If you start with a lie…

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 30, 2023

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI wish to congratulate Christine Kangaloo for having been elected to the highest office of the land. Whatever her strengths and/or weaknesses, she now represents all Trinbagonians and so we ought to pledge our allegiance to her. As she said in her acceptance speech: “Now that the election is over, I look forward to serving our country in the only way I know how—with love for all and with an unwavering belief in the innate goodness of our people.”

However, we need to ensure that the process to select our presidents is more democratic and inclusive so that we elect the best person to the job. We need to ask how much we have learned after 47 years of republican history and what we must do to improve the selection process.

First, more people must be allowed to participate in the process of selecting a president. As it stands, a vast number of our citizens have no say in the selection of our president. While the candidates are named by the political parties, the public is given little time to discuss the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. In the last act of this politi­cal drama, the public had about ten days to discuss the choices with which they were presented.

At present, the parties (the PNM and the UNC) are responsible for proposing candidates for the presidency. I am not sure that the choices of these two parties express the sentiments of the nation. In 2020, 685,297 or 58.04 per cent of an electorate of 1,134,135 people voted. The PNM and the UNC received 322,250 and 309,188 votes, respectively. Only 13,062 votes divided the parties.

Given these figures, each party represented about 28 per cent of the population. How, then, do we ensure that the other 42 per cent of the population are given a chance to partici­pate in the selection of the president?

Therefore, we ought to create a mechanism whereby the general public, outside of the political parties, are able to influence the choice of these candidates. Whatever we do, it is important to encourage the larger public (that is, the 42 per cent of the electorate who did not vote and dissenters in the parties) to participate in the process.

Second, to the degree possible, we should resist the tendency to select openly partisan politicians. Whatever, they might say, they cannot help but be swayed by their previous political commitments. It is difficult to believe that someone who once openly declared that she will promote the gospel of the PNM throughout the length and breadth of the land can now be fair and even-handed.

President-elect Kangaloo has declared that “impartiality has been [my] track record and this will continue to be [my] guiding principle in [my] relationship with the Government, the Opposition, and the people of Trinidad and Tobago”. It is even more perplexing when she says: “I can tell without anyone being able to contradict me, that I never did anything on a partisan basis.”

It would have been more creditable—and I suspect more truthful—if she had said: “In spite of my partisan past, I will try to be even-handed in my dealings with the Government and the Opposition as my present position demands.” Experience suggests that if one starts with an untruth, one is more likely to continue along that path. The President-elect needs to be more careful in her utterances.

Third. Over the years we have moved from presi­dents who have been more widely educated (in academics and working experiences) to those who were more narrowly specialised. Five of our seven presidents have been lawyers. Ellis Clarke, our first president, was a lawyer and a Roman Catholic; Noor Mohammed Hassanali was a High Court judge and a Muslim; Arthur NR Robinson was an economist, and a practising politician; George Richards was a chemical engineer; Anthony Carmona was an international judge and a Roman Catholic; Paula-Mae Weekes was a retired Justice of Appeal and an Anglican; Christine Kangaloo, former president of the Senate, is a lawyer and a Presbyterian.

While knowledge of the law might be helpful to understand the mechanics of the office, it should not be a major criterion in determining the qualifications of a president. The president of the country should understand the historical development of the country and, where possible, should strive to fill the missing political, social, cultural and religious lacunae of the society.

Fourth. We cannot boast of being a country where every creed and race finds an equal place when, at this present moment, there is little visibility of the largest religious group, the Hindus, at the highest levels of government.

Fifth. One may accuse the PNM of being narrowly partisan and somewhat nepotistic in its selection of the president. However, the UNC was even more irresponsible in proposing a candidate who seems to be too intemperate for a position that essentially calls upon one to bring the nation together. The selection of Israel Khan, SC, spoke poorly about the judgment of the leader of the Opposition.

Sixth. The nation needs leaders to bind the society together. To achieve that goal, a leader must interweave the many ethnic and cultural strands of the society into a seamless fabric. S/he must possess the humility, the civic knowledge, and the statesmanship to achieve this goal.

People make a constitution; a constitution does not make a people. Neither does it take a lawyer to understand a society’s history in its myriad dimensions. This is why we need to widen the net of the candidates we consider, and solicit the views of all of our citizens when next we select the highest officer of our republic.

4 thoughts on “If you start with a lie…”

  1. The selection of a President has been one of the biggest bane on the national patrimony. The average president gross salary in Trinidad & Tobago is $768,000 plus $9,650 duty allowance. Along with other expenses. President’s House has been restored at a cost of $89 million and features a presidential suite. Add to all of that lawyers, doctors, personal staff, groundsmen, cook, food and whatever the President delights in., expenditure at $18 million. The current President set to leave office soon will get a tidy $1.4 million pension annually.

