Thursday, February 7, 2013

Carmona's nomination is a triumph for Kamla and for T&T

File: PM Kamla presents a laptop computer to a form one student ...
it's one of the many campaign promises she has fulfilled
since taking office in 2010
Kamla Persad-Bissessar pledged in 2010 to place her "loving arms" around this nation and embrace everyone. She also said "sometimes you have to talk to be a leader."

She did both on Monday when she and her political colleagues decided to ask Justice Anthony Carmona to accept the nomination to be the next President and Commander-in-Chief of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Prime Minister demonstrated leadership and the willingness to listen and compromise in the national interest. We do not know who else she might have considered but she listened to what the opposition People's National Movement had to say; she listened to the leaders of her coalition and she listened to individual members of the legislature. But most important she listened to that small voice within her, saying, "do what is right!".
In the end she decided to hand the honour to a distinguished son of Trinidad and Tobago who has served with distinction not only here at home but internationally as well and was about to leave for the Netherlands to take up an appointment as a judge of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The national reaction has been positive. And for good reason. Justice Carmona, who was born in Fyzabad, carries no political baggage and has served on the bench without fear or favour. His legal training and international work would be great assets in the months and years ahead.

Kamla has done what no other prime minister has. When our first PM, Dr Eric Williams, nominated Sir Ellis Clarke to be our first president, hardly a word was said about the process or the candidate. And because it lacked the numbers, the opposition did not have a candidate. 

The same happened in 1987 when Prime Minister A.N.R.Robinson named Noor Hassanali for the top job. The two "challenges" were when the Panday UNC nominated Robinson for President and when the Manning administration chose Max Richards. Still, apart from the noise about an active politician moving to the presidency, there was no great national conversation.

In 2013, the issue became such a prominent talking point it knocked Carnival off the airwaves and front pages. Those who had a negative agenda had the rug pulled from under their feet when Kamla rose to the occasion and demonstrated the greatest level of leadership and statesmanship.

The chorus was for a "consensus" candidate. The opposition demanded nothing less. The media joined in creating a national discourse, all pointing in the same direction. For her part, Kamla had said or done nothing to suggest that she would be partisan. But she remained firm in her principle that she would make her choice after careful consultation.

"The President ...stands as a voice of reason and moderation in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society. The right person has to be chosen," she told reporters following her cabinet meeting last Thirsday. "The choice is one which will also bind us as a nation for the next five years."

She met the opposition leader and his delegation on Monday, then consulted with her political colleagues, all the while not putting anyone's name in the public domain.

 It was not until after six on Monday she told the nation: "I have the honour and immense pride, to have advised His Excellency, Professor George Maxwell Richards that the government of Trinidad and Tobago formally proposes the name of Mr. Justice, Judge Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona S.C. as the nominee for the post of President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago."

By selecting a truly independent person to be Head of State Kamla caused Trinidad and Tobago to take a quantum leap forward. What mattered was not Justice Camora's ethnicity or his political or religious views, but his impeccable character and qualifications that make him suitable for the job.
Justice Carmona with his spouse, Reema, and their children
(Newsday front page photo)
Without a doubt there were others well qualified and equally suitable. But as in everything else when there is just one vacancy only one person can have the job. And her guiding principle to try to find the best candidate who reflects who we are.

She achieved the consensus that everyone was demanding, even getting the opposition to endorse the government's choice. For her, this was not a political issue of one side against the other; it was a case of putting country first.

Kamla saw beyond the narrow walls of race, religion and politics. And what emerged was an acknowledgement that she and her government see everyone through the same lens of equality. And that is how it must be.

Trinidad & Tobago had endured too many years of divisiveness and petty politics. Kamla pledged to end that. And this latest move is the evidence that she is indeed a leader not for one group or bloc but for all the people of our rainbow state.

Jai Parasram

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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