PORT OF SPAIN — President George Maxwell Richards yesterday used his authority as head of the Parliament to speak directly to the politicians and the nation, focusing on the themes of equal opportunity, fairness, even-handedness and transparency in policies.
He also pointed to the necessity of preserving the independence of the commissions established under the Constitution.
Addressing the opening of Parliament yesterday, the first such opening at Tower D, International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, the president used his position as a bully pulpit, pointing out that the lawlessness and crime could not be allowed to continue.
But he sounded a word of caution that in the use of the armed forces in maintaining law and order, “zeal must not inform our behaviour, less mixed signals be conveyed if, in any way, due process appears to be eschewed”.
The president said he recognised that joint army and police exercises were critical in the fight.
“However,” he warned, “in their modus operandi, there must be a clear understanding, and a demonstration of that understanding, of the chain of command within both entities, with wisdom dictating the levels of involvement.”
Many listeners interpreted this as a direct reference to recent demolition of the Highway Re-Route Movement’s campsite in Debe by soldiers and police.
Truth be told
Appearing to practise what he was preaching, the president stressed the importance of “speaking truth to (those in power)”.
This elicited an audible “Ouch!” from People’s National Movement Senator Terrence Deyalsingh.
As he spoke about equal opportunity, Richards “reminded” his audience that it (equal opportunity) was not the domain of “any individual or group in our diverse population. Decisions taken in this Parliament must be such as to ensure even-handedness and transparency in policies that affect the welfare of all our citizens. There must be equality of opportunity, and merit must count above any other considerations”.
“Yes!” said PNM’s Chief Whip Marlene McDonald.
Richards, a former principal of the UWI, St Augustine campus, dealt with his pet subject of education.
He said in seeking to develop a more educated people, there must be “measured decision-making”, with an eye to the future.
“But in looking ahead, we must be careful in our quest for new things, not to discard the past and behave as if it did not exist. We will find that some decisions of the past were taken on solid foundation,” he said.
The former president of the University of Trinidad and Tobago said there was a certain vision birthed when UTT was established, particularly, in respect of science and technology, which is critical.
“UTT must do no less than the University of the West Indies. None of us, I am sure, would like to see our national university lose its relevance to the communities that it is intended to serve.” (Express)