Port-of-Spain: There is uproar on both sides of the political and ethnic divide over the sacking of Jwala Rambarran, who is of Indian descent, as governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, the twin-island nation in the Caribbean. The country’s Finance Minister Colm Imbert accused Rambarran of violating several laws, for which he and could face criminal charges.
He was appointed by former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is also of Indian origin, three-and-a-half years ago amid criticism that he was chosen over officials with better qualifications. His tenure was for five years.
Rambarran was the second person of East Indian descent to hold the position, the other being Winston Dookeran, since the Central Bank was established in 1964 two years after Independence from British rule in 1962. Even when the People’s National Movement (PNM) was in opposition, it had been criticizing Rambarran calling him an On-the-Job Training (OJT).
Rambarran’s dismissal came on Wednesday after the cabinet held its last meeting before Christmas. A government source said that he breached several financial laws since the PNM came in power last September and could face criminal charges which carry fines and a prison term.
It is alleged that Rambarran breached three laws: the Central Bank Act, the Financial Institution Act and the Exchange Control Act.
“The cabinet took the decision after very careful deliberations,” Imbert said.
Rambarran had named three companies for violation of foreign exchange laws. The companies had written to Imbert to complain about this and had pledged to take legal action.
He said local laws gave him the authority to release the names, adding that people had a right to know that a large part of the foreign exchange was being used in the import and distribution trade. He also had announced that the economy of this oil- and gas-rich island nation had fallen into a recession with four straight quarters of economic decline.
Both Imbert and Prime Minister Keith Rowley said Rambarran did not back up his claim with government data.
Rambarran was fired following other complaints, including shortages of hard currency in commercial banks to pay for imports following several operational changes at the Central Bank, the government said.
Persad-Bissessar said that she was shocked but not surprised, noting that the removal had all the hallmarks of the PNM government. In a statement she also likened his dismissal to the PNM regime’s action against former Speaker of the House of Reptesentatives, and a former Chief Justice, Satnarine Sharma, both Hindus and of Indian origin.
Persad-Bissessar said that it was the continuation of the victimisation that has been taking place since the Rowley government took over from her last September.
“Rambarran’s crime has nothing to do with his competence but with statements that have offended the governing elite and its friends,” she said.
About 35 percent of the country’s 1.2 million population is of Indian origin, most of them Hindus.