TRINI KILLED IN KENYA
By LAUREL V WILLIAMS and Andre Bagoo Tuesday, September 24 2013
Ravindra “Ravi” Ramrattan, 30, the 2002 President’s Medal winner and former Oxford scholar, was among 68 persons killed in a terror attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday.
The Cunupia-born graduate of Presentation College, Chaguanas, had made Kenya his home over the past four years, working there, according to his family, as a research economist with Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya, an independent trust established to support the development of inclusive financial markets in the African nation.
Ramrattan was also the manager of the Centre of Branchless Banking.
He had gone with friends to the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi to shop for a barbecue lime they were to have later on Saturday, according to an account on social networking site, Facebook.
But when masked gunmen stormed the mall, sending hundreds of shoppers scrambling for cover, Ramrattan got separated from his friends. The Islamic militants sprayed the mall with gunfire, and explosions were heard, following which reports emerged that there were fatalities. Ramrattan was one of them, his body was found on Sunday night.
Kenyan security forces yesterday vowed to “finish and punish” the militants who still held hostages under siege at the mall for a third day.
Since learning of Ramrattan’s death, scores of persons including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who said the young man had “been cut down by terrorism”, Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Sat Maharaj and even foreigners have extended condolences to the Ramrattan family of Munroe Road, Cunupia.
His mother, Parbatee, yesterday recalled that when the terrorists attacked the mall on Saturday, her son’s friends in Kenya informed the family that he went missing. Parbatee said the family continued to receive updates of the crisis via text messages, emails, telephone calls and on Facebook.
The family’s worst fear was confirmed on Sunday night when his friends, all of whom are foreigners, contacted them about his death.
“The friends were with him at the mall. When the terrorists attacked, they separated and later they realised that Ravi was missing. They then started to search for him. Last night (Sunday night) the friends contacted us to say that the body was found,” Parbatee wept.
At the family home, photographs of Ramrattan, one of them showing him receiving the President’s Medal from the former President George Maxwell Richards in 2002, as trophies and awards he had won for his achievements in education were proudly displayed on a table.
Tears rolled down Parbatee’s face as she gazed at a photograph of her son holding a huge trophy.
She said she still knew little of what exactly happened before her son, who turned 30 on September 2, was killed.
“It is not as if he would have call us to say that he was going in the mall. I know that sometime he goes to the Internet café in the mall. I spoke with him on his birthday and a week later, we communicated via email,” Parbatee told Newsday. Ramrattan last visited Trinidad in June, 2012.
Parbatee described her son as a lovable, humble and friendly person who was very close to all his relatives. He was the pride and joy not only of the family but also of the community.
“He had an excellent relationship with colleagues and all his friends. Ravi was a high achiever, and an obedient son. He was pursuing his PhD in Economics in Kenya because he wanted to move up the corporate ladder. He always felt safe there,” she said.
Ramrattan’s father, Bisnath, noted his son studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
“He could have stayed in England and work or even go Canada. But Ravi was a risk-taker and opted to go Kenya. He loved it there,” said Bisnath.
He hugged his wife, who sat next to him, as she cried while holding the photograph in her hands. Parbatee and Bisnath have two other adult children, Rajiv and Reshma.
A Facebook page entitled “Remembering Ravindra Ramrattan” was created in his honour yesterday.
A friend named, “Lino C”, posted a message that gave insight about Ramrattan’s activities before the attack. “Today, we got news of a great friend, Ravindra Ramrattan, shot to death in the horrible terrorist attack at Westgate Mall. A great friend, and someone who always had your back. He really knew how to get down on the dance floor and was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He was in Nakumatt shopping for a BBQ we were all supposed to attend on Saturday. I miss him already,” Lino C wrote.
At Ramrattan’s alma mater, Presentation College, Chaguanas, the school’s flag was flown at half-mast in remembrance of one if its brightest students. Principal Gary Rebiero told Newsday the school was shocked and saddened over the death.
