Confederation of Regional Business Chambers splits, 8 of 16 members leave

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Of the 16 members of the Confederation of Regional Business Chambers (CRBC), eight members have decided to take their leave after unresolved disagreements with the confederation.

The eight chambers issued a disclaimer on Monday saying the confederation no longer represents the views of their individual organisations.

The chambers to break ties with the federation are the Arima Business Association, the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce; the Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce; Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce; San Juan Business Association; TT Petroleum Dealers Association; the Petroleum Dealers Co-operative Society; and the Sangre Grande Chamber of Commerce.

The disclaimer said, “While groups with similar aims working together is a concept that we all support, we have collectively decided to withdraw from the CRBD as it does not align with the goals and objectives of our respective organisations. We wish CRBC all the best in its future endeavours.”

President of the Couva/Pt Lisas Chambers Mukesh Ramsingh said letters were handed in about a month ago declaring their separation from the confederation.

Chairman of the CRBC Vivek Charran, however, told Newsday in an interview that the chambers took unilateral decisions to leave the confederation, some as early as 2019.

“It’s been more than a month,” he said. “They expressed concerns to the confederation in meetings.”

He said there have been disagreements among the chambers, most recently over the management of the covid19 virus.

“For things like (vaccinations) there were different views.”

Charran said the remaining members of the confederation were there willingly and were trying to be a singular voice for the business community.

“We realise together we have a common voice and better able to represent the needs of business (but) we respect the views of all chambers.

“We continue to move forward and continue to be a voice to those of us who are willing to unite under the confederation. We respect the independence of the chambers under the confederation. Chambers on their own are able to make representations for themselves.”

Charran added that, although there had been disagreements, he found the dialogue within the confederation to be valuable.

“We work with government on many levels (including) the Attorney General, TTPS, and the Ministry of Trade.”

Ramsingh told Newsday the members who chose to leave had asked for certain changes to be implemented as they were not satisfied with the structure of the confederation and have been waiting for a draft of the constitution of the organisation.

“We are of the belief that the system used to elect the chairman was not done properly and whenever the confederation makes a statement to the media, not enough consultation with other chambers is done, so the message does not align with everyone.”

He said most recently, the confederation proclaimed that over 6,000 businesses could not reopen owing to closures when the government was reopening the retail sector.

“There was no consultation with regard to that statement. A few chamber presidents were embarrassed by that false data.

“In my belief there was no correct information because no data was gathered. I would say it was better. They were way off on those figures. Yes, businesses did close, but not that amount.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the San Juan Business Association (SJBA) confirmed its withdrawal from the confederation.

“We would like to communicate that Mr Vivek Charran is not our president and does not represent the views of the SJBA.”

The association said it had become necessary to further clarify the issue as a matter of ethics.

“The reason for our withdrawal and disclaimer of Mr Charran are as follows: An infringement on the SJBA constitution regarding a conflict of interest; the non-approval of our board of directors regarding joining any umbrella organisation or confederation, namely CRBC; the flawed democratic process in electing and appointing a chairman of CRBC; (and) the conduct of CRBC chairman in consulting members, specifically the morality in being open and transparent with and in the media in relation to who he represents.”

The SJBA further clarified that their sitting president is Jason Roach.

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