The Trinidad Guardian / Politicians, judges, diplomats and other specially invited guests who crammed the foyer of the National Academy for the Performing Arts were all overheard asking where was Paula-Mae Weekes as a reception hosted by outgoing President Anthony Carmona got underway at 11 am.
Minutes before this country’s Sixth President was sworn into office at the Queen’s Park Savannah to a packed audience in the North and Grand Stands.
As they waited, guests mingled sipping Presidential wine and other premium scotch whiskey and chomping hors d’oeuvre such as mini barbeque legs, geera pork wraps, coo coo with callaloo dip, saheena with tamarind chutney, split peas shot, breadfruit oil down, cassava and salt fish balls, mini bake and shark, breaded shrimp with cocktail sauce.
For desert cassava pone, mini cheesecake, fudge, tamarind balls and red velvet cake created a spectacular platter. All prepared by President House chef Kerwin Wharton.
A simple but important function took place away from the prying eyes, as security officer Kevin O’Neil, scrapped away the double-sided tape which secured the portrait of Carmona and replaced the frame with a photo of a stoic-looking new President.
Carmona arrived at the venue at 11 am with his wife, Reema, in a crimson red dress, and stood at the entrance greeting guests. The Fifth President at times had to be ushered back into the building as guests queued at the door.
Among the first to arrive was Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who leaves the country tomorrow, for Washington, United States to pursue a fellowship at the Federal Judicial Center. He was only allowed six weeks leave, his vacation allotment, and in his absence Justice of Appeal Alan Mendonca will act as Chief Justice.
As the minutes ticked by, guests mingled in the tight space, and had to move out of the way as security details for the nation’s top office holders had the uneasy task of keeping a close eye on any potential threat.
Outside the venue, soldiers stood guard on the street corners and vehicular traffic was diverted.
Weekes arrived at the venue at 12.45 pm and was announced by the sound of military trumpets echoing through the hall.
She promptly went to the centre of the small stage, erected for a host of performers, to apologise for her tardiness. Also performing were sitarist Mungal Patasar and the Shiv Shakti Dancers.
She said she had been delayed after stopping to speak to students at the Savannah.
In a short address, she said she was overwhelmed by the occasion being the first female to hold the highest office in the land.
As she worked the room, pressing cheeks, tight hugs and firm handshakes, the President made sure to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and assumed the role of hobnobbing at the cocktail event with ease. Something she is not accustomed to and which she had avoided in the past.
He laughter was thunderous at times, such as when she huddled with judges of the Supreme Court, who clustered at the bottom of the left stairwell and subdued as other people requested selfies.
She obliged to pose with students of the Bishop Anstey High School, her alma mater, who gathered on the right staircase, to honour her in song.
Weekes, who was on her way out of the venue, turned around and headed to the stage as students of Scarborough RC Primary School recited the spoken word tribute praising the new president and recognising the work of the former. She stood next to Carmona as they performed and the both applauded their performance.
She stopped in her tracks again as security ushered her to her car to hear the First Citizen’s Supernovas rendition of the Mighty Sniper’s Portrait of Trinidad outside the entrance.
Weekes left the venue headed to President’s House, at 1.40 pm in a seven-vehicle convoy leaving Carmona and his wife behind. He retreated to the lobby to complete his final task as host of the reception.