, a prominent attorney, was the defeated ULF candidate in Point Fortin.

    From that time onwards, all future PNM leaders, namely George Chambers and Patrick Manning, upheld the Williams doctrine that no defeated candidate would be appointed as a senator.

    From that time onwards, the Panday doctrine was that defeated candidates were both eligible and appointable as senators.

    Panday would repeat it in 1991 when he recommended Wade Mark (defeated UNC candidate in Barataria/San Juan) as an opposition senator and when he became prime minister in 1995, he proposed Hector Mc Lean (defeated UNC candidate in Tunapuna) as speaker of the House of Representatives. This was repeated after the 2000 general election with his nomination of seven defeated candidates as senators and also the election of Dr Rupert Griffith (defeated UNC candidate in Arima) as speaker.

    To this end, there was a clear Panday doctrine that upheld the notion of defeated candidates as parliamentarians.

    The Williams and Panday doctrines have co-existed as polar opposites between 1976 and 2015.

    Two Fridays ago, the PNM abandoned the Williams doctrine with the appointment of Clarence Rambharat (defeated PNM candidate in Mayaro) and Avinash Singh (defeated PNM candidate in Caroni Central) when they were appointed Minister of Agriculture and Parliamentary Secretary in that ministry respectively.

    Back in 2000-2001, then president ANR Robinson resisted Panday’s recommendations for seven defeated candidates to be appointed senators and ministers for 55 days. Indeed, on December 31, 2000, Robinson wrote to Panday, inter alia, to justify his refusal to act on his advice in making the appointments, as follows:

    “To elevate candidates defeated in the general election to positions in the Government and even in the Cabinet, is not only a rebuff to the electorate, it may even be considered by some to be an act of revenge.”

    When compared to the actions of Robinson in 2000-2001, there was no such resistance by President Carmona to the recommendations by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley with respect to the appointments of Rambharat and Singh in 2015.

    The UNC did not miss the significance of this move and issued a press release last week acknowledging the shift by the PNM to adopt the UNC position (which is really encompassed in the Panday doctrine).

    The emergence of the Williams doctrine in 1976 came out of a lobby for the appointment of Basil Pitt as a senator after he had been defeated in Tobago West by Dr Winston Murray of the DAC. 

    Indeed, the Sunday Guardian editorial of September 19, 1976, said, in part, as follows:

    “We do not know what the policy of the Government is with regard to the nomination of valuable, but defeated candidates to the Senate, but if such a policy can accommodate the selection of Mr Pitt, we should certainly be among those who would support such a decision.” (Sunday Guardian, editorial, September 19, 1976).

    Dr Williams delivered his address on the following evening in which he outlined his rejection of the idea of appointing defeated candidates as parliamentarians.

    In its editorial on Wednesday, September 22, 1976, the Guardian changed its initial position and said, in part, as follows:

    “Dr Williams has a point, a defeated candidate should not be brought to Parliament by the back door. But there is little that he or the President, who makes all appointments, could do as there is no bar to Mr Allan Alexander becoming an Opposition Senator. The President could try to dissuade the Opposition but the political wishes of the Opposition are paramount in this matter.” (Guardian, editorial, September 22, 1976).

    The reality is that for the better part of 39 years, the Williams doctrine has prevailed for the PNM and the Panday doctrine has prevailed for the UNC.

    Last week, the PNM made a highly significant philosophical shift to discard the Williams doctrine and adopt the Panday doctrine on defeated candidates being appointed as parliamentarians and members of the executive branch of government.

    What was a raging firestorm 15 years ago passed without any adversity two Fridays ago. The Panday legacy surprisingly replaced the Williams doctrine based on a PNM decision.


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    With the opening of the Eleventh Parliament last Wednesday, the most significant development was the consolidation of the governance model of having defeated candidates as parliamentarians on a bi-partisan basis.

    Last week, I highlighted the fact that the Eric Williams doctrine of not appointing defeated candidates to the Senate had now been discarded by the PNM. At the time of writing then, the PNM had only appointed two senators from among their list of defeated candidates, while the Opposition People’s Partnership had not yet named their six senators and neither had the President named his nine independent senators. 

    When the remainder of the senators to be recommended by the Prime Minister was named, there was another defeated PNM candidate, Sara Alisa Budhu (defeated in Caroni East), among them.

    The People’s Partnership opposition senators also included defeated candidates in the persons of Vasant Bharath (UNC—defeated in St Joseph) and Rodger Samuel (COP—defeated in Arima).

    All sides of the political divide in T&T with membership in the House of Representatives have now completely adopted the governance model, first advanced by Basdeo Panday, of proposing the appointment of defeated candidates as parliamentarians with the PNM and the COP now joining the fray.

    President Carmona, like presidents Richards, Hassanali and Clarke, but unlike President Robinson, had no public objection to these latest appointments. He had the opportunity to speak about this in his address to the Parliament when he spoke about the need for constitutional reform, but did not do so.

    In order to have the complete picture of the road the country has travelled along this path over the last 39 years of republicanism, the following data on defeated candidates who were appointed to the Senate by the president on the advice of the prime minister or the leader of the opposition in 1976, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2015 following general elections in September 1976, December 1991, November 1995, December 2000, October 2002, November 2007 and September 2015 will be useful:

    1976 Senate

    On the advice of the Leader of the Opposition (Basdeo Panday)—Senator Allan Alexander (ULF—defeated in Point Fortin)

    1992 Senate

    On the advice of the Leader of the Opposition (Basdeo Panday)—Senator Wade Mark (UNC—defeated in Barataria-San Juan)

    1995 Senate

    On the advice of the Prime Minister (Basdeo Panday)—Senator Barbara Burke (UNC—defeated in Laventille West)

    2001 Senate

    On the advice of the Prime Minister (Basdeo Panday)—

    1. Senator Dr Roodal Moonilal (UNC—defeated in San Fernando East)

    2. Senator Dr Daphne Phillips (UNC—defeated in Diego Martin West)

    3. Senator Dr Jennifer Kernahan (UNC—defeated in Diego Martin Central)

    4. Senator Dr Vincent Lasse (UNC—defeated in Point Fortin)

    5. Senator Roy Augustus (UNC—defeated in Arouca North)

    6. Senator Stanley Ryan (UNC—defeated in La Brea)

    7. Senator Michael Als (UNC—defeated in Toco/Manzanilla)

    2002 Senate

    On the advice of the Leader of the Opposition (Basdeo Panday)—

    1. Senator Sadiq Baksh (UNC—defeated in San Fernando West)

    2. Senator Dr Jennifer Kernahan (UNC—defeated in Arima)

    2007 Senate

    On the advice of the Leader of the Opposition (Basdeo Panday)—

    1. Senator Wade Mark (UNC—defeated in Pointe-a-Pierre)

    2. Senator Dr Carson Charles (UNC—defeated in St Joseph)

    3. Senator Dr Jennifer Kernahan (UNC—defeated in La Horquetta/Talparo) 

    2015 Senate

    On the advice of the Prime Minister (Dr Keith Rowley)—

    1. Senator Clarence Rambharat (PNM—defeated in Mayaro)

    2. Senator Avinash Singh (PNM—defeated in Caroni Central)

    3. Senator Sara Budhu (PNM—defeated in Caroni East)

    On the advice of the Leader of the Opposition (Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar)—

    1. Senator Vasant Bharath (UNC—defeated in St Joseph)

    2. Senator Rodger Samuel (COP—defeated in Arima)

    In respect of the 2001 Senate, the seven senators listed were also assigned ministerial portfolios in the advice tendered to President Robinson by Prime Minister Panday on December 22, 2000. However, following the president’s initial refusal to make the appointments, the prime minister tendered substituted advice to the president on January 2, 2001, in which he indicated that he wished for all seven of them to be appointed senators only.

    On February 14, 2001, the president appointed all of them as senators in accordance with the advice of the prime minister that had been tendered on January 2, 2001. He then made subsequent appointments to ministerial positions for four of them based on further advice tendered by the prime minister after their senatorial appointments were made.

