Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: Do we want a president above suspicion? Then we have to look elsewhere!

Dear Editor: Do we want a president above suspicion? Then we have to look elsewhere!

“I was horrified to learn that the People’s National Movement (PNM) is trying to foist on us Rolston Nelson while the United National Congress (UNC) is proposing Gladys Gafoor.

“My mind instantly went numb.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which deals with the issue of the imminent election of the country’s next president, was submitted to Wired868 by Mohan Ramcharan of Birmingham, England.

Photo: Justice Rolston Nelson.
(Copyright Guyana Chronicle)

This morning I woke up to articles in the newspapers about the potential next president of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. I was horrified to learn that the People’s National Movement (PNM) is trying to foist on us Rolston Nelson while the United National Congress (UNC) is proposing Gladys Gafoor.

My mind instantly went numb.

I began to wonder if Nelson was covertly being rewarded for his role in exonerating Rolph Balgobin, the PNM’s seemingly untouchable ‘Golden Boy.’ If so, that makes the possible appointment of Nelson unsustainable.

If not, the very idea that this thought occurs to me—and almost certainly to other citizens—is itself a sign that Nelson is the wrong candidate, tainted before he can even be appointed. His presidency will always be marred by the cloud of suspicion which hangs over his head.

As for Mrs Gafoor, after reportedly cashing the cheques of a dead man for six years, she is hardly a beacon of light in the morass of Trinbagonian corruption. What she did was not found to be criminal in T&T but then there was at least the Judiciary’s reputation that had to be protected, even if there was no obligation to protect Mrs Gafoor’s.

Photo: Madame Justice and former Integrity Commission deputy chair Gladys Gafoor.

If these two persons are the best that Trinidad and Tobago has to offer, it is no wonder that we are the laughing stock of the world. Third World status remains firmly entrenched as long as Third World thinking prevails. But I guess that the people will accept it as long as we remain the fifth happiest place on Earth.

About Mohan Ramcharan

Mohan Ramcharan is a law student and a student of human nature and culture, who prefers cool logic to emotional ranting. A Trinidadian living in England, he observes the world through two lenses—and strives to share both views in his writing.

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150 comments

  1. Former head of the public service Reginald Dumas isn’t interested in being a candidate for the country’s highest office.

    He made this point clear in a letter yesterday in which he pointed out that the position of President should not be embroiled in “party politics”.

    Dumas asked: “Would it therefore be feasible, instead of yet another adversarial scenario to have the three components of the Electoral College—Government, Opposition and Independents— consult as many members of the public as possible in the short time remaining, then “sit together” in advance of the election and agree on a single person?”
    Excerpt from an article Trinidad Guardian 26th December, 2017

  2. Anybody else notice how Martin Daly’s name disappeared from mention for the presidency once he began criticising the PNM’s crime policy and T&T governance on the whole?
    At one time, people seemed to think he was a shoo-in.

    • You know what? I think I prefer him doing exactly what he does right now. Not that he won’t make an excellent candidate though.

    • Reynold so you never heard that his name was in the hat for anything PNM-related eh? If so, then you really don’t know your party as well as you think eh.

    • Lasana Liburd never gave him a thought and I don’t of anyone one who did. Ralston Nelson was once nominated by the party but was defeated at electoral college. No reason to change now.

    • Reynold I didn’t ask you if you gave him a thought. You aren’t the Prime Minister. But I’m telling you he was one of the names being banded up by the high ups in your party for one or two very high profile roles.
      If you think Rolston is the best candidate then I wouldn’t ignore with you.
      One question though. Did you think Rolston would be the best candidate BEFORE it was leaked that he was who the PM wanted? Or did you come up with that name all by yourself?

    • Lasana Liburd so I am not supposed to think. If I never heard it mentioned How could I give it a thought. So, how many names were bandied about and whom are they?

    • Reynold was Rolston your man before a week or two ago when the press leaked it?

    • Yes. As I said before he was the party’s nominee before. On a previous occasion. I am subject to correction. It may have been against Carmona.

