President-elect Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona yesterday pledged to serve as President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with "clarity, objectivity, fairness and due process".
He also said he wants to be no part of the "discarding of the old" in order to glorify the new.
The former judge was speaking at a ceremony shortly after receiving the instrument confirming his election to the office of President from House Speaker Wade Mark at the Diplomatic Reception Lounge of the Office of the Parliament, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
It was the first time that the public, through the media, was given the opportunity to witness the receipt of the instrument by a President-elect.
Previously, senior staff at the Parliament—the Marshal and the Clerk—would take the instrument to the President-elect's home, without any formal, public ceremony. Yesterday's event reflected for the first time the significance of the Electoral College's decision.
In taking note of this change, Carmona stated that the country was engaging in a new process, "a fresh breeze".
"I started this morning with the Honourable Speaker, doing something very innovative and commendable to bring a sense of governance to all and sundry, that governance must not be a cloistered reality. It is for all and by this simple ceremony a signal has been sent for all-inclusiveness in the conduct of the affairs of this country," Carmona said.
He said in the context of "the need to have open government ... and more so in the context of how I see the President operating", he was applauding Mark for such an open procedure and process.
Also unprecedented is the fact that modest offices in a neutral environment—most likely the Parliament building—are to be made available for use by the President if he so wishes during this period of transition (until he is sworn in on March 18), sources confirmed.
The President-elect thanked the members of the Electoral College, singling out the chairman (Wade Mark), the Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and the Leader of the Opposition, Keith Rowley, "for his kind sentiments" as well as the various members of Parliament who have "kindly expressed their support for my stewardship as President of this beloved nation".
Carmona thanked the people, saying that there had been an "abundance of goodwill and it makes my responsibility even greater and in some ways my job even harder".
He thanked the press "for your kind sentiments".
He, however, declined to take questions out of respect for the fact that there was still a President in office who deserved to be respected and given the opportunity to serve out his term with due deference.
"I would not be taking any questions because I feel in the circumstances I need to evoke standards of comity and civility given the fact that we have an incumbent President. And I feel sometimes we have a terrible habit of discarding the old and glorifying the new. And I want to be no part of that.
"We want to say how gracious a man he (His Excellency George Maxwell Richards) has been over the years to me personally and I wish him all the best in his retirement and I want to thank him on behalf of the wider community for the sterling role he has played during his ten-year stewardship," Carmona said.
Carmona, a devout Catholic, also thanked God. "There is no denying that it is indeed an onerous responsibility. But it is one that I feel in the circumstances, by the grace of God, I am prepared to execute."
He thanked his wife, Reema, "for her unstinting support over the years". He also thanked his uncle, Desmond Dickie, "a senior Olympic cycling coach for Canada, US and China", his brother-in-law, Dr Nandi Harrysingh, his sisters, Felecita Gregoire (an attorney) and Cheryll Foster, and his parents.
He also thanked all the communities in which he lived, noting that it does take a village to raise a child ("and I have lived in my villages down in deep South and they have played a major role in my stewardship as a young man growing up and as a professional").
Carmona said he was prepared to serve this nation with the same kind of clarity, objectivity, fairness and due process that he had always invoked in his capacity as Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, acting DPP, as a former appeal counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Den Haag (The Hague), the Netherlands and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and as a judge of the High Court.
Mark said in accordance with Section 32 (1) of the Constitution and Regulation 9 (2) (a) of the Electoral College, he took great pleasure in presenting the instrument of election, signed and sealed by the Speaker, the embodiment of the declaration made at the Electoral College held last Friday, that "you, Mr Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, are the President-elect of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Warmest congratulations, Mr President-elect".
Present at yesterday's function were his two sisters, Felecita and Cheryll, his brother-in-law Harrysingh, Dickie and wife Reema Harrysingh-Carmona.