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Shine your light, Madam President

President Paula Mae Weekes waves to the audience following her inauguration. Photo: Elmco Griffith.

by Vernon Khelawan

Trinidad and Tobago has had five Presidents— all male until now. The sixth is Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes. This column takes great pleasure and is ecstatically proud in welcoming her to the highest office in the land.

Coming into office at this juncture, when everything seems to be lost, she brings to the entire country more than a glimmer of hope. Rather, she is like a light in the darkness which ominously blankets our once almost pristine tropical paradise. She is a beacon of hope, not by being the stern personality she was in her judicial capacity, but by being a warm and all-embracing leader, something which is sorely lacking today.

What with the murder rate going through the roof, innumerable abuses, assaults and rape and kidnapping of our women; discrimination in the workplace together with a certain degree of inequality, Her Excellency will do well, within her power, to address these gender issues in a practical and realistic manner.

Being a woman and a former judge, she understands the situation perfectly and a lot is expected of her. I am certain she will meet these problems head-on and make every effort to lead from in front as she tries to fix many of the ills that now beset this nation.

In her other life, she has proven to be a bastion of ethics, fair play and principle. Now as President she has to be prepared to carry out her prescribed duties unflinchingly and totally without malice or ill will as she said taking her oath of office. Her role, which must be much more than ceremonial, is manifested in her clarion call “to work with her as she endeavours to make this nation better”.

Unlike many of our politicians President Weekes has her feet firmly on the ground and deals with reality. She made this known when she said that though she has had a few advantages which many others did not have, she in no way has ever lived in an ivory tower or worn blinders.

She said, “Having lived in Trinidad and Tobago all my life, I have endured the maddening inefficiencies of the public sector. I too drive with my windows up and doors locked even in broad daylight. I have lost two cars to thieves and waited hours for medical attention for a relative at Port of Spain General Hospital.”

The President added, “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 cognisant 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 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.”

She said she would like to infect everyone “with a bright and positive spirit as we strive to turn our beloved nation in what it ought to have been and still can be”. Madam President added that the challenge is to be a light and see light, but said this would not be accomplished easily or overnight and she encouraged people to be a light in their homes, communities and in the workplace. She then gave this piece of advice, “Get to work on time, actually do work while you are there, and go the extra mile if need be.”

As Christians we can pledge to work with the new President as she has asked, all in an effort to bring our nation to the right course so that we all can enjoy the fruits of the land of our birth. God bless our new President.