RambHarat, new chairman of the Employers Consultative
Association, right, Dr Karl Slaikeu, CEO of CHORDA Conflict
Management Inc (Austin, Texas) and President of the Senate
Dr Linda BaBoolal pose for a photo during the opening ceremony
of the ECAs two-day convention on Conflict Resolution
across the Caribbean which was held at the Hilton Trinidad
on April 21.
is the man you need to talk to. Hes the one whos
in charge for the next year, said the outgoing Employers
Consultative Associations chairman Dane Darbasie at
its AGM two weeks ago when he introduced Clarence Rambharat.
The same height as Darbasie, Rambharat lacked the boyish
enthusiasm of his predecessor.
However, the clean-shaven, well-dressed, spectacled man
has an authoritative air which commanded respect. He doled
out courtesy handshakes as people lined up to meet him after
the AGM was over.
When introduced, he dismissed the question of whether he
had time, explaining that apart from his duties at the ECA,
he did not have a job.
Not a problem, he believes.
With ten years experience as a corporate lawyer, Rambharat
is more than employable.
His tenure as CEO at the now defunct Caroni (1975) Ltd and
his involvement in the transformation of Rum Distillers
Ltd and the Sugar Manufacturing Company Ltd tips the scale
in his favour.
With ECA members talking about industrial issues and the
Hilton staff clearing away the breakfast dishes, Rambharat
said he had just returned from a six-month stint at the
Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM).
The Barbados-based CRNM was established to develop a cohesive
and effective framework for the co-ordination and management
of the regions negotiating resources and expertise.
Rambharat explained that the opportunity afforded him an
insight into trade negotiations which are a complex exercise.
of my previous knowledge could have helped me. There was
no sugar factory to operate and you didnt have to
deal with HR, he pointed out.
His understanding of the mechanics of the CRNM came when
the European Union decided to reduce the price of sugar
to the ACP countries where he was able to assist in developing
a position with respect to the price of sugar.
The experience was invaluable and it gave him some insight
into where he would like to take the ECA.
Rambharat said hed served as chairman designate of
the ECA for the past year and when his chairmanship was
due, he came back to lead the ECA.
At 35, hes the ECAs youngest chairman but hes
quick to point out that it is the year in which the International
Labour Organisation is focused on youth and development.
see my chairmanship as an opportunity for more and more
young professionals in Trinidad to become more involved
in advocacy, to become more involved in voicing a professional
opinion on all the issues arising in the society,
He hopes to continue the work set by his predecessors Gerard
Pinard and Darbasie. He also wants to get the ECA more involved
in the CSME and FTAA processes.
of the mandates I gave myself was to determine to what extent
we could communicate the FTAA and the CSME better to the
people of T&T, he explained.
will focus on the global trading arrangements and become
more advocates for these two main issues and be more proactive
in supporting some of the positions taken by the Manufacturers
Association and the Chamber.
While at Caroni he faced criticism for having come
through the back door with no ties to the industry.
His connection to the industry, though, came when he was
10 years old.
He had early memories of the sugar industry which he admitted
always held a fascination for him.
It was grounded in Rio Claro, the agricultural area in which
he grew up, nurtured by the fields. He would pass the Ste
Madeleine factory on his way to schoolPresentation
College, San Fernando.
He remembered going for long drives with his family and
would stare at the roads flanked by the tall green stems.
is always this fascination to understand the industry. When
I observed the white houses and bungalows, it would conjure
images of people riding in horses. And then there were always
the stories youd hear people tell, he recalled.
His interest faded when he focused on his studies with the
intention of becoming a criminal lawyer. He shifted to study
corporate law in his final year.
It was at the firm Ashmead Ali & Company when he worked
on an industrial relations matter for Caroni that he came
into direct contact with the industry. He was later asked
to be the companys corporate secretary.
became involved in every aspect of Caroni. I was chairman
of the Tenders Committee which basically managed all the
purchasing of behalf of the company. And I was involved
in every restructuring initiative of the company and when
the Government changed in that period I was seen as the
natural person to provide leadership, he said.
Rambharat said there were several reports beginning from
the Spence Report in 1978 to the Dookeran Report during
the NAR administration, the Tri-partite Report chaired by
former chairman Kusha Haracksingh and the Transformation
Imperative Plan, which all advocated changes in the industry.
were a lot of people who felt like it would not happen.
From my professional point of view, the time had come for
the industry to be restructured and my involvement was going
to be in the best interest of all stakeholders. Once I adopted
that position you had to build a team of like-minded people,
While necessary, it wasnt a change without struggle.
were difficulties mainly because you were re-ordering the
way people lived their lives. Naturally, there were adversarial
positions, he said.
He remembered people believing, even while plans were unfolding,
that some intervention would take place.
think it is one of the finest examples of the Government
being able to create, advocate and implement a policy decision
whether or not you agreed with it. We never missed a single
single date that was fixed was met. We said we would issue
letters on February 2003 and we did. We said workers would
go home on August 2and we did it. We said workers were going
to get their cheques on August 2 and we did. We said workers
would get retraining and they got that. It took one and
a half years for it to sink in, he boasted.
This he did while completing his MBA at the Institute of
Business. His thesis was based on the sugar industry and
its implications for globalisation.
Rambharat said, I myself find it difficult to contemplate
how something so difficult to contemplate, something that
seemed so impossible for many years took place without the
violence and the bloodshed and the acrimony that people
said would take place.