Patriots built bank

By Raffique Shah
April 06, 2014

Raffique ShahThe cavalier manner in which certain senior officials at First Citizens responded to the legitimate concerns of citizens over aspects of the bank’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) exposed them as not knowing their own history, or caring about public trust that is critical to the success and survival of such institutions.

Had they been around in the late 1980s when the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and the Workers Bank collapsed, causing many ordinary people to lose their life savings, not to add confidence in local banks, those who triggered the current imbroglio might have spoken or acted differently.

It seems, however, that these johnnies-and-janes-come-lately, blinded by the multi-billion dollar success that First Citizens is today, and enjoying the fruits from a tree that patriotic Trinidadians and Tobagonians nurtured over some 20 years, care nothing about the bank’s reputation.

More than that, they know that in sweet T&T, persons in high society who have tonnes of money and good political connections can commit the most heinous crimes, or be unethical or immoral in the extreme, and never have to face sanctions or charges, far less wear handcuffs and leg-irons like fallen financial wizard Allen Stanford.

I don’t know how many people noted that ‘Pastor’ Vishnu Lutchmansingh, whom I had assessed as being an unholy crook from the day he pronounced himself a billionaire, carried two licensed firearms when he ran amok in Las Lomas last week.

Here was a fraud who faced countless charges and was out on bail. But he still packed two deadly pieces, which, neighbours say, he used frequently to shoot at stray dogs—and in the end, a few members of his family.

You and I know that no police officer will be made to account for how the rogue priest remained armed while hundreds of good citizens who seek licences are denied that privilege.

But back to the First Citizens fiasco: I fully understand that there are parallel investigations underway involving the Attorney General, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Central Bank. As such, it is inadvisable for anyone to pre-judge the key issue at stake—Philip Rahaman’s acquisition-disposal-re-acquisition of close to 700,000 shares.

Still, most people believe nothing will come out of these various probes, not even explanations for the seemingly irregular transactions, far less prosecution, such is the lack of confidence in our institutions.

Moreover, chairman of the board Nyree Alfonso exercised no restraint when she publicly pronounced on the issue shortly after it was made public, thanks to an alert media. She boldly advanced that Rahaman had done nothing illegal, and if ethics or morals was in question, then to each his own.

What a thing, as Keith Smith would have written, and as fellow columnists Reginald Dumas and Michael Harris expatiated on.

One week later, Alfonso’s board fired Rahaman and declared themselves, like Caesar’s wife, beyond reproach.

If Rahaman had done nothing illegal, and if his ethics and morals were private matters, why fire him? Will he now sue the bank for wrongful dismissal and win bigger bucks?

These people, Alfonso and her motley crew, are playing fast and loose with the one attribute that First Citizens worked long and hard to win: confidence. They met it intact, thanks to Larry Howai and a number of other managers and directors who worked against the odds to build First Citizens from the ashes of NCB and Workers Bank.

Thousands of patriots (I count myself among them) went with First Citizens when it started shakily back in the early 1990s. These people had seen two dreams of 1970, the aforementioned banks that they had all but given birth to, collapse under the weight of discrimination (in the case of NCB) and mismanagement and corruption (in Workers Bank).

The foreign banks based here invariably offered better terms for deposits and loans because they were bigger than the embryonic First Citizens. I recall even as I entrusted my pittance to the local bank, I had no choice but to take advantage of better terms at another bank with substantially more money that belonged to an institution that I led.

It was not my money, so my committee opted for the better offer.

People stuck with First Citizens even as it relied on government help and it tried, not successfully as I recall it, to recover bad debts from delinquent customers of its predecessor banks. In so many ways, the bank built its reputation, if not its portfolio, on the faith and trust reposed in it by such loyal citizens.

Today, others who probably avoided First Citizens like the proverbial plague during the lean years are defecating on us from high up the corporate ladder. And people in government, who also do not have a sense of history, of what it means to be loyal to local institutions, are condoning their crap.

Time was when foreigners would come into the country and steal our patrimony. Now, with a local oligarchy well entrenched in the form of blood-families that are sometimes indistinguishable from families-in-blood, our patrimony is in the hands of a few well-heeled clans whose loyalty is not to country, but to the almighty dollar.

The more things change…

22 Responses to “Patriots built bank”


  • In truth, some belive that their riches are in heaven.

  • Tell me folks , but is there ever a day, when we are going to wake up ,and not have to solely discuss matters pertaining to our BROWN Triumphalist Cousins, on this here information Highway.
    It’s simply getting tedious , ain’t it, or am I alone in this view?
    It is fair to say ,that 89% ,or more , of the major/and not so relevant issues address vua this forum,pertain to this tribe.Then again, wo is checking, or really cares?
    Ahhh, the socially comatose , co-opted, 4th Estate agents!
    Andy Johnson, ‘where you at, mi Hermano?’ I know ,…. too busy ,’eating a food,’ hmmm?
    Well, as to the subject at hand -blatant corruption, and the regime that cuddle them.
    I for one remember the ADB , and the fate it suffered ,when Deputy PM Kamaludun Mohammed ,was a big time PNM player, as Minister of Agriculture.
    I am old enough to be aware of Gillman Hussain, during the George Chambers era.
    I can just imagine how many Caroni workers , were forced to suicide, after loosing entire pension savings , at the now defunct, HCU, so nobly managed, by Harry Harrinarine.
    Not certain if any is brave enough, to question that Duprey guy , from CLICO, who claimed ,he used the Insurance company money, to give wink/wink, soft loans ,to his Pal Basdeo , so that the desperate bloke , might educate his 3 daughters,in England.
    See a trend here people?
    One group , continue to dominate the headlines , re white color banditry.
    They continue to get a pass, by a muzzled , /micro managed,law enforcement body, and our T&T , inevitably loose more credibility, in the eyes of the world.
    What do you know, for we have a fast talking , former Tin pan soldier, turn National Security Ministerial , head honcho, more perturb, at the fact that someone leaked info of his, and wife , gun ownership, than the reality, of ‘sleeping police ,and DPP officials , not doing much to rein in, White color thugs, and vagabonds.
    Not to be outdone, is a selectively outrage , over ambitious AG, merely willing ,to repeatedly sue , Phantom enemies , on personal vendettas , as oppose to State centrist affairs.
    Now tell me people, ‘with citizens like these, who need enemies,’ again?
    Then again, who ever said , nation building , was going to be easy, certainly, weren’t lying, hmmm?
    I luv this land.

  • Tell you something brother Neal, the brown people get their power from the black people of this T&T. There are many factors that account for the public behavior of our cousins who are now in power and are making the very best use of it. Call it overkill, call it never see come see, call it “is we time now”, call it whatever you want and they it is their time and are making damn sure they get all of what is available (from the treasury) and more. The available lands will be no more and whatever else that was available prior to 2010 will not be available in 2015. Neal, let me state a few scenarios for you. I came from a little town in deep south where my father was a fisherman. When he caught the little fishes, he let them back into the sea because as a matter of principle and ethic it is the right thing to do and by so doing he is actually allowing the young one to grown so they can produce more fish. He sold enough to make a daily living and brought enough at home to take care of his large family edible needs. Several years after retiring, he noticed the trade was taken over by the young browns. When he went to purchase fish from them, he almost always are given the same young fish that he threw back into the sea. Bear with me Neal,
    as a young police officer, I used the authority of the badge only chest exercise what it asked me to consider whilst in the uniform, never went one step beyond. I was driving my car recently and pulled to the side to purchase some vegetables only to find two brown ones stopping to my right, looking down at me with that authoritative look telling me I did not give them enough notice before stopping. A million thoughts came to my head but I had to purge them. I gave them what they wanted – an apology and the went their merry way. Auntie K’s first official act as the new PM was to insult us with destroying the sautt and filling the top appointment with a young clerk – what an insult. Since then we have had an AG who carries the party flag one every one that comes out of his mouth and is as yet to act on behalf (really) of the citizens of this country. The majority of the contracts emanating from his office goes to u no who! – bingo. There are daily acts of arrogance, overreach, overkill and purely bad governance coming out of every high office in this land. Neal you read the papers every day and there is no need for me to detail them for you -they are quite rightly too many to mention and acts of mis-management to ghastly to elucidate. As you know we are currently experiencing Ramadharsingh, Sharma and the likes of Rahaman. Each a case of boldfacedness, arrogance, abuse and misuse of office. The prevalence of these acts of unethical and immoral behavior are just too many to dismiss as co-incidence. Neal, as policemen (you and I), we never went beyond the letter of the law because our dna (religious, cultural, communal, moral and ethical behavior) allows us to question an act of disobedience before we act, but people coming from the pagan practices of the browns have little or no such internal checks and balances before considering an act of disobedience. In their teachings they are not called upon to make such an examination of intent, because it is allowed once the fine print does not demand it. This is what we are noticing each and every day in our public life in our country today. It is being said in many ways and under many different conditions but the difference appears to show each time. We cannot accept differences unless we understand the difference. We are nurtured with and equipped with different values based on the deity we worship, the things we have respect for and the things we take for granted. Neal since you wondered why 80% of what’s being discussed involves the differences in the way we do and accept things, I present my observations that I feel helps explain. No intent to put any one down.

    • ” Call it overkill, call it never see come see, call it “is we time now”, call it whatever you want and they it is their time and are making damn sure they get all of what is available (from the treasury) and more.”

      This statement is based on rumor, gossip and innuendo. Do you have any specific evidence or is your remark “sour grapes?” Indians in T&T always enjoyed economic power and also degrees of political power, either by direct political action or by controlling key PNM political figures.

      • You are doing exactly what you have accused me of doing “generality”!. Ask anyone other than yourself and the answers will be positive.

    • ” The available lands will be no more and whatever else that was available prior to 2010 will not be available in 2015.”

      Indians controlled, by ownership, most of the available lands prior to 2010 and this became a reality by the own sweat.

      • Yeah right! What about those who have had experiences different from the one you would like to have us believe?

    • ” When he went to purchase fish from them, he almost always are given the same young fish that he threw back into the sea.

      This is a classic example of “generalization” , branding all by the evil actions of one or a few.

    • “I gave them what they wanted – an apology and the went their merry way.”

      This happens every day all over the world, usually arrogant youths strutting their stuff. Have you considered your role in this fiasco? Also your frequent use of “Browns” in a derogatory manner is getting a bit tedious and reflects more on your and your apparent bigotry.

      • TMan sorry but I had to make this point, how many times have you called people “racists” because you don’t like what they are saying?

    • ” we have had an AG who carries the party flag one every one that comes out of his mouth and is as yet to act on behalf (really) of the citizens of this country.”

      This AG might be uncouth because of his rough upbringing in poverty, but he cannot be accused of not acting on behalf of citizens of T&T. His uncovering and exposure of previous PNM corruption and wrongdoing is annoying to many.

    • “The prevalence of these acts of unethical and immoral behavior are just too many to dismiss as co-incidence.”

      If you knew your political history of T&T, you would recognize that this is nothing new. Immorality and unethical behavior are now character traits of all of the people of T&T and there are numerous examples, locally and internationally. I do agree though that the behavior of some of these ministers is deplorable. The difference this time is that an anti-government EXPRESS is vociferously pursuing government bacchanal and making it public.

      • Again TMan!, Prior to Rahaman, no one person never tried to be the sole owner of the highest number of shares in FCB because wanted it to be the “government bank” not HCU.

    • “Neal, as policemen (you and I), we never went beyond the letter of the law because our dna (religious, cultural, communal, moral and ethical behavior) allows us to question an act of disobedience before we act”

      Where have you been, man! There are policemen before the courts daily for a variety of crimes. It is also well known that corruption in the Police force contributed to the crime rate in this country. Ask Gibbs?
      Check you newspaper today for Police before the courts.

      • Ah! ah! ah! Tman, read your quote again, people read but they don’t listen, the quote used four words,’question’,
        ‘before we act’. It means that those who did it were well aware of the consequences before acting.

    • “people coming from the pagan practices of the browns have little or no such internal checks and balances before considering an act of disobedience.”

      Of all your bigoted and intolerant comments, this is probably the most offensive. It shows your extreme prejudice and bias. Why is it necessary to ignorantly attack people’s religion, and make offensive generalizations about an entire race and religion. Pity! Very un-Christian! and this coming from a Christian.

      • TMan, I know you would like to tell the world how racist I am for stating what is very well known by those who do not share your point of view. The experiences I shared is common to most people who have lived in this kind of environment. In real life, you will definitely be shocked to know that it is NOT really so. But facts are facts, it does not matter how uncomfortable it makes one feel. There are many ‘facts’ about black people that make me uncomfortable (and some times I mention them) on my blogs. Some things need to be publicly aired and when they are, some of re-examine our behavior to see how we fit into these scenarios. Another thing, in all of the exchanges I have never used the word ‘Indian’, it is you who got on the defensive and took it all to mean that I was talking about Indians.

  • Well my brothers, you have certainly laid it out plain. And I like that. I hate the pussy footing that goes on in this here Caribbean.

    There is a remarkable symbiosis between the patterns of PP Governance in our patria and the PPP Governance in Guyana. Both are patterned in an overwhelming effort to empty the till, to gorge themselves, to ensure that if and when they depart nothing will be left.

