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Govt dots I’s, crosses T’s on new Pres

Sunday, January 7, 2018
Paula Mae Weeks

Government has dotted all its I’s and crossed its T’s in its nomination of Justice Paula-Mae Weekes as the sixth President of T&T, says Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

Responding to the debate in some quarters on whether Weekes’ nomination satisfied the necessary requirements due to her position as an Appeal Court Judge in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Al-Rawi said she maintains her residency in Trinidad.

Weekes’ nomination has been widely accepted across several sectors in T&T, including the Opposition and by political analysts. Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said that her party would not oppose Weekes’ nomination.

According to the Parliament, a person is qualified to be nominated for election as President if he or she is a citizen age 35 years or upwards who, at the date of his or her nomination as president, has been ordinarily resident in T&T for ten years immediately preceding his or her nomination.

Having been appointed to the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Court of Appeal in September 2016 for a term of three years, she was sworn in by Governor Dr John Freeman on February 2, 2017.

However, Al-Rawi explained that the job only required her to sit in the island’s’ court for three weeks a year.

“The Government is completely aware of all of the requirements of the Constitution with respect to the election of a president and in particular, the qualifications for persons to fit that post, one of which is the requirement of residency for a period of ten years. This is not a new issue for Trinidad and Tobago.

“You will recall that a similar issue arose on the nomination of the current President, Justice Anthony Carmona. We are of course abundantly aware that Madame Justice Paula-Mae Weekes took a position as a Court of Appeal judge in the Turks and Caicos in February 2017 and that position requires her to sit for three weeks each year and no more. She, therefore, has not lost her residency and in particular, her ordinary residence in Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore, she is qualified to be nominated and elected as the next president of Trinidad and Tobago,” Al-Rawi said.

On December 12, 2011, Carmona was elected as a judge of the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands and was sworn in on March 9, 2012. As a result, he lived outside of T&T for lengthy periods however, he maintained a residence due to his family and the upkeep of a home.

The Sunday Guardian was told that Justice Weekes was currently in Dubai. She was announced as the Government’s nominee for the post of president during a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, on Friday, following a meeting with the Opposition. Carmona’s single term as president ends in March, making way for the country’s first female president.

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, said Weekes’ nomination was most suitable, especially at a time when the public’s perception was that most institutions have lost all ethical and moral values. Maharaj, who battled against Weekes while she was a state attorney, described her as a person with high integrity, morals and values.


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