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Puzzling slant in the president's speeches

As a professor in the political sciences department of a New York university with my navel string buried in Trinidad, I often review the events of the political landscape of my homeland.

Recently, I conducted an assignment in my class to analyse the speeches of the Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago.  The work of my students revealed several interesting issues which I want to share with the citizens of my homeland in the hopes of finding solutions for some of these issues.

Firstly, it was revealed that the Office of the President was quasi-ceremonial in nature and that many, but not all, of the roles and functions of his office are enshrined in our Republican Constitution.  

Naturally, the speeches made during the last ten years by the incumbent, President George Maxwell Richards, were analysed. For our own elucidation, being a political sciences class, we decided to analyse his speeches according to the political party in power during the time period.

For the period 2003-2010, or during the reign of the People's National Movement (PNM), the themes of His Excellency's speeches reflect a sense of objectivity that seem to be reflective and in keeping with the role and function of his office.

During the period 2010 to present, however, his speeches are heavily weighted with marked political punctuation that condemn the political party currently in office, the People's Partnership Government. Some of the excerpts from his speeches over this period, for example, include, "There is no one coming to the rescue of Trinidad and Tobago."

Most notably and topical was the speech he delivered at the swearing in of the newly elected THA.

His Excellency commented that, "The people of Tobago must be careful to preserve those characteristics which define them as a people and must brook no substitutes for them."

He also said that "The recent Tobago House of Assembly elections have demonstrated that democracy is serving this country well. ...

"I offer congratulations to all those who have been chosen by the people to lead Tobago into the future. This is a historic moment and it is always important that we learn the lessons of history."

He added that while the task was daunting, it was not impossible.

He ended with "carpe diem," which means "seize the day". Seize the day of what exactly? The fact that there is no opposition to the PNM?

My class and I have been having extreme difficulty in comprehending the slant of speeches delivered by His Excellency from 2010 to present day. Most notably, the speech delivered at the swearing in of the newly elected THA with blatant political underpinnings.

I was of the view that as president, he should be more statesman-like and have a reconciliatory rather than celebratory tone. He should not allow himself to be used as a political tool by the PNM party. He showed his true colours as a political PNM pawn when he in effect said that the Partnership Government ignored and neglected Tobago that is why they lost the election.

How do I explain this recurring theme of obvious political bias by an incumbent president that is supposed to exude objectivity?

  Prof David Horsham

Brooklyn, New York

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