Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Letter: Section 81 issue and questions about role of President

President Max Richards
Section 81 of the T&T Constitution: The Prime Minister shall keep the President fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government of Trinidad and Tobago and shall furnish the President with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Dear Editor

Clause 81 refers.

The following contribution is being made without the full knowledge of what the letter to the PM contains. We will like to know what the President specifically wants to know or what information was specifically requested by him.

The President has used Section 81 to seek information from the PM on the matter of Clause 34. We are told that this is the first time that this Clause in the Constitution is being used by a President. 

In the manner in which it is being placed in the public domain, it is being made to appear that the Government is being censured by the President. Further, the Opposition is suggesting that it is the beginning of the end for the government and that the President may have the power to remove the Prime Minister or cause the government to have to demit office. 

Shades of Robinson's moral and spiritual values. The chickens are coming home to roost as we see the playing out of the plot to get rid of Kamla Persad Bissessar and her Government. One hopes that the President is not being drawn unwittingly into this plot. 

The President is smarter than that and surely will not allow himself to be used in any way to affect the ability of a democratically elected government to govern. Given the march that took place in Port of Spain,the President must be careful not to be seen as carrying out the agenda of the Opposition as well as others not favorably disposed towards the government, of which there are many.

This is a good time to note that there has been a sustained attack on the Government as well as on the Prime Minister and significant Ministers of the PP. 

The President of the OWTU has made it known to all that his intention is to remove the government or bring it down. In this he is supported by David Abdullah who has also made his views known in rather vitriolic language. 

The Kiublalsingh affair was another political attempt to destabilize the government but it never took off. Two daily newspapers have not made their views unknown with respect to how they see the current government and have embarked on a mission to cause doubt about the ability of the government to govern. 

At the level of Parliament, a no-confidence motion was filed in the Prime Minister, but was defeated. The idea was not to win but to get a chance to be devilishly critical of the PM and her government. 

Although Clause 34 was agreed to by all parties in both Houses of Parliament, the mud is being thrown on the face of the government and no one else. It has become a cause celebre for the opposition who are milking it to the hilt. 

In other words, for those who wish to be objective, the forces are ganging up to ensure that the government will not be able to govern. They have gone so far as to use their Caribbean contacts to launch a Caribbean wide assault on a government that has been more than generous to its Caribbean neighbours. 

The question which people have begun to ask is where does the inquiry under section 81 by the President fit into all of these attacks on the Government. One hopes that there is no fit. 

Unfortunately, we have seen statements being made by the President within recent times which statements can be interpreted a s serious attacks on the PP Government. It leads one to speculate whether there is any relationship between the action of the President and those oppose to the government. 

One did not hear the President stating such strong views when the PNM were in high office. But again , I do not want to believe that there is any connection and therefore give the President the benefit of the doubt. 

On the other hand, is the President free from blame in this matter of Clause 34? Does the President have legal advisers? When he was asked to sign the Proclamation, did he seek answers from the government? Was he entitled to so do? If the President is as it were the final defender of the Constitution, did he not have a duty and responsibility to ask questions before appending his signature. A a layman, I will like to know.

One hopes that in invoking Clause 81, that the Office of the President is not trying to placate the Opposition, not realizing that it might be at the expense of the stability of the government. 

The President seems to want to appear neutral but may be doing more harm to the nation's stability without realizing the total impact of his actions. This could not be the motive of the President. It might well be that the President genuinely wants to know. But the question is what else is there to know about Clause 34 that is not already known? 

Is this some form of attack on the Prime Minister, who has been attacked for every reason under the sun? Is this a follow through on attempts to make the people believe that that the PM cannot lead the government and country. Read Selwyn Ryan, Maxie Cuffy, Rafiique Shah and Keith Subero and Lennox Grant on last weekend newspapers

Is this an attack on people south of the Caroni? Or, is the President raising issues which will define his legacy as President, in the same way that Robinson did with moral and spiritual values to boot our Panday and his government? 

All of these questions and doubts have arisen in the minds of the population and will continue to do so given that the President was selected by the PNM and was opposed by the then Opposition. Is all of this a plot to create a perception of instability in the country. If it is then it is a sad day for democracy and governance.Like some will say, "I find all of this too strange, just too strange!

Chandra Harnanan | 
St John's Road, via Cipero Road, San Fernando

1 comment:

Ronald Bhola said...


The answer to this question is yes ! The way our Presidents have variously operated in office, have given the impression that the President is a purely ceremonial office holder. This is not true. We saw how the power of the office was wielded, when President Robinson was the office holder. There are powers which are not explicitly written into the Constitution and which no President can pass on to his successor. They go only to him who can take and use them. It is these powers, quite as much as what is enumerated in the Constitution, which gives the President a peculiarly revealing importance. In simple language, once the Constitution does not expressly forbid a president from firing a prime minister, then he can. It's that simple. Power slips easily.

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai