Trinidad and Tobago President Carmona asks citizens to reject 'rampant individualism' based on lawlessness - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Trinidad and Tobago President Carmona asks citizens to reject ‘rampant individualism’ based on lawlessness

Trinidad and Tobago witnessed the end and beginning of two milestones March 18.

President George Maxwell Richard, 82 was ushered out of office as Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, 60, took his oath to become the country’s fifth president.  He serves a five-year term.

Thousands of supporters at the Hasely Crawford stadium witnessed the event as President Carmona  inspected the troops for the first time during the parade conducted by the Regiment, Coast Guard, Air Guards and Reserves.

Carmona noted in the first few lines of his inauguration speech: “Powers you think I have – I do not. Powers you think I do not have – I do.”

To which the audience erupted in cheers because here Trinidad and Tobago nationals always have been bewildered by their own uncertainty about whether or not a president has power.

Some believe the president has no power but is much like the British Queen,  a more or less ceremonial position unlike the Prime Minister.

President Carmona expresses his gratitude to voters. (All photos courtesy of trinidadexpress.com )

President Carmona expresses his gratitude to supporters. (All photos courtesy of trinidadexpress.com )

“I have listened quickly, but with some trepidation, to the well-intentioned national discussion on the role and responsibilities by the President of the Republic” Carmona said.

And in an aggressive and confidently delivered speech that seemed deliberately crafted, Carmona told the nation (to shouts and glorifying applause) that he has power they are not aware of.

“My fellow citizens, it would be otiose, on the occasion, to attempt to engage you in a discussion on Constitutional Law.  I do want to emphasize, however, that I am not an Executive President.  Under the Westminster form of governance, there are parameters within which I must operate.  Powers you think I have… I do not.  Powers you think I do not have… I do.”

He said while he does not have a magic wand, “the Office of the President is not impotent.”

And again to rapturous applause, Carmona reined in the Office of the Prime Minister about its duty and responsibility according to the Constitution.

“Section 81 of the Constitution mandates the Prime Minister to keep the President fully informed of the general conduct of the Government and, at the President’s request, to submit information with respect to any matter relating thereto.  As a judge, I swore to uphold the constitution and the law and “do right to all manner of people without fear or favor, affection or ill will.”

He promised to “preserve the constitution and the law”, to serve the people of Trinidad and Tobago and to hold fast to the fundamentals of: “integrity, transparency, inclusiveness and reverence to God.”

What will Carmona really do?

Attorney-at-Law and newspaper columnist, Clarence Rambharat said “the President must define what his office will do to lift the quality of leadership in the country”.

Carmona vowed to lower the crime rate.

Carmona vowed to lower the crime rate.

Rambharat explained that the the President has the power to nominate nine legislators; to select, either on his own or in consultation, a series of members of statutory bodies and commissions, as he has the final look at legislation before enactment.

“He must submit a budget to the executive which proposes to give him access to technical resources, so his role in the Executive is real and proactive, and he above all must hold the persons he selects for public office accountable, as the law permits. Whatever the President says, he will be measured by what he does, who he chooses and how they perform”  Rambharat said.

He assured he will infuse new life into the nation’s watchwords – Discipline, Production and Tolerance.

“Fulfilling the objective of the watchword “Discipline” entails an acceptance of personal responsibility for one’s actions, a willingness to be held accountable,” he said.

“Let me make it clear that being responsible and accountable does not only apply to “people in high places”, to Ministers of Government and other elected officials. Being responsible and accountable is a two-way street” Carmona said.

The crowd erupted in cheers with Carmona said the president does have power.

The crowd erupted in cheers with Carmona said the president does have power.

Carmona said that the second watchword “production” is for everyone to develop a  a work ethic, to give a fair days work for a fair day’s pay…”to search out law opportunities to be less dependent on the State; to distinguish between service and servitude; and to ensure that in any and all areas of endeavors, the goods and services that we offer are second to none” remarked the former judge.

As the distinguished former high court judge continued to school the nation on living by good principles, he stressed the need for the third watchword “tolerance” be the torchlight that will guide each other to show empathy, compassion and respect for one another. Carmona hinted very strongly of his intentions to be an unorthodox type of leader who will actively seek to bring the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society of Trinidad and Tobago together.

Carmona’s all inclusive presentation alluded to value systems.

“The first speaks to a spirit of collaboration and community exemplified in the fellowship of religious institutions; in the unity and camaraderie of the steelband; in the supportive organization of the sou-sou; in the healing influence of the panchayat; in the socially-nurturing role enacted by many business and professional bodies.

“In sharp contrast, and posing a growing threat to the first, is a value system based on rampant individualism – a value system characterized by a spirit of intimidation and lawlessness, and one that finds expressing acts of violence, brutality and the exploitation of the disadvantaged and the voiceless.

“As the United Nations document Social Justice in an Open World, published in 2006, bluntly reminds us ” – “neglect of the pursuit of social justice in all its dimensions translates into de facto acceptance of a future marred by violence, repression and chaos.”

Carmona said he wants to see a change in the disproportionate number of young males who are incarcerated, a collaborative effort to fight crime, more workable self-esteem building and anger management projects implemented by trained psychologists.

“Do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do,” Carmona said.


About the author

Marcia Braveboy

Marcia Braveboy is a journalist from Grenada based in Trinidad and Tobago. She has over 20 years experience in media; mainly in copy writing, news and broadcast journalism. Braveboy was a senior reporter at Power 102 FM radio, CNC3 television and producer of the investigative Frontline program on CCN’s i95.5 FM talk-radio station. You can follow Marcia on Twitter: @mbraveboy Contact the author.
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