Last update: 10-Dec-2013 1:42 am
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Constitutional issues over President-elect’s post
Hours after Justice Anthony Carmon was nominated unopposed for the post of President yesterday, Government denied there were issues over whether Carmona met one of the constitutional criteria to qualify for the position. Concerns were raised yesterday after Carmona was announced on Monday as Government’s nominee for the presidency.
The nomination was submitted to the Parliament around noon yesterday with the requisite 12 signatures. Signatories included Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, COP, TOP and other PP MPs, according to PP House leader Roodal Moonilal. Carmona was the sole nominee for the post, the Parliament confirmed.
However, concern was expressed in various quarters on whether Carmona’s work at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in recent years allowed him to meet the criteria of Section 23 of the Constitution. That section states “a person is qualified to be nominated for election as President if they are a TT citizen, are of age 35 and upwards and who at the date of nomination has been ordinarily resident in T&T for ten years immediately preceding his nomination.”
Section 23 (2), meanwhile, states a person “shall be deemed to reside in T&T if he holds an office in the service of the Government and lives outside T&T because he is required to do so for the proper discharge of his functions.” According to the ICC’s website, Carmona, from 2001 to 2004, held the post of appeals counsel in the Office of Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
The website stated he successfully prosecuted appeals of persons convicted of crimes within the jurisdiction of the tribunals, The website said at ICTY, Carmona served as vice president of the staff union and represented UN personnel in disciplinary proceedings before the United Nations Administrative Tribunal in New York. The website added Carmona was appointed a judge of the T&T Supreme Court in 2004 and had been serving as a judge in the criminal division for the past eight years.
Government officials yesterday were asked whether Carmona met the stipulations of Section 23 considering his work with the ICTY and ICTR. In a release yesterday, Attorney General Ramlogan said: “The issue raised whether Mr Justice Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona fulfils the constitutional requirement to be nominated was considered by the Government prior to its making the decision to nominate him for the office of the President.
“The relevant law was in fact independently researched and considered by three eminent international jurists and the Government is therefore satisfied Mr Justice Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona fulfils the constitutional requirements for him to be validly nominated as President of the Republic of T&T.”
Ramlogan added: “With respect to the specific concern raised, I have been advised Mr Justice Carmona satisfies the constitutional criterion in section 23 (1) as he was in fact ordinarily resident in Trinidad and Tobago for ten years immediately preceding his nomination. Legal advice was sought from three internationally-respected jurists, namely Lord David Pannick, QC, Sir Fenton Ramsahoye, SC, and Michael Beloff, QC, on the issue. This was the unanimous conclusion arrived at by all three learned counsel.”
Ramlogan said Carmona was in fact “ordinarily resident” in T&T during the last ten years immediately preceding his nomination. He added: “The term ‘ordinarily resident’ is a legal term that does not simply mean a physical presence per se.” Since Carmona was nominated unopposed for the post of President yesterday, he may be sworn into office around March 18, following next week Friday’s meeting of the electoral college to formalise his election.
Yesterday, PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi said since the Opposition supports Government’s nomination and agreed not to submit a nominee, the PNM would second Carmona’s nomination when the college meets next week Friday for the formal election. PP House leader Roodal Moonilal said since there was only one nominee, there would be no ballot vote at those proceedings.
The short ceremony will involve the Speaker’s declaration of the duly nominated sole candidate as the President-elect. After that, Moonilal added, when President George Maxwell Richards’ term ends on March 17, the President-elect is expected to take the oath of office soon after. Moonilal said a successor to the President was usually elected the day after the end of term of the incumbent.
The T&T Guardian confirmed Carmona’s resignation from the judiciary was being handed in to the Chief Justice yesterday. Carmona was working as a judge up to Monday when his nomination was announced and the T&T Guardian understands his resignation is effective February 14, the day before the electoral college meets to formally endorse him. Moonilal said Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith may act as President from next week as Richards is expected to go on vacation from February 14 to month end.
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