Trinidad and Tobago elects first woman president

Paula-Mae Weekes

Trinidad – Retired judge Paula-Mae Weekes was elected President of Trinidad and Tobago on Friday by the Electoral College comprising members of the country’s House of Representatives and the Senate.

She is the first woman President of the two-island nation and will be the only female President in the region once Chile’s Michelle Bachelet leaves office on March 11, 2018.

Weekes, a former Court of Appeal judge here and in the Turks and Caicos Islands,  was the sole nominee to succeed President Anthony Carmona, whose five-year term of office ends in March.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley said  that while the Head of State is widely thought of as ceremonial, the job of President does in fact hold significance in the overall governance of Trinidad and Tobago.

“Unfortunately it is only when things don’t go well and we are faced with the inconveniences and sometimes dire consequences that we are forced to acknowledge that this office of president is much more than a ceremonial humbug,” he  noted.

He said Weekes is “eminently suited” to ” bring calm and confidence to our national governance and to demonstrate that necessary ingredient of good judgement which is the unscripted recipe for a successful undertaking of this solemn assignment.”

In her congratulatory statement, Opposition leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, the first woman to be elected to head a government here, said it is the Opposition’s hope that the new head of state “will discharge her duties and responsibilities as our Head of State impartially and with compassion, striving at all times to enhance our democracy”.

She said while significant progress has been made in building “our democracy and our public institutions …we have much to do to ensure that our citizens are adequately served.

Weekes was elected less than 48 hours after the country bade farewell to Professor George Maxwell Richards, the fourth head of state, who died earlier this month after suffering a heart attack.

Weekes became a High Court judge in Trinidad and Tobago  in September 1996.In 2005, she was appointed a Court of Appeal judge. She served in that position until she retired in the twin-island republic in 2016. She was sworn in as a judge of the Turks and Caicos Islands Court of Appeal in February 2017, for a three-year term.