Guard of honour for Max today as he demits office
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, March 17 2013
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President George Maxwell Richards...
After serving two consecutive, five-year terms as Head of State, President George Maxwell Richards formally demits office today, paving the way for tomorrow’s inauguration ceremony of Justice Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona as the country’s fifth President at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain.
Richards, 82, who was first sworn into office on March 17, 2003, and again, on February 11, 2008, will today be given a send-off befitting a head of state with a ceremonial guard of honour to mark the end of his tenure at Knowsley, Port-of-Spain. The event is expected to begin at 3 pm. Richards will also be given a ceremonial salute as outgoing President at tomorrow’s gala inauguration ceremony for new president Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona. .
Tomorrow’s salute will bring the curtain down on an active Presidency, but one not without controversy during Richards’ second term.
A former principal of the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies, Richards, a chemical engineer by training, brought to the Presidency the same fervour and affability for which he had been known at the university. There, he had popularised the annual Carnival all-inclusive party, “Max and Friends” which attracted many high-profile patrons to Federation Park, St James. The fete was later renamed “Friends to the Max” after he was elevated to the Presidency.
Richards, a Queen’s Royal College alumnus, said an emotional farewell to patrons at the fete last month and joked that he will be referred to as “private citizen Max” during next year’s Carnival celebrations.
During his years as President, Richards, for the most part, maintained this same posture, playing mas with Island People in the company of his wife, Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards and daughter, Maxine.
In the midst of his jovial disposition, however, Richards also took his role as Head of State seriously and was vociferous in his condemnation of the crime situation which seemed to reign during his decade-long tenure. During his address at the ceremonial opening of Parliament, on July 11, 2012, Richards bemoaned the lawlessness in the land but cautioned that there should be no overzealousness in tackling crime. “There is no question that joint police/army patrols have been playing a role in the fight against crime and maintenance of law and order. However, in their modus operandi there must be a clear demonstration of understanding of the chain of command within both entities, with wisdom dictating the levels of involvement,” he had told the Parliament.
During his tenure, Richards also lobbied for the independence of the country’s Service Commissions and the Parliament.
“I think the time has come for such independence to be established, in every aspect, so that the work of Parliament may be enhanced and be seen to be free of bias,” he once said of the latter.
The holder of two national awards - Trinity Cross (now Order of T&T) and the Chaconia Medal of the Order of the Trinity (CMTT), Gold - Richards faced overwhelming criticism for bungling the appointment of the Trinidad and Tobago Integrity Commission, whose members, including chairman Fr Henry Charles, all resigned for various reasons within a week of being sworn in on May 1, 2009. Charles, 69, died suddenly at the presbytery of St Mary’s RC Church, St James, on January 15.
More recently, Richards was also accused of poor judgement in the now infamous Section 34 (Administration of Justice Indictable Proceedings Act) fiasco. On August 28, Richards signed the proclamation putting Section 34 into on August 31, the date of the 50th anniversary of Independence.