A look at San Fernando West…FARIS CAN LOSE BUT NOT AGAINST SOBERS
By PETER GREEN
Faris Al Rawi is the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago. He is also the Member of Parliament for San Fernando West.
He won that seat in September 2015, with 10,112 votes. His nearest rival was Raziah Ahmed with 6,802.
Al Rawi was born in San Fernando but now lives in Port-of-Spain. He followed in the footsteps of his mother, Diane Seukeran, who also represented San Fernando West in Parliament.
His grandfather, Lionel Seukeran, served in Parliament as a member of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
Faris entered politics in 1995 as a legal advisor to the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation. He served as an Alderman in the Port-of-Spain City Corporation between 2003 and 2006 and was appointed an Opposition Senator in 2010 under then Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley.
Since becoming Attorney General, Faris has been in the spotlight. His Office continues to lose important cases. He is certainly not in the class of some of his predecessors, like Russell Martineau SC, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, John Jeremie SC or Anand Ramlogan SC.
For some reason, Faris is afraid of appearing in court on behalf of his Office. He hires expensive lawyers to represent the AG’s Office. Not even that has helped him. When he loses, he (the gov’t) has to pay costs to the other side and not forgetting damages and/or compensation.
His last defeat was the striking down of certain sections of the Sedition Act by Justice Frank Seepersad. The AG’s office, over the last five years, has lost in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Privy Council.
Faris has tried his best to improve the justice system. While he has failed in many of his efforts, the “Judge Alone” trials seem to be working. That is where a judge presides over a murder trial without a jury.
Children At Army Camp
Very early in his tenure, Faris was in the spotlight. In October 2016, Faris’ children were photographed in possession of high powered military-grade assault rifles at Camp Cumuto. He responded that they were receiving training from the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force in response to unreported death threats. A key witness to this incident died mysteriously from a questionable suicide; he was found with two gunshot wounds to the head but the gun was hidden. A probe into this matter is still pending.
Another controversy involving Faris has been the rental of four properties belonging to him and his wife, Mona, for which the Government spends just over $20 million annually. That is 8.5 per cent of the Government’s annual rental bill of $235,829,007. The main property rented is at #1 Alexandra Street, St Clair.
Faris knows that San Fernando West is a marginal seat. Although he won in 2015 by more than 3,000 votes, he knows that could change. And the game-changer could be all those Petrotrin workers who lost their jobs in 2018 and who live in San Fernando West.
He must also remember that the dismissed workers have families. Faris is well aware of this. San Fernando West is bedevilled with several problems such as very poor roads (some of which are now being paved). The Magistrates’ court still needs to be repaired and the daily traffic which is horrendous. Between 7 am to 9 am and 3 pm to 6 pm there is gridlock and getting in or out of San Fernando from the Mon Repos roundabout is a nightmare.
Many San Fernandians are very critical of the boardwalk which the government is presently building and they are asking why build a boardwalk that nobody will use and waste money in doing so when instead a road should be constructed on the train line (a solid foundation is already there) bypassing Marabella? Residents feel that Mayor Regrello’s efforts at making several streets one-way has not helped with the traffic and that this initiative has merely scratched the surface. For all these problems and more, the people of San Fernando West are not happy.
Faris must take note that the United National Congress (UNC) snatched three seats in the San Fernando City Corporation in the December 2nd Local Government Elections. In 2016, the ruling PNM got all nine seats. In 2019, the PNM lost three seats and they are all in the San Fernando West Constituency – Les Efforts West/La Romaine, Marabella East, and Marabella West/Vistabella.
This will be a significant factor going into the General Elections later this year.
The UNC has chosen an unknown contender in attorney Sean Sobers who is in Anand Ramlogan’s chambers. Sobers has said that he has been working the San Fernando West constituency in an attempt to wrest it away from Faris. He was appointed to the Senate on June 12, 2019.
But is Sobers good enough or well known to be victorious? The simple answer is ‘No!’ He lives in San Fernando East but knows the neighbouring constituency. The UNC believes this is one of the seats they can get back from the PNM but many both inside and outside the UNC believe that Sobers is a very poor choice.
The loss of the three seats in the Local Elections is a setback for Faris and he knows it but reports are that he is not in the least bit troubled over Sobers. For the last three years, Faris has been beautifying San Fernando and against a weak candidate, this will help.
However, the entire constituency needs an overhaul. Crime, unemployment and the closure of small businesses are the focal points today. Poverty is real by Marabella on the train line.
There is talk that Faris could be shifted to a safe seat in Diego Martin. Will San Fernando West have a new PNM candidate? Only time will tell!