    Basdeo Panday also proposed defeated candidates to serve as speaker of the House of Representatives on two occasions as follows: 

    1995 House of Representatives

    Mr Hector McClean—Speaker of the House (UNC—defeated in Tunapuna)

    2001 House of Representatives

    Dr Rupert Griffith—Speaker of the House (UNC—defeated in Arima)

    After 39 years as a republic, defeated candidates as parliamentarians is now an entrenched feature of our political landscape.


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    Last week, the issue of no independent senators from Tobago being appointed by President Carmona became a subject of discussion on the national agenda. President Carmona subsequently indicated that he did not take parochial or geographical considerations into account in making his appointments.

    This has served to inflame the situation further insofar as there are people who felt that he was insensitive to the issue of Tobago’s representation in the Parliament.

    On the one hand, there is a view that suggests that there are four senators from Tobago among the ranks of the Government side together with two MPs from Tobago, as well as the Prime Minister who is from Tobago.

    On the other hand, there is a view that the only voice that Tobago has in the Eleventh Parliament is a PNM voice.

    Regardless of how one may wish to argue this issue, it is important to have an appreciation of the reasons why the question of Tobago’s disadvantage, in respect of its relationship with Trinidad, is a very sensitive matter.

    The key to this lies in understanding the twists and turns of history in relation to how Tobago became disadvantaged in relation to Trinidad as a consequence of its union with Trinidad.

    At the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, Tobago became a British colony. France subsequently captured Tobago in 1781 during the American War of Independence and it was officially ceded to France by the Treaty of Paris of 1783. 

    The British recaptured Tobago in 1793 during the French and Napoleonic Wars and returned it to France by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. In July 1803, Britain declared war on France and Tobago was recaptured by Britain in 1803 and was formally ceded once more to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. [See Sir Kenneth Roberts-Wray, Commonwealth and Colonial Law (London: Stevens & Sons, 1966), p. 860]

    In 1768, Tobago established a bicameral legislature with a lower House called the Legislative Assembly and an upper House called the Legislative Council. That historical fact provides the basis for the existence of a Tobago House of Assembly today and explains why its existence and sustenance is such a hotly contested and emotive issue.

    However, in 1887, the British Government commenced a process of unification between its colonies of Trinidad and of Tobago. Under the Trinidad and Tobago Act 1887 (50 & 51 Vict, c 44), an Order-in-Council made on November 17, 1888, (SRO & SI Rev XXIII, p 297) came into effect on January 1, 1889, which joined the two colonies into a unitary colony.

    This Order-in-Council also made provision for the abolition of the Legislative Council of Tobago, which marks the start of the process of historical disadvantage suffered by the island ever since. 

    The unification of these two British colonies created the need for the British Government to establish a single legislature for the twin-island colony and also to ensure the continued operation of all laws in force in Trinidad and all laws in force in Tobago.

    By an Order-in-Council of October 20, 1898, (SRO & SI Rev XXIII, p 298) that came into force on January 1, 1899, Tobago was downgraded to a ward of the colony of T&T. It further provided that all laws that were in force in Trinidad on January 1, 1899, would also extend to Tobago and that all laws that were in force in Tobago, at that date, that differed from the laws of Trinidad would cease to be in force. The legislature in Trinidad became the legislature for the twin-island colony and all future laws enacted by that legislature would be deemed to extend to Tobago. (SRO & SI Rev XXIII, p 299). 

    This marked the real beginning of the unitary colony of T&T that would later become the unitary state of an independent T&T.

    Without any historical appreciation of these facts, there is no understanding of why the sensitivity to Tobago issues and its disadvantage has such an emotional outpouring in relation to the dominance of Trinidad.

    Dr Eric Williams, speaking in the Legislative Council on June 7, 1957, said : “….whereas Tobago had exchanged the neglect of United Kingdom Imperialism for the neglect of Trinidad Imperialism corrupted by the forms of self-government in Trinidad up to the last elections. Tobago had to pay a price for its union with Trinidad which it never ought to have paid.” [Hansard, Friday June 7, 1957, p1939].

    Many people are not aware of this historical hurt that was inflicted on Tobago during the colonial period. The political, psychological and legal effect of the decisions expressed in the 1898 Order-in-Council continue to manifest themselves in the post-independence era of Trinidad and Tobago. 

    It is in this context that one has to understand Tobago’s disadvantage. When there are significant occasions, such as the opening of a new Parliament, where there is evidence of the exclusion of Tobago which leads to a reaction, one needs to be more sensitive to the issue, rather than dismissing it out of hand.


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    Last week, I dealt with the issue of understanding Tobago’s disadvantage. This week, I want to address the issue of internal self-government for Tobago. One of the very fundamental issues that has now emerged in the aftermath of the unsuccessful attempt to enact amendments to the Republican Constitution in January 2013 to introduce internal self-government for Tobago is the question of Tobago’s right to self-determination.

    The result of the THA election in January 2013 effectively halted the progress of the bill that was seeking to amend the Constitution to introduce internal self-government for Tobago. As a consequence of that, the THA undertook to seek a consensus among different political entities on the island with a view to arriving at a position on the subject of internal self-government. There was also an inter-ministerial team from the Central Government that was engaged in dialogue with the THA on the matter.

    Unfortunately, the issue remains unresolved and will obviously have to be addressed by the new Government. According to the PNM manifesto which has now been accepted as an official government policy document by the Cabinet:

    “Under the PNM, PNM Members of Parliament are mandated by the Tobago Council to pursue the following objectives: Engage the national government to facilitate efforts to achieve Democratic Self Government for Tobago, in keeping with the aspirations of the people of Tobago….” (PNM 2015 manifesto, p.71).

    Based on this policy commitment, the issue of internal self-government for Tobago will be addressed by the new administration in Port-of-Spain. The administration in Scarborough will need to find a mechanism to translate all of the discussions and prescriptions that have been made over the last eight to ten years into something palatable for the population.

    This will not be an easy task as there are varying options on the table and different pathways to accomplish different interpretations of what may constitute internal self-government.

    Perhaps, one of the issues that should arise must be the issue of Tobago’s right to self-determination. Should the central Government and the THA come up with their preferred formula or should there be a greater inclusion of the Tobago population in the process in order to permit the people of Tobago the right to make a choice as to the kind of political system under which they would want to be governed which would permit them to preserve and protect their unique social and cultural identity as part of their own development?

    These are challenges that have clearly emerged over the years of debate, dialogue and discussion. Such an approach would bring a high level of legitimacy to the process that can cut across political and other divides. 

    Underneath all of these competing agendas and issues lies a common core of values on which there is clear agreement. It is inevitable that there will be political challenges because the topic is by its very nature a political one. However, genuine concern for the undoing of historical injustices of the past that have placed Tobago in a very disadvantageous position in relation to Trinidad must have a collection of agreed formulae.

    There is an undercurrent that people in Trinidad do not understand the plight of the average Tobagonian to access goods and services from the State. At the same time, there is also a psychological blind spot that promotes a culture of speaking about “Trinis” which absolutely excludes any semblance of identity for Tobagonians.

    These are not issues over which political points should be scored, but rather should present an opportunity for genuine understanding and explanation.

    The Tobago House of Assembly should not be put in a position whereby, on an annual basis, it must look forward to hoping that its guaranteed allocation of 4.03 per cent of the national budget will be allocated to it because of a formula determined some years ago by the Dispute Resolution Commission. The Chief Secretary of the THA, Orville London, told the media last Monday that the allocation of 4.4 per cent of the national budget to Tobago was “not unfavourable.”

    Perhaps, there could come a time when Tobago, by virtue of a new model of governance for the island, would be in a position to earn its true revenue potential from oil and gas around the island. Its legislators and administrators would have to be made accountable to an assembly that should have the requisite institutional strength to review and reprimand any infractions committed against the Tobago population.

    The Tobago reform issue has gone through two iterations (1980 and 1996) on the road to a place of genuine internal self-government that will hopefully remove the effects of the imperial and post-imperial disadvantages. 