    • Was wondering if he was YOUR choice. Or if you were saying you saying you supported your party’s choice. But I getcha.

    • I may be ” biased” toward Mr.Nelson for many reasons. However, what i do remember is that he has a conscience. I repeat, the reasons advanced by most for thier choice are quite shallow and subjective. And even if the other person gets it, so what? They are still on mute. I am not certain however that our obsession with ” legal luminaries” compensate for people who speak out on issues, ethics and values. We should also know by now that even legal minds disagree on same issues and at times obfuscate issues by hinding behind ” legal opinions ” ( which at times take too dam long and cost too dam much). Most of these choices are tired, worn, war-torn soldiers awaiting the twighlight. Very secure materially and are not interested in picking fights or standing up for any morale. ( dont chase any wide balls, no 2’s only singles). Again, what do we want from this person? What difference will they make to society? To injustice? To the circus- parliament ? What can they say ? Will they even dare to say?

  3. Hope we do better than Powers this rounds…

  4. Nah she look like kamla too much ah fraid

  5. Is Gafoor a former diplomat? That’s who the UNC is supposed to be nominating.

  6. Let a woman be the first lady miss gafoor

  7. If one man earned the position as president is the Hon. Mr Basdeo Panday
    Forget politics, ethnicity and religion
    A man who continuously thinks out of the box
    When he appointed losers to the senate his point is and till is the constitution allows it so the problem wasn’t me
    but the constitution
    Another statement coined by and regularly referenced by others “politics has a morality of his own
    Even today he continues to lobby for constitution reform
    Appointing him will be justice
    delayed don’t let it be justice denied
    Let us recognize him now and not posthumously
    Hon PM and Hon OL put your differences aside and let justice prevail

  8. Give someone outside of the Law Club a chance to become President

  9. Pick a poor person, well esteemed nationally, hates &despise both the ruling government & the opposition, poor not hungry or a millionaire, and all might go well.

  10. Any other than Mrs Gaffoor !! We all going to jail if we spit

  11. Good Lady.. Very knowledgeable…. Good luck…..

  12. U NC you all forget u not in Goverment Again.

  13. If everything that is given thought, word or action inT&T creates suspicion, mischief and bacchanal then we’ll be moving nowhere fast.

  14. I nominate Calypso Rose for President!!!!!!

  15. I support RobertTaylor’s choice; Barry Sinanan.

  16. Oh please…not Gafoor! What are these people thinking?

  17. Burke did look real comfortable in the President house

    • Hahaha. Point! Suggestion as good as any. I betcha we will hear: “well he was never convicted of anything… and it might be good to have a ‘grassroots’ man…”

    • And he aided the police in their investigations recently .. Marlene for President then! All women seem to be getting a raw deal with this government. Boat fiasco: woman open she mouth= fired
      Angostura sexual harassment: woman get fired : A&V oil scandal : woman senator leaves
      Poor Marlene had to take Burke and go

  18. I care less about ” who” is President n more about ” how” this person is chosen and “what” this person does. How is he ” hired” and how is he ” fired”. The rundiments of thier lists of achievements is rather irrelevant and banal. Well, unless ur impressed with resumés. Once we continue to have a ” mute” President, then what ?.

    • I agree with your point but I don’t subscribe to the view that their background is irrelevant. All of those should be satisfactory before any appointment is made.

    • I agree with you Nadeera. The process does need to be improved so it inspires better than a talk shop. But of course one’s record is always important.
      Judging from how poorly people like Anthony Carmona and Ivor Archie have done. It is no guarantee of anything. But it’s still something.

    • I don’t get the point. You want constitutional change then? Or you want to refine the purpose of having a President?

    • Lasana Justice Boodoosingh was absolutely right, in that as a judge, there can be no room for questioning of his/her integrity in any way, specifically because they answer to no one. And here we are looking at judges as nominees, with questionable relationships on one hand, and a lack of information which led to a questionable decision on a crucial matter on the other.

