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‘I stand ready to serve this country’

By AZARD ALI Tuesday, February 5 2013

THIS country’s next President, Justice Anthony Carmona yesterday said he stands ready and willing to resign from the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a judge, once he gets the nod to serve as the Fifth Head of State.

In an interview last night at his Flagstaff residence, the soft-spoken and eloquent Justice Carmona said: “I am deeply heartened by this nomination. I look forward to making a difference.”

Carmona, 59, was announced yesterday by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as the People’s Partnerhip sole nominee to replace George Maxwell Richards whose term of office ends in March.

Hours before Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, in a televised ‘live’ address to the nation announced him as the Government’s choice to be Commander in Chief, Justice Carmona was presiding in the San Fernando High Court where he sentenced a man to five years imprisonment after being convicted of robbery with aggravation.

Carmona told Newsday that he would have to tender his resignation as a member of the judiciary if the Electoral College - which meets to vote on a president on February 15 - ratifies his selection via secret ballot.

Carmona, a father of two, was due to tender his resignation to the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) next week, to facilitate him taking up the ICC judgeship on March 8. Carmona said that he was due to vacate the bench by March 1.

Yesterday, Flagstaff Hill was abuzz with activity as neighbours congratulated Carmona on his nomination. Carmona told Newsday that he would resign from the ICC and also submit his resignation to the JLSC much earlier.

“As I said, I would have to send the resignations much earlier. I want to make it known, that my announcement about leaving the bench to take up the ICC post, was made known by the Honourable Chief Justice on the occasion of the 2012 opening of the law term,” Carmona said.

Carmona is married to Reema (formerly Harry Singh) Carmona, 43, and they have two children — Christian, 12, and Anura, ten.

Carmona’s brother-in-law Dr Nandi Harry Singh and mother-in-law Savitri, were at his Flagstaff home sharing in the happy moment with the judge.

Carmona said: “I am deeply heartened by this nomination, but of course it cannot be said that I have been appointed because there is a process to go though. If I am elected, I endeavour to make a difference, for it is imperative to position ourselves as leaders in the community, to inspire those in our society, that they can make a difference to the lives. We must begin with our neighbours.”

Carmona declined however, to answer questions about speculation that he was asked personally by Persad-Bissessar, to accept the nomination. The judge said that since the nomination, he had been advised on certain protocol which must be followed when someone is nominated for the highest office in the land.

Carmona said that he would be the first University of the West Indies law graduate to be nominated for the presidency and of this he is indeed proud.

Revealing his cultural side, Carmona boasted of being an accomplished calypsonian when he was an attorney. Carmona said he won Calypso king competition at UWI’s Mona Campus in Jamaica while he was pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and political science. Carmona also made it to the 1980 National Calypso semi finals where he performed along calypsonians Winston ‘De Original Fosto Himself’ Scarborough, Carlton “Man Child” Collins and others at Skinner Park in San Fernando.

Carmona said that he had already made preparations to leave for the Netherlands, including the purchase of airline tickets for himself and his family, to take up the ICC position as an international court judge. Carmona reiterated that he had already been sworn in as a judge last May.

“I have met my fellow judges and I was really looking forward to working alongside them. I would miss them and I know they were looking forward to Trinidad and Tobago’s involvement in the court. But one does not always determine where life takes them,” Carmona said.

Carmona’s wife Reema, an economist, told Newsday she had already quit her job and settled down happily to being a housewife. Educated in Canada, Mrs Carmona said: “I, like my husband, am very humbled. Mr Carmona was already prepared to leave and we follow after because of the kids’ commitment to school. I am proud that my country through government would see it fit to consider my husband worthy of being Head of State. I am proud of him, my husband.”

Christian is a form One student at St Mary’s College while his sister Anura, attends St Monica’s Primary School.

Carmona’s mother-in-law Savitri Harry Singh, originally from Siparia told Newsday that she was overwhelmed by the news that her son-in-law would become the nation’s next President. Listening nearby, Carmona smiled as he reiterated: “I am ready to serve my country and my fellow citizens.”

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