It is official! Retired judge Paula-Mae Weekes is now the President-elect of Trinidad and Tobago.
House Speaker Bridgid Annissette-George made the declaration in the Parliament on Friday.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he was proud that for the first time a woman is set to hold the highest office in the land.
He said it was time the young people sit up and take notice and to recommit to being the best they can be as Weekes' story serves as a living example that nothing is beyond your reach.
“The simple truth is that with hard work, dedication, discipline and good character, in this land of Trinidad and Tobago, no accomplishment, no accolade, nor position is beyond reach,” he said.
Rowley said the president-elect should be celebrated as she was deemed to be the best person for the job, measured by a variety of very exacting yardsticks.
He said the office of the President was much more than a ceremonial humbug.
According to the Trinidad and Tobago Republican Constitution, he said, the President is the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed forces and the repository of all Executive Authority. “Moreover, while the President does not sit in Parliament, he or she is responsible for giving assent to Bills before they become law. The President is also responsible for the summoning, prorogation and dissolution of Parliament. The President is responsible for “casting an eye” on the operations and behavior of the Government,” he said.
Rowley added that the President's authority was exercised within certain constitutional parameters and most of his/her constitutional acts are implemented in accordance with the advice of or after consultation with another authority, usually the Cabinet, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. The President appoints sixteen Senators on the advice of the Prime Minister, six on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and nine independent Senators in her own discretion. Certain senior officials and Commissions are also appointed by the President, he said.
Weekes would be sworn in as the sixth president of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
He said Trinidad and Tobago should feel proud that its democracy and governance systems are open to all our citizens. “Today, for the first time, a woman is set to hold the highest office in the land. I still remember the excitement I experienced, as a boy when I saw the first woman bus driver, I distinctly remember the pride I felt when we produced the first female commercial pilot and only recently those moments returned when I saw a picture of our first female airline captain (now retired) as she lit up the pages of the national newspapers,” he said.
Rowley said having been moulded and fashioned by our primary and secondary school system and disciplined by a family's love, Weekes graduated with her LLB from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. She then went on to earn a Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS), St Augustine. She was called to the Bar in 1982.
Her earlier career days saw her honing her professional skills, in private practice, as well as serving in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He said Weekes is a trained and experienced judicial educator having become a fellow of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute in 2000. Additionally, from 2011 to 2016 she was the Course Director in Ethics at the Hugh Wooding Law School. Over the years she has been responsible for developing and delivering many programs in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), he said.
Weekes served for 11 years as a Justice of Appeal of the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago before retiring in 2016. Prior to that, she presided in the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago as a Puisne Judge for a period of nine (9) years.
In August 2012, the Judiciary presented Justice Weekes to act as Chief Justice in the absence of CJ Ivor Archie. Madam Speaker, since then this star citizen was observed to be on a trajectory to this historic zenith, as we, in this honourable House today, are proud to receive and present her as the sole nominee for the post of President of our Republic.
“It is noteworthy that Justice Weekes was the fifth female judge to be appointed to the Criminal Division of the High Court. It is even more noteworthy and most definitely trail-blazing, that she is now poised to become the first female Head of State of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. While it is widely thought of as ceremonial, the job of President does in fact hold significance in the overall governance of Trinidad and Tobago. As the sixth holder of the office of President, Justice Weeks will have the benefit of the respective legacies of those who went before her. She will be able to draw from their good examples and learn from their m taking from it whatever she can, so as to effectively dispatch her duties as our Head of State,” he said.
Rowley also thanked outgoing president Anthony Carmona for his service to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. “As I have previously stated, public service, in all its forms is indeed a noble undertaking and whenever citizens agree to serve in public office, it is more often than not, an indication of their desire to assist our nation to reach its full potential. As such, I wish to publicly thank President Carmona and wish him and his family all the best in the future,” he said.