    Yes it is “we time now”, it is neva see come fo see, and it is accompanied by the age old, “well de PNM did de same fo dem blackman”, which is the SOP of the “brown” opportunistic Brahmians sycophants and pundits, whether they are of PP or PPP distinction.

    But we know that the PNM never ventured where these replacement colonials and self assumed slave masters have gone. You see, black people, especially those in this Caribbean area, generally bring a middle class, “walk before the Umpire Finger goes up” attitude to Governance. That is why many of, as Kian Describes them, our “Brown Cousins” migrate and seek their fortunes all over the world where there are majority black populations, and black regimes. That is why they locate their business in places like the US in black neighborhoods, rather than in white neighborhoods. They will capitalize on black colorless spending habits, all the while accusing them of being racist.

    We have allowed ourselves to be guilt tripped into accommodating some of the most viral aspects of racism in this here Commonwealth Caribbean. We feel, as has become a universal practice, that because of our unique history of suffering from the racist holocaustic conditions of chattel slavery, the burden is upon us to lead the drive for cultural universality. It is always out voices that are mostly raised in this pursuit, our bodies that takes the beatings, the water cannons, the bites from Police Dogs, the torture, death and imprisonment, so that others can enjoy that for which we sacrificed. Maybe the time has come for us to recognize that this is a thankless undertaking, and rather than empathy and reciprocity, all it produces is contempt and inverse proportional ethnic ego masturbatory gloating.

    I intend to put down anyone who harbors the traits I enumerate in my exposition, and I do not give a damn who I offend. I have embraced the philosophy of brother Malcolm X that, I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment.

    The one exception to the rule is that I will not allow myself to be tarnished with the perversity of those I condemn by basing my treatment of people on how I am treated. But I will damn well hold to the notion that I am not interested in pursuing brotherhood with any one when there is no reciprocatory movement on the other side. My obligations for pursuit of this kind of relationship with my real brothers in experience is too important to waste time pursuing elusive hopes and dreams.

  • http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/SHARE–SHAKE-UP-254832451.html

    Speaking about the adorable folks who impacted our lives positively , Bro Kian .In your case your dad, in mine , my extremely wise, late , Tobago Granny.What she would have said to yet another , neo tribal corruption interplay, by members of Brown Triumphalist Nation , is-”it’s getting from bad to worst!”
    Sorry Auntie K, but ‘me think,’your purge , and grab policy, has sadly backfired .If it ain’t unqualified bozos,with fake credentials , then its extremely corrupt clowns, trying to rob , steal, and plunger , once given a chance to overseer some department.
    Maybe it’s time-now that Local Transparency guru, Mrs King, got her wings clipped by Auntie K. and her PP,we start our own Transparency International organization Bro Kain , since we cannot wait for our comatose agents of the 4th estate , to expose the culprits, or state run agencies to do their job.
    The reasons are simple, these self serving barbarians, have no compunction in tarnishing our country’s image .We have a moral obligation to stop them from overuning the Trini Pearly gates.
    Time to fearlessly ,put our’ St James Barracks education,’ to good uses.I’m here , and thanks for a wonderful commentary.

  • The word Patriotism always tend to hit a nerve for some, and forces them into defensive postures, and simi coherent , psyco babble, ehhh T-Man?Sad , but true , that some of these insecure bastards , won’t recognize same , if it rose up and hit them in their country hating faces.
    Yep,…” Indians in T&T always enjoyed economic power and also degrees of political power, either by direct political action or by controlling key PNM political figures.”T-Man

    There you go T-Man, and was this correct admission ,that difficult to make? This is exactly what many of us anti revisionists ,were trying to convey, for quite some time
    , but with limited success.Maybe , it’s because we did not also go to prestige colleges like you, eeeehh, buddy?
    Here are the facts :-Every single achievement that our Indo Trini Brothers, and sisters acquired , since the British Overlords departed our shores, in 1962, were made, due to the presence of appeasing Afro-Trini leaders, who over indulge them,and worst yet,at the expense of desperate , still neglected African folks, scattered across the nation , and not as claimed-by the tribal mouthpieces like yourself- alleged ,hard work, or that opaque culture , you guys idly,boast about.
    Why do you think we admire our Auntie K, so much, TMan? For all of her 1st term political missteps ,she has never failed to acknowledge the fact that her successes would not have occurred, anywhere else in the world.Do you really think that if Basdeo, or any of his esteemed ‘Cabral, estudentes ,’was in charge of this country, and the ULF /UNC had won,187, of the 190 elections in this country, that she,a girl from humble,Siparia beginnings, could have acquired a free , first class education, and accorded the opportunity to rise to such national prominence?
    Why do you think the self serving elite ,Basdeo is so angry? His dream of having daughter, ‘Mikela Benazia, Indira Panday,’the next T&T PM, is sinking faster than a drunken , Berbice , or Los Bajos ,rice paddy ,water buffalo. Ain’t happening in this lifetime Bas.Blame Karma, or perhaps, she reminds voters too much of you.
    She ain’t have a chance, but I’ll tell you who does.How about Cuz Shasha Singh, the new media sensation, who derailed the career of her Sugar Daddy-Hindu Priest, MP Shama, of ‘Her Majesstrick Queen K,’ PP government?

