Monday, May 21, 2012
Dear Sir Anthony,
Like most citizens of this little country I have been reading and watching
on television the revelations of the activities of the various "players" in
CLICO and the Hindu Credit Union with a mixture of horror and
fascination as your Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into their activities
continues. However, and without trying to be either rude or presumptive,
there is one particular factor that to date your CoE has not touched upon,
neither has there been any hint given that you will or will not touch upon
it: what I am talking about is the failure of the Regulatory Authorities to
act, or to act in time.
Put another way, a question that must arise is could either the CLICO or
Hindu Credit Union debacle (or both for that matter) have been avoided
if, say, the Central Bank or the Ministry of Finance (or both) had acted
earlier? What about the Commissioner of Co-operatives? Could the
Regulatory Authorities have acted earlier to prevent what happened?
Should they have acted earlier? Were these debacles avoidable if the
Regulatory Authorities had indeed acted earlier?
Assuming (though certainly not accepting) that the answer to any of these
questions is 'yes' then the obvious question is what could they or should
they have done? And if the debacles were avoidable who in the Central Bank
was/is responsible? What about the Ministry of Finance? Who ought to
be taking responsibility? You see, if it's nobody's fault then nobody can
be asked to fix it and nobody will have to ensure that such costly
mistakes ever happen again. (You may not know it, but Nobody is a very
well known character in this country. He is personally responsible for
more disasters here than anywhere else in the world. He used to be
in England but your compatriots threw him out of the country a long time
ago. Unfortunately for us, when you threw him out he landed up over here.)
My problem is that I happen to have a reasonably good memory, and I
remember that in or about the year 2000/2001 the then Attorney General,
Mr. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, stood up in the Parliament of this
country and said that CLICO/CL Financial was insolvent! Now, I am
certain that you will agree with me that when an Attorney General (or
even a former Attorney General) speaks on a matter of national
importance that people ought to pay attention to what he says. If he is
wrong or foolish then the court of public opinion can and will deal
with him. But his office is so high and so important that a serious
accusation concerning such a behemoth as CL Financial is surely so
serious that it ought to be dealt with promptly.
And the point here is that it wasn't! I cannot remember any statements
at all coming from the then Governor of the Central Bank that the
Attorney General was wrong, that CL Financial was not insolvent.
Similarly, I cannot remember any statements either from the then
Minister of Finance. So? Was CLICO/CL Financial insolvent when
Mr. Maharaj made his accusation in Parliament? If so, then what did
the Regulatory Authorities do? From where I sit they appeared to
have done nothing at all! Is this true? If the giant was solvent then
why didn't the then Governor of the Central Bank say that Mr. Maharaj
was wrong? Why didn't the then Minister of Finance say that his
Cabinet colleague was wrong? Surely the public and investors had
a right to know whether the accusation was true or not?
The then Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, had a very close relationship
with Mr. Laurence Duprey. Mr. Panday was the godfather of Mr.
Duprey's newborn child. Did Mr. Panday "sit" on either the then Governor
or the then Minister of Finance (or on both)? What was the state of CLICO's
statutory fund at that time? Was it in deficit? If so, what was the Regulatory
Authority (which I believe is the Central Bank) doing about it? This
question is extremely serious for if the statutory fund was in deficit then
how long was it in deficit for? Did it ever go back into the "black" before
the eventual collapse? If not then what was the Regulatory Authority waiting
With the greatest of respect, Sir Anthony, and without in any way casting any
aspersions whatsoever on you, hopefully you will readily appreciate that if
you do not find answers to these questions and publicise them, then, regretably,
you will have done only part of the job for which you have been entrusted. The
matter becomes even more acute when you understand that the man who was
the Governor of the Central Bank when Mr. Maharaj made his accusations
is today the Minister of Finance; and the person who the present Minister of
Finance has put in charge of CL Financial today was at the time that Mr.
Maharaj made his accusations the then Minister of Finance.
Put another way, Sir Anthony, you are going to have to deal with this directly
sooner or later. It can't be allowed to "drop off the table".
Posted by Robin Montano at 2:24 PM
Monday, May 14, 2012
No! I am not going to talk about Caribbean Airlines/BWIA or any of the
recent disclosures about losses and profits (real or imaginary) or about
how much money CAL had or didn't have in 2010 ... although, there is
admittedly a lot there to talk about! I want instead to talk about our littlecountry, where we are and where we are going ... or think we are going.
