PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday January 8, 2018 – Trinidad and Tobago looks set to get its first female President, with a judge nominated to succeed Anthony Carmona as the next head of state.
Meantime, another female jurist will today become Barbados’ next head of state.
Madame Justice Paula-Mae Weekes, who currently serves as a Court of Appeal judge in the Turks and Caicos Islands, is the Trinidad and Tobago government’s choice to fill the position which will be left vacant when Carmona’s five-year term ends in March.
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young, said her name had been put forward during a meeting between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar last Friday.
He said the Opposition at that stage did not put forward a nominee – although it has until 4 p.m. today to make a submission – and Persad-Bissessar had asked for time to discuss the government’s choice with Opposition members.
“I can say without fear of contradiction that her reaction to the government’s nominee was a very positive one and a very buoyant one and then she immediately said she would need to serve the tenants of democracy and go back to the members of her caucus and have a discussion with them,” Young said, adding that the government was hoping it would be a unanimous and unopposed process.
The Electoral College meets on January 19 to elect the new President.
And whether or not the Opposition puts forward a nominee, Weekes is highly likely to become the country’s next President based on the government’s majority vote in the Electoral College, which is made up of all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Young said Weekes was the Rowley-led administration’s only choice to become the country’s sixth President, based on her qualifications, availability and competence.
Weekes became a High Court judge in T&T in September 1996, before being elevated to a Court of Appeal judge in 2005. 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.
Young said Weekes had heeded the call for public service and agreed when the government approached her to make herself available.
“She is most willing to put herself forward as a candidate and be nominated as a candidate for election to be the next President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
At the exact time the deadline for head of state nominations in Trinidad and Tobago expires this evening, the installation of Barbados’ eighth Governor General is set to begin.
Appeals Court Judge Sandra Mason – who, in keeping with tradition will be conferred the title of Dame – replaces Sir Elliot Belgrave who retired on July 1, 2017.
Although she is not the first woman to be appointed to the position – since Dame Nita Barrow had that honour – Mason was the first woman to be admitted to the Barbados Bar and the first female to be appointed to the Barbados Court of Appeal.
She previously served as a High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, and before that worked as Registrar of the Supreme Court in Barbados and held the post of resident Ambassador to Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Brazil.