President Kangaloo Wants to be Diplomat-in-Chief

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By Sue-Ann Wayow

NEWLY-inaugurated President of Trinidad and Tobago Christine Kangaloo is pledging to work with and respect all citizens including those who may not yet wish to work with her.

Trinidad and Tobago 7th President Christine Kangaloo with Chief of Defence Staff Air Vice Marshall Darryl Daniel after taking the oath of office

As she gave her inaugural speech as the nation’s seventh president on Monday, President Kangaloo, said that her way of leading the country will be different.“My way is to be your Diplomat-In-Chief, making the case for a better Trinidad and Tobago firmly, but without acrimony or bitterness. My words do not need to be shouted in the public square. There is already too much shouting going on in our country today. I believe that we all need to be calmer and more reflective. And I propose to lead in that regard, by example,” she told citizens.

President Kangaloo asked for collaboration from the citizenry in achieving her presidential goals that she briefly touched on, saying she was fully aware of those who may not have appreciated her being elected as President.

Her focus would be to promote more youth-focused programmes including education about the role of the President.

Many, she said, were still confused about the role of the highest office in the land and she intends to demystify that role.

President Christine Kangaloo, third from right, with her husband Kerwyn Garcia, her predecessor retired Justice of Appeal Paula-Mae Weekes, second right, with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, third from left, and his wife Sharon. At right is Chief of Defence Staff Air Vice Marshall Darryl Daniel. AZP News/Azlan Mohammed

President Kangaloo said she was aware of at least one primary school in South Trinidad – the San Fernando Girls Government Primary School, Standard 4 that has embarked on a project to heighten awareness about the role of the President.

She said she would be happy to meet with the pupils in that class to discuss with them how they and their teachers might be able to help to lead and spread projects like theirs across the country.

President Christine Kangaloo with her husband Kerwyn Garcia

President Kangaloo said, “This is one of the things that I hope the presidential future that we are starting to write today, will look like. A future in which there is a population that is better informed about the Presidency, and that is therefore better able to hold it to account.”

She said that youths should also become involved in music through the steelband particularly in “this season of rising crime.”

Especially in the lead-up to Carnival, the discipline and the structure that the panyard brings into the lives of young people each year combine to create one of the most effective youth delinquency prevention programmes available in the country, Kangaloo said.

As President, she said she will be anxious to meet with and listen to those voices, and she will use her Office to advocate for the adoption in communities of youth programmes based on the panyard model not just limited to specific periods in the year, but on a year-round basis.

“This is another aspect of the Presidential future I envision – a future in which the Office of the President continues to collaborate with communities to explore, and advocate for, means by which our young people can be steered towards endeavours that are glorious and life-giving, and away from the allure of antisocial behaviours,” Kangaloo said.

She also said that while the Office of President needed to follow protocol and higher levels of security measures, there was an increasing demand for leaders to become more accessible.

This should not result in making the highest office in the land, also the most remote office in the land, President Kangaloo said.

President Christine Kangaloo inspects the Guard of Honour. AZP News/Azlan Mohammed

The new President said she would be working to examine ways of modernising the protocols that govern how citizens relate with the Office, and vice versa.

“One of the ways in which I would like to see the Office of President made more and more accessible, is by having its facilities put to even greater use in hosting cultural, educational and artistic ventures particularly among the youth,” she said.

President Kangaloo said, “It is my intention to build on the work begun by my predecessors and to complete the transformation of the Office of the President into a fully modernised, highly-efficient and effectively-run organisation, commensurate with its status and with the rightful expectations of the public whom it serves.

“I believe that the Office of President should serve as a model to all other public service institutions in this country, of how to conduct the public’s business, both internally and externally. I shall spare no effort in this regard.”

Christine Kangaloo takes the Oath of Office to become the 7th President of Trinidad and Tobago. AZP News/Azlan Mohammed

She also said that presidential history should be archived to not lose an important part of history.

President Kangaloo said, “Rest assured that I am not in the least bit naïve about the struggles that the Office will face in attempting to accomplish these goals.

“In pursuing them, the Office will be coming up against entrenched systems and ways of doing things. But if there is one thing of which you can be sure, it is that as your President, I will fight to the end to make the Office work better for all of us.”

She added, “I will devote all of my energy to advocating for better conditions, for better arrangements, for better platforms and for better opportunities for all.”

President Kangaloo said, “I pledge to work with and to respect all citizens even and especially those who might not yet wish to work with me to achieve the goals that I have shared with the country today.”

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She thanked former president Paula-Mae Weekes for her “noble and selfless service over the last five years.”

President Kangaloo also thanked her for personally assisting her in preparation in taking over the presidential roles and responsibilities.

The Electoral College was also thanked for voting for her in Parliament.

The President remembered and paid tribute to all the presidents who went before her, saying “This country has written a glorious Presidential past.”

President Kangaloo also thanked her husband of 24 years Kerwyn Garcia who also becomes Trinidad and Tobago’s First Gentleman.

She also thanked her mother Barbara Kangaloo who is about to turn 95 who also attended the ceremony and her brothers, Keith, Wayne, David and Colin and all the members of her family for their love and support.

Her father Carlyle Kangaloo, brother Wendell and sister Caryl who have passed on were also remembered.

President of the Senate Nigel De Freitas and his wife Shayna. AZP News/Azlan Mohammed

President Kangaloo’s church communities both at Susumachar Presbyterian in San Fernando and St Ann’s RC in Port of Spain were also thanked and asked for constant prayers.

The grand inauguration ceremony took place at the Grand Stand Queen’s Park Savannah where Kangaloo received her Presidential salute.

President Kangaloo was flanked on the podium by her husband Kerwyn Garcia, former President Paula-Mae Weekes, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife Sharon Clarke-Rowley , Chief Justice Ivor Archie and his wife Denise Rodriguez-Archie, Senate President Nigel De Freitas and his wife Shayna De Frietas and House Speaker Brigid Annisette-George and her husband Newman George.

Also attending were various foreign ambassadors, government ministers and Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Farley Augustine.

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Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday attended with his daughter Mickela Panday.

Although she was mentioned in Kangaloo’s salutations, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar did not attend the ceremony nor did any Opposition Members of Parliament.

See related story below:

Live Updates: Inauguration of a President


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