TODAY’S inauguration of a new president marks the passing of the baton. When Paula-Mae Weekes takes the oath of office at the Queen’s Park Savannah, she will become our sixth President, keeping alive long-standing traditions under our Constitution.
The grave nature of the task, however, has not escaped Weekes who has candidly admitted to being terrified.
Yet, whether in the throes of trepidation or not, the president-elect has already begun to show signs that she is more than fit for the task. The fact that members of the public were invited to collect tickets to attend today’s ceremony is an acknowledgement – by both the incoming and outgoing post-holders – that the Office of the President does not exist in a vacuum.
Like all of our public officials, the President serves the Constitution and, therefore, the people of our nation.
Too often in the past however, presidents, who are not directly elected by the people, have been accused of wielding powers they do not have. Weekes, a retired Justice of Appeal, has given encouraging signs that this will not be the case with her.
Her interpretation of the law is as accurate as it is straightforward: she views the office being largely bound by the Executive. Yet, the new President has given every indication that she is sensitive to the moral duty she has as a public official to use her post to support good causes.
Today’s ceremony will be an opportunity for her to set the tone in this regard; to outline a kind of presidential agenda of causes and concerns which she might like to advocate for.
In this regard, such advocacy will mark something of a continuation of a tradition boosted substantially by outgoing President Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona.
While it is safe to say his tenure was a tumultuous one in which he too, often overstepped his bounds, at the very least he brought a willingness to speak out on matters close to his heart.
It is now for the historians to assess whether, on balance, Carmona has done more harm than good to the Presidency.
The historians will also be taking note of the fact that Weekes today becomes this country’s first female president. That it has taken the country so long for this to be the case tells us something about the journey we are on and how much further we are poised to go.
Undoubtedly, Weekes will face many challenges, including the shortage of resources at her office.
For now, we say good luck to the new president. If she fulfils her mandate successfully and we are confident that she will we all stand to benefit