What is it in the PNM that attracts a young and bright person like Rishi Sookhai? Is it optimism, the hope that he can contribute from withing the government? Or is it for personal and family gains?
The PNM has been disastrous in the administration of the country whenever it comes to power. From 1956 to present, there was never a golden period in its reign that would make us proud and yet, the people return it to power again and again, not withstanding black pride and identity.
Only yesterday, Rishi Sookhai, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce and Managing Director of Sookhia Diesel Services was critical of the policies of the government. He charged the government for runaway crime and said that it must get at the root cause of the problem. He lamented the broken infrastructure, the rigid and slow bureaucracy, the rising corruption, and poor work ethics. Listening to Rishi Sookhai was a breath of fresh air as he was qualified, articulate with his fingers on the pulse of the nation.
For far too long the image of a businessman in Trinidad and Tobago has been confined to buying and selling dry goods, motor cars, clothing, building materials, etc. Here was a young man qualified in engineering and business, and more so speaking out on the failings of a government. It was the kind of image I always looked forward to in business and finally it was packaged in the person of Rishi Sookhai.
Rishi Sookhai has confirmed my doubt that to be successful in business you have to be aligned to the party in power, covertly or overtly. The policies of the PNM have stifled growth and development and forced our businessmen to migrate to the PNM for survival. We need not forget that both Kazim Hosein and Rohan Sinanan are from business families!
Historically, businesses have risen by association with the government of the day while those opposed to the ruling dispensation have suffered. The forced migration of the English businesses after their support of the DLP in the 1961 General Elections is a lesson that must not be forgotten. A more recent case in point is Krishna Lalla of SIS. He was persecuted by the PNM and had to flee the country for his safety. One should not forget the ongoing manhunt for Ish Galbransingh and Steve Ferguson for their crime of supporting the UNC to form the government in 1995.
A few business families continue to strive and flourish under the PNM. One cannot ignore the number of instances when Faris Al Rawi and Stuart Young were excused from cabinet when discussion on matters related to their family businesses were on the agenda.
During the People’s Partnership reign, there were screaming headlines charging corruption and nepotism when an Indian business house was given a contract, or an Indian was appointed to a public office. It is a clear policy of this creole society which the PNM represents that the Indians are the ‘fly in the ointment.’ Don’t be fooled by empty rhetoric of reparation and other social jargon, the reality is that the long bond or bondage between the slaves and their masters has fostered a bond which cannot be so easily shattered.
The action of Rishi Sookhai is a demonstration of the frustration of our citizens under this political dispensation. ‘When you cannot beat them, you join then’ is a much-touted expression. Rishi Sookhai knows that he must think about his survival as a businessman first because if he fails, the society is going to pour scorn on him. No one is truly bothered today about one being PNM or UNC. A businessman is judged by the amount of money he has in his pocket and Rishi has decided to play the game.
Is Rishi Sookhai going to hold his nose and tolerate the stench from within the PNM? Knowing his penchant for speaking out, is he not going to run afoul of the PNM? The PNM truly does not have a place for businessmen of the caliber and stature of Rishi Sookhai. The PNM prefers hopeless and hapless people who are half literate, and dependent on handouts from the State for survival. If I must bet, I will say that in less than three months, Rishi is going to be out of the PNM. The PNM has no place for a young, bright, and independent Indian like Rishi Sookhai.