    The argument for self-determination is designed to seek a legitimate formula that (i) will recognise and respect the desires of the population of Tobago, (ii) will preserve its unique social and cultural identity, (iii) will deliver a system of government that reduces dependence on Port-of-Spain and delivers final decision-making authority to Scarborough, and, (iv) will ensure the implementation of adequate scrutiny of these enhanced powers in a way that delivers genuine accountability and transparency.


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  • 10/17/15--21:52: INTERROGATING THE EMERGENCY
  • Last week, during the budget debate, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi raised the issue of interrogating the grounds on which certain actions were taken during the period of the state of emergency between August 21 and December 4, 2011.

    In an article by Andre Bagoo in Newsday on October 13, 2015, Al-Rawi is reported by Bagoo to have said: 

    “Madam Speaker, I instructed attorneys at the Ministry of the Attorney General to write to the Member for Siparia, the past attorney general Anand Ramlogan, the past minister of national security Brigadier (John) Sandy and one (retired deputy police commissioner) Mervyn Richardson to tell them they have an obligation to give evidence which is outstanding in these matters.” 

    According to the report, he went on further to say:

    “Because Trinidad and Tobago is now facing a case where we are in court and we can’t get the evidence as to the root of what caused people to be detained.” 

    Bagoo reported that “Al-Rawi said he instructed lawyers to first write the former Cabinet members and, if they decline to testify, compel them to appear in court under orders.” 

    Further quotations of what Al-Rawi said included:

    “I instructed the lawyers saying, write them and if they don’t respond, subpoena them in court and treat them as hostile witnesses.” 

    The central issue here is the question of interrogating the state of emergency of 2011 insofar as ministerial responsibility for it is concerned. For four years there has been a running battle between the PNM and the former People’s Partnership administration about that state of emergency.

    Based on the line of argument being pursued, it would appear that the actions of the State taken at that time by the relevant public officials on whatever intelligence was available is likely to be interrogated in open court based on the publicly stated intention of the Attorney General.

    His determination in this matter extends to treating those public officials as hostile witnesses in open court if they should refuse to testify. In this instance, the State would be using a line of argument against itself in order to seek to establish a political divide between one set of public officials from a previous administration and the current one.

    The rotation of power between political parties is a normal feature of functioning democracies. Using the resources of the State to attack the State itself in a matter where state liability is involved might score political points with costs to the taxpayer.

    According to the Bagoo story in Newsday, the Attorney General is very much aware of that: 

    “I don’t say that other than to say that the ultimate people who will pay the award for damages are taxpayers. Perhaps it is that the Member for Siparia will say she did not know about it. If so then we will hear her. But the fact is that my obligation, the Government’s obligation, the role and function I must perform is to deal with the taxpaying dollars of Trinidad and Tobago.” 

    The question that would lie at the heart of this matter is whether the state of emergency was lawfully instituted or not. If it was, then there should be no question about what the legal position of the State should be. If, in the opinion of the Attorney General, the state of emergency was not lawfully instituted, then the State might as well concede the case and start making settlements.

    The political conundrum for the Attorney General is whether he should adopt a position of publicly defending the state of emergency in court which would go against the grain of everything that the PNM said on this matter while in opposition or should he seek to treat former public officials as hostile witnesses in court which may undermine the state’s defence in order to address the political differences between the current and the former administrations on this matter?

    Central to this issue will be the legality of the proclamation issued by former president George Maxwell Richards on August 21, 2011, in Legal Notice No 162 published in Volume 50, Number 108 of the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette at page 435.

    That proclamation was extended for three months on September 4, 2011, after a debate in the House of Representatives that started the day before and was held in accordance with Section 9 of the Constitution.

    The intention of the Attorney General seems to be placing emphasis on decisions made on the basis of intelligence that was shared with the then leader of the opposition at the request of the then prime minister. There was public disagreement between the two about that intelligence which would seem to make the requested testimony of former deputy commissioner of police Mervyn Richardson central to the case.

    Will the State establish the precedent of treating senior police officers and the ministers that they briefed as “hostile witnesses” after a change of government on matters of security and state intelligence?

    The instructions have already been issued by the Attorney General. Let us see how the cases proceed.


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    “Most importantly, Madam Speaker, consistent with our 2015 election manifesto promise to improve the efficiency of the administration of justice, we intend to give the judiciary the financial autonomy that it has asked for so many years—(desk thumping) coupled with the ability to manage its own resources, projects and programmes, including the responsibility for procurement and construction of judicial facilities. (Desk thumping) To achieve this, we intend to engage in detailed consultation with the judiciary early in 2016 to achieve consensus on practical and workable mechanisms to facilitate this paradigm shift by the end of 2016.” Hansard, October 5, 2015, p 41.

    With these words, Finance Minister Colm Imbert re-opened the door to an old debate that has significant constitutional implications. During the tenure of former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj (1996-2001) there was a running battle between Maharaj and then chief justice Michael de la Bastide about judicial accountability for the expenditure of public money.

    The essence of the debate centred around the issue of whether the judiciary should be made to account for the expenditure of public money allocated to it. One school of thought argued that this constituted an undermining of the independence of the judiciary, while another school of thought held the view that accountability for the expenditure of public money was an overriding principle of good governance regardless of the institution involved.

    Financial autonomy for the judiciary is a laudable goal under any circumstances. However, the mechanisms that will be devised for guaranteeing accountability to the Parliament (that approves the appropriation) without interfering with the independence of judicial opinion from the bench (the hallmark of the system of justice) will require both constitutional and administrative adjustments.

    In 1998-99 there was considerable controversy about the constitutional reforms proposed by the Panday administration for the creation of special joint select committees to inquire into the functioning of government agencies and departments. These proposals formed part of the controversy with the judiciary as the general allegation was that all of this was designed to undermine the independence of the judiciary as well as Service Commissions.

    Sixteen years later, these reforms have not produced these deleterious effects and the country is better off for the culture change in favour of greater accountability and scrutiny.

    The policy announcement on the judiciary now reopens an old debate, but hopefully this time the fears of the past will not be present. The issue of judicial accountability to Parliament can draw some comfort from similar reforms that have taken place in the United Kingdom where centuries-old traditions were altered under the Constitution Reform Act 2005.

    More recently, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd spoke on the subject of “Judicial Leadership” at a conference on “The Paradox of Judicial Independence” in the United Kingdom on June 22 instant.

    On the issue of reporting to Parliament, the Lord Chief Justice had this to say:

    “In the light of the increasing responsibilities of the judiciary, I have taken, with the agreement of the Judicial Executive Board, the position that the Lord Chief Justice should present an annual report to Parliament. The first report was submitted in the Michaelmas term of 2014 and the intention is to submit a report every year. It enables the judiciary to explain in what it is hoped is a relatively short and readable document what the judiciary is doing in the areas in which it has a responsibility for the delivery of justice, the problems it faces and what needs to be done to address them.” (para 42)

    This is a fundamental step in the direction of creating a new relationship between the judiciary and the Parliament. Lord Thomas went further to say:

    “In addition, the Lord Chief Justice now attends annually before House of Lords Constitution Committee, and the House of Commons Justice Committees, to answer questions in accordance with established conventions. This is only right. If Parliament is to be properly informed, and if necessary enact legislation to cure problems, concerning the effective operation of the justice system, the judiciary must provide Parliament with the information it requires. This must however be done in accordance with conventions and guidance that safeguard the impartially (sic) and neutrality of the judiciary. It also must provide an annual report which can be the basis of a meaningful dialogue between the Lord Chief Justice and Parliament when the Lord Chief Justice answers questions.” (para 43)

    The emergence of this new relationship between the judiciary and the Parliament in the United Kingdom can provide a template around which the policy offer from the Minister of Finance to the judiciary can be framed. The gremlins that were feared by the “six wise men” in 1998-99 over the policy proposal for the creation of departmental joint select committees never materialised. 

    It is apparent that both constitutional and administrative reforms will be required now and the involvement of the Government, the Opposition and the judiciary in the process of consultation and discussion will go a long way to accomplishing a useful constitutional change for the judiciary.


