Impeachment motion fails
PORT OF SPAIN (CMC):
The Electoral College on Thursday voted down an opposition-inspired motion aimed at impeaching President Paula Mae Weekes, with opposition legislators consistently disrupting the proceedings and shouting that “democracy is dead” in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Electoral College, comprising the 72 members of the House of Assembly and the Senate, voted by a 47-24 margin to dismiss the motion filed by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who wanted a tribunal established “to investigate the removal” of Weekes, a former Appeal Court judge in Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands, from the Office of the President.
Section 35 of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution provides that the president may be removed under Section 36 where she “wilfully violates any provision of the Constitution and/or behaves in such a way as to bring her office into hatred, ridicule or contempt and/or behaves in such a way that endangers the security of the state”.
Persad-Bissessar, who in the past has been calling for the resignation of the head of state, said that the motion became necessary following the imbroglio regarding the appointment of a new police commissioner after the incumbent Gary Griffith’s three-year contract ended in August.
Griffith was appointed to act as deputy, but the High Court ruled that his appointment was null and void.
The situation regarding the appointment of a new top cop led to the resignation of all the members of the Police Service Commission (PSC) amid allegations from the opposition that their list of nominees had been withdrawn following the intervention of a senior public official.
In her motion, Persad-Bissessar claimed that the head of state “wilfully violated the provisions of the Constitution, securing the independence of the PSC in the performance of its functions and wilfully violated Section 123 of the Constitution” and that “she behaves in a way that endangers the security of the state” and “has otherwise failed and/or neglected to execute her duties under the constitution”.
On Tuesday, the parliament issued guidelines regarding the motion, noting the member “shall only propose the motion and state with full particulars the grounds as set out in the motion, on which the removal of the president from office is proposed”.
Persad-Bissessar, who theatrically tore up the guidelines, described the proceedings at both the House of Representatives and the Electoral College as “a death announcement,” joining her opposition colleagues in their coordinated disruption of the proceedings by demanding answers to questions, even though the Speaker, Bridgid Annisette-George, urged legislators to adhere to the rules.
The opposition leader said that the opposition was participating in the proceedings under protest, adding, “I want to make that very clear,” and that the guidelines were done “unilaterally”.