Friday, January 19, 2018

Good gesture by Max but...

It was heart-warming to hear President George Maxwell Richards state his high regard of president-elect, Justice Anthony Carmona, and to be even more altruistic in service to the nation by offering to give his successor advice on the role and demands of the august Office of President.

I think this pattern of behaviour should be mirrored.

President Richards truly has a lot to muse on over the last decade in office. Many events come to mind as I envision him providing sound direction to Justice Carmona as what better instructor than history and using it as a tool for the future.

The true man of integrity and academician that Prof Richards is, I could see him providing counsel to the President-elect and guiding him not to:

• Appoint your personal legal adviser to any tribunal, especially when the same legal adviser would have advised to discipline a member of a commission appointed by the President.

• Be hasty when making crucial appointments to independent commissions. He would cite the brouhaha surrounding the appointment of commissioners, to the Integrity Commission in 2009, with the appointment of a Roman Catholic cleric as chair, lasting seven days.

Prior to that, we had former Clico director John Martin as chair and all the commissioners, including the experienced judicial officer, Justice Monica Barnes, resign for "tort of misfeasance", when they prematurely referred the Landate matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Then before that, Martin's predecessor, chairman Deane, it was revealed, in a High Court suit had written to then prime minister Patrick Manning asking how should he and the commissioners proceed in the Landate matter.

In 2011, chairman of the Integrity Commission, Eric St Cyr, resigned amidst his history at the commission to make public pronouncements on matters still being investigated and adjudicated before the Integrity Commission.

In total, the Integrity Commission has seen five chairpersons under President Richards.

• Appoint a non-legal person as chair of the Integrity Commission as evidenced by the tenure of five chairpersons who were drawn from non-legal backgrounds as opposed to the commission having more stability and tenure under former presidents Noor Hassanali and ANR Robinson.

For 15 years, the commission only saw a changing of the guards at the helm twice—former judge George Collymore and retired justice of appeal Gerard des lles.

• Delve into partisan politics, as the Office of the President is above partisan politics. The speeches given by Richards at the ceremonial opening of Parliament in July/August 2012 and again at the installation of the elected members of the Tobago House of Assembly in late January 2013, serve as two reference points to clearly demonstrate how important it is for the Head of State to be impartial and to serve country with speeches that unite and not cause divisiveness, discord and alienation.

Lastly, Justice Carmona seems to be a very amiable man. President Richards, being a very down-to-earth and lively person, could also do a final good deed and show Justice Carmona how to "Fete to the Max".

Thank you, Your Excellency, for your ten years of service which has undoubtedly left an indelible mark.

Elizabeth Le Gendre