A fallen hero
If Ravindra Ramrattan had followed the conventional path of national scholarship winners, he might not have been killed in a terrorist attack in Kenya. But 30-year-old Ramrattan, who won the President’s Medal in 2002, was a young person who wanted to use his gifts to improve the world and so, as an economist, he chose to work among the poor rather than earn a higher salary in the comfort of the corporate world.
Ramrattan was among more than 60 persons killed on Monday when between 10 to 15 Islamic extremists attacked a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, throwing grenades and shooting shoppers. The Somalia-based group, which has links with Al Qaeda, claimed that the attack was in retaliation for Kenyan forces going into Somalia in 2011 to help the government suppress Islamic insurgents.
There is sharp irony in the fact that Ravindra should have dedicated this period in his life to changing the social conditions which help produce extremists, who view the murder of innocent civilians as morally justified retaliation for political decisions made by a state. After getting his Master’s degree in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics at the London School of Economics, Ravindra would have had doors open to him almost anywhere in the world.
It should be noted in passing that, although he might eventually have returned to his birthplace had he lived, Ramrattan did not feel his expertise would initially be best utilised here in Trinidad and Tobago. That is a reflection on this society, not on him, since those who hold power and authority here rarely try to accommodate individuals of superior talent and ability.
Instead, Ramrattan chose to go to the poorest part of the world to set up programmes which would help the planet’s most dispossessed people. By the age of 30, he had worked with the World Bank and the Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Foundation. And, at the time of his murder, he was a consultant with Project Associate: Innovations for Poverty Action.
This is the brilliant and conscientious individual who was killed by these militants. From another perspective, therefore, perhaps there is no irony at all in Ramrattan becoming a victim of such savagery. After all, terrorists do not really want the kind of sociopolitical progress which would remove their perverse justifications for mayhem and murder. Even here in T&T, there are those who will offer some specious reasoning in support of such groups, to the extent of claiming that everyone who does not support them is complicit in the supposed injustices against them and so deserves to be killed.
In this sense, Ravindra Ramrattan’s murder is a real-world metaphor for the ongoing war between the forces of progress and barbarism.