edge

Prophesised by Sparrow

My name is Kennedy Swaratsingh and I have a CV as long as my arm.


In 30 years in public life, I have served as a priest, a soldier, a politician and a Cabinet minister. I have an MBA in tourism, a post-graduate in HR, and a doctorate in business administration, besides my degree in theology. I have never looked back and asked myself, “Boy, why did I do that?”

I was born in Tunapuna but my parents separated when I was very, very small and I grew up with my grandparents in St Joseph, hardly any houses there, then. My mother and grandmother, my three siblings and my aunt, Germaine, “Men-Men”, lived there, too.

My father left before I was fully conscious of him, as a child. So my grandfather, and two fantastic priests in St Joseph, Fr Curtain and Fr Tam, when we were growing up, [were our father figures].

Denise is my wife and my daughters are Kaitlyn, going on 14 and Kelsey, 12.

I was in the church almost from birth. I was an acolyte and choir member from small. We went to church every single day during the week AND both days on the weekend. From 5am Mass, we went straight to St Joseph Boys RC School. Breakfast was a vial of coffee – my grandmother, from Martinique, used to parch her own that she grew, very French.

You can’t grow up in St Joseph in the days of Gloria Alcazar and Wayne & Lennox Flores and Curtis Leslie and not love music. Nobody ever taught me but I play guitar, cuatro, piano, any instrument.

I love Rudder and old time calypso, Sparrow to Kitchener. I remember preaching on Stalin’s song, Wait, Dorothy, Wait.

The church played a major role in our lives and St Joseph was the village that raised the child. You genuinely didn’t miss not having parents because you had so many people who genuinely cared about you.

My father, a Hindu from South, used to go around selling cloth for [legendary textiles merchant] Jimmy Aboud. He met my mother when he passed by selling pants lengths. The second time he passed, my grandfather asked him what was his intentions to his daughter. By age 18, they were married in the Catholic church.

My father was a very flamboyant character. A travelling van salesman was a good job for men like him. When he left, my mother taught herself to sew and was very busy. So we literally grew up with our grandparents.

In a paradoxical way, you were kind of lucky. One of the pluses of not having a father is you knew from the first that you didn’t have a second chance. And you made every opportunity count. And you counted your blessings, not your misfortunes.

I had made up my mind at age 13 to become a priest. My mother’s brother was a monk. We used to walk from St Joseph to the Abbey at Mt St Benedict for Sunday Mass and to see Uncle Fred. So I had that example from a very early age.

You cannot be ordained under the age of 25. When I applied at age 18, Archbishop Pantin already knew me because, every time he came to do a confirmation at St Joseph, I was the head altar-server. So, even though I was young, I joined the seminary on Republic Day, 24 September 1984. I spent 13 years as a functioning ordained priest and 20 years in religious life.

That whole faith orientation is part of who I am. You serve as a priest. But, when you leave, everything you do afterwards reflects that value system and philosophical underpinning.

Archbishop Pantin appointed me as chaplain to the Defence Force. For my very first “padre hour”, 7am Wednesday mornings, at Teteron Bay. I took out my guitar and started to sing. Instant bond with the soldiers. They said, “Sir, you cyar come down here and not be one of us!” There was an opening for a short service commissioned officer for welfare. I applied to join the Defence Force.

I was appointed to the rank of captain in 1994, ’95. I was still a parish priest, so I was a soldier-priest. I trained in Teteron and at Fort Jackson in the US Army.[The Fort Jackson trainers] marked, “promoted immediately” [on my certificate]. With that recommendation, I was promoted to major. I became a full-time soldier and a part-time priest. I lived in the parish of Morvant-Laventille, that little church by the flyover. I put on army kit and went to work at Teteron every day.

Priests were paid $1,200 a month. You could get by because you were living in a parish house, staff and so on. My mom was living with me and I had a mortgage to pay. I asked Archbishop Gilbert for permission to apply for another job, if I left the Defence Force, to be able to meet my obligations. So I became a human resource director at the Neal & Massy Group. And the chief operations officer for Hi-Lo.

I was a priest until Archbishop Gilbert’s time, when everything sort of changed. Even though I left the priesthood, I did not leave either God or my life of service.

Commander Penco was killed at the Prime Minister Manning’s official residence around ’98, ’99. A soldier, Corporal Caesar, shot Penco, shot a civilian worker and committed suicide with his service revolver. As chaplain, I had to do both funerals. Penco was given full military rites and everybody came. Caesar’s service was very low-key and no one came – except Patrick Manning. Caesar had been his driver. That’s where I met Patrick. He told me, “When the time is right, I will send for you.” Just before the 2007 election, Joan Yuille-Williams called saying, “We’ve been looking for you for weeks!”

