Why Stuart Young keeps Leading from in Front

By standing out prominently at the Suriname Energy, Oil and Gas Summit 2022, Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy and Energy Affairs  Minister Stuart Young continues to demonstrate how young persons in public life  can express  a high level of commitment in the public domain without allowing  naked political ambition to get the better of them..  Young, who participated in the Ministerial Roundtable titled, “A Bright Future Through Energy” opened discussions by referencing a Journal of Petroleum Technology (JPT) article which highlighted an example of some European countries returning to coal this year in order to avoid short term power outage.

He also: 

  • Reiterated Trinidad and Tobago’s position to strike a balance between Renewable Energy and Natural Gas in order to ensure energy security in the region; 
  • Noted that collaboration is one of the fundamental principles of CARI and that the region, in particular Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago as countries with significant hydrocarbon resources, would be stronger with greater collaboration in energy matters including, when negotiating for their countries’ benefits; and
  • Cited that striking a balance between multinationals their return on investment, and sovereign nations earning their fair share of resources is paramount.

This particular Ministerial Roundtable was especially important because it laid the foundation for   a number of  energy agreements expected to be signed by summit heads who will convene here this week.

For TT government minister Stuart Young whose responsibilities have already spanned the heavy areas of responsibility as National Security, Communications and Minister in the PM’s Office in seven years – this is another example of how a bright star can hide (his) light under a bushel, as Jesus advised his followers against doing  in his famous Sermon on the Mount.

In a world where All skin teeth ain’t laugh, Young – who was not a member of the People’s National Movement (PNM) when asked by Rowley to serve in the Senate – has discovered and uncovered a lot of reasons to lie low, despite the benefits inherent in the big ticket activities in which he is the front runner.

In this regard, his diffidence to grab front stage may be explained by bad experiences to which he has been already subjected, such as:

  • The initial  state great unhappiness and discomfort felt by some members of the PNM port of Spain North/St Ann’s West Constituency Group on seeing him parachuted into the safe seat for the 2015 General election;
  • The occasion when the MP himself was forced to  publicly complain – as reported in the Press –  that there were people in his constituency who were actually working against him;
  • Young’s own natural awareness that his mixed Chinese-Indian ethnic heritage marks him as an outsider in the African-dominates PNM where they will  chew you up  and spit you out at their own convenience.

It’s in such a game where the politics can turn real nasty on the basis of favouritism as opposed to meritocracy, that Stuart Young finds himself keeping a steady hand on the wheel  of a fast-moving car with no brakes, while retaining a Buddha-like smile on a slippery road without any safety barriers.

Even so, an article in the Trinidad Guardian by Nicole Drayton dated March 28, 2021, painted a picture of a man who, in the face of any political and social adversity, is proceeding fearlessly in his quest to serve his people at constituency, community and country levels with all of his body, mind and soul.

“Young spoke about his life away from the Ministry (of National Security  which  headed at the time) in an interview on the Heliconia Foundation’s Young Professionals series recently. It showed a different side of the government minister who has been the target of heavy Opposition fire, has faced severe flack for the exemption process and has travelled widely with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley advising him on various matters”, said Drayton.

He acknowledged that his ministerial portfolio is difficult and revealed that “some of the things you hear as National Security Minister you wish you’d never knew or were exposed to.” He is also cognisant of and grateful for the opportunities from his time in politics.

An advocate of gender equality, said he sees men’s role as being there to support women.

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“A lot of progress has been made on gender equality, women are leading from in front. We are here to support our women. I say to them keep striving, and achieving . . . the glass ceiling has been broken already,” he said.

Young also believes young people must step up to the plate and play more of a role in charting T&T’s direction and be part of the solution. He said: “If we don’t channel the energy into that I don’t know what will happen.”

Looking ahead, Young said the National Security Ministry would place more focus on cadets and other security agencies. He said gender-based violence bothered him tremendously. He said he sometimes felt hamstrung by the legislation, but acknowledges legislation was only one part of the measures.

“But we as a society have to step up to the plate and focus more on our young men—get into their headspace, teach young ones it’s not okay to react when you’re in difficulty or feel threatened. I’ve said men have to be more responsive and responsible.

“We saw the Barbershop Initiative allowing a safe space for men to speak about how they feel. This shouldn’t be underestimated, we need to have this from secondary school,” Young added.

At 46, he is the eldest among a younger brother and sister. Heavy southern roots, growing up Catholic but with close Muslim relatives enjoying “aloo pies and doubles days”

“Every Sunday we’d go to Debe and have fun with my cousins, playing cricket in the road, swimming, riding bike, pitching marbles, building and flying kites, catching wabeen  fish in the drains and going down the ravines.”

From St Monica’s Prep to St Mary’s he was always involved in sports, competitively swimming, playing football and tennis. He got a black belt in karate at 13 Never a bookworm but academically gifted, he was always in the top tier. ”Let’s just put it this way—I had a lot of fun at school, I got into a lot of normal boy trouble, fights, being mischievous. I also got into trouble in secondary school, sometimes with challenging teachers.”

As head altar boy, he “considered becoming a priest or an accountant like his father”. The law won him with his debating skills giving him an edge in that direction.

As regards Life in Politics, Stuart Young admits : “That was never ever, ever, ever on the radar.” In 2014 he met PNM leader Keith Rowley, then the Opposition Leader, to work with a legal team on a Parliament matter.

“He called one day and offered me a position as a temporary senator. I was thinking Trinidad and Tobago was in such a state and with corruption, I’m not one to sit on the sofa and consider these things so, as I said politics was never part of it but God’s will be done . . . if this is what He wants me to do it, I’m doing it. It’s been very, very hectic, I don’t have a lot of room but I know my friends are still there and they can call on me and vice versa. Maybe it’s time for reunions.”

Interestingly, his “Favourite thing in working with PM Rowley is that:  “He’s an extremely bright man, so knowledgeable in how he makes decisions, how he fights continuously for Trinidad and Tobago. I’ve seen it in the boardroom of oil companies, he commands respect. He’s never cut down my views, I just try to learn from him (laughs) but I see how excited he gets when they bring up rocks and seismic charts. He can tell you all about that, he’s like a kid in a candy store.”

After admitting to Nicole Drayton that there is a “Difficult balance” between his personal and political lives, Young is “a bit embarrassed his children haven’t had the sort of childhood he had”

“But I’ve been teaching them recently to play cricket”, he added.

In terms of “Unwinding”, he has found this “extremely difficult”

I carve out time to exercise and try to maintain my sanity with time with my kids also. Those are my two grounding factors. I listen to Buju Banton, the older music, very conscious lyrics, excellent music. People are surprised but it’s very grounding. I play one album over and over, it keeps you real. The other day I bought his latest. It’s okay but the old school music is the best.“

After seven years at the helm and still anchored down strongly enough in PNM Leader Dr Rowley’s good books to be continuously  trusted and earmarked for heavy-lifting work, perhaps the best thing for young Stuart to do at this time is to keep holding tightly to the rope and say:

How it Heng, it Swing!

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