On the call for Ms Kamla Persad Bissessar to resign as Political Leader, Ram said., “I consulted with activists in the Caroni Central constituency and they support her continuing as Political Leader until such times.” Asked what he likes about Ms. Bissessar’s leadership, Ram responded: “I like her ability to listen and then lead. She consults before taking decisions and welcomes diverse views which I think are necessary to help her make the best decisions.”
COVID 19 provided the opportunity for Arnold Ram, Member of Parliament for Caroni Central, to identify with his Kabir Panthi religious beliefs and practices. “I would have sworn with the Bhagavad Gita but with the pandemic, the Parliament asked us to walk with our own religious texts. I walked with a copy of the Kabir Mansur, a book of bhajans or hymns,” said Arnold Ram.
Ram’s swearing with the Kabir Mansur was viewed by him as “somethings written in the stars, and I believe that this was written in the stars.” Ram added: “My mother got several calls…all were elated. It is possibly the first time that a Member of Parliament in the Commonwealth has sworn with a text from the Kabir Panth. I think I made all Kabir Panthis proud.”
Hailing from La Quesa, Freeport, Ram is the grandson of the late Mahant Ramdas Beepath of La Quesa Road, Freeport. “La Quesa is the heart beat of the Kabir Panth sect in Trinidad and with my grandfather as the head of the Kabir Panth, I am very much involved in the activities of the religion.”
The Kabir Association of Trinidad was incorporated in 1932, making it the first Hindu organization to incorporate by Act of Parliament. Though small in membership, the Kabir Association has two primary schools- Limehead Road, Chase Village and Teak Village, Siparia- and ashrams at La Quesa, Williamsville, Diamond Village and Biche.
Followers of Kabir Das usually carry the name “Das” that means servant of the Divine. It is not uncommon to find most people with the title Dass belonging to the Kabir Panth faith. Some prominent families and individuals who proudly identify with the sect are Dass Drive-in Hardware, Dass Funeral Home, Dass Transport and Dinesh Dass, a branch President of Maritime. My uncle, Dr.Krishna Pulchan, the registrar at a medical college in Canada, is proud member of his Kabir Panth heritage. I also have two cousins who are scholarships winners and they proudly participate in all religious activities of the Panth.
Kabir was born in the 15th century in Varanasi, India. Not knowing his parents, Kabir was found near a pond by a Muslim couple from the weaver caste. In his later years he came under the influence of the Ramanandi, the founder of a Vaishnavaite sect of northern India that the majority of Hindus in Trinidad follow.
Known as a mystic poet and saint, Kabir’s teachings are conveyed through songs called padas and couplets called sakhis. Very much like mainstream Hinduism, emphasis is place on humility, love, compassion and unity. “The teachings are very practical. Humility and devotion to God and humans are fundamental pillars of the faith. I have always tried to incorporated the teachings of Sant Kabir into my daily life,” said Ram.
Describing himself as a “praying person” Ram has used his faith as a Kabir Panthi to enhance his knowledge and skills. A graduate of The UWI with a BSc in Electrical Engineering, Ram later acquired an MBA and two diplomas before qualifying as an attorney-at-law.
Ram’s student days at the St Augustine Campus was a mix of academia, sports and student politics. “I have a strong conviction to serve my fellowmen and women. This led me to contest the election for representative of the Faculty of Engineering and I won. I later ran for President of the Guild and won,” said Ram.
A sportsman, Ram represented the St Augustine Campus in football. ‘As President of the Guild I worked with all the clubs and attended to their needs. I am quite happy for all the good work. It was also under my Presidency that Divali meals was served to all in the Campus. This was ground breaking.”
Ram was happy to be selected a candidate for Caroni Central. “I was always in contact with the residence of my area. I helped many who had issues with TTEC. For this the people were grateful,” said Ram. “My active role in sports also worked to my advantage. Many members of my sports club endorsed my selection and rallied with me throughout the campaign.”
“When my candidacy was announced I received more than 200 What’s app messages,” said Ram. “Dr. Bhoe Tiwarie, the outgoing member of parliament endorsed my candidacy by the symbolic passing on to me the UNC flag.”
In 2001 Ram was directly involved with Winston Dookeran’s campaign in the St Augustine Constituency. “I worked with more than 35 volunteers making inputs of data. This took us one month. This info was collated and used to mobilize voters on the ground,” said Ram.
Ram became an activist with the UNC since 2005 when Winston Dookeran was tipped to take over the leadership from Basdeo Panday. In 2007 he was active in La Brea when Ravi Rattiram was the candidate for the UNC. In 2010 Ram was elected Research Officer and in 2017 was elected Policy and Strategy Officer. “2020 makes me 19 years of direct engagement with the UNC,” said Ram.
“In 2010 I already had four years of service with T&TEC when I was appointed a member of the board of directors of PETROTRIN. I also served as a director on the NESC board, representating the interest of PETROTRIN,” Ram said.
Caroni Central is a strong farming constituency. Hundreds of families depend on agriculture for their livelihood. “I want to focus heavily on assisting the farmers with their challenges. I am in the process of setting up a team of professionals in crop science to develop a web page with videos on crops, their diseases and their treatment,” said Ram. “I want to move farmers from green to production to selling their produce at the side of the road.”
Not coming from a political family, his parents and siblings have supported him in his endeavours. “At first I never let them know that I was active in the UNC during my years in campus. Religiously, I began attending the UNC Monday Night Forum when Basdeo Panday was Political Leader. However, when my mother came to know about my involvement with the UNC, “she was apprehensive and asked me to be careful. As for my father he was silent but my brothers and sisters-all supported me.”
Ram was the victim of negative press in the run up to the General Elections. “I did not bother to respond. The charges against me are before the court and my lawyers are handling it,” said Ram, with an aura of confidence.
Asked about the UNC’s defeat at the polls, he said that there may be some good. “The PNM can make some tough decisions and get away with it, not the UNC,” said Ram. “But, we are a strong Opposition both in the House and the Senate.”
On the call for Ms. Kamla Persad Bissessar to resign as political leader, Ram said that “I consulted with activists in the Caroni Central constituency and they support her continuing as Political Leader until such times.” Asked what he likes about Ms Bissessar’s leadership, Ram responded: “I like her ability to listen and then lead. She consults before taking decisions and welcomes diverse views which I think are necessary to help her make the best decisions.”
Ram has no regrets being in the politics: “None at all! I am so happy and contented with this job as an attorney. I spent 10 years at TTTEC and 4 with BMobile and I intend to convert my qualification into dollars and cents.”
Working as shadow Minister of Public Utilities, Ram said that his experience in T&TEC makes him confident that he would do an good excellemt,.