The chief legal officer for the Anglican Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago has been sworn in as the country’s President. Paula Mae Weekes is a senior lawyer who has worked as a Judge of the High Court and Court of Appeal in Trinidad and Tobago; as well as a Court of Appeal Judge in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In Trinidad and Tobago’s democracy, the role of President is that of non-political head of state. The President is chosen by an electoral college consisting of members of the House of Representatives and Senate; and most of the President’s actions are carried out on the advice of the cabinet, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.
The President has the power to appoint senators: 16 on the advice of the prime minister, six on the advice of the opposition leader, and nine at her own discretion. Trinidad and Tobago is the only republic in Latin America and the Caribbean to have a woman head of state; although nine nations in the region are served by Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.
Her appointment was welcomed by the Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago, Claude Berkley. Speaking in January, after the nomination, he told the Loop news website: “From the initial feedback most people are elated by the nomination and from my own point of view she is a most worthy candidate for such a high office given the work she has done before and the way she has been prepared for a bigger task like this as a judge of the court of appeal and the Chancellor, the top legal officer of the church.
“She has been the Chancellor for 20 years or so and carried herself with the appropriate dignity, soundness of mind and judgement that has guided us very well in terms of our challenges and action in relation to the community situations we had to encounter.”
He also praised her role as a Sunday School leader, saying: “She has brought that added extra, given her own exposure to legal education because we know she has been a lecturer at Hugh Wooding Law School and she has brought all those skills to bear in the Sunday School and has brought innovation in religious education in the church. She has added a touch to make it more exacting and appealing. She is very active in the church and carried her position very well.”
President Weekes was sworn in yesterday (Monday) at a ceremony at Queen's Park Savannah in Port Spain.
Speaking to Telesur, she said that she was “completely terrified” at the thought of being President. “I can tell you that apart from feeling honoured and humbled, I felt completely terrified. And that terror has not yet abated,” she said.