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  • 10/31/15--20:12: Tobago’s autonomy
  • Last week, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced in Tobago that he intends to establish a Joint Select Committee of the Parliament to address the question of full internal self-government for Tobago. According to the Prime Minister:

    “However, it ultimately will be a matter for the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. Tobago cannot give itself self-government, Trinidad cannot give Tobago self-government but between Trinidad and Tobago and the Parliament of the people’s representatives, we can answer that question, and we will do it.” 

    This was a major development which gives the signal that the issue is at the top of the policy agenda of the Rowley administration. The political will to make it happen is clearly there and it appears that the discussions between Prime Minister Rowley and Chief Secretary London went very well.

    In addressing this issue, the policy position will obviously have to be a superior one to what was unsuccessfully advanced before. Whereas there was previously an intention to devolve certain powers of the Cabinet to the Tobago House of Assembly, one would imagine that this time there may be more powers being made available to the THA.

    Essentially, the ideal position would be one of ensuring that final responsibility will reside in Tobago for all policy matters without recourse to Trinidad. There were many issues in the public domain which will require attention.

    A major issue will relate to the question of land and sea jurisdiction for the THA. To this end, the question of maritime jurisdiction for the THA will arise insofar as there can be no question about its land jurisdiction, but just how far out to sea will its maritime jurisdiction go?

    Under the former draft legislation on this matter, there was a proposal for jurisdiction to extend up to eleven miles out to sea so that it would fall just inside the twelve-mile territorial sea limit. There were those who argued that it should go all the way to the twelve-mile limit and that the base lines around Tobago should be clearly defined in such a manner as to clearly define its boundaries with Trinidad.

    Another area of controversy was the proposal advanced in some quarters that internal self-government for Tobago should encompass a demarcated area inside of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone to facilitate the ability of the island to access its true economic benefits separate and apart from Trinidad inside of that zone.

    The issue of oil and gas leases being negotiated within these spaces of the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone was contentious in the public domain. There is an opportunity now to carve out a role for the THA to become a party to such leases and to earn revenue from them.

    Will internal self-government bring with it a signing authority for the THA to be act on behalf of the State in respect of such territorial negotiations and contracts or will this be reserved for the central Government?

    With the prospect of a dedicated stream of revenue from oil and gas leases with the autonomous involvement of the THA in the process will come a requirement for enhanced scrutiny of revenue and expenditure. One of the contentious matters has been the issue of being subjected to scrutiny in Port-of-Spain as opposed to Scarborough. 

    The institutional capacity of the THA will have to be enhanced in such a way that it can perform the tasks of parliamentary scrutiny within its own walls by way of granting the THA enhanced powers for exclusive Tobago legislation, exclusive power to raise and spend its own revenues and impose its own taxes.

    Such a policy can best be accomplished by making T&T a federation with Tobago having federal powers (as opposed to devolved powers under a unitary state). In like manner, Trinidad can be the other part of the federation so that the constitutional reform will provide two tiers of government, one being the federal government with designated powers over both islands and the other being individual state powers for each state of the union, namely Trinidad, on the one hand, and Tobago, on the other.

    If the THA and the Rowley administration come forward with such a proposal, then the work of the Joint Select Committee will be based on changing the foundation of the State from being a unitary one to being a federal one.

    Foreign commercial interests will naturally want to monitor such constitutional and political negotiations because the way in which they will have to engage the State will more than likely change.

    The issue of internal self-government has been debated over many years. In 1980 ANR Robinson was able to accomplish a return of the Assembly that Tobago lost after its union with Trinidad between 1887 and 1899. In 1996, the powers of that assembly were enhanced over what existed before, but the quarrels of disadvantage never went away.

    An opportunity now exists for taking the quantum leap into the zone of settlement of this issue once for all. A federal solution is a way forward for both T&T. 


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    Last week, I dealt with the issue of Tobago’s autonomy. This week, I am continuing in the same vein to demonstrate why the opportunity for placing Tobago and Trinidad on a “side-by-side-we-stand” basis must be completed this time around.

    The political reality is the fact that Tobago has suffered an obvious political disadvantage by virtue of its union with Trinidad in the 19th century as a result of British imperial policy.

    The long and short of that story is that Tobago had an assembly that was established in 1768 and that assembly and the concept of elected representation was removed in 1877, ten years before union with Trinidad. Later, during its union with Trinidad between 1887 and 1899 it was made a ward of T&T. Trinidad, on the other hand, was a relative backwater of the Spanish empire, and when it was ceded to Great Britain by virtue of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 after its capture in 1797 by a British expedition, it was made a Crown Colony without any elected representation.

    It was not until 1925 that elected representation under the New Representative system was given to the twin-island colony. For Trinidad, it was attaining elected representation for the first time under British rule. For Tobago, it was resuming the elected representation that it once had until 1877 when it became a Crown Colony like Trinidad.

    Many Trinidadians are totally oblivious to these historical facts and often regard the issue of Tobago’s autonomy with the ignorance that accompanies such oblivion. One can only hope that the ensuing political debate in the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament will yield a consensual political solution that can redress Tobago’s historical disadvantage.

    Under the revised arrangements that will clearly redress this disadvantage will be the need to review the Archipelagic Baselines of Trinidad and Tobago Order 1988, Notice No 206 of 31 October 1988 that was made by the Minister of External Affairs under Section 6(3) of the Archipelagic Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1986. 

    This will represent the modern-day rectification of the disadvantage because redefining the baselines around Tobago in relation to Trinidad will create the platform for honouring the words in our National Anthem that proudly proclaim “…..side by side we stand, islands of the blue Caribbean Sea…”

    There can be no consideration of a new constitutional formula to grant what has been termed “full internal self-government” for Tobago without due consideration being given to the changes required to the Archipelagic Baselines of Trinidad and Tobago Order, 1988.

    Based on the way in which Prime Minister Rowley spoke at the recent special meeting of the Tobago House of Assembly, one can deduce that the political will to make the changes is very present. The key variable that will have to be addressed will be the issue of political consensus that can put this matter to rest in a manner that will bring dignity to a new formulation of the State of T&T.

    Last week, I alluded to the fact that only a federal formula would permit a realistic solution to the problem. Given all that has transpired over the 35 years since the re-establishment of the Tobago House of Assembly, one can only hope that a legal and political solution can be found that allows both islands to preserve their historical and cultural identities with dignity.

    In addressing the federal question, one can only hope that the model of federation that was pursued in St Kitts-Nevis will not be copied. That model gave to Nevis an Island Administration, but did not offer the same to St Kitts. As a consequence, there is the federal government in Basseterre and an island administration in Charlestown.

    Additionally, the constitution of St Kitts-Nevis gives to Nevis the right to secede after a referendum that requires a two-thirds majority of the voters in Nevis to approve it. There is no such arrangement for St Kitts.

    There is a governor-general for the federation based in St Kitts and a governor general’s deputy based in Nevis. These arrangements are necessary in order to ensure that relevant legislative instruments receive the requisite approval from appropriate authorities who are empowered to act on behalf of the State. 

    In the case of Tobago, there has often been some concern expressed in various quarters about what would happen to legislative instruments approved by the Tobago House of Assembly and refused by a president in Port-of-Spain who may disagree. This issue cannot be treated lightly as the level of distrust between the islands is quite high.

    Whether or not modifications will be required to the presidency to ensure that there is political concurrence with the advice of the political directorate of Tobago will be a matter for the joint select committee to consider.

    The recent comments on the issue of no independent senators from Tobago would only have served to reinforce those suspicions, whether unfounded or not. Political perceptions on the Tobago issue cannot be underestimated, and the time has come for an open and honest dialogue on the subject.


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    On June 18, 1971, at the ceremonial opening of Parliament, the Governor-General, Sir Solomon Hochoy, stated that he had declared the office of Leader of the Opposition vacant. This came about by virtue of the fact that the PNM had won all 36 seats that were contested in the 1971 general election.

