Government and Opposition elected MPs yesterday supported the nomination of retired Court of Appeal judge Paula Mae Weekes as the country’s next President.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the Opposition agreed to this because TT is more divided today than it has ever been in its history. Addressing a news conference at the Opposition Leader’s Office on Charles Street in Port of Spain, Persad-Bissessar said she and three other Opposition MPs had co-signed the nomination form for Weekes with Government MPs at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in St Clair earlier in the day. David Lee, Dr Roodal Moonilal and Prakash Ramadhar were the other Opposition MPs who signed.
Under the Constitution, a person becomes a candidate for President once nominated by a minimum of 12 elected members of the House of Representatives who sign the nomination form.
In a statement yesterday, the Parliament said 14 MPs had signed in support of Weekes’ candidacy.
The other ten are Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Minister in the OPM Stuart Young, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, Community Development, Culture and the Arts Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy and Laventille East/Morvant MP Adrian Leonce.
Persad-Bissessar explained that with Weekes being the only candidate, the Electoral College will simply confirm her as the President-designate when it meets on January next week Friday at 1.30 pm.
She said the only concern the Opposition had was whether Weekes satisfied the requirements of Sections 23 (1), 23 (3) and 48 (1) of the Constitution, with respect to her residency in TT and allegiance to another country. Persad-Bissessar recalled that recently Weekes was appointed an appeal court judge in the Turks and Caicos Islands, but Young confirmed to her in writing that Weekes satisfied all constitutional requirements to be President.
Recalling that Government and the Opposition in 1992 supported the nomination of former justice Noor Hassanali (deceased) as President, Persad-Bissessar said yesterday’s agreement between Government and Opposition to support Weekes is not unprecedented.
However, she said it was extraordinary, given the challenges facing TT today. Saying there is an unprecedented level of mistrust and betrayal that some citizens have towards the Government, Persad-Bissessar observed, “Support for any proposal of this government, especially for the office of President, is not one that is politically expedient or without its challenges.”
While some people may disagree with the Opposition’s decision or believe the Opposition should propose its own nominee, Persad-Bissessar said, “We firmly believe that all other interests should be placed second to the interest of TT.”
She said citizens are feeling a sense of hopelessness, especially with the criminal element holding them to ransom, and are desperate for some measure of hope, and she believed Government and the Opposition’s support of Weekes’ candidacy could provide such relief.