A tale of two Christines

President Christine Kangaloo  - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
President Christine Kangaloo - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

AS SHE inhabited, for the first time, the mantle of the presidency on Monday, Christine Kangaloo presented a study in contrasts.

On the one hand, she paid glowing tribute to and named all six presidents who came before her while also making it clear her intention to do things her own way.

She promised to be a strong advocate and to speak her mind, yet she also said she did not intend to add to the noise of public discourse given that there is “already too much shouting today.”

She alluded to the “disquiet” in some quarters over her political background but nonetheless promised to be an impartial “diplomat in chief.”

Ms Kangaloo even spoke of demystifying the role of the President as head of state while speculating about how, as the seventh president, that number may well be a lucky omen.

Whether history will, in fact, look favourably on her tenure will depend not on the stars but rather on how well Ms Kangaloo manages the very contrasts she set out in her inaugural address.

The new President certainly set the right tone by promising to make her office more accessible.

She acknowledged some of the logistical and security strictures that make President’s House seem remote. She also noted the lack of knowledge about her role under the Constitution – something that is not helped by a lack of a specialist archival facility dedicated to the office.

But Ms Kangaloo nonetheless vowed to be a strong advocate for youth and to open the presidency up to more and more events, including cultural and literary ones.

At the very start of her address, she also demonstrated her capacity to be aware of her surroundings and to show empathy when she paused, looked around her and urged all who were still standing to be seated.

It was her first request as president and it came even before she paid glowing tribute to her predecessor, Paula-Mae Weekes, who had faced criticism over her own tenure.

Ms Kangaloo cannot be unaware that there are some who are not yet convinced of her, and not just the Opposition, notably absent for her inauguration.

In her speech, she attempted to win such individuals over.

However, trust can only be earned and the coming months will prove critical in how well she is able to build bridges.

For the moment, it is clear the new president is approaching her role with a confidence in its relevance that not everyone shares.

Former prime minister Basdeo Panday, who only a few weeks ago said the presidency was “useless” without constitutional reform, was among the most prominent of officials at Monday’s inauguration.

Perhaps Ms Kangaloo will prove him wrong.


"A tale of two Christines"

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