THE PRIME Minister’s announcement on Friday of the Government’s choice for President lights a fire under the longstanding debate on the nature of the post.
Regardless of the fate of the nomination of Senate President Christine Kangaloo when the Electoral College meets later this month, that debate is unlikely to end.
“A lot of us are qualified for the position, meaning not disqualified,” Dr Rowley said in putting forward Ms Kangaloo’s name.
Alluding to Ms Kangaloo’s political background – she served twice in the cabinets of Patrick Manning – the PM noted some may say the post should not be held by someone who once held political office.
“I don’t subscribe to that,” Dr Rowley said. “Very many people have made tremendous sacrifices to serve in the public service.” He noted the Constitution does not explicitly bar such a person.
There is the ring of the commonsensical to the Prime Minister’s argument.
Someone who was once a part of the inner workings of a government has knowledge and familiarity with the overall political system. That’s an asset for any postholder.
There is also precedent, in the form of the tenure of ANR Robinson who was a former prime minister when elevated.
But much depends on how we as a country choose to define the role of a president, who is paid even more than a prime minister.
Do we want a president to be a check on the State? Or a mere figurehead?
In a small country such as ours, it is perfectly legitimate for the issue of apparent bias to be a factor here regardless of the competencies of the candidate.
The controversies surrounding the collapse of the last Police Service Commission as well as Mr Robinson’s own tempestuous tenure as president in which he was called upon to decide the outcome of an 18-18 election tie are good examples as to why the postholder should come unfettered by taint.
A president also appoints independent senators who perform a specific function in our highly partisan parliamentary system. If a president is not seen as impartial on paper, this affects dynamics within the legislative chamber.
Yet, why is it, in a country in which judges have crossed over into politics and politicians have crossed over into the judiciary, so unpalatable to have a president from the political arena?
In ordinary circumstances, Ms Kangaloo’s two terms as Senate President might have been regarded as an appropriate transition period, washing away the cloak of partisanship.
But for all the impartiality required of that senate job, it is still a post within the gift of a PM.
And that’s just it: so too is the plum post of president, who draws a salary of $64,270 plus perks.
Unless, that is, we define new parameters for this position.
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