Carmona took the opportunity to thank his family, who took centre-stage alongside him at a special ceremony hosted by Speaker Wade Mark at which the official report of the Electoral College and the official instrument noting he had been declared President by the Electoral College were presented to him.
“I have to thank Almighty God and I have to thank my wife Reema,” Carmona said, with Reema sitting to his right. “The unstinting support that she has given me over the years has brought me where I am today.”
Yesterday’s event, held at the Diplomatic Reception Lounge of the Parliament’s offices on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, was the first of its kind. In the past, the instrument and the official report were simply sent to the President-elect via the Parliament Marshall and the results of the meeting of the Electoral College would simply be telephoned by the Speaker to the President-elect.
Reema, who gave up a career as an economist to raise the couple’s children Christian, 12, and Anura, ten, wore a striking red cocktail dress and smiled at her husband’s side as media and Parliament photographers took photographs.
When word of Carmona’s selection as the Government’s nominee for the post first broke weeks ago, Reema, educated in Canada, told Newsday on February 4, “I am proud of him, my husband. I am proud that my country through Government would see it fit to consider my husband worthy of being Head of State.”
“I, like my husband, am very humbled,” she said. “Mr Carmona was already prepared to leave (for a post at The Hague at the International Criminal Court) and we were to follow after because of the kids’ commitment to school.”
In his first public remarks since the Electoral College declared him President, last Friday, Carmona assured the nation that he is ready for the “onerous task” of being the fifth President and pledged that his tenure will be marked by openness and by the principles of “clarity, objectivity, fairness and due process”.
He said the principles of justice that had guided him thus far would become the hallmarks of his Presidency and he also told reporters attending the ceremony that governance must not be a “cloistered” thing.
Of how he would endeavour to carry out his duties as President, Carmona said, “I feel compelled to indicate to all and sundry that I am prepared to serve this nation with the same kind of clarity, objectivity, fairness and due process that I have always imposed in my capacity as Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and Acting Director of Public Prosecutions; as a former appeals counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; as a judge of the High Court; and I feel honoured to be so clothed with this responsibility.” He continued, “There is no denying that it is indeed an onerous responsibility. But it is one I feel in the circumstances that, by the grace of God, I am prepared to do. There has been an abundance of goodwill and it makes my responsibility even greater, and in some ways my job even harder.”
Carmona also thanked his family, some of whom were at the ceremony, including his uncle Desmond Dickie; brother-in-law Nandi Harrysingh; and sisters Felecita Gregoire and Cheryll Foster.
“I have to thank my uncle, Desmond Dickie who is — many of you may not know — was a senior Olympic cycling coach for Canada, United States of America and China,” Carmona said. “I have to thank my brother-in-law Dr Harrysingh; my sister, attorney-at-law Felecita Gregoire; and my other sister Ms Cheryll Foster.”
Of his parents, Barbara and Dennis Carmona, the President-elect said, “I also have to thank my parents who have kept me in good stead to be where I am today.” He thanked members of the communities he grew up in (Los Charros, Palo Seco; Dalley’s Village, Santa Flora; and Crest Camp, Fyzabad).
“It is indeed fitting for me to make a comment to the effect that it takes a village to raise a child because I have lived in many villages down in deep south and everyone there who played a part in my stewardship as a young man growing up and as a professional they have given me unstinting support,” he said.
Carmona expressed thanks to the Electoral College.
“I think it would be remiss of me if I did not thank (Speaker) Mark, chairman of the Electoral College and the Electoral College for the responsibility they have placed on my shoulders,” he said. “I have to thank the honourable Prime Minister, who is engaged in regional duty in Haiti, I have to thank the Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for his kind sentiments that he has expressed publicly, in fact various members of the public who, in my view, have kindly expressed their support for my stewardship as President of this beloved Republic.”
Carmona paid tribute to President George Maxwell Richards, 82, and hinted at knowing the President “personally” over the years.
“I want to say how gracious a man he has been all over the years to me personally. I wish him all the best in his retirement and I feel in fact, that I want to thank him on behalf of the wider community for the sterling role he has played during his ten years’ stewardship,” Carmona said. He said he would take no questions from the media out of respect for the sitting President.
Carmona praised the Speaker for dispensing with the tradition of the Electoral College report being sent via Marshall to the President-elect and opting for an open presentation ceremony. “I have to commend you because I know in the past there has been a different process,” he said in earlier remarks prior to his speech. “It was stated that the Marshall would in a vehicle be required to pass on the instrument to the President-elect. In the context of the need to have open governance I have to commend you for the position you have taken to have such a procedure and process in place. I think it bodes quite well, moreso in the context of how I see the Presidency operating. I want to thank you very much for that wonderful idea. ”
In his speech, Carmona said, “We are engaging in a new process. It started here this morning with the Honourable Speaker of the House Mr Wade Mark doing something very innovative and, in my view something, very commendable to bring a sense of governance to all and sundry: that governance must not be a cloistered reality: it is for all. And by this simple ceremony, a signal has been sent for all-inclusiveness in the conduct of the affairs of State.”
Carmona and his family members signed the visitors’ book.
The Speaker presented Carmona with the instrument prepared under Regulation 9 (2) (a) which notes the declaration of an uncontested nominee as President; as well as the formal report of the Electoral College prepared by the Clerk of the House under Regulation 19, containing all speeches made.
“Warmest congratulations Mr President-elect,” Mark said, handing over the instrument.
“Thank you,” Carmona said as Parliament staff and his family members in the room applauded.
Carmona’s inauguration ceremony, due to take place at 5 pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, on March 18, will be open to the public on the basis of a first-come-first-served ticket system. The details of how the public will access these tickets are being worked out, sources said, but it is expected a State agency will take up responsibility for this and ensure that persons from all regions are incorporated into the proceedings.
See President-elect’s full statement on page 5