Dookeran: President must be an ‘arbiter’

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Former foreign affairs and finance minister Winston Dookeran. –

FORMER foreign affairs and finance minister Winston Dookeran said a President must be someone who can help resolve any constitutional crises that arises in Trinidad and Tobago.

Dookeran expressed this opinion as he commented on the election of former Senate president Christine Kangaloo as president-elect to serve as TT’s seventh President.

Kangaloo was elected by a margin of 48-22 votes by the Electoral College on Friday. The college comprises all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, including the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.

In a statement, Dookeran said, “A key precept of the role of the President is to be able to be an ‘arbiter’ in any conflict that may arise in a constitutional crisis in the governance of the country.”

As such, he continued, a President must not be or perceived to be a protector of a special interest in such situations.

In what seemed to be a reference to Kangaloo, Dookeran said, “Even if the President may not be influenced by her perceived or real interest, the credibility and acceptance of her judgement will be tainted, given that such circumstance are always of a political nature.”

The unfiltered independence of the office is key to its political legitimacy.

Dookeran said, “It is at the core of our values in sustaining trust in society. This is the argument, that underlines the thinking of the Independence constitution of TT, which was drafted by Sir Ellis Clarke and Tajmool Hosein.”

He added, “I had spoken to both of them on issues of constitutional order, after the events of 1990 (attempted coup by the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen in July of that year).”

Dookeran, who was an NAR government minister at the time, was among a group of parliamentarians held hostage in the Red House when Jamaat-al-Muslimeen insurgents stormed the Red House. Dookeran believed that Kangaloo’s election “reinforces the urgent need to alter our constitutional arrangements in making such decisions and other issues of constitutional order – to consolidate the legitimacy of our democratic system of governance for the future.”

In her first comments after being elected, Kangaloo said, “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.”

In light of Opposition fears of possible partisanship in her move from past politician to President, Kangaloo promised to act properly.

“I am also grateful for the healthy public discourse that has taken place about the Office of President, and the characteristics our citizens feel should be demonstrated by persons who aspire to hold the office.”