With the announcement today by the Office of the President of the Independent Senatorial appointments, there was one in particular that raised eyebrows in the media fraternity itself.
Richards has been a media staple for about thirty five years and currently serves as Anchor, /Senior News and Current Affairs producer at the Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) as well as the station’s Programme Manager and Consultant. Richards is at present pursuing his Ph.D in Educational Psychology at Andrews University.
In addressing the question of what Richards brings to the table qualifying him as an Independent Senator, former Senator Indera Sagewan-Alli said she’s not singling out Richards, but addressed eight of the other names on the list with which she was unfamiliar. Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir and Ian Roach both return as Independent Senators having previously served.
“This speaks to the wider need for the public to understand not just the process,” Sagewan-Alli told Triniscene.com. “This underlies the need that if you’re keeping a senate line-up we need to be very clear on what the bases are that qualifies one as an independent senator. The line-up is intended to fill the gaps in terms of representation and interests that may not be present on either side of the political divide,” she said.
The Economist said the public has grown accustomed to a very high level of expectation from the independent bench and that they represent the “conscience” of the people.
“We have come to expect they come with a level of experience and knowledge in their field that allows their independence from those who tow the party line.”
Veteran journalist Sunity Maharaj, appeared surprised that Richards was chosen. However, she, like Sagewan-Ali, said she was not singling Richards out. “It would not be fair to Paul Richards to signal him out as an anomalous choice to be an independent senator because our country has a history of appointing individuals in positions of authority based solely on popular opinion and not necessarily on criteria. Where do we see a commitment to critera? We are a country that where Brent Sancho was a member of the Cabinet and where Anthony Carmona continues to be the president despite his housing scandal," Maharaj said.
Maharaj believes that Richards' employers, CNMG, would have determined whether there was any conflict of interest in him accepting the role as an independent senator.
Maharaj said she is bewildered by Wade Mark being selected by the opposition to be in the senate and believes that the standards of the people outside of the parliament will have to rise before there is any real change in parliament.
"If we don't like what we see then the individuals in authority will not have the power to appoint whoever they want, but if we don't say anything then situations like this will continue. The responsibility lies with us."
A political analyst who preferred to remain anonymous, told Triniscene.com “I think that this is the first time that a practicing journalist has been appointed to the Senate. He may have some challenges taking positions on Bills and other measures and retaining his journalistic independence. My concern will be for his career as a journalist now that he is becoming a Senator.”
The list of Independent Senators appointed by President Anthony Carmona today:
Melissa Vikki Ramkissoon
Sophia Karen Chote SC
Paul Gerard Richards
Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir