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Politics — after choosing Carmona

By Rickey Singh

CITIZENS of Trinidad and Tobago, tired of the customary political dog-fighting and worse, would have exhaled with some gladness yesterday at having the opportunity to welcome a heartening consensus for the coming election of Justice Anthony Carmona as their fifth President.

The choice of Justice Carmona as the next President trumped the crass mud-slinging and bitter jousting from across the political divide where even some prominent political players and social commentators have been exploiting the ethnic challenges that remain so much of a burden in this country—half a century after Independence.

Contrary to earlier expectations, including from women and political organisations, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar did not play the gender card that could have resulted in Trinidad and Tobago having, for the first time, two women separately serving as Head of Government and Head of State.

Depending on how the governing and opposition parties in Jamaica eventually settle the package of related constitutional issues that include severing the colonial link with the Privy Council in London in favour of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as that country's final appellate court, such a political phenomenon could well occur while the Jamaican people still have Portia Simpson-Miller as Prime Minister.

Of immediate interest for the citizens of T&T is whether the opportunity would now be grasped by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley to take advantage of their consultation for a successor to President Maxwell Richards, to extend the "consultative" approach as a regular feature of governance.

This is not to suggest a starry-eyed approach to the realities of competitive politics—moreso in a society like this, where, as in Guyana, for example, the significant ethnic divide cannot sensibly be ignored by those who wish to govern in the national interest.

Rather, what's envisaged, are new initiatives that could well result from structured dialogue between Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar's People's Partnership administration and the Rowley-led Opposition People's National Movement.

Instead of the constant debilitating angry rhetoric mixed, at times, with degrading personal insults, it is to be hoped that these leaders would meet for structured dialogue to find common ground on major issues of national, regional and international importance—in the interest of all the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

On reflection Dr Rowley would realise how badly he goofed in his haste to publicly identify to the media Justice Rolston Nelson of the CCJ as the PNM's choice as President.

Justice Nelson himself was to declare—following a media statement by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan—that he had not been consulted by Dr Rowley for submission of his name for that nomination.

The Prime Minister had much earlier made known to the media her intended meeting with the Opposition Leader for consultation on the choice of a new President. But Dr Rowley opted to publicly signal his preferred nominee prior to the scheduled meeting.

Nevertheless, once Justice Carmona was officially announced for this highest public office, the PNM leader lost no time in signalling his party's support—even as the media kept reporting that in view of ex-prime minister Patrick Manning's absence from Parliament due to illness, the PNM would lack the required dozen votes to formally offer a nomination for the election of a new President.

Not just Dr Rowley, but the militant leader of the Movement for Social Justice, David Abdulah, warmly welcomed the choice of Justice Carmona, deeming it to be a "good and fair choice…", as leading political and social commentators were at the same time expressing their endorsement of the judge.

Meanwhile, as the people of this nation await the coming ceremonial election of their fifth President since Independence in August 1962, T&T remains, like Jamaica—which a few weeks earlier in August 2012 had also marked 50 years of political freedom—linked with colonial-inherited trappings—such as the Privy Council, in preference to accessing the CCJ as its court of last resort, for which it continues to meet required financial obligations.

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