Some time ago (in the sixties, I think) there was a book entitled "Spaceship
Earth". I cannot now recall the name of the author but in essence her
premise or thesis was that planet earth was like a spaceship barreling
through space. The planet had three compartments: first class, second class
and third class. Those of us who are 'travelling' in the first class
compartment are more than all right. Those of us who are 'travelling' in the second class compartment
have some problems, but are managing (if only just) to survive. But, she said,
there is a fire in the third class compartment and if we don't put it out soon
it will engulf all of the 'passengers' on the spaceship.
If the planet can be likened to a spaceship, then perhaps good old T&T can
be likened to an airplane with three compartments as well. There is absolutely
no question that those who are lucky enough to be in the first class compartment
are enjoying the ride. Champagne and caviar are the order of the day for this
flight and nothing, no expense and no luxury is too much for those passengers.
The second class compartment is gradually getting smaller and more cramped.
Quite a few passengers in this compartment are having trouble paying not only
for their seats for the flight but also for the food and drink on board. They are
managing and one or two of them are lucky enough to be upgraded from time
to time to first class. Unfortunately, for every one that gets an upgrade two are
downgraded to third class. As I said, this compartment is getting smaller and
The real problem comes with the third class compartment. This is by far and
away the largest section of our fictional airplane, but it is the one in which
there is the most potential for trouble which could cause our airplane to crash
killing or destroyintg all on board. Right now travelling in the third class
section of our plane is like travelling in the Wild West. Passengers are
shooting and killing each other, almost with gay abandon. So far only
the third class passengers and a few second class passengers are being
killed, but it can only be a matter of time before some third class
passenger gets the bright idea of going into the first class cabin and
taking whatever he feels like taking with his gun. It also can surely only
be a matter of time before some third class passenger decides to light a
match in the third class compartment and the fire then spreads to the
There is trouble coming. If you lived through 1990 and 1970 you can
recognise it. You can see it. You can feel it. You can taste it. It's coming!
The trouble is coming because the economy is stagnant and absolutely no
hope for a better tomorrow is being offered other than platitudes falling
from the mouths of politicians on both sides. The trouble is coming
because the Rowley led PNM is not offering itself as a credible alternative
to the People's Partnership and the ordinary man sees and understands this.
The trouble is coming because the people feel that our leaders on both sides
really don't care about anything or anybody other than themselves. The
trouble is coming because there seems to be no hope!
Can it be turned around and prevented? Yes! There is still time. Will it be
turned around? Ah! That is the question!!
Posted by Robin Montano at 12:42 PM
Thursday, May 3, 2012
One of the bad things about living in a country like Trinidad and Tobago is
that nothing stays secret for very long ... if at all! One of the good things
about living in a country like Trinidad and Tobago is that you can usually
find out fairly quickly what went on in any given situation.
Now, I don't pretend to know absolutely, but if the reports that I am getting
about what happened yesterday at the Prime Minister's residence, La Fantasie,
the Partnership government owes its survival this morning to the efforts of the
UNC Chairman Jack Warner. It seems that the Prime Minister had indeed been
persuaded by her closest advisers that she should fire COP Leader Prakash
Ramadar for his comments on Sunday where he said in essence that the COP
would not necessarily tow the Government line in Parliament. Frankly, it
would have been impossible for any Prime Minister
to have tolerated that type of challenge and Mr. Ramadar was extremely
foolish to have made it in the first place. He ought to have known that such a
challenge to the authority of the Cabinet ... and ultimately the authority of the
Prime Minister ... could not and would not be left alone.
Now, it seems that five of the COP Ministers and Parliamentarians were
prepared to walk out of the Cabinet with Mr. Ramadar. Such an exodus, though
clearly not immediately fatal to the continued existance of the Government
would have hurt Mrs. Persad-Bissessar terribly. The moral authority of the
Government would have been very, very badly damaged ... and quite likely
And it is at this point, if my sources are correct, that the erstwhile Jack Warner
stepped in. The old Jack correctly recognised that this crisis would effectively
destroy the Government's moral authority if it was allowed to go to its logical
conclusion, and that the UNC's chances of winning another term would be
severely (if not fatally) dimnshed. Mr. Warner apparently used his not
inconsiderable negotiating skills to bring both sides together enough for
the Prime Minister to go on national television last night at the peak
viewing hour of seven pm to announce that no Minister had been fired and
that no Minister had resigned.
The fact that the meeting then continued until about two am tells us that even
if the cracks have been managed to have been papered over for now that
deep divisions and hurt feelings still remain. Prakash Ramadar has been
forced/persuaded (it doesn't matter which) to climb down Whether he stays
"climbed down" remains to be seen. My spies tell me that the person in
the COP who has been pushing Mr. Ramadar is his deputy Vernon DeLima.
