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Imbert on Carmona’s qualifications: Opposition plans no legal challenge
The Opposition PNM has no intention of mounting a legal challenge to Justice Anthony Carmona’s qualifications for the presidency and only wrote to the Government on the issue on Tuesday “simply as a precaution” to avoid a legal challenge being mounted by someone else, says PNM MP Colm Imbert.
He was explaining yesterday about a letter the PNM wrote to Government on Tuesday concerning Carmona’s eligibility for the post. PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi on Tuesday said the Opposition supported Carmona’s nomination and would support it when the electoral college meets next Friday to elect a President.
However, concern was expressed later, not only by the PNM but also in other quarters, that Carmona’s United Nations work between 2001 and 2004 with Yugoslavia and Rwanda meant he did not qualify to meet the constitutional criteria of Section 23 for the post of President.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan subsequently said Government had consulted jurists Lord David Pannick, QC, Sir Fenton Ramsahoye, SC, and Michael Beloff, QC, on the issue and they unanimously concluded Carmona satisfied the constitutional criterion in Section 23 (1), as he had been ordinarily resident in T&T for ten years immediately preceding his nomination.
Imbert said while he was not involved in the letter’s preparation, he was aware of what motivated it. He added: “It was to be absolutely certain nobody could challenge the nomination. “As far as I know, there is no intention whatsoever to mount a legal challenge to Carmona’s nomination. This was simply a precaution to avoid a legal challenge by someone else.
“Any disgruntled person or even presidential aspirants could have raised legal challenges and say he does not qualify. What we were doing was making absolutely certain there could be no successful challenge and the Attorney General responded, via a statement.” Imbert said the PNM had requested a copy of the legal opinions obtained by the AG.
He added: “We have to take the AG’s word at face value for now. We have no intention of doing a forensic audit to see if he is telling the truth but we will get more information when the legal opinions are supplied.” Imbert said Carmona’s curriculum vitae listed a period when he was out of T&T from 2001 to 2004 when he worked at the UN’s tribunal on war crimes, first concerning Yugoslavia, then Rwanda. He was appointed a high court judge in 2004.
Imbert added: “So if you have no other information, you would have concluded he was only resident here for eight, nine years or so. But Section 23 of the Constitution says the person must be ordinarily resident in T&T for ten years immediately preceding nomination to President.” But Imbert explained: “When you come to the meaning of ‘ordinarily resident’, however, a person does not lose ordinary resident status simply because they go abroad from time-to-time.
“Lawyers would look at whether he maintained sufficient ties in T&T. I was told he maintained, for instance, his residence here, and his family was here and he went back and forth to visit them and his parents. “So before one can conclude he was not ‘ordinarily resident’ here, one has to examine the circumstances of life. He didn’t give up everything and migrate. He maintained links with T&T.
“One has to assume that is what the lawyers examined — the totality of the circumstances — and Carmona fell within the definition of ‘ordinarily resident’ while on his UN assignments.”
What Section 23 of the Constitution states:
(1) A person is qualified to be nominated for election as President if, and is not so qualified unless, he is a citizen of T&T of the age of 35 years or upwards who at the date of his nomination has been ordinarily resident in T&T for ten years immediately preceding his nomination.
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