Almost halfway through its innings and after plenty leave-alone punctuated by some ‘vooping’, the current PNM Government, has finally played a ball with the middle of the bat.
The nomination of Madam Justice Paula Mae Weekes to be President of the Republic is an elegant stroke. Happily, the Leader of the Opposition has reportedly co-signed the nomination paper.
It needs to be said, however, that it was fanciful to try and make a case beforehand that a person is not “ordinarily resident” in Trinidad and Tobago merely because that person is working abroad.
Like the rest of the country, I am pleased to welcome the new President Designate. She has presence and, in my estimation, is not likely to suffer from ‘judge-itis’.
We had a recent display of judge-itis when retired Justice Nelson reacted badly to criticisms of his narrow and inappropriately legalistic handling of a high-profile sexual harassment allegation.
A caller to a radio programme described judge-itis once, when now outgoing President Carmona showed resentment of criticism, thus: “When a Judge talking in court, no one else can open their mouth and the onliest person who can correct a judge is another higher judge.”
That is a graphic description of how unaccustomed some Judges are to broader concepts of accountability, which are not circumscribed by the handcuffs of legal precedent. Translation to a different office with much wider accountability can be difficult for judges. I do not fear for the new President Designate on that account.
This is not an easy time to be entering into high office in our Republic. Cabinet ministers are so ineffective that they are telling us that the country “needs help and prayers.”
Who is going to help us if we cannot help ourselves?
The outgoing President of the Republic tells us that he believes in miracles. It is creditable that he maintains that belief although the miracle of re-appointment did not materialise.
What I remember learning about miracles is that they generally occurred to help the poor, the sick and the humble so that, for example, two loaves and five fishes fed a hungry multitude.
Is any miracle going to occur to save us while we suck up to the powerful, the rich and the corrupt or worry about today’s UWI fete tickets not selling?
The biblical multitude never had the opportunity to gorge themselves on energy sector profits and to squander as recklessly as we have done the manna from the oil and gas heavens when such manna was raining on us.
Manna is a type of bread but that word is usually used to signify the miraculous supply of food that God gave to those in the Exodus after the food they had brought with them had run out.
Our current scary reality is the result of horrendous neglect to fashion progressive and balanced policies and to fund them fairly and to review them when circumstances change and challenge us.
For our prayers to be answered, it is likely that we will have to confess to our incompetence, partisanship and greed and to seek to put down urgent and serious socio-economic reform.
We must ask ourselves whether our corrupt and arrogant nation is worthy to be in receipt of a miracle.
There is a role, albeit limited, for the President Designate in these sorry circumstances. Where it is within her power to do so in her own discretion, she must make appointments without yielding to the traditional pressures of class and contact to appoint somebody’s relative or batch member to a position for which that person lacks decorum, suitability or qualification and without due diligence checks.
The Ides of March circumstances, which I set out in an earlier column, are unfolding. The transition this coming March from one presidency to the next, the accompanying interaction between the main functionaries and between the takers and givers of oaths, already looks like an uneasy and combustible mixture.
The reality of that coming transition is deserving of some well-directed prayers for peaceful entrances and for some very necessary exits if as a nation we are to regain our dignity and confidence in the justice system.