Monday, February 27, 2017

Dr Balgobin’s bravado


Dr RolPH Balgobin is described in this newspaper as one of the country’s more connected and powerful men. His attributes and accomplishments are listed in detail in a report which claimed that he was facing an accusation of sexual harassment from a female executive at Angostura Holdings Ltd.
He is listed as currently holding the chairmanship or membership in several private sector giants, including the Massy Group of Companies. He is the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association, a member of the Government’s Economic Development Advisory Board and the committee for the review and assessment of all special purpose or wholly-owned State companies. He is a distinguished fellow in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UWI, St Augustine, and a director and research fellow at the Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, and a former Independent senator.
The list does not end there. He served previously on other private sector and State sector boards, including PLIPDECO, TSTT, the Central Bank and the Youth Business T&T.
Responding to the reporter’s question about the allegation, Dr Balgobin said it was “patently false,” and that it was “trumped up to stymie the audit and investigative work we are doing in Angostura.” He went one better.
“I will not be deterred from my work,” he said. But how could he not be?
Because in response to the allegation, Dr Balgobin retained the services of a legal team, including Gilbert Peterson SC, and one Andre Le Blanc. He would have had to expend time, energy and a considerable sum, to brief and give instructions to his lawyers in the matter.
That’s just for starters. In working on this particular allegation, in which the several incidents about which the lady complained were said to have taken place between August 17 and September 17, 2016, the reporter stumbled on the fact a previous allegation of the same nature had been made against Dr Balgobin. These by a former student of his at the Lok Jack GSB.
With this first story having broken on January 3, a follow-up by the reporter the next day, produced the fact that Dr Balgobin resigned his position as executive director at the Lok Jack GSB “suddenly” in November, 2005, just two months after the school had been rebranded. This later story said that “several allegations of sexual harassment” had been made against him at that time, but that he denied all of them.
Nevertheless, it reported further that the board at the school was divided among those directors who believed the allegations against their executive director, and those who didn’t.
The reporting here further revealed that in 2008, a former director, who refused to be named, complained that the board was “half pregnant” on this issue, calling for the school to distance itself entirely from Dr Balgobin, given what was adduced as the “reputational injury” which could befall the institute.
If the allegation against Dr Balgobin by the lady at Angostura were the result of an attempt to “stymie” the work of his team there, what might be the motive for the similar allegation from the former student at Lok Jack, is one of the mountain of questions arising.
The first set of allegations were made in 2005, at a different place from the second set, in 2016. The lady at Angostura went to the trouble of taking a lie detector test, which she submitted to her employers, before going to the police. On whose behalf would she be acting, if not herself, if this were an attempt to frustrate the investigative work Dr Balgobin and his team are conducting at Angostura, by claiming to have been the victim of sexual harassment? What exactly is being uncovered in those investigations that would warrant an attempt at distraction, on the order of this complaint?
And if Dr Balgobin is not to be “deterred” from the work he is undertaking at Angostura, how is he not to be affected by the fact that this revelation now follows up on those allegations of similar nature which have followed him from the Lok Jack GSB, 11 years prior?
When he made that declaration, in January 2017, he, more than anyone else, would have known of the existence of these previous allegations. Or is it that he refused to submit to the possibility that they would resurface, in the face of this new complaint?
Those members of the Lok Jack GSB board who are seized of the contents of the allegations from 2005, and the call made on them three years later, to distance the school from him, would likely now feel a greater sense of justification.
Dr Balgobin cannot truly claim not to be bothered enough to be distracted by the damage to his own reputation and his standing in the community, with the revelation of a second set of allegations against him, for conduct of the same nature, in two separate corporate spheres, 11 years apart.