For the first time, the twin island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago has a woman president. After an electoral college win in January, Paula Mae Weekes, a retired Court of Appeal judge was sworn in on Monday, Latin American network TeleSUR reported. Weekes’ inauguration makes Trinidad the only nation in the region to have a woman as head of state after Chile’s Michelle Bachelet vacated her position on March 11.
Obstacles still remain
Despite making history, Weekes is taking office at a challenging time for the nation, known best for its Carnival and for robust oil and natural gas exports. She replaces Anthony Carmona who leaves behind an extremely high murder rate — nearly 400 people in Trinidad have been victims of homicide in in 2017, according to the Trinidad Guardian. She’ll also have to take on an increasing unemployment rate, which rose to 5.3 percent in the second quarter of 2017, Trading Economics reported.
In her inaugural speech, she pledged to take on these and other problems head on. “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’.”
Weekes, 59, worked in both the public and private sectors after graduating law school. Beginning in 1982 she worked in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for 11 years before going into private practice. In 1996, she became a judge at the Criminal Division of Trinidad’s High Court, and in 2005 she was promoted to the Court of Appeal. She also served as Justice of Appeal in Turks and Caicos for three years. She was also Chancellor of the Anglican Church, where she oversaw all finances.