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Trinidad and Tobago Elects First Female Head of State in Retired Judge Paula-Mae Weekes

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PORT OF SPAIN — Retired judge Paula-Mae Weekes was elected president of Trinidad and Tobago Friday by Trinidad’s Electoral College, which is comprised of  members of the country’s House of Representatives and the Senate, and will assume her duties within months.

Weekes is the first woman president of the Caribbean nation and will be the only female president in the region once Chile’s Michelle Bachelet leaves office on March 11, 2018. She was named by the government, headed by the prime minister, as the only nominee to be the next head of state.

In Trinidad and Tobago the president is the head of state, while the prime minister is the head of government. Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said he was proud that for the first time a woman is set to hold the highest office in the land starting March 19.

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar welcomed the president-elect, expressing her confidence that Weekes would perform her duties as Head of State “impartially” and “with compassion.”

Most of the president’s actions in Trinidad and Tobago are implemented in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet, the prime minister or the leader of the oppposition. Among her constitutional mandate is to appoint the nation’s senators: 16 according to the prime minister’s advice, six based on the opposition’s advice, and nine at her own discretion.

Weekes will now be the head of the armed forces, she will be responsible for approving bills before they become law, and for “casting an eye on the operations and behavior of the Government,” according to Prime Minister Rowley.

The elected president and former head of the Supreme Court has an extensive record as a lawyer and law educator being a fellow of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute since 2000, and Course Director in Ethics at the Hugh Wooding Law School from 2011 to 2016.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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