Sunday, February 3, 2013

Commentary: Did PNM do necessary checks before recommending its "consensus" candidate

JYOTI was on the mark Friday when we published a commentary explaining why the People’s National Movement (PNM) was unable to nominate a candidate for the presidency.

The constitution states that in order for a person to be nominated he/she must sign the relevant document, which must also bear the endorsement of 12 members of the House of Representatives. The document must then be delivered to the Speaker at least seven days before the election.

In the PNM’s case the twelfth man is Patrick Manning, the MP for San Fernando East who has been absent from Parliament on medical leave for more than a year and cannot vote in the presidential election on February 15. 

He could have signed the nomination form if he and the Caucus agreed on a name. However, the running feud between the former Prime Minister and the current leader of the PNM, Keith Rowley, made that a near impossibility, JYOTI argued.

We don’t know for sure if Manning has refused to cooperate with his Parliamentary colleagues. Rowley told reporters Manning’s position is “not a consideration” to the issue since failure to support an individual by consensus would result in a PNM nominee becoming “a sacrificial lamb”.

The real matter of a PNM nominee leaves some unanswered questions:

  1. As late as Thursday the PNM reported that it did not have a candidate, yet it produced one on Friday. In such haste, did the party conduct all the necessary background checks to conclude that the person is “truly non-political” in orientation?
  2. Did Manning object to the name of the “consensus candidate” because he was not happy with the person? 
  3. Did it consider why Justice Rolston Nelson was rejected by President Robinson for the post of Chief Justice in 2002?
  4. Did it check to see if Nelson had a connection to CLICO and why he was rejected by the Board of Republic Bank Limited to be a director, along with Andre Monteil on page 6 of the letter to shareholders from Chairman Frank Barsotti in 1996 ?  (Click here to read the online document)
  5. Did it check whether Nelson was ever a CLICO Director on the Republic Bank Board? 
  6. Did it check to see if he was sponsored as an Associate Lecturer in Commercial Law at the UWI Cave Hill Campus in Barbados by CLICO Properties (Barbados) Ltd. in 2004/2005?
  7. Did it check if Nelson appeared for Viveka Holdings Ltd. on behalf of Andre Monteil in 1992-93 in the contentious matter of the purchase of the T&TEC Pension Fund shares in Republic Bank and was subsequently proposed as a CLICO director on Republic Bank's Board together with Monteil by 1996?
The PNM’s Public Relations Officer, Senator Faris Al-Rawi, is the one who made public the name of Justice Rolston Nelson. 

Speaking at a media briefing the opposition senator said the PNM Chief Whip, acting on Rowley’s directive, sent the recommendation to the PM and “we are awaiting their response.”

The PNM described Nelson as someone “who has served in very high position in the country from the judicial sphere and someone who is truly non-political in orientation”.

Marlene McDonald’s letter said, “…it is the view of the Opposition that distinguished citizen Justice Rolston Nelson currently serving as a judge in the CCJ is an appropriate nominee to be considered by both parties.

“We would appreciate a meeting with the Government to discuss this and any other proposal in an effort to obtain the right person to consensus.”

The Prime Minister has now responded, saying she will meet with Rowley at his "earliest convenience".

By making Nelson’s name public the PNM might have compromised the judge’s professionalism and privacy.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar has made it clear that the consultations must be done carefully. 

"I believe that persons who are under consideration should be afforded the highest level of confidentiality, unless they choose to make known otherwise. In the process of choosing a President, it should always be conducted with dignity," she told reporters on Thursday at the post cabinet briefing.

There is a sense of déjà vu in this. Rewind to 1997 when the Basdeo Panday UNC administration nominated A.N.R.Robinson for President. 
File: Justice Anthony Lucky with President MAx Richards
The PNM presented its own candidate, Justice Anthony Lucky, whose professional standing as a sitting judge was tarnished by his clear association with the PNM since he had to sign the nomination papers to be a candidate. 

Justice Lucky then had to fight a tremendous battle to restore his reputation both inside and outside the Judiciary after his nomination and his Electoral College defeat.

In the present circumstances we know that Nelson consented to be considered a “consensus” candidate but we don’t know whether he is comfortable with the PNM publishing his name and by extension showing that the judge might be a preferred partisan candidate.

Again, there are unanswered questions:

  1. Did Mr. Justice Rolston Nelson consent to his name being revealed in the public domain by the PNM as part of the conditions that he imposed on the party for them to use his name in correspondence to Dr. Roodal Moonilal and the Prime Minister?
  2. Who solicited whom? Is this all a publicity stunt by the PNM to use the name of a prominent individual because of its inability to nominate anyone?
  3. Justice Lucky was asked to resign as a Judge in 1997 as a result of his nomination by the PNM, should Justice Nelson be asked to resign because of his public association with the PNM and the party's lobbying of the Government to have him advanced as their candidate for the presidency?
  4. Can Justice Nelson now be trusted to deliver impartial justice because of his consent to be associated with the public activities of a political party? 
  5. Is his position as a judge now compromised?
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