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On Sunday Robinson
sent his final answer to Panday:

December 31, 2000

The Honourable Basdeo Panday, M.P.
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Maraval Road
Port of Spain

My Dear Prime Minister,

I refer to your letter of December 22, 2000, advising me, in accordance with Sections 40 (2) and 76 (3) of the Constitution, to appoint a number of persons as members of the Senate and as Ministers and to subsequent discussions which I have held with you. I now wish to confirm my response to the advice contained in your letter.

In the case of Mr William Chaitan and Mr Winston Peters, I shall, as soon as possible at your convenience, make arrangements to have them sworn in as Ministers.

The matter of the appointment of seven defeated candidates as Senators and Ministers in the Government has been a particularly difficult one to resolve and required the most careful consideration. I deeply regret, therefore, the delay in responding, in writing, to your letter.

I have given further thought to the matter under reference and have engaged in appropriate consultations thereon. Your advice, as you are aware and have openly stated, is a departure from what obtained in the past.

It is accepting the principle, not expressed or denied in the Constitution, that persons who have been rejected by the electorate can constitute a substantial part of the Cabinet, even the majority and consequently, be the effective Executive in our democratic state.

This principle I find impossible to accept. If accepted, it can undermine democracy in Trinidad ad Tobago. Moreover, the power entrusted to you under the Constitution is a power, which, by this procedure, is open to abuse. To elevate candidates defeated in the General Election to positions in the Government and even in the Cabinet, is not only a rebuff to the electorate, it may even be considered by some to be an act of revenge.

It has been argued that this has been done in a single case on one other occasion in the past. One case of doubtful authority would certainly not be a precedent to be followed in multiple cases which can comprise almost the entire Cabinet.

I have sought to obtain the information regarding whether this procedure has been adopted in any other democratic state following the Westminster model in the Caribbean region, in the Commonwealth, or in the rest of the world.

I have not been able to do so. Be it so or not, such a procedure, if adopted in Trinidad and Tobago, would not only undermine the democracy on which our independent country has been established and is based, but would have a serious deleterious effect on the rest of the Caribbean region and would be a blot on the high reputation that Trinidad and Tobago has established in the world.

As you well know, throughout my public life I have stood for democratic principles and practices for the betterment of peoples here and elsewhere. For this I have been awarded the Order of the Caribbean Community and I have received the Defender of Democracy Award for Parliamentarians For Global Action at the United Nations.

It would be a serious blemish on this record and a deep disappointment to all those who have taken risks and made sacrifices to promote democratic principles, democratic practices and the democratic process if at this stage, my executive authority were employed to promote subversion of our fledgling democracy.

I assure you, Prime Minister, with greatest respect, that I shall do everything in my power and the powers accorded to me under the Constitution to facilitate the expeditious dispatch of the business of your Government and of the Parliament of the country.

I have done so in the past when I appointed you Prime Minister on the same day that I received the report from the Elections and Boundaries Commission, even though the electoral procedure had not been completed.

On receipt of your letter of advice on December 22, I made it possible, with the loyal co-operation of my staff, to have Instruments prepared for appointments of Senators and Ministers and for the Swearing In procedure, within hours of the same day.

I take the opportunity, Prime Minister, of wishing you and your beloved wife and family good health, peace and happiness during the New Year and continuing.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur N R Robinson, TC, OCCSC,
Hon Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford.

‘I will not sign them in’

THE President has said that he will not sign them in after they lost their seats:

Daphne Phillips—lost in Diego Martin West

Michael Als — Toco

Dr Vincent Lasse — Pt Fortin

Roodal Moonilal — San Fernando East

Stanley Ryan — La Brea

Jennifer Jones-Kernahan — Diego Martin Central

Roy Augustus — Arouca North.

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