“We had a moment of silence at the morning assembly and again in the afternoon. We also placed a photograph of Ramrattan in the hall for all students and staff to see him. We are hoping to go by his parents’ home to extend our condolences,” he said. Coincidentally, the college was celebrating the achievement of its newest President’s Medal winner Abinav Karan, and other 2013 scholarship winners.
Maharaj, of the SDMS, who was at the Ramrattan family home lamented that people are now living in a cruel world.
“It seems we are living in a world of semi mad people. I read on the Internet that the terrorists asked questions like, Who is the Prophet’s wife? If the hostages did not know the answer, they shot them. What craziness is this? We do not have that problem here but when our children go abroad, they get caught up in that,” Maharaj said.
The Prime Minister in a statement lamented that Ramrattan was a victim of terrorism, as she drew a parallel between the Kenya attack and the September 11, 2001 attack in New York in which 14 Trinidadians were also killed.
“It is with deep sadness that I offer condolences to the family of this bright son from Trinidad and Tobago. Having achieved the President’s Medal, Ravindra (Ramrattan) went abroad and completed his studies, and took up a major assignment in Africa,” the Prime Minister said.
She noted, “Over the years, we have heard where our nationals, serving in various capacities, were violently killed. Here was a young man, approaching 30 years old, with a bright future, cut down by terrorism. May he rest in peace.”
Former Minister of Sport Manohar Ramsaran, 63, who said Ramrattan was the son of his second cousin, yesterday recalled being his Under-15 cricket coach, as he joined the chorus of those expressing grief over his killing.
“This event just shows us how terrorism is reaching every destination,” Ramsaran said. “I am feeling real traumatised about this. We had a bright young boy who won the President’s Medal in 2002 and went to the best schools in the world, Oxford and thing, and now that he has started to work this happens. This is terrible. Could you imagine this?”
Ramsaran said if Ramrattan had “stayed with cricket he would have been a good cricketer.”
Ramrattan’s parents yesterday said they had been in contact with officials from FSD Kenya and other persons who are arranging to have the body returned to Trinidad so they could bid their son a final farewell.
Government also announced yesterday that Britain will provide diplomatic assistance in flying Ramrattan’s body home.
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Roodal Moonilal said British officials in Kenya would assist in the process of getting the body home, most likely via London.
He also stated that as of yesterday morning, no other Trinidad and Tobago nationals were unaccounted for in Kenya or involved in the armed siege by Islamic terrorists.
Moonilal was briefing reporters at the Parliament’s J Maurice Hamilton Room, International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. The substantive minister, Winston Dookeran, was away on an official trip to New York where he is due to accompany the Prime Minister at the United Nations. However, Dookeran was briefed yesterday morning on the developments at New York from officials in Trinidad.
Trinidad and Tobago does not have a mission at Kenya but has been liaising with the Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner in Uganda, Patrick Edwards, and the British High Commission at Kenya, as well as the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission at London, in relation to getting the body home.
“This involves a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy but with the help of Ravindra’s employer in Kenya and our missions in Uganda and London, we are hoping that this could be done in the quickest possible time,” he said.
Moonilal said by today or tomorrow, an official from Kampala in Uganda will fly to Kenya to make arrangements for the body to be flown back to Trinidad, possibly on a commercial flight. He said officials are still piecing together Ramrattan’s last hours and gave some details of the events of the last 72-hours.
While Ramrattan’s family said he worked for FSD Kenya, Moonilal revealed that the body was identified by Ramrattan’s work colleagues at the Foundation for Sustainable Development, a US organisation which focuses on development issues around the world. The body was identified at the City Morgue at Nairobi by work colleagues, among whom Ramrattan was “well-loved”.
“The personnel at his workplace, the Foundation for Sustainable Development, have indicated that they will work together with the Trinidad and Tobago officials in Kenya to expedite all the paperwork in Kenya,” Moonilal said.
Moonilal said he had called, Ramrattan’s mother, who was well known in the Parliament building having worked several years in the Facilities Department, and extended on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Government “our deepest condolences to her and her family.”