    The provisions of Section 66(2) the constitution at that time read as follows:

    “Whenever there shall be occasion for the appointment of a Leader of the Opposition, the Governor-General shall appoint the member of the House of Representatives who, in his judgment, is the leader in the House of the party which commands the support of the largest number of members of the House in opposition to the Government.”

    Based on these provisions, a leader of the opposition could not have been appointed because there was no MP who was “the leader in the House of the party which commands the support of the largest number of members of the House in opposition to the Government.” 

    The philosophy that drove the creation of these provisions was based on the concept of party politics. However, in July 1972, Roy Richardson, the then MP for Point Fortin and a parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Finance, resigned his portfolio and went into opposition. He was not the leader of a party at that time but he was certainly “in opposition to the Government” and he was appointed Leader of the Opposition. He was soon joined by Horace Charles, the then MP for Siparia, in forming the United Progressive Party and they constituted the opposition before they subsequently became opposed to each other.

    By 1976 when the republican constitution was introduced, the provisions regarding the manner of appointment of the Leader of the Opposition were substantially changed to remove the link to leadership of a political party. The current provisions of section 83(2) are:

    “The President shall, if the person concerned is willing to be appointed, appoint as Leader of the Opposition the member of the House of Representatives who, in his judgment, is best able to command the support of the greatest number of members of the House of Representatives who do not support the Government.”

    The fundamental philosophical shift here was to remove the requirement for leadership of a political party as the basis for being eligible for appointment as leader of the Opposition, secondly, to broaden the discretionary powers of the President over those of the Governor-General in making an appointment by changing the words “largest number” in the previous constitution to “greatest number” in the current constitution, and thirdly, to introduce the concept of willingness to serve. 

    The initial thinking behind the creation and appointment to the office of Leader of the Opposition in T&T is best captured in the House of Lords on July 19, 1962, in the reply of the Marquess of Lansdowne, Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, to a parliamentary question for written answer filed by Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough. The question was: 

    “What considerations led to the adoption of the proposal in paragraph 36 of the report of the T&T Independence Conference, 1962 (Cmnd. 1757) relating to the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition, and for information as to the occasions on which the Governor-General will not be required to consult and act on the advice of the Cabinet?”

    The response to that part of the question that related to the “appointment of the Leader of the Opposition” read as follows:

    “The proposal in paragraph 36, which was put forward by the T&T delegation and accepted by the Conference, follows closely the corresponding provision in the proposed Jamaica Independence Constitution. It is modelled on the appropriate provision in the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, except that it is the Governor-General who will be required on all occasions to determine who shall be Leader of the Opposition. In this country the Speaker is required to determine who shall be Leader of the Opposition only in the event of any uncertainty as to which party in opposition has the greatest numerical strength in the House of Commons or as to who is the leader in that House of such a party.”

    The genesis of our constitutional provisions for the creation of the office of Leader of the Opposition was based on an alteration of the provisions of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1937 to replace the powers of recognition given to the Speaker of the House of Commons to determine who the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition should be and to relocate those powers in the hands of the Governor-General. 

    The issue of leadership of a “party” in opposition to the government remained the central consideration.

    In 1976, our constitutional framers discarded leadership of the party as a consideration for appointing a leader of the opposition and left the matter to the discretion of the President to determine the appointment on the basis of the personal choices of the individual MPs who do not support the government.


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  • 11/21/15--22:17: OPPOSITION WARS
  • Last week, I looked at the constitutional history associated with the creation of the Office of Leader of the Opposition in 1962 and its reform in 1976. Over the period of time, there have been a variety of opposition wars that have been fought.

    In the immediate post-independence period, there were difficulties in the ranks of the Opposition that were largely caused by the absentee approach to the job of leader of the Opposition that was adopted by Dr Rudrunath Capildeo, the leader of the DLP. This absentee status came about as a result of his acceptance of a teaching position at the University of London and it was facilitated locally by the generous grant of leave of absence from the House of Representatives by the Speaker.

    By 1963 there was trouble in the DLP camp when Capildeo attempted to retain leadership of the DLP from overseas, while facilitating the appointment of Stephen Carpoondeo Maharaj as leader of the Opposition. This dichotomy led to a split in the DLP which opened the door for the creation of the Liberal Party in 1964. There were now two opposition parties in the Parliament against the PNM. By 1965 there was further fracturing within the ranks of the parliamentary opposition and the Workers and Farmers Party was born.

    In the 1966 general election the PNM were opposed by the DLP, the Liberal Party and the Workers and Farmers Party together with other parties that had been formed.

    Between Dr Capildeo’s absence and the political infighting inside the DLP that led to new parties, the PNM were very well poised to win the 1966 general election, and they did.

    After the November 1966 general election the DLP membership in the Opposition was depleted from 12 to 11 with Capildeo’s departure once again to go overseas. This time he was working on a book that he published in May 1968, titled Vector Algebra and Mechanics.

    This period of absence was not treated as generously as his period of absence in the 1961-66 Parliament by Speaker Arnold Thomasos. By December 1967, his Chaguanas seat was declared vacant and a by-election was held in January 1968. The DLP boycotted the by-election in protest over the continued use of voting machines and this helped the return of Bhadase Maraj as an independent. Vernon Jamadar became leader of the Opposition in July 1967 and stayed in that office until the 1971 general election which he did not contest as part of the ACDC-DLP no-vote campaign. He never returned to Parliament after that.

    In the 1971-1976 Parliament, there was no opposition to start with as a result of the PNM winning all of the seats in the 1971 general election. Roy Richardson became leader of the Opposition in 1972 following his departure from the PNM administration.

    Richardson remained opposition leader until 1976 when the Constitution was changed to have a new format for appointing a leader of the Opposition. The new party led by Basdeo Panday called the United Labour Front (ULF) formed the Opposition after the September 1976 general election. By August 1977 there was a split in the ULF and Raffique Shah had replaced Panday as opposition leader. However, by March 1978 Shah resigned after Winston Nanan reversed his support for Shah and returned to Panday who became opposition leader once more.

    In 1986 the NAR administration came into office with Panday and ANR Robinson. The NAR became fractured and by 1990, a new party (the UNC) led by Panday joined the PNM in opposition and removed Patrick Manning as leader of the Opposition. Manning became Prime Minister in 1991.

    In 1995 the PNM went into opposition and Manning survived an attempt by Keith Rowley to unseat him as leader in 1996. After the 18-18 tied election in 2001, President Robinson revoked Panday’s appointment as Prime Minister and replaced him with Manning. He also appointed Panday as leader of the Opposition which he refused.

    By 2005 Panday made a deal with Winston Dookeran to give leadership of the UNC to him, while Panday ran for party chairman. After the internal elections were over, Panday refused to hand over the position of leader of the Opposition arguing that the two positions were separate offices. By 2006 the COP was formed by Dookeran and the opposition benches were split again. 

    A UNC internal election was held in January 2010 that ushered in Kamla Persad-Bissessar as leader, while Panday remained as opposition leader until enough opposition MPs withdrew their support from Panday as leader of the Opposition and transferred it to Persad-Bissessar in February 2010. That decision by the MPs in question united the posts of party leader and opposition leader.

    After May 2010 the PNM formed the Opposition once more, but they remained united for the entire term under Keith Rowley. They returned to government last September.

    The history of parties, other than the PNM, in opposition has been one of fractures, fissions and new formations after opposition wars.

    How will the UNC fare after their current internal elections are over? United or divided?


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  • 11/29/15--04:35: SELECTING CANDIDATES
  • As the UNC national executive elections continue to attract attention, one issue that has arisen is the selection of UNC candidates in the last general election and its connection to the defeat suffered by the People’s Partnership of which the UNC is a part.

    A listing of the UNC candidates (as opposed to COP, NJAC and TOP candidates) and the dates on which they were announced essentially reveals that the win/loss ratio was more favourable for those candidates who were announced later as opposed to those who were announced earlier.