    Now can a nation afford such ridiculous expenses like $1.4 million pension for what? Obama gets that pension, but is it in any comparison to the work the President of T&T does? And why is the pension more than the salary? The Office of the President is suppose to be one of service to the honorable republic. Not one of extortion. The word civil servant meant that the person hired by the government is a servant of people. Do servants get paid more than the business people and tax payers who pay their salary? Well every year they get these large increases and because politicians are involved not a dog bark. Some where along the cumulative history of TnT something went drastically wrong. And no politician can fix it because they are the problem.

    Meanwhile there isn’t much money for anything else…. Sad

  2. The murder rate for this year is set to rise astronomically. Le Couteaux obeah is taking over the nation. If a leader align himself with the grim reaper murders will increase. And so for this month a bumper harvest of 59 souls snuffed out. Certainly Lucifer is partying. A friend said to me today people scared to venture outside of their home.

    The office of the President in Trinidad is ceremonial. The Office of the President in Guyana is effective and proactive in Guyana’s development. President Irfaan Ali the current President of the “mudland”, is travelling throughout the country and directly addressing problems, using his office for the good of the nation.

    Guyana is rising economically and their crime and murder rate has dropped by 22%. Whilst Trinidad murder rate is 40 per 100,000 last year, Guyana murder rate has dropped to 20 per 100,000. (122 murders). Economically Guyana is growing today business men from Trinidad are moving their business over there. Just today a friend told me his businessman friend is building a large warehouse in Guyana. After it is built if Rowley don’t fix the crime situation he will be relocating his business moving products into that warehouse.

    The nation is lacking in leadership, criminals are racking up charge after charge and walking the streets free. Rowley and his 1% massas are killing this nation. The wealth is confined to the select few. He need to stop drinking balisier juice and look after the nation.

  3. The name Vindra Naipaul-Coolman will forever be etched in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. Nine criminals is being awarded $20 million by the State aka tax payers for the brutal, rape, dismemberment of this lady. Where are the legal luminaries or the uproar in the legal fraternity. Everyone has gone silent.

    “Attorney General Reginald Armour said a file, surrounding a civil matter in which nine men who were freed of murder charges in the matter of Vindra Naipaul-Coolman and were awarded $2 million each for malicious prosecution, “disappeared” after a day after it was submitted to the office of the Solicitor General for assignment”Loop. The case of the disappearing file, now a judge has been hired to find where the file went! Hmmm something smell fishy here.

    “ “Mrs Vindra Naipaul-Coolman with her feet, hands and mouth all bound up with silver-grey duct tape just sat on that pool table crying, crying. Lyndon James shot Vindra Naipaul-Coolman in her chest from point-blank range with the nine millimetre black gun. She fell back on the table.”

    The woman was raped tortured and brutally murdered with her body cut up with an electric saw…..

    Nothing will come out of this, the criminals will be given their ransom money and all PNM dogs will be kept chain and silent. The only one barking these days is KPB. Armour is an establishment AG so he will not have to do anything except show he doing something.

    Those who will receive the $20 million must know that this is blood money and their sorry souls will not Rest In Peace, the grim reaper will pursue them to an untimely end. As for the Justice system in TnT, criminals better off than citizens.

  4. One of the things that we get too much of in this country is the thought, that the more academically qualified one is, makes that person the best candidate to fit any category of workmanship.
    One need not go any further than to examine the platform we use to exchange our thoughts and ideas was created by “college dropouts” – Bill Gates and company. He and his fellow college mates changed and created platforms on the internet for all educational, academics, legal, medical, industrial, agricultural, technical, mechanical and manufacturing uses without the benefit of a college degree. Just think! if Bill Gates, the student was pursuing a creative opportunity in Trinidad and Tobago what his fate would have been?

    As much as I admire the author’s account of history, statistics and
    and political knowledge as a means to selecting a president, I feel the one point he suggests as his Sixth reason “Sixth. The nation needs leaders to bind the society together. To achieve that goal, a leader must interweave the many ethnic and cultural strands of the society into a seamless fabric. S/he must possess the humility, the civic knowledge, and the statesmanship to achieve this goal.”
    Indeed, to achieve that qualification every other forms of knowledge had to have been acquired.

    The problem with our country is that RACE is always the bogeyman that spoils the conversation. Take for instance
    Roodal interjection in the Police Commissioner’s appointment
    he just had to compare it with Dualal’s rejection on a previous occasion. Why can’t we be objective?

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