Galbaransingh’s family: ‘Ish did nothing wrong’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ish Galbaransingh’s widow Cheryl Galbaransingh being comforted by former government minister Carlos John during Galbaransingh’s funeral on Tuesday. – ROGER JACOB

Ishwar Galbaransingh was hailed as a wise businessman, a loving father and an inspiration to everyone he was in contact with at his funeral service held at Bayshore in West Moorings on Tuesday.

Despite the controversy which overshadowed his life as a businessman and contributor to the growth of the nation in the form of corruption allegations coming out of the $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport, family, friends and loved ones said Galbaransingh did no wrong and faced his adversities with grace.

“Working with Ish was beyond anything I could imagine. I learned so much from him,” said Dr Steve Rajpatty, his protégé and family friend who read his eulogy.

“He was an astute businessman with a very unique leadership style. He was charismatic and a great mentor. He was a man of few words. He was action-oriented and charming. He was passionate about his work.

“He was a gifted visionary and a legend in the local construction industry.”

Rajpatty said Galbaransingh played a significant role in delivering the single largest construction project ever undertaken by a local contractor in the region, the new Piarco project.

He said despite numerous delays and challenges, Galbaransingh delivered the project as contracted.

“Between 1998 and 2001, Ish worked at least 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure project delivery within time, cost and delivery. It meant long hours and constant attention to details.”

He said Galbaransingh would always be the first to arrive on the site and the last to leave, most of the time.

“Ish was involved in every facet of the project. He worked alongside architects, engineers, specialist contractors and other contractors. His leadership in executing this project is a testament to his exceptional skills in the field of construction.”

Galbaransingh either owned or was involved in several other businesses, including Platinum Motors, the Grafton Beach Hotel and Le Grand Courland in Tobago, Singh’s Auto Rentals, Club Liquid, Royal Castle and Northern Construction Ltd.

“If you had an idea, he listened. If you believe you could make a positive change, he would support it and provide resources.”

His four children, Nalini, Syam, Neisha and Reishma, described him as a devout family man. His eldest daughter Nalini said her father had a work ethic that was second to none and spent his life setting that example to pass on to his children.

“He was a very simple man who enjoyed the rewards of his efforts. (He enjoyed) watching Syam play soccer or hockey or myself on the skating rink (at their home in Canada) and making laps in the swimming pool. He even used to time me,” she said.

She said he would take any opportunity to enjoy hockey games while visiting Canada, especially if the Montreal team was playing.

“Dad’s ability to charm anyone he met from any walk of life was a gift he had,” Neisha said.

“There is not one person who wouldn’t mention to me that speaking to him would give them courage and strength in their own lives. People often said he imparted sage knowledge onto them.”

Several relatives who spoke on his behalf also took note of the controversy surrounding the Piarco project and its effect on him.

Rajpatty said it was unfortunate that his life was marred by the legalities coming out of the project.

“Ish faced these challenges courageously.

“For years – decades – he attended every hearing ready for the opportunity to clear his name. After 22 years, this has not happened.”

“The Ishwar Galbaransingh that appeared in the media through the last 22 years was not the Ish we knew and loved. He was extremely hard-working, determined, self-disciplined, loyal, generous and brave. He never wavered in doing anything he set out to do.”

Galbaransingh had been embroiled in controversy and allegations of corruption, bid-rigging, accepting kickbacks, bid inflation, political interference and fraud arising from the Piarco project.

Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard, SC, discontinued one of the corruption cases against him, former prime minister the late Basdeo Panday, his wife Oma Panday and former minister Carlos John.

Galbaransingh died after a years-long battle with cancer on January 29.

After the service, Galbaransingh was cremated at the Caroni cremation site.