January 4, 2001 By KEITH SMITH

The lambs roar

I WONDER if in making his move President Arthur N R Robinson wasn’t, by his own lights, defending the presidency.

What I am wondering, folks, is whether Mr Robinson, when he decided to stand up, wasn’t reacting to the slights which he felt the Prime Minister had meted out to him, yes, but, also to the office as well.

I have a pretty clear idea of how Mr Panday viewed the president in his own mind but I don’t know really how he viewed the presidency except, perhaps, to view it as a kind of humbug, his reading of the Constitution relegating the President to a ceremonial role in the narrowest sense of the term, not fit even to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s, but just ignore the missing dots and crosses and shut yuh mouth.

Certainly, if this administration didn’t treat the office as dirt it certainly wasn’t about to treat it as gold or even silver, its principal officers from early believing that they could make announcements that required a presidential input and THEN send it to the president confident that he’d rubber stamp it and, therefore, not rock the constitutional boat.

I have been hearing mutterings to this effect for some time back but what really seized my mind on the issue was the way Mr Robinson harped on the issue of “respect”, the Castara cannon sizzling over the troubles caused in the country by the lack of it, although I am sure he will aver that what he was seething about was not the disrespect paid to him in particular but to the country in general.

Look, I am not saying that Mr Robinson did not have genuine concerns about what he saw as the erosion of the democracy, such as it has been here, but it seems to me that from what we have seen about the nature of the relationship between the two arms of the executive we could, more safely than not, conclude that there was a gradually-growing pattern of animosity that led to the present impasse, the President seeing Mr Panday’s parliamentary departure as the most damning in the breaches of behaviour that began small enough but graduating to something bigger, and here I am reaching for Mr Robinson’s metaphor about streams becoming rivers in that speech that must have forced even Mr Panday to sit up, not only because it has blocked him, at least temporarily, from having his merry way but because, as it turned out, it turns out to be case of the lion badly underestimating the lamb.

I have written more than once, in this space, that I can’t see how anybody could see the Constitution giving the President the room to stymie the Prime Minister in the way that he has so far done and only God (not even the premier protagonists) knows what the consequences will be but, certainly, in more quarters than I had ever imagined, Mr Robinson’s stocks has never been higher which suggests to me that the President has locked into a wariness about the Prime Minister that is spread wide and I wonder, win, lose or draw, whether Mr Panday can harness his hubris enough to hear the ground swell and realise that he has a job of assuring to do, to not only boost his own stocks, but to better position himself to deliver the good governance that I have not the slightest doubt is his aim and ambition.

I have been trying to work out, for example, whether Mr Panday thought that not plenty people would be disturbed by his decision to elevate the Losing Seven or, whether having had the thought, he banished it from his mind, clinging instead to the idea of the prime ministerial power that I insist is, undoubtedly, his, the Silver Fox not seeing, or even sensing, that wise governance does not translate into untrammelled power or, to put it differently, you just cyar do anything because you could do anything.

I have been trying, too, to imagine what must have been his thoughts when Mr Robinson privately resisted him, the scenario at the public swearing-in providing rapt evidence that the Prime Minister went to President’s House to see whether the old “Robbie” was going to make bold on his threat or remain content with a bluff.

What a thing-eh! To think that Parliament may not be convened, the country hung up on seven people whom it didn’t elect, some personalising the predicament by citing (and cursing!) the possibility of Roy Augustus as Minister of National Security the charge being what, as a former teacher, he could possibly know about national security as if being a lawyer as Selwyn Richardson and Russell Huggins were made them any more equipped, and as if we didn’t once have a dentist as Minister of Education and as if it makes better sense to have Roy in Education and Kamla in National Security, the premise being that a teacher knows best about education and, as for Kamla, well you know what they say ’bout a mother not eating nice when it comes to protecting her children.

Confusion top and bottom, if you’re a pessimist, challenge leading to opportunity, optimist if you be. Watcher, that I am, what a tantalising Trinidad time to be.

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