    “Neal, as policemen (you and I), we never went beyond the letter of the law because our dna (religious, cultural, communal, moral and ethical behavior) allows us to question an act of disobedience before we act.”Kian
    Not even , a wife abusing , barefoot , and hungry fool,from the flooded mosquito infested ,plains/lagoons of Caroni, or some illiterate junkie, from the Brazilianlike favala, concrete jungles of Lavantille, or Never dirty Morvant, would draw the typically erroneous conclusion,you did, T-Man.

    There are corrupt elements within the Police service , and some , do indulge, occasionally, in criminal activities. Ohhh, and there is some reveling , breaking news, as if they don’t have that problem in Gibbs home town Alberta,of glorified Canada,Calcutta,or better yet Karachi, Brixton, or New York.
    Get a grip T-Man!

    Police officers , just like politicians,unmentionable Trini Expats , turn Tobago land speculators, crooked businessmen, freaky religious leaders, neglectful Customs officials,teachers, doctors, lawyers, professors,clueless diplomats , NGO CEOs, as well as those executives,who once head ,now defunct Credit Unions , our State Banking sector,and even our Stock Exchange , all came from this corrupt society, called T&T.
    It should not surprise anyone , with more than a Golden apple in his head , for a brain,that a few will possess, many of the said qualities,most of us find abhorrent.
    What Bro Kian was simply doing , was giving support to my point, that 6 months in the St James Training College , or possession of a few O ‘levels , did not make us both, who we were- socially conscious folks who upheld the law, and had respect for the rights of others.

    No , it was the sound values , we brought to the table, acquired by our respective parents, and guardians.In his case , that wonderful dad, and with respect to me, my extremely wise , late ,Tobago Granny.
    It would be naive for anyone to think that we both, executed our national laws,…. “without favor or affection, malice or ill will,” ….. while serving as Police officers ,if we did not bring something tangible to the table as human beings.
    We just lost a national hero , in ANR Robinson, and flawed as he might be to a selected few , pay attention to the domestic , and global homage that are paid to him , and you’ll see once consistent theme.These range from fearless, patriotic, HONEST, visionary,humble, family oriented, politically savvy, globalist.
    It was because of folks like him, our T&T, was able to take the initial baby steps , along the part of Democracy.
    It is my hope , that we can build on this , and time goes on.
    I remain optimistic, that there are more progressive minded , Global Humanist out there , who can revoke the yoke of petty tribalism , that too many like yourself, find so palatable T-Man.
    The reality is however , that there are thousands of poor , illiterate , and still struggling ,Afro /Indo Trinis,suffering at the lower echelons of society, because self serving elites ,ignored them -unless come election time , or proposed sales, of some imported, overpriced junk, or shoddy unhealthy product.
    New leaders would need to emerge , that can harness their concerns , disgust,and or rage, and use such , for a better good of the Republic.
    Solidarity remains the key to progress, but as Brother Rodwell Patton , so adroitly put it, “…..I will not allow myself to be tarnished with the perversity of those I condemn by basing my treatment of people on how I am treated…. I am not interested in pursuing brotherhood with any one when there is no reciprocatory movement on the other side. My obligations for pursuit of this kind of relationship with my real brothers in experience is too important to waste time pursuing elusive hopes and dreams.”
    Put differently, and in the words of my late , extremely wise, late , Tobago Granny.”Never cut your nose , to spoil your face!”
    Be forewarned T-Man, and company, for the’ me me, gime, gime , dog with a bone mentality ,’ can never be sustained, Democracy or not.
    There has got to be a ‘Blowback.’
    ‘Me think however, that with prudent activism in place , the push forward ,might be a distinct possibility.
    To ‘you allze ,’grief , this might emerge from quite unusual quarters.
    Long live the Republic of T&T!

    Love humanity people!

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