May 30, 2009
Trinidad and Tobago News Blog
The address to the nation given by President George Maxwell Richards last night.
It appears that the statement that I made on 15th May, 2009, has been misunderstood. Let me emphasise, therefore, that any lack of clarity was unintentional. It is being said that I did not offer an apology to the nation. May I say that my expression of regret was intended to convey just that – an apology. I have noted that the word “regret” is “used in polite formulas to express apology or sadness”, but if it would give comfort to those who have a different interpretation of the word, I say now that I apologise.
The reiteration, by me, of concerns as conveyed in questions, which did not originate with me but which were raised in the media, by the public, acknowledged the questions raised, but was not intended to absolve me from responsibility or to cast blame.
On the matter of confirmation of appointments, the Integrity in Public Life Act 2000 in Part II, Section 4 (4) is clear, that is to say, that the President appoints, after consulting both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. After consultation, the President may decide that his choices stand or he may choose to take a different course, based on the consultation, or for any other reason. Confirming an invitation to serve does not mean that someone else was party to the confirmation or directed it.
I maintain that there never was and there is no constitutional crisis based on the vacancies on the Integrity Commission or because of my absence from Trinidad and Tobago. The absence from the country of the President does not in itself create a constitutional crisis, as provision is made, in Chapter 3, Section 27 (1) of the Constitution, for the duties of President to be carried out in his absence by the President of the Senate, as has happened in the past.
In the face of the resignation of Justice Hosein and subsequently those of Mr Mc Farlane and Father Charles, there have been calls for me to explain what could have led to those resignations and therefore, to reveal what might or might not have been said between myself and those nominees, prior to their appointment.
By the demands being made for answers and explanations, I am being required, in effect, to enter into debate regarding statements made by persons who were invited to become members of the Integrity Commission, in order, perhaps, to establish, inter alia, the veracity of what has been said by them.
Put another way, I am being encouraged, by these demands, to put up a defence, which is the very interpretation of my statement that has provoked ire. May I say that, as President, I will not put in the public domain the conversations, of a confidential nature, that I held with anyone concerning the invitations to serve. That, in my view, is unseemly and not befitting the Office.
I wish to make it abundantly clear that resignation from office holds no terror for me. The central consideration in any step that I take in this matter must be the welfare of the country. Resignation gives no guarantee of that and I will not allow the situation to be so manipulated as to result in yielding to pressure fuelled by lack of deep consideration of all the issues pertinent to resignation.
I have already apologised for error of judgment. To err is not to act disreputably. I have noted and listened carefully to the comments expressed by members of the public and have given the matter due consideration. I do not share the opinion held by some that I have brought the office of President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago into disrepute and accordingly, see no reason to resign or to engage in further debate on the matter.
I wish to thank the many individuals who have written or spoken in measured support of me. It is my hope that we, as a nation, will move on.
The matters surrounding the Integrity Commission, which have occasioned negative fallout, have given us the opportunity to see that democracy is alive in Trinidad and Tobago. This should give pause for serious thought and reinforce our determination to guard it and to improve on it.
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen. Good night and may God bless Trinidad and Tobago.
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