    • Nadeera didn’t Angostura pay Nelson to do that probe? So how was it impartial to begin with?
      Now if you follow that line of thought, would it be unfair to call Nelson a hired gun?
      Of course that is a stretch. But we are always starved of information on this side of the fence.

    • Listen ! What is integrity ?? Cmon! Someone who is ” flawless” ? Who is that ? Where are they ??? We argue things about people we know, but guess what , we dont know everthing , and other things we ignore ! What do you know about anyone’ background? Only what the media has highlighted ?? Really?? That has gotten us nowhere fast. All our past Presidents had both (1) well published n prominent careers (2) ” great ” background – but the one that stood out for me, was the one with a conscience, who was no mute ! Your role n function for me is where its at. You think our presidents past were nt ” qualified” ? Think again. They all were. Thats not as important as what they did or didnt do !

    • Since it is really hard to tell what they would or wouldn’t do when they get their jobs, maybe we should take away some of their immunities and make them more answerable to us.

    • The colonials hv long gone but who have replaced them ??

    • Thats a start ! @ Lasana. Who do we want the President to answer to ? The PM ? The parliament ?? The Opposition ?? Who choses him/ her ??

    • Ronaldo I’d say all of the above. They should not be above scrutiny or shielded from the FOIA in any way.

  19. I say Dr Keith Rowley should put his wife and done. It is something the UNC will do.

  20. Carmona has learnt his lessons, how about him remaining there until we are a bit more reasoned and non partisan ?

  21. What’s the top of the barrel? The CJ? The head of the integrity commission? Or any of the former heads in the past decade? A high court judge? Country in a mess

  22. Scraping the bottom of the barrel

  23. Lasana part of the problem is how the public receives information and how our institutions are set up that actually derail trust. Till now the government has not actually made an official announcement about its choices for the highest office holder. It’s a secret and only the ruling party has a say. One would think that the sitting of the Electoral College is set to be held in January before now, and outside of a reporter receiving an inside tip, the government would have announced their choices and laid before the public their credentials. Outside of people in the legal fraternity, very few others would know Rolston Nelson. It is ridiculous and undermines democracy that there are no public hearings on our President, or some other mechanism for us to lay bear his record. That’s what democracy is about. Democracy is also this writer being able to disagree and others to disagree with that disagreement and lay their own arguments. We can’t shut it down because we have more information (which by itself may be bias). We need to start publicly engage with our office holders before they get in office and make a royal fuck-up (Carmona included). Bear in mind Carmona had a “sterling career” before being appointed. Then we can question their decisions because they have constitutional protection. Ain’t that a doozy?

  24. Just ah bunch of old people trying to get ah wuk

  25. The country should stand up for this… none of them must be appointed.

  26. she was cashing a dead man cheques and she became head of the IC?

  27. I recommend Munilal for president.

  28. It’s interesting that we have become a nation of innuendo with out the need to rely on facts. What precisely do they mean by suspicion. If suspicion were evidence many a man would be In the world of trouble. This is nonsense neither of them has been proven to be anything but upstanding citizens. The allegation against Nelson is ludicrous if only because no one other than the actual participants know the specifics of evidence if any against balgobin. Trial by newspaper chups

    • Would you acknowledge why we have become so suspicious of politicians and their appointees? Or is the problem just with the paranoid people?

    • I am saying that paranoia is why people were burnt at the stake in the middle ages. What is required is proof not allegation not suspicion or else we really will be a failed republic

    • The people aren’t fooled by such nonsense any more Wendell. We know the system is rigged. When the head of police calls a senior minister because weed is found in the house of the prime minister, for instance.
      If you think the only thing wrong here is the suspicious people, then I think you are missing something.
      And are you suggesting that it is the people–as separate from what passes for political leaders–that makes this a failed republic?

