NO SECRET BALLOT
By Andre Bagoo Wednesday, February 6 2013
SPEAKER Wade Mark, the chairman of the Electoral College, will on February 15 declare Justice Anthony Carmona to be the country’s fifth President with no need to take the matter to a vote or to call for any seconders to the Government’s nomination since the nomination is unopposed.
The formal nomination of Carmona, signed by 12 Government MPs, was yesterday morning submitted to the Speaker, in the process effectively sealing the appointment since no other nominee was expected up to midnight.
The nomination paper, submitted by the MPs under Section 30 of the Constitution and the Electoral College Regulations, 1976, was obtained by Newsday.
The provisions of Section 31 of the Constitution make clear that “the candidate who is unopposed...shall be declared elected” once the Speaker convenes the Electoral College – the unicameral body comprising the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate “assembled together”.
As such, when the Electoral College sits on February 15, there will be no election; no secret ballot because no other group in the College has put forward a nominee. The Opposition, though it had its own candidate in mind in the form of Caribbean Court of Justice judge, Justice Rolston Nelson, was unable to submit a nominee because it did not have the required 12 signatories to a nomination paper. This is because though there are 12 PNM MPs, San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning has distanced himself from the process.
The twelve Government MPs who signed the nomination paper straddle all three of the major parties of the People’s Partnership coalition.
The Government proposers were:
*Eight UNC MPs: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (UNC political leader and Siparia MP); Point-a-Pierre MP Errol Mcleod; Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner (UNC chairman); Naparima MP Nizam Baksh; Fyzabad MP Chandresh Sharma; Toco/Sangre Grande MP Rupert Griffith; Chaguanas East MP Stephen Cadiz; and Government Chief Whip Roodal Moonilal (the UNC Oropouche East MP).
*Three COP MPs: St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar (COP political leader); San Fernando West MP Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan (COP chairman); D’abadie/O’Meara MP Anil Roberts; and
*One TOP MP, for Tobago East, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin.
There are no NJAC MPs in the House of Representatives, the only House from which nomination papers may be submitted.
Carmona signed the nomination paper on Monday, consenting “to such nomination as candidate for election as President.”
Newsday understands the College will sit at 2 pm on February 15, (the last time around the College met at ten o’clock on the morning of February 11, 2008).
As was the case with the ceremonial opening of Parliament last year, two rows of extra chairs will be placed in the Parliament chamber at Tower D of the International Waterfront Centre, the temporary home of the Parliament on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. The extra chairs will be to accommodate having all 41 MPs as well as all 30 Senators in the same chamber.
The Speaker will rise after the 2 pm start and, in a short statement, outline the basis for the convening of the Electoral College. He will state that there is only one nominee and then declare Carmona to be President after the nomination is presented by a Government MP — likely to be Persad-Bissessar.
Speaker Mark will say: “In accordance with Section 28 of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, I have convened this meeting of the Electoral College for the purpose of holding an election of President.” He will then note that the date of the meeting of the College was announced, in accordance with Section 2 of the Constitution (Prescribed Matters) Act 1976.
Persad-Bissessar is then expected to deliver a speech of nomination lasting no more than 15 minutes. The speech – like all past nominations speeches – will be vetted by the Speaker 24 hours in advance.
The speech will relate exclusively to the merits of Carmona’s nomination. No debate of this speech will be allowed and no replies will be allowed, Parliament officials said yesterday.
This was the case when previous first-time nominations were made for all of the previous presidents.
The Speaker will then say Carmona was the only person nominated for the post and, “therefore in accordance with Section 31 of the Constitution, Justice Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona is hereby declared President of the Republic.”
Moonilal, the Government Chief Whip, will then move that the College be adjourned.
Chief Justice Ivor Archie will administer the oath to Carmona once he is declared President.
Archie, former Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma and former Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide all yesterday sent messages of congratulations to Carmona.
Peter Clarke, the son of the country’s first President, the late Sir Ellis Clarke, yesterday also sent congratulations to the judge.
“I think he is an excellent choice and I wish him all the best,” Clarke said. “I am sure he will do an excellent job.”