If that is true, then Mr. Ramadar is going to have to be cery careful as to
what advice he accepts from Mr. DeLima in the next few days, for (if that
report is true) it would mean that Mr. DeLima is not as committed to the
Partnership Government as perhaps he ought to be and is prepared to sacrifice
his Party's inclusion in the Government for what he perhaps believes to be a
matter of great principle. The truth is that if that is indeed a fair reflection of
the truth and what Mr. DeLima believes then there will be further clashes as
Mr. Delima clearly would believe that the Marlene Coudray affair is worth bringing down the Government for.
In the meantime, the Government survives for yet another day. What a pity
that the great promise of May 2010 has now degenerated to this. But at least
the Prime Minister should thank her lucky stars that she didn't "cut Jack's
throat" as it was rumoured some months ago that she was being urged to do.
Posted by Robin Montano at 12:16 PM
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the People's Partnership
Government is in serious trouble. The on going 'brouhaha' between the COP
and its senior partner, the UNC, over the Marlene Coudray affair has now
escalated out of all proportion to the original sin of poaching the COP's
San Fernando mayor. The truth is that the defection of Marlene Coudray from
the COP to the UNC was simply another nail in the coffin of the terminally ill
COP which has been whithering on the political vine long before the UNC gave
them a wiff of oxygen in the 2010 general elections, for without the UNC's
helping hand the COP would have lost any and every seat that the Party would
have contested. Frankly, it must be difficult to be in such a position where you
are part of a team that didn't really need you to win. Oh! Undoubtedly, the COP
coming together with the UNC helped the UNC win even bigger, but the truth is
that in 2010 the UNC would have won without the COP's help.
Fast forward two years later and we now have a completely different scenario.
Prakash Ramadar has allowed himself to be boxed in on an issue that of itself
really ought not to have been allowed to blow up into such a big mess ... but it has!
Now he is in a such a position that if he climbs down from the limb that he has
found himself on he will look ridiculous, but if he doesn't then his days in the
Cabinet are clearly numbered. He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't!
The Prime Minister cannot (and will not) take his threat to vote independently of
decisions taken in Cabinet that the COP does not agree with lightly. Talk about
principles!? The whole principle of Cabinet Government is that if you are a
member of a Cabinet that takes a decision that you do not agree with, then you
have a simple choice: resign or shut up. It's a little like being half pregnant: a
So the erstwhile Mr. Ramadar will either get his marching orders fairly soon, or
he will march out of the Cabinet before they come down. Either way he is dead
meat, for he can't hope to win that St. Augustine seat again. That seat is a solid
UNC seat and if Mr. Ramadar holds on to it until the next general election (and
my bet is that he will) he will be ignominiously routed at the polls. To make
matters worse for him, many of his constituents have been complaining that
they don't see him ... a complaint made about his colleague, Carolyn Seepersad-
Bachan, the member of Parliament for San Fernando West, and the real reason
why the COP is so upset about Ms. Coudray's defection. (The plan was for the
UNC to run Ms. Coudray in San Fernando West in the next elections).
But while the COP has gratuitously shot itself in the head with this very stupid
quarrel it has also managed to damage the UNC horribly. All indications are
that the UNC "honchos" haven't yet understood the damage that has been inflicted
on them, but they will find out soon enough. The country is rapidly coming to the
conclusion that they don't know how to govern and that good governance is
not high on the UNC's list of priorities. To a large extent this perception is being
caused by the stagnating economy which the COP's Finance Minister has failed
to fix. (Whether it is Mr. Dookeran's fault that the economy is in the doldrums or
not the point is that he has to take responsibility for it.) Add to this fact the
very public infighting over the Coudray matter and you have a mix that is causing
a great sense of unease in the population.
Now I know that quite a few of the UNC boys (and girls) have done the maths and
realise that if all the COP MP's walk out that they will still be left with twenty-one
seats ... a working majority. But, (and it is a big'but') they will find out soon
enough that having a majority in Parliament means nothing if you don't have a
majority in the country behind you. If the COP walk out or are fired (and the truth
is that it won't really matter which) the UNC are going to be severely damaged.
A lot of people who used to support them will "park" and will wait to see what
will happen next. Unfortunately for the country, Keith Rowley's PNM is neither
an attractive nor a viable option. You might say that the PNM has gone to sleep.
But all that could change if (and it is a big"if") the PNM were to get a new
leader in the morning. If the PNM choose the right leader then Kamla will be in
very serious trouble. If they don't ... well, the UNC could prove the old saying
accredited to Winston Churchill: Politics is much more dangerous than war; in
politics you can get killed many times ... in war you can get killed only once! In
other words, the UNC could live again! But for now, they have a really big
Posted by Robin Montano at 9:55 AM