    The first batch of UNC candidates was announced at a Monday Night Forum at the Trinidad Country Club on July 13. Those candidates were:

    Candidate, Constituency, Date announced

    1. Garvin Nicholas, Diego Martin North East, July 13, 2015

    2. Clifton De Coteau, Moruga/Tableland, July 13, 2015

    3. Jairam Seemungal, La Horquetta/Talparo, July 13, 2015

    These candidates had eight weeks to campaign and all three of them lost. Seemungal and De Coteau were incumbent MPs seeking re-election and Nicholas was contesting the same seat as 2010. The success percentage was zero per cent.

    The second batch of UNC candidates was announced at a Monday Night Forum on July 20, at Guaico. Those candidates were: 

    4. Fuad Khan, Barataria/San Juan, July 20, 2015

    5. Vasant Bharath, St Joseph, July 20, 2015

    6. David Lee, Pointe-a-Pierre, July 20, 2015

    7. Surujrattan Rambachan, Tabaquite, July 20, 2015

    8. Brent Sancho, Toco/Sangre Grande, July 20, 2015

    These candidates had seven weeks to campaign and three of the five won their seats. Khan and Rambachan were incumbent MPs seeking re-election, while the other successful candidate was David Lee who was a first-time candidate. The success percentage was 60 per cent. Both Vasant Bharath and Brent Sancho were unsuccessful and both of them have election petitions before the court in respect of their defeats.

    In his election petition, Bharath has alleged, in paragraph 7, of his statement, as follows:

    “7. The election was not held in the manner provided by Parliament in the Representation of the People Act and the Rules made under that Act. The election as held involved multiple breaches of the Election Rules including the opening of polling stations after the close of the poll, keeping such stations open after the poll had or should have closed, the corrupt practice of allowing those not entitled to vote, because the poll should have been closed, to cast votes and a failure to announce the close of the poll at 6 pm.”

    The election petitions filed by Bharath and Sancho together with De Coteau and three others are currently before the courts at the application for leave stage of the proceedings.

    The third batch of UNC candidates was announced at a Monday Night Forum in Charlieville on August 3. Those candidates were:

    9. Ganga Singh, Chaguanas West, August 3, 2015

    10. Roodal Moonilal, Oropouche East, August 3, 2015

    11. Tim Gopeesingh, Caroni East, August 3, 2015

    12. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Siparia, August 3, 2015

    These candidates had five weeks to campaign and all four were successful. Their success percentage was 100 per cent. Singh regained Chaguanas West for the UNC.

    The fourth batch of UNC candidates was announced on Friday, August 14, at the Rienzi Complex. Those candidates were:

    13. Ramona Ramdial, Couva North, August 14, 2015

    14. Rudranath Indarsingh, Couva South, August 14, 2015

    15. Christine Newallo-Hosein, Cumuto-Manzanilla, August 14, 2015

    16. Lackram Bodoe, Fyzabad, August 14, 2015

    17. Fazal Karim, Chaguanas East, August 14, 2015

    18. Rodney Charles, Naparima, August 14, 201515

    19. Raziah Ahmed, San Fernando West, August 14, 2015

    20. Wayne Munroe, Tunapuna, August 14, 2015

    21. Don Sylvester, St Ann’s East, August 14, 2015

    22. Ramesh Ramanand, La Brea, August 14, 2015

    23. Eli Zakoor, POS North/St Ann’s West, August 14, 2015

    24. Vidiya Guyadeen-Gopeesingh, Oropouche West, August 14, 2015

    These candidates had three weeks and two days to campaign. Ramdial and Indarsingh were successfully re-elected, while Newallo-Hosein, Bodoe, Karim, Charles and Guyadeen-Gopeesingh were successful newcomers. The success percentage was 58.3 per cent. Wayne Munroe replaced Hamlyn Jailal who was announced on August 9 by the COP in a press release as their candidate for Tunapuna. This was changed after PP inter-party discussions.

    The final batch of UNC candidates was announced at a rally at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Sunday, August 16. Those candidates were:

    25. Rushton Paray, Mayaro, August 16, 2015

    26. Bhoe Tewarie, Caroni Central, August 16, 2015

    27. Barry Padarath, Princes Town, August 16, 2015

    28. Ravi Ratiram, Point Fortin, August 16, 2015

    These candidates had three weeks to campaign. Only Ratiram was unsuccessful. In the case of Paray, he replaced Roger Morales who was announced as the initial replacement for Winston Peters on August 14, but replaced on August 16. The success percentage for this batch of candidates was 75 per cent. When all of the batches of candidates are taken together, it is apparent that the overall success percentage was 60.71 per cent. The losses in the first two batches of UNC candidates, especially in La Horquetta/Talparo, Moruga/Tableland, St Joseph and Toco/Sangre Grande, made the difference.


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  • 12/06/15--05:09: election petitions
  • Election petitions arose in the news last week when the Court of Appeal confirmed the leave granted to the UNC to proceed with their election petitions. In the draft constitution for independence that was serialised in the Trinidad Guardian over the period February 20 to 22, 1962, section 40 read as follows:

    “40. (1) Any question whether –

    (a) any person who has been validly appointed as a senator or validly elected as a member of the House of Representatives

    (b) any person who has been validly elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives from among persons who are not senators or members of the House of Representatives, shall be determined by the High Court in accordance with the provisions of any law in force in Trinidad and Tobago.

    (2) Proceedings for the determination of any question referred to in subsection (1) of this section shall not be instituted except with the leave of a judge of the High Court.

    (3) No appeal shall lie from the decision of a judge of the High Court granting or refusing leave to institute proceedings in accordance with this section.” (Trinidad Guardian, Wednesday February 21, 1962, p. 10)

    After publication, the Government invited comments on the draft that had been presented. The Office of the Leader of the Opposition submitted a memorandum dated March 30, 1962, signed by Ashford Sinanan for the DLP.

    In respect of the above section 40, the DLP commented as follows:

    “Section 40, Sub-sec (1) Provision should be made for testing whether a member of either chamber is entitled to continue to be a member to be included in the questions which may be determined by the High Court.

    Subsec. (3) We think that an appeal should lie from the decision of a judge refusing leave to institute proceedings.

    A new sub-section should be added to the effect that Parliament may make provisions or authorise the making of provisions with respect to such appeals.”

    The position of the opposition DLP was one of having an appeal from the grant of leave by a High Court judge on the issue of determining membership of either House or determining the validity of the appointment of a Speaker from outside the House. 

    The DLP pursued this matter all the way to the Marlborough House Conference on independence that was held in London during the period May 28 to June 8, 1962. It was resolved on the final day of that conference. The record of the plenary session proceedings on June 8 state, inter alia, as follows:

    “The conference discussed the question of appeals relating to membership of the legislature and it was recalled that the Legal Committee had agreed….that there should be appeal to the Court of Appeal but no further, and that their agreement had been endorsed by the conference in plenary session.

    MR JULIEN said he was anxious that there should be the best possible provision for appeals on such matters as election petitions, but in view of the practical need to bring questions of membership to a speedy issue he did not press for further provision than had been agreed in the Legal Committee.

    MR RICHARDS said that the Privy Council had disavowed jurisdiction in such cases and, in a recent instance, had ruled that the matter should be settled locally, as provided in the local law.

    “MR ALEXANDER felt that matters to do with membership should properly come under the final authority of the legislature. It was also important to settle membership questions quickly, and the delays implicit in a system of Appeals to the Privy Council could not be accepted, from a practical point of view.

    MR CAPILDEO said the Opposition would be much happier with the outcome of the conference if election matters could be referred on appeal to the Privy Council. This would have a salutory effect on the operations of the Elections Commission and would be by far the best safeguard for the fair conduct of elections. The existing Trinidadian law made no provision for appeals and the new proposal for appeals to the Court of Appeal only did not in his view go far enough.

    “THE SECRETARY OF STATE said that even if the Privy Council had ruled that they had no present jurisdiction over election matters, this could no doubt be altered by law. On the other hand, he saw the practical difficulty which the delays of a protracted appeals procedure could cause.

    After further informal consultation between the delegates the Conference finally—reaffirmed its approval of the recommendation on this subject by the Legal Committee….”

