DENNIS JOSEPH WEEKLY: And a president disappearsDennis Joseph - Thursday, August 30th, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Some may say he never appeared in the first place and was more like a recluse unwilling or too scared to be in the limelight especially on matters related to national governance. Others say he was in this for his retirement money and the perks involved and became an expert at avoidance strategies.
The point is President Nicholas Joseph Orville Liverpool came into this office in 2003 unanimously approved by all members of the House of Assembly and was hailed as a super-brain with loads of legal experience and a heavyweight scholastic background. The nation took notice and much was expected from him to whom so much had been given. It did not happen.
In late 2003, as General Manager and director of Q95 I was called to the President’s office at Morne Bruce where in a discussion with him he informed me that with the backing of the cabinet of ministers he had taken up the task of looking into the Constitution for possible upgrading to meet modern expectations and wanted the help of the media in sensitizing the public about this. PM Pierre Charles died soon after and it never happened and that was the first and last I heard of it. I thought then that the presidency should be of sterner stuff and I still think so now.
The appointment is left to the dubious “consultation” process between the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader with no one clear as to what “consultation” should really mean and with the PM having the final say anyway. This leads to gift giving to a favoured one or to someone who pays for it or is owed something and gets this as settlement or consultation and whose loyalty as president is to the ones who gave him the stuff. We the people who pay for all benefits and all the perks are not allowed to have a say in who gets appointed.
The President is the Head of State which is the highest position in the governance system yet is not accountable to the people just to the one who appointed him namely the Prime Minister. His role is to legitimize the State and perform as directed by the Constitution and to do all possible to protect constitutional law. He however cannot be required to perform any functions without his consent and he cannot be charged in any criminal or civil matter while in office. The only qualification for all of this responsibility and benefits is age-no less than 40- and that he must be a citizen who resided in Waitikubuli for five years prior to his nomination. Though the wording refers to a man and so far we have had only male presidents it is accepted that either gender could serve.
Considering the necessary qualifications anybody including the Chinese or Haitian naturalized or economic citizens could be nominated and the idea that we must have a very educated or experienced person is just our flavour and nothing more. The president has little to do but cut some ribbons, draw a salary, live in his own home or the new 27 million dollar palace in luxury with police protection 24/7, take salutes, patronize functions, have everybody stand when he enters and be called “Excellency.” In his singular most important function to do with the integrity of the general elections process the President has proven to be impotent.
It is this that has caused we the people to question whether we need a president in the present form or should we move to the ‘next level?’ We should.
We were the second small island in the Eastern Caribbean after Grenada to seek political independence and the newness of it caused all sorts of seismic shifts and what some saw as opportunity to get rid of the Labour Party more specifically Patrick John. Yet at the Independence conference in London when it was clear that nothing would stop the movement and with all sides present, Opposition Leader Eugenia Charles surprised the meeting with a suggestion that the presidency should be an executive position with full executive powers and this found general agreement.
But Patrick John, the father of our independence, was of the view that with all the negative and false propaganda spread against the Independence movement and the general low regard at that time for such presidencies called “banana republics” in the third world and knowing from his experiences and that of E O Leblanc before him that the idea of a poor man from Lagon becoming the president of DA could send the upper class and wealthy into nuclear territory and taking into account the way poor people tended to believe that the wealthy know best, we the people may not be ready and it would be best to go to it in stages. He was of the view that perhaps this was a clever trap set by Charles to nurture the unrest which she had warned the British government about should independence come under PJ.
And for those who want to think that I am just throwing shots at the late Dame, truth is truth and my book to be released on May 29th 2013 will be of truth no matter who feels hurt on any side including myself. PJ’s view prevailed with the British parliament and though we are a republic on paper we are still a half and half piece of work. It may be time to totally fulfill that mandate of a full presidential system after nearly 34 years and the “next level” crowd should be ready and willing to take us there.
However we must live with what we have and use it in the most beneficial way possible. What to do with this highly paid official?
We have come through a rough time of years of bickering, quarrels and frankly disrespect of President Liverpool so now we must put our national foot down and demand that the next president be a strict upholder of the laws and defender of the Constitution. He must be the spirit of the nation embodying national values. All the education in the world or the number of desk positions held prior to appointment does not a president make. We should now know that.
The president should be like a national public relations person whose word is respected at home and abroad who is willing to take on promotions uplifting the people in the arts. In education, in promotion of our national aspirations, public library and museum expansions and frequent visits to rural areas to be among the people so that he does not become a Town house president. He must always land on the side of law and not political romance.
The disappearance of Nicholas Liverpool amid a cloud of distrust and controversy is not deserving for such a man of special worth and should not happen again. To avoid this the incoming president should make up his mind to be, well different and yes indeed like in modern day parlance “presidentilicious”.
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