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A presidential wheel of fortune
Because the anointed one is not really elected but is selected, the president elect/select attains to power as if he had played the lotto but did so without even having had to buy a ticket. This is a blatant contradiction to the advertising spin that warns: if you haven’t got a ticket, you haven’t got a chance.
Since independence, this country has installed five ceremonial heads of state. Because of the highly-charged racial sensitivity of the period leading up to and following the 1961 general election, the choice of Sir Solomon Hochoy might have had more to do with his ethnic neutrality than because of any statesmanship qualities on his part. While Sir Ellis Clarke’s selection, which followed, seemed an automatic one, based on his scholarship and public service record, the choice of Noor Hassanali under the NAR was made more as a concession to the Indo-Trini population, which had contributed more to the one-love dream becoming a reality in 1986 than any other ethnic group, than of Hassanali’s own visibility as a public figure. We all know Robinson’s appointment was payback from Panday for the NAR’s two Tobago seats he got and which made him PM in 1995.
While the aforementioned four became heads of state for reasons that were fairly definitive, Manning’s choice of our current head of state seemed more like a shot in the dark, more like the wheel of fortune, having been spun, creaked to a halt when it spotted the name Maxwell Richards. Up till that time, it was felt that the chosen one should have some kind of legal background, but Manning in his wisdom felt that Richard’s electrical engineering was sufficient credential for the job at hand and so broke with tradition on this matter.
Whilst this departure from the norm might indicate some measure of devil-may-care on Manning’s part, it must also be remembered that when Dr Williams was at death’s door and needed urgent medical care, his ministers summoned Dr Ken Julien, another electrical engineer to attend to him. Manning would later also bypass all the financial brains in the country and hand the Ministry of Finance portfolio to an LLB.
Because the one chosen as head of state gets his gift-wrapped position in much the cinematic way Jim Carrey was made God in the movie Bruce Almighty, the question that is bothering me is why should a five-year presidential term be multiplied by two. Why should a people, taxpayers, be told (not asked) to foot the bill for someone who virtually lives off the fat of the land for ten long years just because he received the luck of the draw?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to limit the term to fewer years—not only because variety is the spice of life and that we live in a world where everything has a limited life span, an impending expiry date, an abbreviated existence, but because of the very NLCB nature of the exercise.
If, therefore, we should reduce a presidential term to a maximum of two three-year terms, in 12 years, it is technically possible that four of our deserving citizens could be elevated to the highest office in the land, in an egalitarian act that opens up the presidential door to more than one person entering it for a ten-year eternity period.
And so, one might look at possible candidates to succeed our current president. Having had a head of state of Chinese descent, two of Afro-Trini descent, one of Indian but of Muslim persuasion, and one of our ethnic melting pot, there might be some focus on the other possibilities still waiting in line: A Hindu, a member of the white community, a Syrian/Lebanese, plus somebody from our local indigenous community.
Call names. From the Hindu community, I see in my crystal ball the following names: Justice Sat Sharma, Prof Anant Anand Rambachan and Suren Capildeo; from among the white community: Robin Montano and Thackeray Driver; the Syrian/Lebanese community: Anthony Sabga and Gary Aboud.
Because presidents and royalties now use their status to attract business for their countries, picking a president might be as much now about stiff upper lip toasting as it might be about marketing our country to the world. In that context, our international personalities should be very much in consideration for at least one three-year term.
So, Brian Lara, among a couple others, could be an asset at that level. His autograph might be more sought after by world leaders than all his predecessors put together. And if we are to remember that the Roman Emperor Caligula named his horse a Senator, what would be wrong if, say, we add the name Nicky Minaj to the list of possibles who we might make our President. Think about it.
L Siddhartha Orie
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