Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Friday, January 10, 2003  

In today’s Express, Reggie Dumas sets out the qualities he thinks the next president of our nation, the election of whom draws nigh, should possess:

“To my mind, the person should command widespread respect. (I do not say affection, though that would help.) The person should therefore be recognised as articulate and self-confident, and as possessing a social conscience, high intelligence, integrity, balance, good judgement and sensitivity. And, of course, independence of thought—we must not be saddled with a Prime Ministerial toady masquerading as a strict constitutionalist. The person should not be, or be seen as, divisive, politically or otherwise (but should be politically astute). He or she should be someone who not only understands this very complex society of ours but also has the sophistication to deal sensibly with its many facets, especially race and religion.

“The person does not have to be a lawyer—indeed, our Presidents should be provided with good legal advisers and not have to advise themselves. It might be considered preferable for the person to be contentedly married, though I note that the late Dame Nita Barrow, that superb Governor General of Barbados, never married and had no children of her own, which did not prevent her from being unswervingly committed to the practice of sound family values. Also, I think it’s high time we had a woman President, but we must not of course sacrifice desirable attributes on the altar of perceived gender (or other) correctness.”

I concur with Dumas on his criteria, though I’m curious to know what he means exactly when he says the president should have “the sophistication to deal sensibly with … race and religion.” What does it mean to deal “sensibly” with race and religion? Both issues are admittedly the most sensitive in our country, and often go hand in hand.

Yet in my view, they’ve been too long afforded a primacy, almost solely for political reasons, that they do not deserve. In the context of nation building, particularly in a society as plural as ours, surely what is most important is not the making of good Afro/Indo/Euro/Syrian/Chinese Trinidadians (did I cover everyone?), or good Christian/Muslim/Hindu Trinidadians, but good Trinidadians, full stop. Whatever else you consider yourself or important to your identity is personal, and shouldn’t require or deserve national approbation. A president who recognises this, and acts with such a philosophy in mind, is one I would very much like to see (though admittedly be very surprised to see).

Anyhow, with Dumas's criteria in mind, particularly his wish to see a female president (which I share), my nominee for the fourth President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago is Hazel Ward-Redman.

posted by Jonathan |
11:46 AM 0 comments


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