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Always be direct, Madam Pres

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

This newspaper is aware of the debate over its Tuesday’s headline and interview with the country’s President-elect, Paula-Mae Weekes. For some it’s the T&T Guardian sinking as low as it gets, lacking respect towards our future Head of State. For others, it was an unnecessary attempt to sensationalise someone’s private life and make sexual choices something people have to explain in public.

How people react or see a given article is up to individuals in a democratic society and this newspaper will always defend such debates, even when it becomes the main topic. However, before the next virtual stone is hurled through the social media landscape, let’s put a few things in perspective.

Ms Weekes herself, in the interview, took the lead in referring to her disappointment with the comments and innuendos about her private life appearing on social media. And she makes a very strong point. From empirical evidence, since her name came to the fore to become the next President, there was no lack of gossiping about her sexual orientation both at the sophisticated world of dinner parties hosted by the chattering classes and in the rum parlour world.

We can’t agree more with her own point that this shouldn’t be a matter of concern. We would go one step further: what happens in the privacy of one’s life—including their sexuality—shouldn’t be a public matter.

The problem is that, here in Trinidad and Tobago, it is. But, given the reaction so far, it seems we would rather keep the comments behind people’s backs and pretend it is not the case. Some of those who, through social media, were “disgusted” by the story were the same ones happily taking part in the innuendo-infested comments about the future president. Thankfully, Ms Weekes doesn’t play that game.

In reality, what is impressive about her interview is her candour and clear determination to put thorny subjects to rest. It’s also impressive—and encouraging—to understand her driven nature (very few face four marathons lightly), her compassion and understanding of people’s realities and what appears to be her uncompromising commitment to tackle head-on many of our society’s taboos. In one fell swoop, commenting on her brother’s death due to HIV-related complications, Ms Weekes tackled with uncompromising candour another taboo subject in our country. Good for her and, even better, good for our nation.

Noise aside, what’s emerging is the picture of a very impressive leader—direct, open and genuinely determined to make T&T a better place. Please, continue to be so, Madam President (elect).


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