United National Congress (UNC) deputy political leader Khadijah Ameen yesterday said the qualities of retired Appeal Court judge Paula Mae Weekes, the Government’s choice for President, meets the Opposition’s approval.
However, she stopped short of saying the Opposition supported Weekes outright for the position of Head of State.
“We are in agreement with the characteristics of the office holder. It is something we discussed even before (Friday’s meeting with the Government). So, I don’t see any issue in terms of going forward,” Ameen said when asked by Sunday Newsday if the Opposition supported the Government’s choice.
Pressed further, she said: “We are in support of the candidate possessing certain principles and we see no reason to object to the candidate put forward.”
UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is expected to announce formally, tomorrow, the Opposition’s position on the issue.
Persad-Bissessar headed a UNC delegation, which met on Friday with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and others at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, to discuss nominees for the exalted office.
After the discussion, Persad-Bissessar said the Opposition would meet in caucus and contact the Government tomorrow to announce their decision.
Yesterday, Ameen, who is also a UNC senator, said the Opposition was not as concerned about the nominee as they were about the individual’s principles and characteristics.
She said the nominee should be “fair and fearless, be able to make tough decisions, not a person who has any political prejudices and a person of integrity.”
The nominee, Ameen said, must be able to command the armed forces.
“We are particularly concerned given the current socio-political environment in Trinidad and Tobago. The President is in charge of the armed forces, for instance, and with all that is happening with crime, that is a major concern – that you would want a person who would be able to lead and command the respect of the armed forces.”
Ameen said the nominee also should be able to shed light on constitutional matters when the need arises.
“When it comes to what is happening in Parliament, we have seen a number of instances where the Attorney General (Faris Al Rawi) decided to forgo the requirements for a two-thirds majority to vote on certain legislation according to the Constitution and that undermines the Constitution and people’s constitutional rights.
“The President, of course, will have a role to play where those things are concerned. That is one of the other major issue happening with us.”
In light of the controversy surrounding Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Ameen said the nominee also will have a role to play in restoring status to the Judiciary.
“All of those things contribute to an atmosphere where you would want to have a strong, independent President. That independence is very important.”
Ameen said Persad-Bissessar was keen on seeing the country progress.
“In spite of what appears to be crisis in leadership in the political sphere, Judiciary and others areas of life, we are seeing a real crisis in leadership.
“We are sowing a nation under siege where crime is concerned and we are keen on moving the nation forward.”