    The people listed in the above record of proceedings are Senator Inskip Julien, (independent senator), Senator George Richards (Attorney General), Senator W J Alexander (Minister Without Portfolio), Dr Rudrunath Capildeo (Leader of the Opposition), and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Right Honourable Reginald Maudling.

    The revised provisions for an appeal to the Court of Appeal only on the question of leave to file an election petition was agreed at Marlborough House and implemented at independence, and remains that way today.


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  • 12/13/15--04:00: Internal party elections
  • The internal party elections of the UNC last weekend completed a cycle of internal party elections between 2014 and 2015. For the PNM, it was their first time holding such elections last year having moved from the delegate system to direct elections by the party membership. 

    For the UNC, it was their fifth internal election. Their first one in 2001 was a bruising affair, while their second election, which was overdue and held in 2005, saw further problems arise when Basdeo Panday handed the leadership of the party to Winston Dookeran while he stood unopposed for the chairmanship of the party. The major outcome of such an arrangement was the fact that Panday refused to cede the post of Leader of the Opposition to Dookeran and kept it based on the support of the majority of opposition MPs who preferred him to Dookeran for this position.

    It was at that point that a major philosophical issue arose, quite apart from the controversy that it generated. The internal party elections are designed to bring mass democracy to political parties by mobilising their supporters to choose their political leaders and national executives. However, there is no connection to the party’s representation in the Parliament as there is no guarantee that the individual MPs, who either support or do not support the Government, will express their individual preferences in accordance with the wishes of their party electorate.

    For example, based on the provisions of Sections 49A and 83 of our Constitution, it is possible that the leader of the party with the authority to seek the termination of office of any MP who was elected on the ticket of that party and the Leader of the Opposition could be two completely different people. This was the case between 2005 and 2006 when Winston Dookeran held the Section 49A office and Basdeo Panday held the Section 83 office.

    The issue arose again in January 2010, for a short period when Kamla Persad-Bissessar won the Section 49A office and Basdeo Panday held the Section 83 office. It was only after Roodal Moonilal and Tim Gopeesingh shifted their loyalty from Panday to Persad-Bissessar one month after the UNC internal elections that the two offices were held by Persad-Bissessar.

    In September 2006, Dookeran resigned and formed the COP, while in May 2010 Patrick Manning called a snap election which handed the keys to Whitehall over to Persad-Bissessar very soon after her assumption of both offices.

    On the other hand, the provisions of Section 49A are such that the crossing-the-floor provisions can only be effected against an MP for expulsion or resignation from their party, if the party leader is also an MP. 

    In the just-concluded UNC internal elections, Vasant Bharath would not have qualified to effect party discipline in this way if he had won the position of political leader. Likewise, Penelope Beckles-Robinson faced the same situation last year when she challenged Keith Rowley for leadership of the PNM. The same situation arose in January 1987 when Dr Aeneas Wills challenged Patrick Manning for leadership of the PNM after the resignation of George Chambers in December 1986 after he lost his seat in the general election.

    Wills’ challenge was made under the delegate system, while Patrick Manning had been appointed Leader of the Opposition by President Ellis Clarke over Morris Marshall and Muriel Donawa-Mc Davidson. Manning was seeking to harmonise his position as Leader of the Opposition by becoming political leader of the PNM. 

    The UNC internal elections have always been held on a delayed basis since 2001 (2005, 2010 and 2015), except for the 2012 elections for the National Executive which were held in accordance with the two-year time frame for those elections. The political leader is supposed to be elected every three years.

    The party delayed its 2013 and 2014 internal elections to undertake constitutional reform in the party. Those deliberations will probably be resumed by the new executive. The fundamental issue that they may have to consider is the harmonisation of the purpose of the internal elections with the offices of Leader of the Opposition and of Prime Minister under the party and national constitutions.

    Parties have to consider the provisions of Sections 76 (the Prime Minister) and Section 83 (the Leader of the Opposition) in relation to section 49A (the leader of the party in the House of Representatives). 

    It is quite possible that at any one time four different people could hold these offices, namely (i) an MP who is Prime Minister by virtue of commanding the support of a majority of MPs but is not leader of his/her party; (ii) the leader of the party that has a majority of MPs who is not Prime Minister; (iii) an MP who is Leader of the Opposition who commands the support of the majority of MPs who do not support the government but is not leader of his/her party; and, (iv) an MP who is the leader of the largest opposition party one of whose MPs is already Leader of the Opposition.

    The implications for party discipline and policy are paramount.


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  • 12/19/15--22:16: Jwala’s test
  • In an interview with economist Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir by reporter Shaliza Hassanali, the Sunday Guardian reported on July 15, 2012, as follows: “Mahabir said Rambarran must guard the independence of the CB. ‘If the Central Bank is seen as an arm of the Ministry of Finance you can get to a situation where it will become a tool of the executive arms of the State and it can put stress on the currency values.”’

    Those views expressed by now independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir back in July 2012, just after Jwala Rambarran had been appointed Governor of the Central Bank are as valid today as they were in 2012.

    The issue of institutional independence is important in examining the relationship between the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance. The relationship between the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance must resemble that of the Attorney General and the DPP. The fact that there have been recent tensions between the Central Bank and the ministry is healthy for our democracy. 

    Whether it was tension over the dismissal of two Clico directors in June this year, or tension over the more recent announcement of a recession and the use of transparency in accounting for the allocation of foreign exchange since 2012, it is apparent that the Central Bank has acted independently regardless of the political directorate in power.

    In the case of Clico, the company was successfully turned around and controversial payments were made. However, it is the more recent controversy that has drawn fire from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and certain sectors of corporate T&T.

    Jwala Rambarran’s major challenge now is that he has provoked a public debate about whether or not foreign exchange placed into the banking system by the Central Bank is public money subject to the traditional rules of transparency and accountability, or the rules of confidentiality between commercial banks and their customers. Before the foreign currency gets to the commercial banks from the Central Bank, it is public money.

    From the time he was appointed governor, Rambarran was on the political hit list of some of the urban corporate elites and their surrogates. Terrence Farrell, a director of Republic Bank since April 2008, writing in the Express on July 16, 2012, had this to say about him: “The appointment of Jwala Rambarran as Governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago is the latest instance of the continuing termitic assault on the institutions of State. It is the latest, but it will not be the last. Those of us who were hoping that this appointment would represent a departure from the Reshmi Ramnarine syndrome evident in the SSA, NGC, CAL, T&TEC, UTT and other State institutions were disappointed, but not surprised.”

    His scathing comments were not well received by Afra Raymond, then president of the JCC, writing in the Express on July 23, who replied to Farrell and had this to say: “According to para 23 of the April 16, 2010, affidavit by the Inspector of Financial Institutions, Clico Investment Bank (CIB) did not file corporation tax returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009. I am reliably advised that means CIB did not pay corporation tax for those years. Yet CIB was somehow able to retain its banking licence throughout that period, and, upon collapsing, obtain an immediate bailout on most generous terms. Dr Farrell also tells us that the Central Bank needs to be ‘... a decisive actor when action is required ...’ Obviously, that standard did not obtain over the last decade.” 

    Based on Afra Raymond’s reply to Farrell in July 2012, it is patently obvious that Governor Rambarran has been “a decisive actor when action is required.” The problem for the Governor is that he does not belong to the urban social circles of the corporate elites who control the political economy of the country. 

    He is an outsider to them who also came from a very different social background from many of them. He does not sit among them socially and his professional status was unfairly attacked by the director of a major bank in this country, in writing, upon assumption of office.

    The reality is that Governor Rambarran has been systematically demonised from day one for political purposes and the column by Farrell in the Express days after his appointment titled No Sacred Cows was not the only negative commentary based solely on political bias.

    Governor Rambarran’s 2014 alteration of the original formula for the allocation of foreign exchange to financial institutions by bringing new financial institutions into the allocation process may have disturbed a proverbial “old boys club”, but it was never the sin or transgression that it was made out to be.

