As the midnight deadline for the nomination of a new President neared last night, queries were raised as to whether Justice Anthony Carmona met the constitutional requirements to assume the post.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday admitted legal advice was sought from three senior legal luminaries to determine whether Carmona can legally become this country's next President.
In a release issued at 6.36 p.m., the Attorney General responded to concerns that Carmona did not meet the constitutional requirement that he be resident of this country for ten years preceding the date of his nomination as President.
From 2001 to 2004, Carmona served as an Appeals Counsel at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha.
He returned to this country in 2004 and was appointed a High Court judge.
It has been eight years since Carmona returned from The Hague.
"The issue raised whether Mr Justice Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona fulfils the constitutional requirement to be nominated was considered by the Government prior to its making the decision to nominate him for the Office of the President," stated the release.
"The Attorney General wishes to advise that the relevant law was in fact independently researched and considered by three eminent international jurists and the Government is therefore satisfied that Mr Justice Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona fulfils the constitutional requirements for him to be validly nominated as President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago," the release added.
According to Section 23 (1) of the Constitution, "A person is qualified to be nominated for election as President if, and is not so qualified unless, he is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago of the age of 35 years or upwards, who at the date of his nomination has been ordinarily resident in Trinidad and Tobago for ten years immediately preceding his nomination."
The Attorney General stated he was advised Carmona satisfied the constitutional criterion in Section 23 (1), as "he was in fact ordinarily resident in Trinidad and Tobago for ten years immediately preceding his nomination".
Legal advice, stated Ramlogan, was sought from Lord David Pannick, QC, Sir Fenton Ramsahoye, SC, and Michael Beloff, QC, on the issue.
"This was the unanimous conclusion arrived at by all three learned counsel," stated the release.
The Express understands that although the Attorney General has indicated the way was clear for Carmona to assume the presidency, other senior legal minds in the judiciary disagreed.
Sources told the Express the Opposition picked up the issue yesterday and wrote a letter of concern to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Persad-Bissessar, according to sources, spoke to Opposition Chief whip Marlene McDonald and assured her the Government did in fact seek legal advice from three senior counsel, who have verified Carmona met the constitutional requirements, and was confident there were no problems with his nomination.
The Express understands further that Carmona, when questioned on the issue, indicated that while he served in The Hague, he maintained his residency in this country and kept his Flagstaff home.
Speaking to the Express by phone last night, People's National Movement public relations officer Faris Al-Rawi confirmed the Opposition had written to the Prime Minister on the issue.
"Yes, indeed. A letter was sent under strict and confidential cover, with a copy to Dr (Roodal) Moonilal, and we are awaiting a written response from the Honourable Prime Minister," he said.
On February 15, at 2 p.m., Carmona is scheduled to be elected as this country's fifth President.