    • Interesting perspective. I do not accept the assertion that it’s nonsense. We cannot use a short cut when it’s convenient to do so. That’s precisely how we got here. We found that the central tenders board was to slow so let’s make a state enterprise so that we can by pass the board and get things done quickly. Well the real problem is a lack of oversight. Quick fixes go us here and it won’t get us out. I hold no brief for balgobin or Nelson but he who alleges must prove. Not with innuendo but with fact. Because the day we accept that evidence is not required we will have failed. A lie told enough time is truth….lets tell the truth enough times instead

    • There were some things about the Balgobin “probe” and allegations that disturbed me. That hasn’t gone away. Beyond that I agree that innuendo ought not to be enough (the Balgobin matter definitely goes far beyond innuendo btw)… The larger problem is the watchbodies have failed. So where do we get justice?
      Faris said recently that the Gov’t is happy to investigate itself. How sweet.
      Do politicians really think the public buys that stuff?
      The system doesn’t work and that should concern politicians too. Because good ones will suffer with the bad when the tipping point comes.

    • It’s further disappointing that these allegations are made as if more information on at least the Angostura situation was not publicly available.

    • There are many well informed people who are far from satisfied with the Angostura situation. It is not like “if only he knew, then he wouldn’t have a problem…”

    • In this space I am limited with what I can say. I think that the balgobin case is a test case. From what is known the young lady has put much value in the lie detector result. The problem here is that it only tests what you believe the truth is. However because you believe it to be true does not make it truth. Second once the allegation was made it was always going to be impossible to stay in an organisation of that size. It’s just too small to adequately shield the whistle blower. Beyond that as you know evidence in writing can be considered without actual writing. In any event this was not a court and she is still free to bring a civil challenge if she has a case.

    • Well informed is not evidence that’s innuendo …its rum shop talk based on hear say from within. Internal hearsay is not evidence

    • What I was addressing though was the allegation directed at Justice Nelson. How can the man come to a determination on the matter if the involved parties refuse to give evidence? No witness, no crime. What payback?

    • Wendell Raeburn “well informed” is hearsay? You’ve lost me.

    • Are you saying that a well informed person is a witness ? If they are not a witness then it’s hear say. That does not make what they say untruthful. It means though that they are repeating something they heard from some one on the inside who heard it from…? All I’m saying is lets get some hard facts

    • Why not push for whistleblower legislation then? No matter the party in power, people who speak out are ruthlessly dealt with. The system is set up almost perfectly in favour of the abusers:
      You have political parties and State boards setting up their own investigations, an ineffective police system, slow and inefficient judiciary and the ruthless dispatching of witnesses and whistleblowers…
      Makes it easy to say: “Well bring proof!”
      Everything is designed to keep us from getting to the truth. And then you wonder why there is cynicism and paranoia.

    • If i read you correctly you wish to bring more laws for the ineffective police system and slow and inefficient judiciary to manage ? I will say that we don’t really want to know the truth. The truth will keep you up at night ..

    • Wendell that’s the funny thing about us calling for legislation here. You’re damn right there is no guarantee of comfort to be had from a piece of paper—even with the stamp of the Parliament.
      Hope you recognized as much when we were talking about the anti gang legislation recently.
      What I’m saying is that with no trust at all in the system, every appointment would be viewed with skepticism.
      But don’t laugh at the frustrated public. Eventually the tipping point will be reached.

    • It’s a carnival mentality, we whine too much.

    • It’s not merely a matter of innuendo, it’s also one of perception. Is Nelson politically driven to the PNM? In an otherwise, stellar career, I wonder why this particular ‘investigation’ where things weren’t done by proper legal procedure – of all people, a former President of the CCJ ought to know the Rules of Justice and how an investigation works.

      I personally think that a retired judge ought not get involved in situations as Nelson did. He has no one but himself to blame for any aspersions cast on his character.

      The point of the letter though, which you missed completely, is that a President ought to be beyond reproach in both personal and private dealings.

    • Nearly every system we have is tainted. And legislations are for 90 percent of the population. Whistle blowers dont last long. And ppl more concerned with food on the table and bot getting robbed or killed than an appointee for a position they have no say over. Look at our present president. Whats his real purpose?

  29. Unfortunately , I think that in the present political climate anyone that is recommended will be considered a political appointee. Carmona’s behaviour in office has caused that moreso than anything else. ANR Robinson proved that it doesn’t have to be so regardless of background. However, to compare Nelson’s reputation to Gafoor due to the Angostura thing is laughable.

  30. Are you surprised? I’m not. Politicians think in such a dumb manner that anything is possible coming from them.

  31. The reality is both nominees put themselves in positions we’re thier questionable morales and judgement ( issues that plague our current President) are on full display! Why are so many executive or judicial types seem to be as lost as the average man? Maybe we should worry less about graduates coming out of gov secondary schools and more about the people coming out of QRC.

  32. Ralston Nelson besides being a Royalian and Open Scholarship Winner when there were only four offered was an Appeal Court Judge as well as a judge of the CCJ. I’ll support him all the way.

  33. One should have been criminally punished for fraud. Smh

  34. I am of the opinion that President, Speaker of the House, Senate President and deputies should be devoid of partisan or political choices…but an Independent Commission comprised of apolitical individuals should be constitutionally mandated to select a candidate (from three nominees)…

    • But then who appoints the Independent Commission? There is little to no trust in the mix and it is very very difficult to operate in such a climate.

    • While that is a legitimate question, the aforementioned high offices (except the PM) are political appointments…a recipe, as we have seen, for semblances of bias, nepotism and favouritism…

    • Again the post of President could be nationally elected. While others could be done by parliament in joint committees meeting initially publicly to interview worthiness of candidate.

    • Every five years the voters exercise their franchise..first pass the post system…party comes or goes..
      The voters now are disenfranchised in terms of decision-making and the running of the country as the politicians from both sides, the victors and the vanquished, engage in political shenanigans for the next five years…

  35. And it’s no point in his favor to say he didn’t know Nelson was a candidate before- we assume people take the time to make their opinions informed ones.

    • Not meant to be a point in his favour. We know sometimes people speak with partial knowledge or view of the field on letter pages. But we do want to give people a chance to make a point–within certain limits.
      There is a paranoia about persons recommended for service by political parties. And we know why that is.
      If political parties are honest, they know they have some work to do to bridge that gap. And hopefully they know where to start too.

    • You have to balance that against the potential for damaging reputations unjustifiably. Unfortunately, in Trinidad that’s more often the motive than trying to offer a genuine view. Personality, and malevolence are the prevailing motivations. This same letter writer likes Israel Khan for president incidentally

    • Justin that is very true. But he did base his opinion with regards to Rolston on something. So it is justifiable comment in my opinion, even if some or even many might not agree.
      He did send us that letter on Israel too although we didn’t get around to publishing in the rush.
      To be blunt, I wouldn’t want Israel. I don’t think he fits either.

  36. Freedom of speech eh. Rolston Nelson has had a brilliant career, your letter writer disagrees with his conclusion in the Balgobin matter- and that becomes an argument. This stretches freedom of speech to its outer limit. I can’t think of a candidate who qualifies if “I and others would think…” is a disqualification. Trinidad is so malevolent everyone would be disqualified for everything.

    • Methinks the letter writer made a darn good case that Nelson could be ‘bought’ – in appearance if not in fact – by a political party. After years of being in the public eye, his integrity seems tainted by accepting that Angostura contract. And for a President-to-be, even a smell of misbehaviour is enough to call for caution.

    • It is not his conclusion that’s a problem it was the process. According to reports he neither interviewed the accuser or had the accuser’s lawyer interview Balgobin. Add that to the fact Balgobin remained chairman throughout the entire exercise and it is a legitimate opinion. Gafoor may have had an excellent career but it was tainted by cashing her dead husband’s cheques for six years. There are some things even a distinguished career can’t overcome and that’s a legitimate opinion. What exactly could be the argument against Dumas.

  37. I expect party fanatics to justify and defend the nominees selected by their party without doing any back ground check or analysis of their credibility, integrity and moral conscience.

