Shocking carelessness. That is what President Anthony Carmona’s letter on Thursday night to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) amounts to. But this was not merely a typographical error, as President’s House would have us understand it.
This was a calamity, this was ole mas.
For even if we take as a given the explanation of staff error, it is an error of such a grave magnitiude as to justify resignation or removal from office. It is an error which had the potential to trigger a constitutional crisis, suggesting the outgoing president was, in the dead of the night and on the eve of demitting office, seeking to install a new chairman of the organisation that runs our elections.
Unfortunate and regrettable are not the words for this affair. It was an astonishing lapse of vigilance or judgment on the part of the highest office of the land in relation to the single most important organisation in our democratic process. Did the President not read the letter? The explanation from President’s House must be taken with a grain of salt. Whether it was the fault of a typist or something far worse, this is another blot on the tenure of Carmona. Let it be the final one.
A word to the wise: the outgoing President is entitled to exercise powers that are still lawfully vested in him.
But perhaps Carmona should take a cue from the actions of the late George Maxwell Richards, who, on the eve of demitting office in 2013, declined to make certain appointments in which he had a discretion. Richards did so out of deference to the incoming president. He held his hand in the appointment of four new members to the Integrity Commission after a special request was made by then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Carmona may not have the same discretion to act when it comes to further appointments. However, in cases where he does have discretion he would do well to let incoming president Paula-Mae Weekes make these appointments.
What is most unsatisfactory about these latest developments, though, is that they touch upon one of the most sensitive organisations in our democracy.
The EBC is still recovering from the tremendous mistakes made in the 2015 election which resulted in a legal ruling against it.
Too often it has been said that President’s House does not have enough resources for the post-holder to perform their duties. If this was the case in this instance, the State needs to act now to address this, before the new president swears her oath.