In a few months from now, after private consultations, the Electoral College of Trinidad and Tobago—ie, "all the Members of the Senate and all the Members of the House of Representatives assembled together and convened and presided over by the Speaker of the House" —will meet to elect our president by secret ballot. We, the people, will have no say in who is chosen.
When the deed is done, the only things we will know for certain—assuming Parliament does its job properly and there is no misstep—about the qualification of our newly elected president for the job is that he or she:
1. is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago;
2. is older than 35 years; and
3. "at the date of his [or her] nomination as president, [he or she] has been ordinarily resident in Trinidad and Tobago for ten years immediately preceding his [or her] nomination".
These are the only criteria laid down in our Constitution for the election of the person who, for five years—initially—will be our head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, will appoint the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, must assent to all bills passed in both Houses of Parliament in order for them to become law, will appoints nine senators—in his or her own discretion, 16 on the advice of the prime minister and six on the advice of the leader of the opposition, will appoint the chief justice, the auditor general, the ombudsman and some 14 commissions established under the Constitution for all the major areas of administration touching on the lives of the people of this country. And, when deemed necessary by the government in power, the president can declare a state of emergency and, in so doing, suspend our constitutional rights. Only the president has the power to do this.
So there we are—arguably the most powerful position in our lives, and the only criteria mandated for appointment to this post are citizenship, age and residency!
During the upcoming promised consultations on the reform of the Constitution, the public will have the opportunity to pass judgment on the suitability of these arrangements. In the meanwhile, it would most interesting to see who is elected to replace our current President.
Ashton S Brereton