New parliamentary kid on the block, United National Congress (UNC) Chaguanas West Member of Parliament Dinesh Rambally, seems intent on being a tick on the side of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Just assuming the role of a parliamentarian following the August 10 general election, he’s taking on the more experienced Attorney General on the issue of parliamentary scrutiny for Covid-19 regulations.
In fact, he says in this Q&A with the Sunday Express that he is a member of a team chosen by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to shadow the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.
The other members are MP Saddam Hosein and Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial.
As he delivered a ruling last Friday in two joint cases that challenged the constitutionality and lawfulness of the Public Health Regulations and the way certain aspects with penalties attached were imposed on citizens, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh said it cannot become the norm in Trinidad and Tobago for laws with penalties attached to be made and implemented without parliamentary input, as was done with the Covid-19 regulations.
The judge also urged the Attorney General “to consider, at minimum, some form of appropriate Parliament scrutiny for regulations made by the executive where normal, everyday freedoms are affected, as has occurred here”.
Following the judgment, Rambally noted the AG has said the UNC was “looking for relevance” when it raised this very valid point, adding: “It is obvious that the Attorney General is now learning reading and comprehension under his Cabinet’s rollout of online teaching... a cursory reading of the judgment will show that the Attorney General is respectfully attempting to mislead the population since the words of the honourable judge are clear and unambiguous.”
But who is Rambally? The UNC describes Rambally as a true son of the soil, having been raised within the constituency of Chaguanas West, where he has contributed significantly to the social, economic and cultural development of the community.
Rambally has 19 years’ experience as an attorney and also served as an Industrial Court judge, legal adviser to the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), as well as the National Council for Indian Culture where, according to the UNC, “he has been a champion for equality, cultural promotion and human development, especially as it relates to education”.
Following is the Sunday Express Q&A with Rambally:
1. Who is Dinesh Rambally? What is your background?
I am the son of Pundit Krishna and Deanmattie Rambally. They were both educators and despite their official retirement, they continue to serve in the field of education and undertake a tremendous amount of community service.
I was born and grew up with my parents and two elder brothers in Munroe Road. I attended the Munroe Road Hindu School and thereafter, I attended Presentation College, Chaguanas. Prior to my entering politics, I practised as an attorney for a number of years. I was also an Industrial Court judge for some time. As a practising attorney, I enjoy litigating matters before the courts.
2. Are you a family man? Tell us about your family and memories you have growing up.
I am happily married with two kids. My home and family life have always been a humble one. I am the youngest person in an entire generation of my father’s side of the family. Most members of his family lived within close vicinity of each other in Munroe Road and environs. This facilitated an atmosphere which absolutely “spoilt” me.
To this day, when members of the family and the village make sugar-cake, or cook what their favourite delicacies are, they invite me to partake with them. It is very difficult to identify favourite memories since I was extremely blessed and fortunate to have had so many. I overindulged in the simple things.
3. Why did you decide to get involved in electoral politics?
Whenever there is a need to bring about constructive change in any society, different factors can be employed such as education, favourable opportunities, an evolution in thinking or politics. I chose politics because I feel it is a particularly good vehicle to bring about that change and respond to social difficulties and injustices in real time.
4. You served as legal adviser to the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha. Was Sat Maharaj one of your mentors?
Yes, he was my mentor, close friend and guru, in a sense. One of his favourite deities was the Hindu God Lord Hanuman, who epitomised ultimate sacrifice and service to mankind in the name of God. Mr Sat Maharaj taught me to fulfil my dharmic duty. What this entails cannot be explained in a few words. If I were to summarise his philosophy, all actions were God’s work and not man’s. Whatever plans we may make, we shall find quite useless when the time for action comes. A man makes no plans for himself, but preserves his heart and resolve pure for the will of God to declare itself. If the heart and will is fixed on the purpose it sets itself to accomplish, then circumstances will suggest the right course.
Bearing this in mind, Mr Maharaj inspired me to be responsive to my community and the nation by firstly recognising the needs, the metaphorical hunger and the inequalities, and then by identifying the best platform through which I can serve. That is why I chose politics.
5. Mr Jack Warner has the record of being one of the best MPs who delivered to the people of Chaguanas West. Do you think you can fill his shoes?
For me, it is never a question of holding a milestone to reach. That is a mental limitation. That said, I wish to recognise Mr Warner’s contribution to the people of Chaguanas West and to wish him a speedy recovery at this time.
6. The UNC described you as a “champion of equality”. Do you think we are all equal in Trinidad and Tobago? Do you think the racial divide is deeper?
A better question would be why are we so united at Carnival and holiday times and during the CPL, but utterly divided at election time? Our seeming racial division is an expression of discontent felt by communities within this country. The source of this discontent must be ventilated. We must acknowledge the difference between equity (fairness and justice) and equality (sameness). It’s a heavyweight issue that scares people off.
7. What ministry/minister are you shadowing for the Opposition?
The Honourable Leader of the Opposition has chosen a team of young individuals to shadow the Ministry of Attorney General, and I am privileged to be a member of that team (MP Saddam Hosein, Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial and myself).
8. What do you think about the insistence by some former members that Kamla Persad-Bissessar must step aside, given the election defeat?
It is always a good sign in any institution when members can hold and express differing views. That tells you that the UNC is not a dictatorship. In terms of what they or anyone else thinks, there is an opportunity to register one’s preferences in the internal elections. Insisting on the removal of Mrs Persad-Bissessar, SC, might be premature campaigning by some factions. The time will come when members of the party will have their say.
Your question itself has answered certain ancillary matters, namely that a number of these remarks are made by former ministers and MPs. One cannot help but question oneself if their concern is genuine or, perhaps, if there may be personal agendas at play here.
9. What are some issues you hope to immediately address in Chaguanas West?
Chief among my concerns would be the condition of the roads and the drainage. Poor drainage, potholes and pooling facilitate the breeding of mosquitoes, which then become a real health risk. One example of an affected area is Alligator Village. If you just walk along Alligator Trace, you would be horrified to see that that area got no attention, no maintenance and no upgrade for quite some time. There is also a major issue of widespread flooding throughout the constituency.
10. What is your life’s mantra that you live by, and what do you hope to achieve in political life?
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action. Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.” (Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore)
I have adopted the mantra of my political leader, Mrs Persad-Bissessar—“Serve the people, serve the people and serve the people”. I hope to assist in achieving a basic standard of living for citizens, which would ensure inter alia that they always have a proper water supply, access to health care and education, security and the ability to enjoy their fundamental constitutional rights.
Chaguanas West general
election results 2020
Number of votes: 17,566
Dinesh Rambally (UNC): 15,502
Rackeal Bissoon (PNM): 1,878
Rahman Ali (NNV): 138