Issues for President Weekes to tackle

Madame Justice Paula-Mae Weekes takes the oath of office this morning at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, in a ceremony which will be witnessed by hundreds at the venue and thousands of others who will view the event live on national television.

She will become the country’s first female President and the sixth of the Republic, succeeding Anthony Carmona, who demits office leaving behind controversies surrounding Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

The country waits to see this morning if the beleaguered Archie will administer the oath to President Weekes who may, in one of her first official duties, have to appoint someone to act as CJ.

Israel Khan, SC, said this will be a significant appointment as Weekes will be “acting in her own deliberate judgment after consultation Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to select a CJ to act, who would be more or less succeeding Archie if he is going to resign or be impeached.”

Khan said the new President can raise with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley issues which are in the public domain about the CJ, including the resignation of Marcia Ayers-Caesar shortly after she was appointed as a Puisne Judge. Ayers-Caesar resigned when prisoners staged a near riot at the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court over incomplete cases she left behind when she was elevated to the bench.

Khan said there is also the issue of the CJ’s sabbatical leave.

Avory Sinanan, SC, said because issues affecting the Chief Justice will not be resolved by the time the President takes her oath, “she may well have to pick up the slack and may have to convey the PM’s letter on accumulated leave to Archie if the outgoing President Anthony Carmona had not done so.”

He believes there are a number of other issues which fall on her plate.

“She will want to rekindle the weekly meeting with the Prime Minister, where they meet and she gets a report from the Prime Minister and raises issues with him.

“It is at those meetings that she will use the opportunity to address her concerns about the crime situation. She could ask the PM about a crime plan, but she can’t get too involved or descend into the political arena.”

Sinanan said Weekes can also focus on the nine independent Senators who are appointed by the President. While he does not expect all nine to be replaced immediately, he said “she might want to tweak the bench a little bit.”

Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley said he expects President Weekes “to hold steady in terms of how she understands law and order from the practice and experience of her position as judge and all the other social undertakings she was engaged in.

Using a cricketing analogy he said: “It is difficult to predict how the ground will play, but I expect her to respond with the dignity and astuteness that the office demands.”

Weekes was Chancellor in the Anglican Church for more than two decades

Berkley said: “We can expect that she will try to bring her influence to bear, but all of it within the ambit of what is her duty under the Constitution.”

Source: (Rosemarie Sant)