First Woman President of T&T Takes Office

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Paula-Mae Weekes has been sworn in as the first female President and sixth overall Head of State of Trinidad and Tobago.

A large crowd, including Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, senior members of the judiciary gathered at the Queen’s Park Oval for the inauguration ceremony where President Weekes appealed to citizens to walk side-by-side with her in rebuilding the twin-island republic which continues to grapple with crime and other social ills.

She said there were many who lamented that Trinidad and Tobago “is perilously close to the point of no return”, with crime, corruption, racism, abysmal public services and an ineffective judicial system, among other problems, so thick on the ground that all hope is lost, and the country had two choices: “Option 1 – We can lament, blame, criticise and allow a miasma of despair to overwhelm us or Option 2 we can consciously and intentionally choose the alternative.”
“I know what the murder count is and how many of the victims have been women and children slaughtered in acts of domestic violence, I am cognizant of the volatile tensions in east Port of Spain.

“I see people affected by mental illness, addiction and homelessness sleeping on the streets and if I needed to get to Tobago in a hurry I could not be certain if or when I would arrive. I comprehend fully the state of the state and so understand why we might have every reason to despair.

“None of us is blind or foolish enough to deny that Trinidad and Tobago is going through dark times, but I echo the words of C.S. Lewis when I say: ‘this a good world gone wrong but it still retains the memory of what ought to have been’….So let us today choose Option 2 confront the darkness and declare that it will not take over,” President Weekes said.
She said that as a servant of a people, she would do her best by word and deed to both be a light and spread the light of others at every opportunity. But Weekes said she needed citizens to help her along.

“If you feel that you are going to leave me alone to do all the heavy lifting, you’re sadly mistaken. I have something to ask of you….I am going to rub my imaginary lamp and appeal to the collective genie that you are,” she said, before outlining her three wishes.

“First of all, I ask you to find ways to make a positive difference in whatever your sphere of influence, not necessarily ambitious designs but rather specific, practical, doable projects – the results of which can be seen and measured in the short term, and then let us celebrate each success.

“Many individuals and organisations have asked to meet with me. Let’s not meet just for meeting sake—we do not have that luxury. Come armed with your ideas, your feasible projects to improve our quality of life. Nothing will catch my attention faster than a man or woman with a plan.

“Next, I ask those of you with a platform from which to disseminate your views to find new and creative ways to inspire your audience while reporting responsibly and commenting civilly on the facts, in particular on social media which is here to stay and has great value in giving a voice to those who might otherwise be voiceless but reckless use of this or any communication channel will defeat its very purpose.

“And last…we speak all the time about how violent a society we’ve become. True, but the climate of violence is not created or even birthed in overt acts; it’s embedded in everyday talk, in commonplace interaction, in schools, in the market, in business places, in the rum shop and, worst of all, in the home.

“I ask you to be mindful in your use of language remembering that a soft answer often turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger and that pleasant speech increases one’s persuasiveness. When we have the inevitable differences of opinion we can do so without the savagery, the ad hominem attacks, the gratuitous insults.”

Speaking to the media after the swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he was looking forward to working closely with President Weekes, who takes over from the retired Anthony Carmona.

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