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New President to be elected today
T&T is expected to get its first female President today when the Electoral College, comprising 42 members of the House of Representatives including the Speaker and 31 members of the Senate, meets this afternoon.
The lone nominee for the position, Justice Paula-Mae Weekes, will not be in Parliament when the vote is taken.
This was confirmed by Parliament’s Corporate Communications Manager Jason Elcock who said the meeting of the Electoral College will be “a very staid exercise.”
“Not a whole lot of pomp and ceremony, and the nominee will not be present,” he said.
Although there is only one nominee, the Constitution requires that the Electoral College meet and declare a President. When it convenes, chairman of the proceedings House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George will lay out events over the past weeks from the announcement of Government’s nomination of Weekes and the Opposition’s support for her nomination.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar will deliver remarks, following which the Speaker will announce that in keeping with the rules of the Electoral College there is only one candidate and that person is duly elected.
The nomination process for the country’s new President closed on January 8. No nominations can be made today.
There are two things which could prevent the election of the President.
One scenario that could “potentially happen”, according to Elcock, “is that the nominee writes to the Speaker and indicates they no longer interested.”
The other is if there is no quorum. Under the Constitution, a quorum is ten senators, the Speaker and 12 members of the House of Representatives. It is highly unlikely that the required quorum will not be met since all Government and Opposition MPs as well as all senators are expected to attend.
Word from the UNC is that the only MP from the Opposition bench who will not be present is San Juan/Barataria MP Dr Fuad Khan.
There have been only two times on the five occasions the Electoral College had met that members were asked to vote by secret ballot.
In 1997, there were two nominees. The Opposition PNM nominated Justice Anthony Lucky, while the UNC Government’s nominee was Arthur NR Robinson who served for one term until March 2003.
In 2003, the then PNM government nominated Professor George Maxwell Richards and the UNC nominated Ganace Ramdial, the former Senate President.
Former presidents of T&T
• Ellis Emmanuel Innocent Clarke (September 24, 1976 – March 19, 1987)
• Noor Mohamed Hassanali (March 20, 1987 – March 17, 1997)
• Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson (March 18, 1997 – March 16, 2003)
• George Maxwell Richards (March 17, 2003 – March 18, 2013)
On February 1, 2017, Justice Paula-Mae Weekes was sworn in for a three-year term as a judge of the Turks and Caicos Islands Court of Appeal by Governor Dr John Freeman.
She is a former Justice of Appeal of the Judiciary of T&T where she served for 11 years until her retirement in 2016.
Weekes was appointed a puisne judge of the Supreme Court (criminal jurisdiction) in 1996 and presided there for nine years before being elevated to the Court of Appeal. Prior to her appointment to the bench, she served with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for 11 years and in private practice from 1993.
In August 2012, Weekes, as the most senior of the appellate judges in the jurisdiction, was appointed to act as Chief Justice following an accident in which then Acting CJ Wendell Kangaloo sustained serious injuries. CJ Ivor Archie was out of the country at the time.
Weekes, the fifth woman to be appointed a High Court judge in T&T, earned her LLB at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, and Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School.
Weekes is a trained and experienced judicial educator having become a fellow of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute in 2000.
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