    Governor Rambarran had the fortitude to let the country know that it was in a recession and also to share crucial information about foreign exchange usage in the public interest. There is talk that moves are being made to remove him from office to clear the way for the preferred choice of the new administration. That would be a political mistake.


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  • 12/27/15--03:06: Remembering Kamal
  • The death of Kamaluddin Mohammed at the beginning of this month saw the passing of a great patriot who was central to the development of so many aspects of national life, both in his personal and political pursuits. In so many ways he epitomised the virtues of hard work and commitment to duty as key drivers for success in his own life.

    People remember him for his simplicity and not for pomposity. He came from humble beginnings and despite his own successes in politics and public life, he remained committed to the value of always maintaining humility in the face of the grandeur of office.

    Before he entered politics, he was renowned as a cultural impresario and broadcaster. This was seen in his own involvement with the launch of the programme Indian Talent on Parade in 1947, on Radio Trinidad.

    Some felt it was an attempt to promote separation, while others recognised that it was about the validation of the cultural identity of a large part of the population.

    In those days, before Radio Trinidad launched his programme in 1947, those who had radios in rural Trinidad and elsewhere could only listen to Indian music on Radio ZFY from British Guiana. 

    After he started his show on Radio Trinidad, he used to invite the Naya Zamana Orchestra of Ostad Nazear Mohammed, Narsaloo Ramaya and Isaac Mohammed; Jit Seesahai and his Melody Makers; and the SM Aziz Orchestra, as well as many others.

    Things have changed markedly from the days when one hour a week was allocated on Radio Trinidad for Indian music out of 119 hours a week in the colonial era. As a pioneer in this aspect of his life, he certainly blazed a trail that has left a rich legacy of diversity in our society today.

    The early formation of the PNM can be traced back to discussions he and others had with Dr Williams at the Dil Bahar restaurant at 55C Queen Street in Port-of-Spain, which he regarded as the birthplace of the PNM before its launch.

    Once in government, Kamal served in the Williams Cabinet from the beginning and made his mark in agriculture, public utilities, regional affairs, foreign affairs, health and local government.

    Indeed, a few years after independence, he was chosen by Dr Williams to try and create a platform on which the region could move forward. The formation of Carifta, the desire of Anguilla to secede from St Kitts and Nevis, the formation of the Caribbean Development Bank, the reorganisation and refinancing of British West Indian Airways (BWIA), and the future of the University of the West Indies were all issues that commanded attention in the late 1960s.

    He was involved in all of these negotiations in one way or another. Carifta led to Caricom, the Caribbean Development Bank was formed, Anguilla was determined to secede from St Kitts and Nevis, BWIA is now CAL, and UWI remains a regional institution. 

    In his address at the University of the West Indies when he was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2011, he stated that one of the most daunting challenges at that time concerned the future of the University of the West Indies itself. That became an issue at a meeting of Commonwealth Caribbean Heads of Government in Barbados in June 1969.

    The agreement between the contributing governments to the University of the West Indies was due to expire in 1972 and fortunately, the regional governments decided subsequently to continue with the University of the West Indies after 1972. He recalled how committed Dr Williams was to the continuation of UWI and that as Minister of West Indian Affairs, he was pleased to be part of that process.

    There is one aspect of his public life that probably pained him and that was when he was bypassed for appointment as prime minister upon the death of Dr Eric Williams in March 1981. Whatever happened on the night of March 29, 1981, that led to the appointment of George Chambers as prime minister by President Ellis Clarke will remain a mystery forever. All of the key persons have now passed on. Kamal formed the view that the decision had been made before he arrived at President’s House that night as he was driven without security, while George Chambers arrived in a “police-escorted vehicle”.

    In writing Chapter 12 of his biography, I interviewed Kamal on April 27, 1996, about his impressions of that night. I sensed that he had made peace with himself about the fact that the decision had already been made before he got to President’s House and that the “consultation” between himself, Errol Mahabir, Francis Prevatt, and President Clarke “was purely decorative”.

    Despite this, he stayed and continued to serve the new prime minister, George Chambers in his Cabinet. After the PNM lost in 1986, he withdrew from public life until he was recalled to service by prime minister Basdeo Panday during his 1995-2001 administration to take up the position of Ambassador to Caricom.

    A patriot has passed and his service to country will not be forgotten. 


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  • 01/02/16--19:20: Central Bank politics
  • Unlike the relationship between the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK, or the relationship between the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States, it is apparent that our Central Bank is now expected to function under the direction and control of the Ministry of Finance.

    That may be a convenient political arrangement for the executive, but it is bad for the economy. The unfair dismissal of Jwala Rambarran as governor of the Central Bank was more about politics and less about economics. His forthright declaration on December 4 last year, that the economy is now in recession was confirmed by Prime Minister Rowley in his address to the nation last Tuesday. So where did the governor go wrong? Both he and the Prime Minister were on the same page.

    Perhaps it was his revelation in the public interest of the largest consumers of foreign exchange. That would have offended some urban corporate elites moreso than the political directorate. Intense pressure would have been put upon the Government by those elites to dismiss Rambarran. He disturbed the social structure, rather than the economic architecture.

    In an era where transparency is the clarion call for good governance, the former governor was brutalised for accounting for his stewardship in relation to the allocation of foreign exchange. This argument will never go away, but the political cocktail of an angry Finance Minister (for the declaration of a recession independent of him) and an angry corporate elite (for the revelation of the leading consumers of foreign exchange) was enough to force the Government’s hand.

    Given the bitterness of the politics surrounding the Central Bank since the change of government, there was an expectation that someone other than Dr Alvin Hilaire would have been appointed Governor. Be that as it may, Hilaire is a Central Bank insider with good academic qualifications. His two predecessors also had good academic qualifications with both Ewart Williams and Jwala Rambarran being named by UWI, St Augustine, as being among their top 50 graduates in 2010 for the 50th anniversary of the campus.

    Hilaire’s challenge will be to attempt to be independent in an atmosphere where the political directorate is demanding that the Central Bank operate in lockstep with the Ministry of Finance. He will also know that the rumblings about possible criminal charges against Rambarran are designed more to keep him in check than anything else.

    Hilaire has been with the Central Bank for about 20 years. He would have seen the collapse of Clico under the stewardship of Governor Ewart Williams and he would have seen the resurrection of Clico under Governor Rambarran. He has been on either side of financial collapse and revival.

    In whatever way he can, he must make every attempt to regain the independence from the Ministry of Finance that Jwala Rambarran had cultivated because taking instructions from the Ministry of Finance will not be in the best interests of the country. Additionally, he needs to address the perception created by the manner of his appointment that he is a PNM governor of the Central Bank.

    He cannot now contradict the former governor on the fact of the recession as he would have the same Central Bank data that Rambarran used. Having too cosy a relationship with the political directorate can cause collapses like Clico, HCU, Summit Finance, ITL, the 1980s pyramid and other financial fiascos in our economic past. That will be a balancing act for him because the Rowley administration has made it clear across the board that it is not prepared to tolerate too much deviation from their line, or even to permit crossovers from the last administration. Jwala Rambarran and Jearlean John are prime examples of both, while there are many others as well. 

    The financial downturn is the first major test for the Rowley administration. The postponement of the address to the nation by the Prime Minister from two Tuesdays ago to last Tuesday may have had more to do with removing Rambarran before the address rather than after.

    The Prime Minister would have endorsed Rambarran’s assertion of a recession if he had given that address before his removal. Politically, it was better to remove him first and then give the address to the nation after. While that was a better political option, the economic reality would not have changed between the Tuesday before Christmas and the Tuesday after Christmas.

    As far as functioning democracies go, it is important for the Central Bank to be independent of the Ministry of Finance and yet be able to collaborate. For example, Rambarran complied with the requests of the Minister of Finance to revert to the pre-2014 distribution system for foreign exchange as well as to place US$500 million into the domestic foreign currency market. When the Sunday Guardian revealed that the money was gone in its November 15 edition, questions were asked by the Prime Minister and others. The transparent answer to those questions cost Rambarran his job.


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