Home / View Point / Martin Daly / Daly Bread: The Presidential crease; is Weekes shirking her responsibility to T&T?

Daly Bread: The Presidential crease; is Weekes shirking her responsibility to T&T?

President of the Republic, Paula-Mae Weekes, recently gave two interviews to Hema Ramkissoon of Guardian Media and Ria Taitt of the Trinidad Express. These interviews have raised interesting issues about the constitutional powers of and limitations on the office of the President.

The Express, somewhat kindly, stated that President Weekes ‘has marked her crease and intends to bat within it’. I will be respectfully suggesting that she has marked her crease in some wrong places.

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes at her inauguration ceremony on 19 March 2018.
(Courtesy Office of the President)

As the game of cricket is no longer of interest to many, it must be explained that on a cricket pitch where the bowler and batsman contest, there are lines, known as creases, marked on the pitch at specified places. One purpose of the crease is to define the territory of a batsman.

We must all be thankful that President Weekes has shown no tendency to stray into the constitutionally improper activism displayed on occasion by her predecessor.

However, I will be respectfully suggesting that she is tending toward the other extreme, a state approaching lassitude, in her dealings with the Executive.

As a result, she has disturbingly marked her crease in the wrong place concerning the convention of regular meetings with the Prime Minister, which gives life to the requirements of section 81 of the Constitution. This states that: “the Prime Minister shall keep the President fully informed concerning the general conduct of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Secondly, is she avoiding her solemn duty to advise and warn the Prime Minster when the office of Presidency has notice of an act or omission considered to be unwise or not in the public interest? In this case we are looking at the continuing failure of the Prime Minister to make any decision one way or the other regarding section 137 of the Constitution.

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) is applauded by Prime Minister Keith Rowley (centre) as Chief Justice Ivor Archie looks on.
(Courtesy Office of the President)

Regarding regular meetings with the Prime Minister, members of the discerning public are troubled that the President has revealed a paucity of the supposedly regular meetings. Significantly, President’s House attempted to dilute a statement that there had been agreement to meet twice a week.

In a nutshell, the current situation is this: The meetings are not regular “because various schedules, including periods out of the jurisdiction, wreak havoc with the schedule.”

This seems a clear breach of the convention or practical arrangements in support of section 81 of the Constitution.

Sadly, also, the excuse offered for lack of regular meetings betrays the lack of seriousness with which the two top office holders regard a constitutional duty. There are many unkind comments one can make about the superficial excuse of schedules, including the penchant of top office holders for travel. Simply put, if the Prime Minister cannot find the time to meet her regularly, the President must insist that he does.

It also does not cut it for the President merely to follow events in the mainstream and social media, as the President says she does. That can be no substitute for also receiving official information from the Prime Minister at regular meetings.

Moreover, the Government is constantly saying that the media is disseminating ‘mischief’. Is such alleged mischief to be the source of the President’s information about the general conduct of things in our Republic?

My prior intimation that the President knew the full extent of the turmoil in the Judiciary was confirmed by the following answer of the President to Taitt’s insightful questions.

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) addresses Chief Justice Ivor Archie during her inauguration ceremony at NAPA on 19 March 2018.
(Copyright Office of the President)

“I am familiar with the genesis of the issues, the course they have taken, the various agendas at play, the personalities involved, and the positions of the parties on those issues, and while I hope that I have the respect of the parties involved, I do not think that there is any chance that my advice, warning or caution would have any salutary effect at this stage.”

The President understands the heft of office.  Assuming that the players in the Judiciary would sneer at the heft of the office she now holds, would it be right to shirk advising the Prime Minister that it is poor governance to keep the country waiting indefinitely for a decision on section 137?

Surely it cannot be so—not with all her intimate knowledge?

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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9 comments

  1. I am sorry non elected individual can only do so much. Daly agenda leaks out as usual.

  2. Earl Best

    My sense is that MD has elevated this Get Archie thing almost to the level of a crusade. It almost seems as if it is the home base for this column, so often has he returned to it here.

    Today, however, there’s no disputing just how right he is. All that “intimate knowledge” does give her a real advantage over those who are not now or never have been members of the Judiciary.

