Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 27th 2015 Contents A5
December 27, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Shoppers look through piles of garments for after Christmas bargains at She Rock, during Gulf City Mall's annual Boxing
Day sale in La Romaine, yesterday. Mall tenants said it was the best day for their businesses with hundreds of bargain
hunters taking advantage of the sale. There was traffic congestion around the mall and parking space was hard to find.
PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
One unfortunate confluence of events in the Jwala Rambarran
affair is the fact that the Acting President, Christine Kangaloo,
signed off on the cabinet decision to revoke his appointment
as governor. It may well be that the President Anthony Carmona
would have done the same. We don t know.
We also do not know whether she consulted the President
before going ahead with such consequential action. Still, the fact
that the President of the Senate who is acting as President gave
effect to the decision casts things in a political light. This remains
the case, perceptually, even if it emerges that the legally accom-
plished and competent Senate President did everything right by
the (law) book.
It s not the intention here to say whether she did or not. It s
simply to point out that in politics, perception matters a lot.
When all the facts are considered and this affair has been analysed
fully, there may well be merit in the government s contention
that Mr Rambarran was the architect of his own downfall through
his actions. Our Chief Business Editor Anthony Wilson laid out
a thorough and detailed case in yesterday s T&T Guardian. We
will see how it all pans out. But pushing through his removal
with the President of the Senate acting as President has unnec-
essarily created an opening for those who see politics in its dealings
with Mr Rambarran. Why now? Couldn t the removal of the CB
governor have been effected two, three weeks later?
A government concerned about appearances might have stayed
its hand until President Carmona returned. The Acting President
is a former minister in the PNM Government, and although her
position in public life is thoroughly merited through her accom-
plishments, she does owe her elevation partly to the presence
in government of the party she formerly served as a minister.
Appearances matter. And this aspect of the manner of Mr Ram-
barran s removal shows either a Government not overly concerned
about appearances, or unaware of how this looks. Either would
be troubling, and would signal messaging challenges ahead for
the Rowley administration.
It is not the first time these questions have been asked. Prime
Minister Dr Keith Rowley Rowley made a private trip to Barbados
for the wedding of a friend, accompanied by a man very much
in the news, the new chairman of the Housing Development
Corporation (HDC), Newman George.
Mr George is engaged in a very noisy public spat with the
HDC s managing director who the board has sent on administrative
leave and has started a financial audit into the company. The
political backdrop is whether the new Government is moving
too aggressively to rid the executive suites of state companies of
executives loyal to "the other side, not ours", and opposition
accusations of packing new boards and C-suites with placemen.
Again, let s be clear. In the final shakeout, the action at HDC and
elsewhere may well prove to be justified, and the new appointments
and actions managerially sound. And in one sense, the PM is
He needs downtime with his men friends in a stressful job,
and downtime is the key to avoiding burnout. The job of chief
executive of a country is 24/7. President Obama has insisted on
the need to regularly get in stress-busting rounds of golf, something
for which he has taken awful flak from his Republican opponents.
The ubiquity of Internet connectivity means that the work can
find you anywhere, and besides, in President Obama s case, Air
Force One is better equipped than most executive offices.
But, again, appearances matter. A properly advised government
would have been concerned about how things looked with Mr
George travelling with Dr Rowley at this particular time, and
tried to put some daylight between them, at least for now.
Final point about Mr Rambarran. Natural justice and openness
demands that the allegations against him be laid out clearly and
publicly, that they be attributable, and that he be given the time
and space to rebut them. In this case, the Government is best
served by being clear in law where Mr Rambarran transgressed,
by being clear in law that they have taken considered and appro-
priate steps, and almost as importantly, they need to remove any
hint that a decision of this magnitude could have had even the
slightest whiff of politics.
The first two are fact-based, the third is more about perception.
Appearances are not facts, but they matter too. Dr Rowley s
advisers need to insulate him against bad optics a little better
than they have done in these cases. An enjoyable season to all.
Editor's note: This analysis was written on Christmas Day, before
Mr Rambarran s response yesterday.
Rambarran and the
case for better optics
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-
Bissessar yesterday suggested that
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley
"reassure fearful citizens" that there
are no plans to devalue the TT dol-
lar.In a statement ahead of an expect-
ed address to the nation by the Prime
Minister tentatively scheduled for
Tuesday, Persad-Bissessar said a
devaluation would only bring further
economic hardship to an already
encumbered population. She also
called on Dr Rowley to tell the nation
which previously zero-rated products
were now subject to VAT, as well as
government s position on wage nego-
tiations in the public sector.
She said that while she was fully
aware of the drop in oil prices and
the government s lack of control over
energy prices, she was disappointed
that a plan of action to deal with the
worsening situation had not been
announced. Persad-Bissessar said
she was hopeful that Prime Minister
Rowley would present valid and rea-
soned arguments for his govern-
ment s chosen position on funda-
mental matters, including
management of the economy and the
country s finances, as well as the role
of the Parliament in such decisions.
The Opposition Leader said a mere
promise to consult stakeholders
would not suffice if the Government
decided to proceed with its apparent
plan to make adjustments that were
structural and for which citizens were
"emotionally and materially unpre-
She also expressed concern at the
manner in which the Rowley admin-
istration has "persisted in disman-
tling state companies and independ-
ent institutions like the Central Bank,
and in the process, arbitrarily dam-
aging the careers and professional
reputations of many state employees
without any care for the future."
Persad-Bissessar said the circum-
stances in which former governor of
the Central Bank Jwala Rambarran
was dismissed raises the question of
whether this was done to accommo-
date the installation of a Central Bank
governor "who may possibly be
inclined to concur with the govern-
ment directives, especially in cir-
cumstances where such directives
may not be in the primary interest
of the country.
"The surreptitious firing of Mr
Rambarran in the absence of the sub-
stantive President leaves great doubt
about the sincerity of the Keith Row-
ley Government. More and more they
cannot be trusted as their spoken
words and done action are poles
apart revealing a hypocrisy that is
unparalleled in our political culture,"
she said in the statement.
Persad-Bissessar warned, "the
consequences of imposing bitter pills
upon the population is due to an
inherent incompetence of Dr. Keith
Rowley s PNM to govern effectively
and will result in social disaster and
Kamla wants assurance
of no devaluation
PM Dr Keith Rowley
Analysis by Editor in Chief---Orin Gordon
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