Friday, February 23, 2018

Plea for dignity


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It seems no institution is to be spared public wrangling by our political leaders. Today, it is the turn of the Office of the President over which a new controversy has developed over nominations for its next occupant.

With the absolute deadline for nominations looming before us, the Prime Minister will today announce the Government's nominee. Given the Government's in-built majority and, therefore, control over the process, one would have assumed that every care would have been taken to ensure a smooth transition with minimum discord and disruption. Given the very minimal power that the Opposition enjoys in determining the selection of the President of the Republic, the Government had everything to gain, and nothing to lose, by engaging the Opposition early, in good faith and in an orderly process.

Instead, here we are, virtually on the eve of the Electoral College's meeting to vote on the nominees, still waiting to find out which individual has found favour with the Government to assume the office.

To compound the political theatrics, the Opposition has responded to the government's tardiness by seizing the initiative in announcing a candidate of its own for consideration. Justice Rolston Nelson, SC, is a legal luminary who enjoys wide respect but even he would know that, given the Opposition's lack of sway in determining who will be the country's next president, it will be a huge surprise if his nomination goes any further than the point of an announcement.

What the People's National Movement has achieved in announcing a candidate is to highlight the government's delay and to offer its idea of the stature of the person who should be called to duty in the Office of the President.

The public, however, has not had to wait long to be disabused of the notion of Mr Nelson as president. Never one to shy away, the Attorney General has stepped forward to declare that he had been in touch with Mr Nelson who claims to be in the dark over his nomination.

Once again, in the political wonderland that is Trinidad and Tobago politics, the simplest act has assumed the most mind-boggling dimensions.