In the screening, Patrick Manning asked, “Why should we pick you to stand for the PNM in St Joseph?” I said, “Prime Minister, the [calypsonian] Mighty Sparrow predicted my coming years ago. when he sang, Kennedy is the man for them!” Patrick laughed. I was selected. I became Minister of Public Administration.

When we lost the 2010 election, it took me a while to find back my feet and they led me to Barbados. As hard as 2010 was, though, is as good as the last couple o’ years has been. God has been really good to me.

I still call my life “my faith journey”. It gives you a sense of direction. When we lost the election on 25 May 2010, you suddenly lost your job! On the 24th, you were a Cabinet minister, on the 25th, you were nothing. My children were two and four. One of the thoughts that sustained me was that there was nothing you and God can’t do together. I thought, maybe now is the time to focus on my children and family.

I couldn’t get a job in Trinidad. The 2010 election was very acrimonious and people weren’t sure what it would cost them to speak to me. Until then, I had never contemplated life outside of Trinidad. All my family lives in the States but I gave up my green card because I’d committed my life to serving Trinidad & Tobago. For the first time, I looked outside Trinidad. A friend recommended me for the job of CEO of the Crane Hotel.

When I told my wife, “We’re going to Barbados”, she replied, “You’re going alone!” What she was really saying was, you go and see if it is worthwhile. Rather than us uprooting everything. To say that God didn’t let me down would be too airy-fairy, but I would say my faith was strong.

We came to Barbados when my daughters were three and five and so my children don’t know me as a priest, a politician or a soldier. They just know me as Daddy. When they walk with me in the mall in Trinidad, every two people, one person stopping me. Who didn’t know the politician knew the soldier. Who I didn’t baptise, I married. So Barbados has been a real blessing for us as a family. But I don’t know how Trinis make out without proper doubles. I would go to Trinidad just for doubles!

For me, a Trini is somebody who lives life with a passion.

To me, Trinidad & Tobago is where I can live my passion with infinite possibilities and without limitations. I miss Trinidad. There, I could be whatever I wanted to be. And I wanted to be a lot! The person I am today is because Trinidad allowed it.






Prophesised by Sparrow

My name is Kennedy Swaratsingh and I have a CV as long as my arm.


In 30 years in public life, I have served as a priest, a soldier, a politician and a Cabinet minister. I have an MBA in tourism, a post-graduate in HR, and a doctorate in business administration, besides my degree in theology. I have never looked back and asked myself, “Boy, why did I do that?”

I was born in Tunapuna but my parents separated when I was very, very small and I grew up with my grandparents in St Joseph, hardly any houses there, then. My mother and grandmother, my three siblings and my aunt, Germaine, “Men-Men”, lived there, too.

My father left before I was fully conscious of him, as a child. So my grandfather, and two fantastic priests in St Joseph, Fr Curtain and Fr Tam, when we were growing up, [were our father figures].

Denise is my wife and my daughters are Kaitlyn, going on 14 and Kelsey, 12.

I was in the church almost from birth. I was an acolyte and choir member from small. We went to church every single day during the week AND both days on the weekend. From 5am Mass, we went straight to St Joseph Boys RC School. Breakfast was a vial of coffee – my grandmother, from Martinique, used to parch her own that she grew, very French.

You can’t grow up in St Joseph in the days of Gloria Alcazar and Wayne & Lennox Flores and Curtis Leslie and not love music. Nobody ever taught me but I play guitar, cuatro, piano, any instrument.

I love Rudder and old time calypso, Sparrow to Kitchener. I remember preaching on Stalin’s song, Wait, Dorothy, Wait.

The church played a major role in our lives and St Joseph was the village that raised the child. You genuinely didn’t miss not having parents because you had so many people who genuinely cared about you.

My father, a Hindu from South, used to go around selling cloth for [legendary textiles merchant] Jimmy Aboud. He met my mother when he passed by selling pants lengths. The second time he passed, my grandfather asked him what was his intentions to his daughter. By age 18, they were married in the Catholic church.

My father was a very flamboyant character. A travelling van salesman was a good job for men like him. When he left, my mother taught herself to sew and was very busy. So we literally grew up with our grandparents.

In a paradoxical way, you were kind of lucky. One of the pluses of not having a father is you knew from the first that you didn’t have a second chance. And you made every opportunity count. And you counted your blessings, not your misfortunes.

