I am shocked but not surprised at the decision of the government of Trinidad and Tobago to instruct the acting President to fire Central Bank Governor, Jwala Rambarran.
The action against Mr. Rambarran has the hallmarks of PNM victimization that we have seen in previous years against people like a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and a former Chief Justice. And it is a continuation of the victimization that has been taking place against citizens since the present Rowley PNM administration took office.
The Rowley PNM administration had been sending clear signals for some time that it intended to take this backward step, suggesting that the governor had created the conditions for his dismissal. Only this week the prime minister stated that a Government “ought to have confidence” in any Central Bank Governor, raising speculation that his government intended to act against the government.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley had stated in a media interview, “If the Governor ends up being removed, it would not be because of any action initiated by the Government but as a result of his own series of reckless and illegal actions.”
There are two principal issues that led to this unfortunate interference in the Bank’s operations – the decision by the governor to announce that the country was in a recession and Mr. Rambarran’s release of information stating the names of the companies that are the largest consumers of foreign exchange.
Both issues offended the government and at least one of the companies named as a big foreign exchange user has indicated its intention to take action against the bank for releasing such data. And the Bankers’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) stated that the release of the information was “a breach of confidentiality of information that is supplied to the CBTT by the commercial banks.”
However, the Opposition notes that Mr. Rambarran made the disclosure only AFTER Finance Minister Colm Imbert asked the Central Bank to provide information on how the recent release of foreign exchange was distributed and indicated that such information would be made public.
This appears to be a case of entrapment, where the government clearly tried to set up the governor with the request for information, which the governor provided.
The Opposition is of the view that the Central Bank must remain independent in the same way that Office of the Director of Public Prosecution must have more than an arm’s length association with the administration.
Jwala Rambarran’s crime, it seems, has nothing to do with his competence but with statements that have offended the governing elite and its friends.
The PNM has tried to demonise and belittle Mr. Rambarran for political purposes from the day of his appointment. The argument that Mr. Rambarran’s disclosure amounts to a breach of rules is not valid.
Section 8(6) of the legislation allows the Central Bank “to make public disclosure by any means considered appropriate by the bank where such disclosure would be in the best interests of: (a) T&T’s financial system, or (b) the depositors, other customers, creditors or shareholders of such licencee.”
And Section 56 provides that “the preservation of secrecy is subject to what is necessary for the due performance of its objects.”
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