paula-mae weekes

President Paula-Mae Weekes.

President Paula-Mae Weekes has no intention of revoking the appointments of Independent senators Anthony Vieira and Paul Richards based on the arguments advanced by United National Congress (UNC) Senator Wade Mark.

The President also does not share the views or conclusions of Mark on the utterances and positions taken by senators Vieira and Richards.

This was her response to Mark’s “demand for Vieira’s immediate removal”.

In a letter dated November 21 addressed to the President, signed by Mark and co-signed by the five other Opposition senators, Mark had called for the removal of Vieira from the Parliament, alleging that he was clearly biased towards the Government and could not be described as independent.

“He comes from a Bench which now appears to be sympathetic to the Government and antagonistic to the Opposition. In bringing his private motion (which calls for the censuring of the Opposition for “unparliamentary conduct” at the October 21 meeting of the Electoral College), he (Vieira) is singing word for word from the Government’s ‘hymn book’. He represents no discernible interests drawn from the community, save for being a pawn of the party in power. Senator Vieira therefore lacks any moral legitimacy to censure anyone or hold himself above others,” Mark stated.

Noting that Vieira (and Richards) had levelled attacks upon the Opposition senators in an Express report dated October 22, Mark said none of the Independent senators said anything during the meeting of the Electoral College. However, Vieira “instead chose to go public and unleash his petulance and sanctimonious outrage in the media”.

“The very proposition of Mr Vieira’s motion (of censure) is an abuse of parliamentary time and process and we demand his immediate removal,” Mark said.

In the letter, Mark also complained that both Richards and Vieira had never voted against the Government. Furthermore, Mark added that Vieira was on record as “overly praising” the Government on its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a criticism of the President’s choices, the letter further stated that “the sitting senators appointed by the President masquerade(s) as an Independent Bench” and described it as a “cancerous threat” that “cannot be left to metastasise and in our view must be dealt with decisively by your Office”.

President: I do not agree

The President’s response was conveyed by Kent Jardine, executive adviser to the President, in a letter dated November 23.

On the issue of the “immediate revocation of Senator Anthony Vieira and the appointment of a truly independent, non-politically-aligned/non-partisan person”, the President said she did not share Mark’s perspective.

The letter, which was copied to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar as well as the other five UNC senators, stated: “Her Excellency has carefully noted the contents of your letter. Her Excellency has a different grasp of the issues raised in your letter and does not share your perspective or conclusions on the utterances of and positions taken by senators Vieira and Richards as outlined in your letter. Having considered the matter, Her Excellency is unable to identify any conduct of the senators which warrants a revocation of their appointment.

“Having followed with great interest the developments in Parliament, particularly circa October 2021, Her Excellency is of the settled view that Trinidad and Tobago’s system of parliamentary democracy is alive and well, even as it is buffeted in the evolving state of affairs.

“The process and criteria used for the selection of the Independent senators in the current Parliament are as provided in the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The nine senators appointed by the President are appointed ‘in his (her) discretion from outstanding persons from economic or social or community organisations and other major fields of endeavour. Her Excellency’s discretion is exercised judicially,” the President said.

The President added that “with an “unavoidable degree of overlap”, the fields of law (both criminal and civil), women’s and children’s issues, medicine, Tobago interests, business, economics, engineering, management, civil society and culture are reflected” (on the current Independent Bench).

The letter concluded by saying: “Her Excellency thanks you for your service on the Senate Opposition bench.”

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