Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday dismissed Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s claim that today’s meeting at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, to discuss presidential nominees, is a ruse.
He also dismissed Persad-Bissessar’s allegation that whoever is nominated to be President will be a puppet of the Government, or will remove the current nine Independent senators and replace them with people who would be government stooges.
Rowley also sought to correct Persad-Bissessar’s version of the events which led to the election of incumbent President Anthony Carmona on February 15, 2013.
He told Newsday, “I give you the assurance that the PNM Government will receive and treat with respect our parliamentary colleagues and will give all due consideration to any nominations which they may propose before or at the meeting.
“We will also share with the Opposition the Government’s nominee for the post of President of the Republic of TT.”
Unconfirmed reports claim Justice Rolston Nelson is tipped to be Government’s nominee.
Rowley neither confirmed nor denied this, and Persad-Bissessar did not give the names of anyone the Opposition was considering.
Rowley said when he met Persad-Bissessar in 2013 for a similar meeting, she “had no name to share with me and my team.” He recalled proposing Nelson who was a Caribbean Court of Justice judge at the time.
Rowley said then labour minister Errol McLeod, who attended that meeting, categorically stated that Nelson could not be considered, because he was being proposed by the Opposition. Rowley said he asked then whether someone is disqualified “only on the grounds that such person was offered by the Opposition.” He said McLeod replied, “Yes”.
The Prime Minister said Persad-Bissessar smiled sweetly and said Nelson was a good name but the People’s Partnership government “had nothing to offer for consideration.”
Rowley said at that stage, he and his team of Camille Robinson-Regis and Faris Al-Rawi “were shown the door, with the McLeod position undisturbed.”
“Very soon after, we learnt that the government would support Justice Anthony Carmona for the position.”
He recalled that after Carmona was elected, he made wholescale changes to the Independent benches in Parliament.
Rowley said the PNM did not describe its experience in 2013 as a ruse.
“We did not ascribe the President’s independent action as that of the government of the day.”
Under the Constitution, he said, it is the President’s prerogative to appoint Independent senators or revoke their appointments as the case may be.
“He said contrary to what happened five years ago, the meeting today “will be quite different.”
Rowley concluded, “Now that you have these facts of history, you can decide who conducts ruses and other similar actions.”
In a letter to Persad-Bissessar dated January 2, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young invited her to bring a small Opposition team to meet with Rowley and a small Government team at the Diplomatic Centre today. Persad-Bissessar has not said who will be accompanying her to today’s meeting.