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Sunday 18 August 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Role of president vs prime minister

THE EDITOR: Now, more than 40 years after the proclamation of TT as a republic, it is high time the country clears its mind as to the roles of the president and the prime minister.

A cursory reading of the Constitution leads to the two easily understandable concepts – the president is the head of state and the prime minister is the leader of the society. Most people have no difficulty with the latter concept, familiar as they are with the operation of the electoral system. More puzzling, however, is the concept of the president as head of state.

The State is the body recognised in international law that has the authority to exercise certain powers over the sovereign people of TT; the executive authority, according to the Constitution, is vested in the president and may be exercised by the president or by the ministers he/she appoints.

In practice that authority is exercised by the Cabinet, comprised of the ministers led by the prime minister, and is collectively responsible for the government of the country. The Constitution specifies the roles of the president in the executive, the judiciary, and the Parliament through which three organs the principal powers of the State are exercised.

I think it is totally wrong for the current President to have made a public statement about the state of education in TT on the basis of “from where she sits,” regardless of whether or not the statement agrees with the policies of the minister responsible for education.

The tenor of her expression was a complete volte-face on the one that she made recently concerning the diet of members of the defence force. During the colonial era the governor or governor-general, when making a similar statement, as for example a throne speech, would have used the words “my government.”

There is much that can be said about the executive, the judiciary and the legislature in which the president is a principal actor that would eschew him/her from making statements that embarrass the Government and the country.

Much of the confusion that exists over the roles of the president and the prime minister arises from our refusal to take into account the substantial changes that took place when we adopted the republican constitution.


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