Carmona, family stays at Flagstaff
By Andre Bagoo Wednesday, February 6 2013
JUSTICE Anthony Carmona , when he becomes the fifth President, will become the first President to not live on the grounds of President’s House, St Ann’s.
This is because for the first time the official residence of the President will have to be occupied by two young children – Carmona’s son Christian, 12, and daughter Anura, ten – in addition to Carmona’s wife Neema, 43.
Once sworn in, Carmona, 59, will not move into The Cottage on the grounds of President’s House, where current President George Maxwell Richards lives because of space considerations.
Richards opted to live at The Cottage for his entire Presidency since 2003, while the larger blue limestone structure of President’s House has been left to continue its gradual and dramatic decline, eventually culminating in the building being officially condemned by the Ministry of Works and later partially collapsing after heavy rains in 2010.
Newsday understands the new President — a sitting judge — will remain at his Flagstaff, St James, residence where he is currently renting, pending assessment of possible venues for his family. Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday said this would be the case and that, “the Property Division of the Government will have to take a look at The Cottage and see whether any extension work can be done on it.” Any assessment of alternative venues or construction work is likely to take months.
Government sources yesterday also did not rule out the possibility that the facilities at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s could be offered to the new President. In 2010, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar offered use of the Diplomatic Centre to President Richards and his wife Jean. He declined. It is unclear how long it will take to find a more permanent venue for the Head of State.
For a time, even while Richards has lived at The Cottage, official functions used to be held at President’s House. For example, National Awards and swearing-in of judges and other appointments to state agencies took place beneath its once dramatic gesso ceiling. That changed in 2010 when the roof of the structure of President’s House collapsed after heavy rain.
Every President since the country became a Republic in 1976 has lived on the grounds of President’s House from Sir Ellis Clarke right down to Richards. However, Richards was the first President to not live at President’s House itself.
Carmona — already the second youngest President — brings the youngest family into the official residence of the President.
When Sir Ellis became the country’s first Governor General his son Peter was 18. When Sir Ellis became President in 1976, Peter was 23. Peter did not live in President’s House, but stayed there during vacations. However, in 1979, when he returned to Trinidad after studying at Yale, he lived at the building which was a precursor to what is currently called The Cottage, adjoining President’s House. He lived there for one year.
Though grandchildren of former President Noor Hassanali – Adam, Jamal and Kareem – would spend time at President’s House, they never lived there. The Hassanali’s children were also well- grown by the time Hassanali became President. As were the children of former President ANR Robinson. Over the years, President’s House garnered a reputation for being dangerous. For instance, the wife of former President Noor Hassanali, Zalyhar, once injured her ankle when she stepped on a wooden floor which gave way beneath. She reportedly had to undergo surgery and had metal screws put into her ankle.
President’s House is currently being renovated by the Ministry of Works. Minister of Works Emmanuel George yesterday did not answer calls. However Cabinet sources said engineering work is being done on the building but this is turning out to be a bit problematic because of the age of the building (it dates back to 1876). The sources said demolition of the building is not an option.