  38. Singing for their supper, that’s what politicians have reduced us to.

  39. Nominations are reflective of he general state of politics in Trinidad: tainted and corrupted, but still allowed to flourish. They keep recycling the same individuals. Seems like there’s a dearth of new blood or professionals that are outside of those circles, or they just choose to ignore them.

  40. Gafoor is a disgrace. Absolutely and completely.

  41. About Justice Rolston Nelson, he was the PNM nominee when In Opposition. So your theory about reward is a bit of a stretch. http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/PNM_PICKS_JUDGE-189463171.html

    • I’m not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with the letter writer. But that fact that doesn’t invalidate his case. Because then the argument could be made that he was deliberately sought out to handle the Balgobin affair because he is a man they can trust.

    • Justice Nelson is also UTC Chairman. All I’m saying is that the writer ignores all previous relationships as if Justice Nelson just arrived on the scene.

    • Hayden fair point. The writer probably did not know. I didn’t.

    • And unfortunately Lasana a lot of people who “don’t know” write stuff and are given voice to influence public opinion without doing their own research. Present company excluded.

    • Hayden, I hear you. But a letter page is really meant to offer the public a chance to have their say. Because they aren’t always specialists, sometimes they miss something. So I leave a lil allowance for that.
      But don’t forget that the PNM’s longstanding belief in Justice Nelson probably won’t change the tone of Mohan’s opinion. It might even strengthen it.

    • Once he can explain himself in a way that makes sense, then fine. However he would be hard pressed to try to cast Justice Rolston Nelson with such a long distinguished career as a bad candidate because he disagrees with one of his rulings. That’s why I said it’s a bit of a stretch.

    • Ok. Fair point again. But you know why we are so paranoid about political appointees. We have been burned so many times.

    • That’s fair. But once it’s a human being, we will never be 100% pleased. We weren’t even pleased with Christ. So much less a mortal.

    • Lasana Liburd everyone is a political appointee. Politics is a way of life. I think the problem being we as a society lack the maturity of context, understanding and knowledge around the rudiments of politics. For our citizenry when we think politics we go party. But have we considered the politics that is education. Religious vs State vs Private/Prestige schools. I can extract hundreds of examples. I think as a third world society the paranoia primarily stems from our inner lack of trust in ourselves to govern ourselves. It’s why we had to have service commissions which today are useless and now we want the entire population to elect a COP. Lolol. I done yes. Promise not to even venture a comment on matters.

    • Joel but then the interesting thing is who these appointees feel beholden to. The people vote in MPs for instance. But 99 percent of the time, those MPs see themselves as operating at the behest of their political leaders and not the people who elected them.
      I do feel there is a lack of maturity (we are still evolving) but then so much happens behind closed doors too that we feel obliged to be wary by now.
      Now, there is an appointment and we know something doesn’t feel right. But we can’t articulate it right because we are all learning as we go along.
      I’m picturing Sinanan there btw. Lol. There is little chance that appointment will end well. But I might hasten your exit if I go there! Lol.

    • Joel, then you have things like emailgate and section 34 which don’t do a lot to build our trust in our leaders–no matter which camp one belongs to.

    • The solution to your and most dilemma around these matters are right side through education. Not certified, photo ops, robe wearing graduants. To achieve the aspiration of beholden to country though potentially illusive can only come from a system of values delivered through the education system. The behest of the PL is called collective responsibility the world over as happens daily. Nikki Haley at the U.N. this week excellent example. Only education can properly support the development with balance and context. So much happens behind closed doors prestige holding yet KFC profits soaring. It’s not be simplifying the discussion but I am showing how our behavior are limited to party politics and not holistic and integrated national development. Therefore were exactly lies the problem?

    • We have to build trust in ourselves first. The leaders lives amongst us. Many all too recently were just another fellow or chica down the road or known from school.

    • True. But then we can feel pigeonholed into a choice between two flawed candidates who get on that ballot paper God-knows-how.
      Just look at the US where voters had to choose between Hillary and The Donald. If that is where this evolution is leading to then God help us. Lol.
      Something wrong but how to fix it?