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CENTRAL GOVERNMENT

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  • THE PRESIDENT
  • THE EXECUTIVE: THE CABINET
  • THE PRIME MINISTER
  • THE SENATE
  • THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • PARLIAMENT
  • THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
  • THE JUDICIARY
  • THE HIGH COURT
  • COURT OF APPEAL
  • DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
  • THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
  • THE OMBUDSMAN
  • THE TOBAGO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

THE PRESIDENT
The Trinidad and Tobago Republican Constitution provides for a President who is the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. He/She is also the repository of all Executive Authority. His/Her powers are exercisable within certain constitutional limits and most of his/her constitutional acts must be performed in accordance with the advice of or after consultation with another authority, usually the Cabinet, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. Although the President does not sit in parliament, he/she is responsible for the summoning, prorogation and dissolution of Parliament and also gives his/her assent to Bills.

A person is qualified to be nominated for election as President if:

  1. He/She is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago
  2. He/She is of the age of thirty five years or upwards and
  3. At the date of his nomination as President, has been ordinarily resident in Trinidad and Tobago for ten years immediately preceding his/her nomination

The Constitution provides for an Electoral College consisting of all the members of the Senate and all the members of the House of Representatives assembled together and convened and presided over by the Speaker of the House. The President is elected by the Electoral College voting by secret ballot. Ten Senators, the Speaker and twelve other members of the House of Representatives constitute a quorum of the Electoral College. The President so elected shall normally hold office for a term of five years.

All Bills passed in both Houses of Parliament must be assented to by the President before they become law. The President also appoints members of Commissions and other senior officials. He/she is also responsible for appointing Senators - sixteen on the advice of the Prime Minister, six on the advice of the Opposition Leader and nine on his/her own discretion.

The current President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes.

THE EXECUTIVE: THE CABINET
The Constitution provides for a Cabinet under the general direction and control of the Government, collectively responsible to Parliament. The Cabinet has effective control of the nation's affairs and is headed by the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President, and such numbers of other Ministers as he may decide to have, of whom one shall be the Attorney General, chosen from among the members of the House of Representatives and the Senators appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.

The functions of the Cabinet include initiating and deciding on policy, the supreme control of the Government and the coordination of Government departments. The Prime Minister and his Ministers retain office after the dissolution of Parliament until a new Prime Minister is appointed or the old one reappointed. They may vacate office by replacement or resignation or by ceasing to be a member of the House to which they belong.

THE PRIME MINISTER
Where there is occasion for the appointment of a Prime Minister such as after a General Election, the President must appoint as Prime Minister a member of the House of Representatives who is the leader in the House of the party which commands the support of the majority of members of that House. Under the party system which operates in Trinidad and Tobago that person is usually the party's leader. Where no majority Party emerges or where the party has no undisputed leader, the President appoints as Prime Minister the person, who, in his view, is most likely to command majority support in the House of Representatives. In this case the President uses his discretion. The person appointed must be willing to accept the Office of Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister's position of authority derives from the majority support in the House of Representatives and from the power to appoint and dismiss ministers. The Prime Minister presides over the Cabinet and is responsible for the allocation of functions among ministers.

Apart from being the leader of the Cabinet which has effective control of the nation's affairs, the Prime Minister shall keep the President fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government and shall furnish the President with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the government.

The Office of the Prime Minister is also responsible for Citizens Initiative Fund, Commissions of Enquiry, Constitutional Matters, Ecclesiastical Affairs, National Awards, Policy Planning, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, Protocol/Communications Unit, Public Service Administration, Public Concerns/Enquiries, Public Holidays, Sports and Culture Fund. The Office of the Prime Minister also oversees the Business Facilitation Council, the National Quality Council, the National Security Council.

The current Prime Minister is Dr. Keith Rowley.

THE SENATE
The Senate, also called the Upper House, consists of thirty one (31) Senators appointed by the President as follows:

  1. Sixteen acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.
  2. Six acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and
  3. Nine at his discretion from outstanding persons from economic or social or community organisations and other major fields of endeavor.