    Why will she not bell the cat or take the bull by the horns?

    • Remember the Peter Principle!

      Not only is there a rise to incompetence, there is a rise of incompetence.

      Plus, we have the culture of Trinbago which includes but is not limited to:

      apathy
      corruption
      greed
      ignorance … etc.

      The minority who care seem to be fighting a battle already lost.

  3. It’s odd that I tried to have a meeting with this esteemed…
    When she was first installed… And now all that is coming out about her performance. Sigh.

    Do we not see things beforehand?

  4. The case of Jamaicans for Justice v Police Service Commission & Anor /(Jamaica) [2019] UKPC 12, decided on March 25, 2019 at the Privy Council (PC) has very strong lessons for Trinidad and Tobago. It is directly related to issues of , and has bearing on the reluctance of President Paula Mae Weekes to divulge information on the selection process and the names of judges selected for higher office. It is also applicable where police officers are to be appointed/promoted when they have charges (accusations) against them.

    The case (found at http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKPC/2019/12.html) is summarised below, adapted from the judgment:

    “The issue in this case is what steps the (Jamaican) Police Service Commission (PSC), which is charged with deciding upon the appointment and promotion of police officers, should take to inform itself about officers recommended for promotion who have been involved in fatal incidents before making its decisions. In particular, is there a duty to ensure that allegations of extra-judicial killings against such an officer are fully and independently investigated before accepting a recommendation that he be promoted?

    Jamaicans for Justice (“JJ”) is a non-governmental, non-partisan human rights organisation. It challenged the PSC on the promotion of police officer Superintendent Hewitt under the grounds that there were complaints of unprofessional conduct against Superintendent Hewitt, including complaints of fatal shootings by officers under his command.

    The purpose of setting up the (Police Service Commission) PSC, along with the other public service commissions provided for in the Constitution, is to insulate the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) (and other public office holders) from political influence (Thomas v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [1982] AC 113). [This is directly applicable to Trinidad and Tobago as well.]

    The PC (called “the Board”) in the judgment noted the following:

    It is clear to this Board that the PSC, like the JCF… and other organs of the State, must exercise its functions in a manner which is compatible with the fundamental rights of all persons, including the right to life, the right to equality before the law and the right to due process of law.

    The Board is also disposed to accept that the right to equality before the law, like the right to the equal protection of the law, affords every person protection against irrationality, unreasonableness, fundamental unfairness or the arbitrary exercise of power. These are, in any event, fundamental common law principles governing the exercise of public functions. As there is nothing in the statutory framework governing the PSC to contradict them, they are applicable in this case irrespective of whether or not they have the status of a constitutional right.

    While the level of serious violent crime in some parts of Jamaica was a grave concern, there was also a grave concern, both nationally and internationally, that the police, or some members of the JCF, were overly inclined to take the law into their own hands in dealing with it, thus risking violations of the right to life, to due process of the law and to equality before the law of the people involved. Superintendent Hewitt was involved, as team leader, in a large number of fatal incidents. No independent investigation of these incidents had taken place. Such an investigation might reveal a different picture from the very summary table of incidents with which the PSC had been provided. It would serve to put the statements of the Commissioner, and of Superintendent Hewitt himself, as to his effectiveness in fighting crime, into context. The final decision would still be that of the PSC, but there was a reasonable prospect that a properly informed PSC might have made a different decision.”

    The Privy Council found in favour of Jamaicans for Justice. In other words, there is a duty to fully and independently investigate a police officer whose behaviour has been questionable in the line of duty, before deciding to promote him.

    Now apply that principle to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (“TTPS”), the Police Complaints Authority, and Gary ‘one-shot, one kill’ Griffith. And to the President denying access to information regarding the (secretive) selection of judges – where is the transparency? Can the public be really certain that the persons so selected do not have cause for investigations into their backgrounds? Lack of transparency led to inappropriate appointments to the Integrity Commission, Police Service Commission, the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, the Judiciary… And I can go on and on…

    It takes the Privy Council to direct officeholders into following what ought to be common sense.

  5. Trinidadians do not know what they want. Anyway you can never please everyone all the time.

  6. If the PM does not take her advice, what can she do about it?