I had made up my mind at age 13 to become a priest. My mother’s brother was a monk. We used to walk from St Joseph to the Abbey at Mt St Benedict for Sunday Mass and to see Uncle Fred. So I had that example from a very early age.

You cannot be ordained under the age of 25. When I applied at age 18, Archbishop Pantin already knew me because, every time he came to do a confirmation at St Joseph, I was the head altar-server. So, even though I was young, I joined the seminary on Republic Day, 24 September 1984. I spent 13 years as a functioning ordained priest and 20 years in religious life.

That whole faith orientation is part of who I am. You serve as a priest. But, when you leave, everything you do afterwards reflects that value system and philosophical underpinning.

Archbishop Pantin appointed me as chaplain to the Defence Force. For my very first “padre hour”, 7am Wednesday mornings, at Teteron Bay. I took out my guitar and started to sing. Instant bond with the soldiers. They said, “Sir, you cyar come down here and not be one of us!” There was an opening for a short service commissioned officer for welfare. I applied to join the Defence Force.

I was appointed to the rank of captain in 1994, ’95. I was still a parish priest, so I was a soldier-priest. I trained in Teteron and at Fort Jackson in the US Army.[The Fort Jackson trainers] marked, “promoted immediately” [on my certificate]. With that recommendation, I was promoted to major. I became a full-time soldier and a part-time priest. I lived in the parish of Morvant-Laventille, that little church by the flyover. I put on army kit and went to work at Teteron every day.

Priests were paid $1,200 a month. You could get by because you were living in a parish house, staff and so on. My mom was living with me and I had a mortgage to pay. I asked Archbishop Gilbert for permission to apply for another job, if I left the Defence Force, to be able to meet my obligations. So I became a human resource director at the Neal & Massy Group. And the chief operations officer for Hi-Lo.

I was a priest until Archbishop Gilbert’s time, when everything sort of changed. Even though I left the priesthood, I did not leave either God or my life of service.

Commander Penco was killed at the Prime Minister Manning’s official residence around ’98, ’99. A soldier, Corporal Caesar, shot Penco, shot a civilian worker and committed suicide with his service revolver. As chaplain, I had to do both funerals. Penco was given full military rites and everybody came. Caesar’s service was very low-key and no one came – except Patrick Manning. Caesar had been his driver. That’s where I met Patrick. He told me, “When the time is right, I will send for you.” Just before the 2007 election, Joan Yuille-Williams called saying, “We’ve been looking for you for weeks!”

In the screening, Patrick Manning asked, “Why should we pick you to stand for the PNM in St Joseph?” I said, “Prime Minister, the [calypsonian] Mighty Sparrow predicted my coming years ago. when he sang, Kennedy is the man for them!” Patrick laughed. I was selected. I became Minister of Public Administration.

When we lost the 2010 election, it took me a while to find back my feet and they led me to Barbados. As hard as 2010 was, though, is as good as the last couple o’ years has been. God has been really good to me.

I still call my life “my faith journey”. It gives you a sense of direction. When we lost the election on 25 May 2010, you suddenly lost your job! On the 24th, you were a Cabinet minister, on the 25th, you were nothing. My children were two and four. One of the thoughts that sustained me was that there was nothing you and God can’t do together. I thought, maybe now is the time to focus on my children and family.

I couldn’t get a job in Trinidad. The 2010 election was very acrimonious and people weren’t sure what it would cost them to speak to me. Until then, I had never contemplated life outside of Trinidad. All my family lives in the States but I gave up my green card because I’d committed my life to serving Trinidad & Tobago. For the first time, I looked outside Trinidad. A friend recommended me for the job of CEO of the Crane Hotel.

When I told my wife, “We’re going to Barbados”, she replied, “You’re going alone!” What she was really saying was, you go and see if it is worthwhile. Rather than us uprooting everything. To say that God didn’t let me down would be too airy-fairy, but I would say my faith was strong.

We came to Barbados when my daughters were three and five and so my children don’t know me as a priest, a politician or a soldier. They just know me as Daddy. When they walk with me in the mall in Trinidad, every two people, one person stopping me. Who didn’t know the politician knew the soldier. Who I didn’t baptise, I married. So Barbados has been a real blessing for us as a family. But I don’t know how Trinis make out without proper doubles. I would go to Trinidad just for doubles!

For me, a Trini is somebody who lives life with a passion.

To me, Trinidad & Tobago is where I can live my passion with infinite possibilities and without limitations. I miss Trinidad. There, I could be whatever I wanted to be. And I wanted to be a lot! The person I am today is because Trinidad allowed it.