Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mannish water


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Thank-you, Tobago, for delivering the cut tail that undoubtedly caused the Government to re-think whom its nominee for President might be and saved us from some awful hack. The country has welcomed Mr Justice Carmona as the president-designate. For the sake of the country I hope we can move to smooth proceedings in the Electoral College at the end of this week despite some political rainclouds gathering at the time of writing.

I have already presumed to give the next President advice to return any resignation letters that Mr Jack Warner might have bullied out of independent senators and service commissioners because it was important immediately to gainsay Mr Warner's views about what is "honourable". Happily, on the same day my advice appeared, the Prime Minister seemed to have adopted it and disowned Mr Warner's call for the resignations.

Perhaps she will now take my advice given after the Tobago defeat and shut down all the hater mouthpieces in her Government and so try to re-endear herself to the broad cross-section of the population that put her in office.

Mr Warner's attempt to lure the president-designate onto a wrong path, even before he was elected, brings me to the topic of mannish water. I don't drink it. Neither these columns nor I need it because I have, for two decades, survived the imposition of economic sanctions on my practice from time to time as punishment for free speech and because the advice I give is always robust and is also sometimes first out of the box.

In the spirit of the season (but not the spirits of it, which can lower a presidential head), and also in the spirit of an item reportedly on the menu of at least one all-inclusive fete, I next advise the president-designate that "ram goat liver good fi mek mannish water". He made need to take some in order better to stand firm against the demands that will be made of him to do the compliant thing in preference to coming to a balanced decision.

The new President should avoid excessive compliance in order to retain the considerable goodwill that has attended upon him because the Opposition accepted his nomination. A fortnight ago, at a lunchtime talk at a Port of Spain club, which was reported, I urged the need to seek a consensus candidate. Belatedly an attempt was made to do so. The country is in a buoyant mood because the president-designate has not been tarred and feathered as a competitive partisan product.

Some respected commentators have disputed the perceived influence of the non-executive presidency created in our Constitution. I hold the view that those powers of appointment, which the Constitution vests in the President, provide a sound President with an opportunity, if not to put some muscle into some key institutions, at least to keep out the political quacks and invalids (respect to Chalkdust) which Governments would like to pack into place.

For this reason, in the face of so many prior disappointments, whether predictable or not, the country places hope in a president-designate who is reportedly entering office with no obvious political debts or dodgy record of brown-nose compliance. If that is right, based on the goodwill shown to him upon the announcement of his appointment, the president-designate has an opportunity to follow the teachings of the great philosopher with whom he shares names. I refer to St Thomas Aquinas, whose Thomistic philosophy promoted reason as an equal partner of faith.

Our media has its share of commentator courage. There is an equally great need for presidential courage and perhaps our designate of Thomistic name might refer to Aristotle, whom Thomas Aquinas admired, and to Aristotle's opinion that "you will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour".

And so I have found myself writing on a serious political note for publication on a Carnival Sunday probably because, as I moved around on the ground after the Carmona announcement, I heard relief and even elation, as we clutched at a profile that seemed pleasing and un-embattled. As we cool down after the frenzy of this Carnival week, dare we believe that Kamla's crew profile may be changing? Will there be more conciliation and less hate?

Civil political co-operation or, at the lowest, political consultation, has been as dead as the goat who get lick on de roundabout and whose parts were used to make the mannish water in Pluto's song, from which this column takes its name and which I am metaphorically recommending for the new presidential political diet. Re-action to the Carmona appointment has exposed again the thirst for hope of better and less bitter political days. Will the political parties ever rise to the challenge of attending to that thirst?