While making an argument yesterday in support of the People’s National Movement’s decision to nominate Senate President Christine Kangaloo for the position of President, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also confirmed they had forwarded her name to the Parliament.
PM Rowley’s move also means that he is rejecting the United National Congress’ nominee—Israel Khan, SC.
It is now, therefore, a fait accompli that Mrs Kangaloo is the President-elect of Trinidad and Tobago and will succeed outgoing President Paula-Mae Weekes.
Prior to PM Rowley’s declaration, however, the main issue with the PNM’s choice of Mrs Kangaloo from several sectors of society lay in her close alliance to the PNM over the years, including her current appointment as Senate President, since there is nothing illegal constitutionally about the PM’s action in making the nomination.
Truth be told, however, neither the UNC nor the PNM has the moral authority to use candidates’ affiliations to respective parties as a hindrance to presidential candidacy. This is because both parties have previously offered up candidates whose allegiance to either red (PNM) or yellow (UNC) was well known.
In fact, PM Rowley yesterday confirmed that while the PNM did not support the UNC’s choice of Arthur NR Robinson in 1997, he used the cloak of the Electoral College’s secret ballot to vote for Mr Robinson.
Of course, Robinson went on to serve without any rancour, save when he made what many labelled a controversial call to give Patrick Manning’s PNM’s the advantage following the 18-18 general election tie in 2001.
More importantly, however, this meant PM Rowley would have broken ranks with the PNM during that vote for the now-deceased Robinson. But isn’t this really how such critical votes should go? Shouldn’t politicians put aside all partisanship and vote simply for the best candidate in the interest of the country for one of the highest offices of the land?
While sad to say, the methodology of the PNM and UNC are partly responsible for the conundrum surrounding the appointment.
For several years now, party politics in T&T has gone down a slippery slope of negativity. It has been adversarial and divisive, with the main leaders often spewing hate towards one another and encouraging party faithful to do the same. Ironically, it is the nastiness of the politics which has seen many individuals highly qualified for the presidency turning down the opportunity to serve our country.
So, instead of discussing the suitability of the two clearly highly qualified individuals now before us, it has come down to a politically infused PNM versus UNC dogfight.
However, one thing is clear. While what is currently happening is constitutionally legal, it is clear citizens no longer trust the political parties’ involvement in the process to find citizens worthy of ascending to the seat of the President.
In this scenario, it is clear that constitutional reform regarding the appointment of a President, whether as the office currently holds or broaching the prospect of an Executive President, should be visited.
In advancing this argument, we offer that the parties put forward candidates, but the citizenry be given the right to make the final choice via a vote.