JUSTICE NELSON FOR PRESIDENT
By Clint Chan Tack Saturday, February 2 2013
Without its 12th man, San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning, the Opposition PNM is unable to nominate anyone to be the country’s new President.
Manning’s “vote” is critical for the Opposition to nominate someone, since Section 30 of the Constitution states that a candidate for President must be nominated by at least 12 members of Parliament.
The PNM has the 12 seats, but sources said Manning is reluctant to get involved in the nomination exercise because he is on sick leave.
Last month, on January 22, Speaker Wade Mark approved an additional 42 days of leave for Manning who is still recovering from the stroke he suffered at his Sumadh Gardens home in Vistabella, on January 23, 2012.
The Constitution requires a minimum of 12 MPs to sign a nomination paper for the person they wish Parliament to consider to be the Head of State. Their nominee must also sign the nomination paper. Section 30 adds that the nomination must be delivered to the Speaker at least seven days before the election. Nomination Day is next Tuesday, February 5, and the election of the President takes place seven days later on Thursday, February 17.
Since the PNM is unlikely to get Manning’s signature, and, thus, cannot put forward its own nominee, the party is instead recommending Justice Rolston Nelson for the People’s Partnership Government to consider nominating for President. Nelson is a judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday confirmed the PNM has not submitted a name for President, but said the party has proposed Justice Nelson as someone both sides could agree to as a suitable nominee for President.
With the objective of reaching consensus with Government on a suitable nominee to succeed incumbent President George Maxwell Richards, Rowley said the Opposition believes it has recommended a suitable person for Government’s consideration and is now awaiting their response.
“We believe that if the Government wants to get someone of superior quality, we have made available someone in which we can get a candidate by consensus,” he said. Rowley explained that many persons will not make themselves available for nomination for a post as important as the President, if they do not believe that they will be supported by consensus. He added that failure to support an individual by consensus would result in that person becoming “a sacrificial lamb”.
Asked whether Manning’s absence from Parliament prevents the PNM from nominating anyone to be President, Rowley said, “That is not a consideration.”
Rowley said the PNM’s recommendation of Justice Nelson was sent to the Government by Opposition Chief Whip and “we are awaiting their response.” Rowley said he hoped the recommendation would find favour with the Government and reiterated his appeal to Government to “let us do things differently.”
The PNM’s recommendation of Justice Nelson comes one day after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Government will announce its nominee for President on Monday.
At a news conference at his Port-of-Spain office yesterday, Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi, the PNM’s public relations officer, told reporters that acting on Rowley’s directive, McDonald had written to Persad-Bissessar informing her of the party’s recommendation of someone “who has served in very high position in the country from the judicial sphere and someone who is truly non-political in orientation”.
In her signed letter yesterday to Persad-Bissessar (which was copied to Rowley and to Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal) McDonald said, “Having heard your post-Cabinet press conference on Thursday January 31, 2013, it is the view of the Opposition that distinguished citizen Justice Rolston Nelson currently serving as a judge in the CCJ is an appropriate nominee to be considered by both parties.”
“We would appreciate a meeting with the Government to discuss this and any other proposal in an effort to obtain the right person to consensus,” McDonald said.
McDonald told Persad-Bissessar that subsequent to their telephone conversation on January 21, “it was indicated to me at such time that the Government did not have a nominee for the post of President of Trinidad and Tobago at that time.”
She added “it was also stated by me that the Opposition did have its selection or nominee either at such time.”
Reiterating the Opposition’s position that “no sitting parliamentarian should be included in the list of those to be considered for the office of President”, McDonald reminded Persad-Bissessar they agreed (in another phone call) on January 24, that they would engage in “consensus building” in order to choose the most appropriate nominee.
Noting that Persad-Bissessar was unable to meet with her due to illness, McDonald said she met with Moonilal at her Piccadilly Street office at 2.30 pm on January 30 (Wednesday). She said Moonilal told her then “the Government did not have any nominees at that time.”
It was after Cabinet met on Thursday, that Persad-Bisessar announced Government would name its nominee on Monday, the day before Nomination Day.
Speaker Wade Mark has been previously tipped as Government’s preferred choice to be President.
Moonilal last night confirmed receipt of McDonald’s letter. “We shall discuss it,” he said. Cabinet is scheduled to hold a special meeting on Monday to hold final discussions on its nominee for President before making its announcement.
Based on Section 30, neither the Congress of the People (COP) nor the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), which has elected MPs can propose any nominee without consensus from the United National Congress (UNC). The COP proposed one of their six MPs Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran to be President. The TOP has two MPs and the UNC has 21 MPs.
During yesterday’s press conference, Al-Rawi said there is still time before Government announces its nominee on Monday to consider the PNM’s recommendation.
He added it was critical for the next President to be perceived as someone without any political affiliation given issues such as the Section 34 fiasco which is still before the Office of the President.
“It is for that reason that the PNM does not support the nomination of any sitting parliamentarian for the Office of the President.
Then there would be perceptions even if it wasn’t a reality, there would be a perception of a political affiliation which we feel will do a disservice to the Office of President,” he declared. Al-Rawi believed that if Government and the Opposition can reach consensus on a nominee or nominees to propose to the Electoral College, “the Office of the President should stand as it should, with independence and apart from any one political organisation.”
About Justice Rolston Nelson
JUSTICE Rolston Nelson obtained his secondary education at Queen’s Royal College, where he was a House Scholar and National Scholar. Justice Nelson read Modern Languages and Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford, graduating with Honours in each discipline. He later specialised in commercial law and was awarded the degree of Master of Laws (LLM) of the University of London.
He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1970, and entered Chancery Chambers as a pupil of two of the leading Chancery Juniors. In 1973, he was appointed a tutor at the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, and was admitted to practise at the Jamaican Bar in the same year. Two years later, in 1975, Nelson was admitted to practise at the TT Bar and began private practice in 1976. In October 1993, he was admitted to the Inner Bar as a senior counsel.
After a distinguished 24-year career as an advocate, Justice Nelson was sworn in directly from the Bar as Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court on May 12, 1999, by then Acting President of the Republic, Ganace Ramdial.
Justice Nelson was sworn in as a judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice on February 1, 2005, by President George Maxwell Richards. He has been an Associate Tutor at Sir Hugh Wooding Law School since 1978. He is the author of several articles and case notes appearing in legal journals, including the British Tax Review and the Jamaica Law Journal.
Since 1987, he has been the editor of The Lawyer , the journal of the Law Association. Justice Nelson is a former vice-president of the association, and a member of the Rules Committee of TT as a nominee of the association. He is an Honorary Distinguished Fellow of the University of the West Indies.
He is also a former chairman of the Unit Trust Corporation, presiding over the growth of funds under management to over $1 billion in 1997. Justice Nelson is also ex-chairman of the Workers’ Bank (1989) Limited, and until his elevation to the Bench, was a director of Republic Bank Limited.
He is married to Gloria née Burke and has two sons, David and Michael.