The Opposition People's National Movement (PNM) yesterday submitted to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar its choice for consideration for the post of President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
The person identified is Justice Rolston Nelson, SC, of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The PNM's submission of Justice Nelson as a person for consideration for "consensus talks" with the Government comes one day after Persad-Bissessar promised to reveal the name of the Government's choice for the country's fifth President by deadline date on Monday, February 5.
Already two of the former High Court judges whose names have surfaced—Sat Sharma and Zainool Hosein—revealed they have not been approached by the Government for the position.
There's also speculation that former judge Amrika Tiwary-Reddy is being considered, but the Express was unable to contact her yesterday.
Other names called as strong contenders on the Government side are House Speaker Wade Mark, political analyst Dr Hamid Ghany, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas.
"Nobody has told me anything," Sharma said with a laugh when reached yesterday.
Asked whether he would accept such an offer, Sharma said, "I will address that if and when the time comes."
He said the position was "a gift from the ruling party". He said he will "just wait and see" how things unfold. He also thinks the Opposition's position that the president should be a person with a legal background and should be non-governmental "is fair."
Pointing out that there seems to be a number of candidates in the running, the former chief justice said he preferred to adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Former judge Hosein revealed he too had not been approached by anyone in the Government. But should he be, he said, "It would be an honour."
"Obviously if anyone thought I am a suitable candidate, that person has paid me a compliment," he said.
Former judge Mustapha Ibrahim, whose name has also been bandied about as a contender, is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.
Rowley has, however, made it clear to the Express that Nelson was not a "nominee" at this time.
"We are only saying to the Government that this is the person we have identified so that we can approach by way of consensus. We have given them somebody who we can support if they are interested in a president by consensus," Rowley said.
According to Rowley, Nelson is "eminently qualified to hold such high office".
Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald said the two-page letter was sent off to the Prime Minister yesterday morning, and a copy was also delivered to Leader of Government Business in the House Dr Roodal Moonilal.
As to the content of the letter, McDonald said, "We have reiterated our position that we will not support any sitting parliamentarian and that we would like to have consensus building in filling the highest post in the land.
"We told the Prime Minister that the name we have submitted is merely for consideration and for discussion and consensus from both sides," McDonald added.
She said the PNM choice to go forward is not tainted with the politics and is well respected and could withstand the stress of scrutiny, and pointed to Nelson's strong legal background as an additional boost for the post.
The Parliament will convene the Electoral College, consisting of all members of the Senate and all members of the House of Representatives pursuant to Section 28(1) and 28(2) of the Constitution, on Friday, February 15, to elect the next president as the term of office of President George Maxwell Richards comes to an end. See Page 4.
Justice Rolston Nelson
Justice Rolston Nelson obtained his secondary education at Queen's Royal College, where he was a house scholar and national scholar.
He read modern languages and jurisprudence at the University of Oxford, graduating with honours in each discipline. He later specialised in commercial law and was awarded the degree of Master of Laws (LLM) of the University of London.
Nelson was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1970, and entered Chancery Chambers as a pupil of two of the leading Chancery juniors.
In 1973, he was appointed a tutor at the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, and was admitted to practise at the Jamaican Bar in the same year. Two years later, in 1975, Nelson was admitted to practise at the Trinidad and Tobago Bar, and began private practice in 1976.
In October 1993, he was admitted to the Inner Bar as a senior counsel.
After a distinguished 24-year career as an advocate, Justice Nelson was sworn in directly from the Bar as Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Trinidad and Tobago. He was sworn in as judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice in February 2005.
In addition to his private practice, Nelson has been an associate tutor at the Sir Hugh Wooding Law School since 1978. He is the author of several articles and case notes appearing in legal journals, including the British Tax Review and the Jamaica Law Journal.
Since 1987, he has been the editor of The Lawyer, the journal of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is a former vice-president of the association and a member of the Rules Committee of Trinidad and Tobago as a nominee of the association. He is an Honorary Distinguished Fellow of the University of the West Indies.
Nelson is a former chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation, and also ex-chairman of Workers' Bank (1989) Ltd, as well as a former director of Republic Bank Ltd.
He is married to Gloria née Burke and has two adult sons—David and Michael.
—Source: Caribbean Court of Justice website