Independents not looking past Paula-Mae

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Independent Senator Anthony Vieira. PHOTO COURTESY OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT –

INDEPENDENT Senator Anthony Vieira said neither he nor any of the other nine members of the Independent bench have contemplated their senatorial future after January 20, when the Electoral College meets to elect the successor to outgoing President Paula-Mae Weekes.

Vieira said neither he nor any of the other independents have considered whether they would be willing to serve if asked to do so by Weekes’ successor.

“As far as I am aware there hasn’t been such a conversation amongst current members of the independent bench.” Vieira said, “We knew that when we signed on that we serve at the pleasure of the President.”

He added, “Our focus is on doing the best we can while we can.”

Asked to comment about Weekes’ tenure, Vieira replied, “I would rather not, but I do regard her Excellency as a person of the highest integrity who has always acted with the best of intentions consistent with her values.”

He said, “The greatest among us is the servant of all, and I believe the President has served to the best of her ability – within constitutional and other constraints. But it’s a lonely and difficult job, moreso given the nasty politics and post-truth society we live in today.”

Another independent senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed the same view as Vieira.

“All independent senators serve at the discretion of the President. There has been no discussion among us on that issue, to the best of my knowledge.”

In a notice in the Gazette dated December 23, Speaker and chairman of the Electoral College, Bridgid Annisette-George said the college will convene on January 20 to elect a new President.

Weekes, a retired Justice of Appeal, took office on 19 March, 2018, after being elected on January 19, that year. As she was the sole candidate nominated, she was deemed elected without the need for a vote and made history by becoming the country’s first female Head of State.

She is the sixth President after Sir Ellis Clarke (September 24, 1976 – March 19, 1987), Noor Hassanali (March 20, 1987 – March 17, 1997), ANR Robinson (March 18, 1997 – March 16, 2003), George Maxwell Richards (March 17, 2003 – March 18, 2013) and Anthony Carmona (March 19, 2013 – March 18, 2018).

Carmona and Robinson (deceased) served one term, while Clarke, Hassanali and Richards – all deceased – served two terms.

Under the Constitution, the nine independent senators are chosen solely by the President.

The 15 government and six opposition senators are appointed by the President, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader respectively.

The independent senators are Paul Richards, Amrita Deonarine, Vieira, Dr Varma Deyalsingh, Charisse Seepersad, Deoroop Teemul, Hazel Thompson-Ahye, Dr Maria Dillon-Remy and Evans Welch.

Unlike their government and opposition counterparts, the independent senators do not follow a party whip, do not caucus on matters and vote independent of each other.