Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Caution, Mr President

With Parliament’s election of Justice Paula Mae Weekes as the next President of the Republic, the incumbent, President Anthony Carmona, would be wise to recognise his position as a lame-duck President. Unless completely necessary, he should resist taking any actions at this stage of his tenure which would reduce his successor’s room for manoeuvre.

Even President Carmona would have to agree that, under him, the Office of the President has not been distinguished by its ability to act with dispatch.

Hopefully, he will not attempt to do so in the final two months of his term what he has not managed to do over longer periods than that.

Whatever the reasons, which may or may not be valid, the President has demonstrated both a high propensity for procrastination and a curious selection of persons for presidential appointment.

To be frank, President Carmona’s appointments have been the most mystifying of all presidents. While he should be congratulated for casting a wide net with the aim of diversifying the composition of the Senate, the Service Commissions and other agencies, the calibre of some of his appointees has been, to put it mildly, eyebrow-raising.

The choice of the vile Facebook-posting Dr Kriyaan Singh as an Independent senator is perhaps only the most extreme case of President Carmona’s penchant for putting square pegs into round holes. More generally, he appeared not to give sufficient thought and care to sourcing maturity or expertise for the positions of great responsibility that fell to him to fill.

In one case, he was openly challenged by citizen Reginald Dumas over two appointments to the Police Service Commission on the grounds that the individuals did not have the constitutionally mandated CV requirements.

Even at this late stage of his stewardship, President Carmona has not managed to get some elementary aspects of his responsibilities right. Last week, the country ducked a major constitutional blunder when he wrote to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley requesting a consultation on the appointment of Dr Noel Kalicharan as chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission.

The imputation was that the President intended to replace the incumbent EBC chairman, Mark Ramkerrysingh. Following the public revelation that the Prime Minister had responded with a “strong objection” to the proposal of Dr Kalicharan as EBC chairman, the Office of the President claimed that it had all been a mistake caused by a “typographical error”.

The complete absence of checks and balances was not lost on the public, assuming the explanation was grounded in fact.

Also on the President’s lap is the latest fiasco involving the Police Service Commission’s (PSC) recommendation for Commissioner of Police. A former PSC chairman has raised the issue of the constitutionality of the recommendation given the President’s delay in filling a vacancy on the commission.

On his side of the balance sheet, President Carmona has been an accessible President and champion of children and youth. He has also been an avid supporter of the arts apart from his misguided war of words with comedienne Rachel Price.

As he says his adieus and prepare to leave the stage, we encourage him to play to these strengths.