Retired jurist sworn in as T&T's first female head of state

Monday, March 19, 2018

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Retired jurist Paula-Mae Weekes was sworn in Monday as Trinidad and Tobago's first female head of state and called on citizens not to allow her ”to walk alone” as she sought a new light for the country during her term in office.

Soon after she was sworn into office by Chief Justice Ivor Archie, the retired former Court of Appeal judge said it “falls to each president to define his or her own role” in the absence of a constitutional guidance.

Weekes, 59, also indicated that she wanted to be known as a “humble first servant with a mandate to render service with enthusiasm” and was assuming office aware of the ills facing the country.

She told the audience that included outgoing President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at the open air ceremony at the Queen's Park Savannah on the outskirts of the capital, that she herself been witness to some of those ills including the theft of her vehicles and having to wait long periods with family members for health care.

In addition, she also made it clear that she was aware of the troubles being experienced on the sea bridge between the Trinidad and Tobago.

But the sixth President of Trinidad and Tobago since the island attained its Republican status in 1976, told the audience that she never allowed such obstacles to prevent her from moving forward and as a result was counting on the entire country to shine a light that would pave the way for a better future.

She said her destiny and that of the population was now “inexplicably linked' and recall the fact “that many experts, real and armchair in positions high and low beset us round with dismal stories.

“They tell us that Trinidad and Tobago is perilously close to the point of no return. Crime, corruption, racism, dismal public services and an ineffective judicial system among other problems…that all hope is lost. That we will soon be, if we are not there already a failed state, however defined.”

But she said that the country could respond by adopting two choices including one where “we can lament. Blame, criticise and allow …despair to overwhelm us or…we can consciously and intentionally choose the alternative”.

She said the country should not wish for, or just pray for the alternative “but make up a hard mind to mobilise forces and resources to step out boldly and make Trinidad and Tobago a better place and our children.

“None of us blind or foolish enough to deny that Trinidad and Tobago is going through dark times,” she said, but urged citizens to accompany her on her mission “to infect each and every one of you with a bright and positive spirit as we try to turn our beloved nation into what it ought to have been and still can be”.

She urged citizens to “confront the darkness and declare that it will not take over. It is a tenant of most major religions that light triumphs over darkness.

“Light always serves a purpose, it directs ships to safe harbours, it illuminates our path, it can lead the way. It purifies and exposes hidden dangers and promotes clear vision and if legend is to be believe it even repels vampires, goblins…that try to daunt our spirit”.

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