Former head of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce Richie Sookhai has been appointed as a government senator after the resignation of Christine Kangaloo as a senator and President of the Senate.
Sookhai was sworn in by new Senate President Nigel De Freitas, who himself was elected on Wednesday, during the first Senate sitting for 2023.
Speaking with the media after the Senate adjourned, Sookhai said he saw the invitation to serve in the Senate as an opportunity to expand his service to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. He said he would speak on national issues, as directed by the advice of leader of government business in the Senate Dr Amery Browne.
“I will maintain a special interest in business issues. I would like to always support, especially micro and small enterprises, which are suffering right now, and then the issue of crime which I think is very important, and I’m sure the government is looking to see how it could get a handle on the situation.”
Sookhai said he had a discussion with the chamber to advise them he was stepping down. He resigned from the chamber on Wednesday morning prior to the Senate sitting.
“I assured them I would always be accessible to my people in the Chaguanas business community. The Chaguanas people will always be near and dear to my heart, and I will definitely be supporting them no matter what going forward.”
He chose not to comment on any previous involvement with the PNM. He said if he was asked to serve in the political arena in any other form, he was willing to serve.
Browne said the government welcomed the new senator and looked forward to his future contribution.
“He has taken the courageous and welcome step of joining the government’s team, joining the Senate, and will be an important part of our policy and legislative position within this chamber and beyond. We value the contribution he’s poised to make as a young prominent businessman, a leader in his community and nationally as well, particularly bringing that private-sector focus which will assist the government and the country at this time and this august Senate Chamber. So we are very excited and delighted for the strengthening of our already strong and capable team.”
Opposition Senator Wade Mark said he did not see Sookhai as a threat to the UNC. He said the UNC was poised to win the next elections, both local and general.
“We are going to bury the PNM whenever Dr Rowley calls a general election, and Sookhai or no Sookhai, it will be suck eye when we decide to deal with them at the next general elections. That is our position on this matter. We are not concerned about Richie Sookhai.”
Independent Senator Varma Deyalsingh said he thought Sookhai’s appointment was a good move on the part of the government.
“You have a young person coming in, and looking at the whole spectrum of the members, an East Indian coming in will bring credence to the PNM as reaching out to the other races. Being a Hindu too, is something that is appealing. It’s a good move, business, East Indian, Hindu.
“I think it’s a good move politically as well as in terms of training/perspective, because we need business input for most of the bills that come in here, business would come into energy bills, social services, all other bills, so he will have an excellent input here and I look forward to his contribution.”
Former UNC minister Vasant Bharath said the move was an astute and politically clever move by Dr Rowley.
“Richie is bright, academically accomplished and and is steeped in the business life of Central Trinidad, having been elected chairman of the Chaguanas Business Chamber on more than one occasion.
“His family is a proud one with deep roots and achievements in the community, his father, the salt of the earth, having built Sookhai’s Diesel from the ground up into the premier diesel engine workshop in the country and possibly the Caribbean. I am certain that Richie will make an excellent member of Parliament and contribute significantly to uplifting our national discourse.”
Sookhai is the managing director of Sookhai’s Diesel Service Ltd, which has three subsidiary branches, namely Diesel Power Ltd in Barbados, Diesel Power Ltd in Guyana and DI Engineering Inc in Miami, Florida.
He has a degree in electrical and computer engineering and a masters in international business, both from the Florida International University.
Sookhai was also elected deputy chairman of InvesTT from 2014 to 2015 and president of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce for two terms.
This story was originally published with the title "Chaguanas chamber head now government senator" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
HEAD of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce Richie Sookhai has taken the oath to become a new government senator.
This was announced on Wednesday morning as the Upper House sat and took place shortly after Nigel de Freitas was installed as new Senate president.
Sookhai replaces De Freitas who himself replaces Christine Kangaloo who resigned after government nominated her to be the next President of TT.