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CJ of Turks and Caicos hurt over losing Weekes

Published: 
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
President-elect Paula-Mae Weekes

The Chief Justice of the Turks and Caicos yesterday described the loss of Paula-Mae Weekes, this country’s President-elect, as a member of the court of appeal in that country as a “significant loss to the jurisdiction”.

In an interview yesterday, Chief Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale says she is “devastated by the loss.”

Weekes could not be reached yesterday but well-placed sources told the T&T Guardian that she was in the country last Friday when she was elected as the country’s sixth President by the Electoral College.

The source said that “Madame Justice Weekes was humbled by the unanimous election by members of parliament, and the outpouring of love and well wishes extended from various sectors of the community on her election. She views this as another opportunity to serve the country albeit in a different capacity.”

Weekes was sworn in as an appellate court judge in the Turks and Caicos Islands in February last year, a position which she was appointed to in September 2016 for a three-year period.

Ramsay-Hale recalled that just over a year ago “I was very pleased to announce that Paula-Mae Weekes was joining our Court of Appeal as the first female court of appeal judge.”

She described Weekes as an “exceptional jurist and a woman of exceptional character,” adding that Weekes’ ascension to the position of President of the Republic of T&T “just goes to show how right I was to recommend her for consideration on the Court of Appeal.”

Addressing the opening of the law term on January 17, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ramsay-Hale congratulated Weekes on her new post, informing the legal fraternity: “I regret to announce that Madame Justice Weekes has been appointed as the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Easy come, easy go,” she said.

Ramsay-Hale said she was “devastated by the loss,” but that she had been “honoured to have had her in our court even for so brief a time and we wish her every success,” the Chief Justice said.

President of the Turks and Caicos Islands Bar Association Jonathan Katan told the T&T Guardian that while he never appeared before Weekes in any matter: “What I can say is that by virtue of her reputation her appointment to the Court of Appeal of the Turks and Caicos Islands was welcomed and her departure, particularly after such a short time, is a significant loss to the jurisdiction,” Katan said.

The Guardian was unable to get details on matters which Weekes heard while she sat at the Court of Appeal. Another Trinidadian retired Justice of Appeal Humphrey Stollmeyer also sits on the Court of Appeal in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Stollmeyer, a former Appeal Court judge, resigned from the Judicial and Legal Service Commission of T&T on June 30, last year after concerns were raised about the role of the JLSC in the appointment and subsequent resignation of former Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a High Court judge.

Reports from the Turks and Caicos Islands indicate that when Weekes was appointed it was the first time that the Court of Appeal had four judges. Three judges sit at any one time in the appeal court, which meets only three times a year in January, May and September.

Meantime, checks with the Parliament yesterday revealed that no arrangement had as yet been made for the President-elect to be given her instrument.

OATH OF OFFICE

Under section 32 of the Constitution an instrument, which in the case of an uncontested election for the Office of President is signed and sealed by the Speaker and states that the person named in the instrument was the only person nominated for the election and was, in consequence, declared elected.

Before entering upon the duties of the office, a President must subscribe the oath of office set out in the First Schedule of the Constitution.

The Presidential oath is administered by the Chief Justice or such other judge as may be designated by the Chief Justice.

The first schedule details the oath or affirmation for the President.

In taking the oath the person identified them self and swear by a religious book, in Weekes’ case the Holy Bible will be used. Weekes will “solemnly affirm,” that she “will bear true faith and allegiance to Trinidad and Tobago and to the best of my ability preserve and defend the Constitution and the law, that I will conscientiously and impartially discharge the functions of President and will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

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