Outgoing President Paula-Mae Weekes has admitted the controversy that gripped the Police Service Commission over the Cop Merit List in 2021 was the most challenging of her term in office.
However, in an exclusive interview with Guardian Media yesterday, mere days before she demits office, Weekes maintained she handled the situation as best as she could.
The controversy stemmed from Weekes’ decision to withdraw the CoP Order of Merit List after it was delivered to her on August 11, 2021.
The move ultimately led to Weekes facing an historical impeachment vote in Parliament in October that year. While it was always doomed to fail given the Government’s majority in Parliament, it was a stain on Weekes’ presidency, and one Her Excellency admitted had an effect on her.
“I had a variety of reactions over the period, from high irritation, to impatience, to really having to bite my tongue and frustration at not being able to say all that I could say in the matter,” President Weekes told Guardian Media from her office at President’s House, St Ann’s.
Weekes remained mum on the matter that hit national headlines throughout 2021, opting to issue a statement in mid-October that year in the three national newspapers, where she maintained she in no way acted unconstitutionally in the process to select a new Police Commissioner.
Weekes doubled down on her stance yesterday, insisting confidence in the Office of the President must be had at every level.
She said, “People, and not only the man in the street, but people in high office, have to have confidence that what comes here remains here. So despite the many, many temptations on this and many other issues to speak about what took place and what was said at President’s House, it is my policy that that does not happen.
“It shakes the confidence of people, who often need to resort to the Office of the President to exchange ideas or to look for solutions... At the end of the day, I did what I thought was right and what I had to do and history will speak for itself.”
The controversy brought the apolitical office into disrepute, with the President caught in a tug-of-war between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Persad-Bissessar would take aim at the President publicly during the course of the controversy.
Despite this, Weekes offered this assessment of her relationship with the Opposition Leader as she exits office, “In the five years of my tenure, I met Mrs Persad-Bissessar twice. One at my inauguration, when she welcomed and congratulated me, and then the on the occasion where I appointed her Leader of the Opposition. On both of those occasions, she was nothing but pleasant and gracious and such that the relationship that we have remains one of absolute cordiality.”
She added that she leaves office with “a very good relationship with the Prime Minister, but at the end of the day, it’s an entirely professional one.”
President Weekes admitted the state of the country’s political system was turning away people who would make good public office holders.
She added, “In having this office approach many, many persons to serve in public office, have had them decline on the grounds that they don’t like, to use their words, the politics of the country today and they are not prepared to serve, so people will tell you if it were not for the politics I would have loved to do service in this way but given what is going on, I do not wish to serve.”
On Monday, Weekes will be succeeded by President-elect Christine Kangaloo when the inauguration of T&T’s seventh president and second successive female takes place at the Grand Stand of the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.
Weekes said such an occurrence will become “par for the course” as the country gets accustomed to women in high leadership positions.