On reflection, the President's bravado at the recent opening of Parliament barely concealed remorse.
No other President's term brought into focus the weaknesses inherent in the presidency. In the latest example, the President must issue an instrument under his hand for a new Governor of the Central Bank. His Excellency cannot challenge the choice, or question the process. His Excellency must generally do as he is told.
The President's speech to Parliament may have come earlier. But the PM did not accede to a request by the Leader of the Opposition to recall Parliament sooner and discuss the Re-Route protest site issues. Government ministers Jack Warner and Collin Partap had witnessed the military operation and personally removed protesters' items from the site, a constitutional overstep and political misstep.
Warner's appointment is "under the President's hand". So is every other ministerial appointment, a constitutional rubber stamp forced on His Excellency, and no longer sensible or tenable. On Warner's appointment, it is ironic that His Excellency is patron of 25 organisations, and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) is one. No one should know the anguish of the players, administrators, and supporters of national football more than the football federation's patron, himself a fan of the sport. And no one could have cringed as much as football's patron, when asked on occasion to appoint local soccer's rogue benefactor for office of high responsibility, including temporary Prime Minister. His Excellency must appoint lion, louse and mouse with equal fervour or indifference.
This is the sad reality of the local presidency and this is the reality of Government, governance and leadership. The end result is leadership without the worry of thought and action without the trouble of consequences. His Excellency cannot substitute the objectivity which is the raison d'etre of the Office of President. He must do as he is told, irrespective of the best interests of the country.
Required now by the Central Bank Act to make the appointment of Governor, His Excellency must accept the name put before him. There is widespread support for the nominee, but this decision to choose a new Governor demonstrates how the process lacks equality of opportunity. The subjectivity, crassness, and self-promotion inherent in this political beauty contest is best evidenced by one self-described candidate informing the media of the request for his CV; furnishing the media with a copy, and then publicly questioning his non-selection. This is comical and unbefitting of such a significant office. How can anyone be considered for such an appointment without being committed to pre- and post-decision confidentiality, and subjected to an independent vetting process for which a CV would have been required months in advance?
Further, when His Excellency speaks about equality of opportunity and merit, the Central Bank must be the country's poorest example of succession planning. Apart from Dr Bobb, no Deputy Governor became Governor, and in the latest round, the current Deputy Governors were not short-listed. The country's diplomatic service is the prime example. Of 18 overseas missions, former ministers head five and six are headed by other politicians. As a consequence, the careers of specialist diplomats literally smash into political brick walls.
The end result is a story featured in the July/August 2012 edition of Home and Design on the renovations to the country's embassy at Washington, DC. A less self-promoting photo opportunity would have featured the embassy staff and the improvements made for them, their work, and the service of the country. Instead we see a rasping brand of self-promotion, a feature increasingly prominent in offices of public, in which public service becomes private estate.
On the President's point of equality and merit, how many State appointments are demonstrably made on merit and without controversy? In fact, even His Excellency has a pockmarked record on appointments. In April 2009 a former judge refused appointment as commissioner of the Integrity Commission, claiming that His Excellency reneged on a promise to appoint him as chairman. Another nominee was forced to return his instrument, his appointment not permitted under the legislation. And in Michael Annisette's appointment as Independent Senator, His Excellency may have paid closer attention to Annisette's interlocking State directorships; his union's private contractual arrangements with the Government; and the risk that independence and objectivity were not going to come easily to a man paid in various ways by State funds.
But nothing defines the impotency of the Office of the President better than the Commissions of Enquiry appointed under His Excellency's hand. The Commissions of Enquiry Act refers to His Excellency appointing where, "he deems it advisable", commissioners to enquire into the conduct of any officer in the public service in Trinidad and Tobago.
It sounds powerful and purposeful, but His Excellency is instructed to appoint these commissions and is powerless thereafter. In any event, the President is not missing out. Commissions work with irreverence to the taxpayers' money they are burning. Considering the Uff and Gafoor Commissions, the Commissions of Enquiry Act; the instruments of appointment of Commissioners; and the reports of the Commissions, are not worth the paper they are written on.
Ultimately, we have an Office of the President trapped within limits of both authority and innovativeness. His Excellency must generally do as he is told.
No office of such public significance should be made to suffer such ignominy. In His Excellency's words, on the occasion of our 49th anniversary celebrations, "We did not come to this place suddenly, so shock would hardly be appropriate". With remorse, His Excellency nears the end. We should be more concerned about the need for a President, before we rush to identify another one.
• Clarence Rambharat is an attorney and university lecturer