The President and Vice President of the Senate are elected from among the Members of the Senate in accordance with the provision of Chapter 4, Sections 39-45 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Constitution provides that when the Senate first meets after a general election and before it proceeds to the dispatch of any other business, it shall elect a Senator to be President of the Senate. A Senator who is a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary shall not be elected to be the President of the Senate.

The President of the Senate presides over the sittings of the Senate and acts as Chairman of Committees of the whole Senate. He interprets the Standing Orders and has the power to regulate the conduct of business in all matters not provided for in the Standing Orders. The President of the Senate also acts temporarily as President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago where the office is vacant or when the President is incapable of performing his functions of President by reason of his absence from Trinidad and Tobago or by reason of illness.

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The House of Representatives consists of forty one (41) members elected by the people at General Elections. In 1960, the House of Representatives was introduced with 30 elected members. In 1961, the number was increased to 36 and then to 41 in 2005. The 41 members of the House of Representatives sit under a permanent chairperson, who is known as 'the Speaker'. To be elected to the House of Representatives, a person must be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and has resided in Trinidad and Tobago for a period of two years immediately before the date of his nomination for election, or is domiciled and resident in Trinidad and Tobago at that date.

Parliament makes laws for the peace, order and good government of Trinidad and Tobago, through Bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate that are assented to by the President. A Bill other than a Money Bill may be introduced in either House. Money Bills cannot be introduced in the Senate.

The Senate and the House of Representatives regulate their own procedures by Standing Orders. The Standing Orders of the Senate and the House of Representatives provide for the following committees:

  1. Regulations
  2. Standing Orders
  3. Privileges
  4. House

One significant feature of Parliamentary Government in Trinidad and Tobago is the provision where a Minister who is a member of the House of Representatives and a Minister who is a Senator has the right to attend any sitting of the Senate or the House of Representatives, or on the adoption of either House of a motion for the purpose, be required at the request of the President of the Senate or the Speaker to attend any sitting.

A Minister, attending any sitting of either House may take part in any debate or other proceedings concerning matters falling within his portfolio in such House and may speak on any such motion, except that a Minister who is a senator cannot vote in the House of Representatives.

The Attorney General may, however, attend any sitting or take part in debates and other proceedings and speak on any motion before any House. He may also move amendments to any motion even though the matter falls within the portfolio of some other Minister.

THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The Office of Speaker of the House of Representatives is almost as old as Parliament itself. In the United Kingdom, the Office of the Speaker was central to the battle for supremacy between Parliament and the Monarchy. In Trinidad and Tobago, the Speaker, or in his absence the Deputy Speaker presides over each sitting of the House of Representatives, acts as Chairman of Committees of the House and enforces the observance of all rules for preserving order in its proceedings. As a result, he maintains order, enforces the rules as is necessary, interprets Standing Orders and practices of the House, deals with points of order and gives rulings when called upon to do so.

The Speaker is considered the Guardian of the privileges of the members of the House of Representatives and the chief characteristics required are authority and impartiality. The Speaker is also responsible for the management and general administration of the House.

The Constitution provides that when the House of Representatives first meets after any general election and before it proceeds to the dispatch of any other business, it shall elect a person to be the Speaker of the House from among members of the House who are not Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries. Persons who are not members of either the House of Representatives and Senate may also be elected provided he is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and is not disqualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives.

The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago recognizes that Parliament may regulate its own procedures and that an order of the House of Representatives is a legitimate decision of the house. Our constitution provides for the House of Representatives to elect a person to preside over it as a Speaker of the House either from among the members of the House of Representatives or from among persons who are not members of the either House.

The House of Representatives is regulated by Standing Orders and the Standing Order of the House, Section 3, deals with the election of a Speaker. Section 5 provides for the Speaker or, in the Speaker's absence, the Deputy Speaker, to preside in the House or on Committees.

The Speaker's powers, function and duties may be categorized as manifold or multifunctional, and include traditional, ceremonial,statutory and constitutional duties. While presiding in the House, the chief characteristics required are authority and impartiality. The Speaker is required to give a completely objective interpretation of Standing Orders and precedent and is considered to be the guardian of the privileges of the members of the House of Representatives.

The Speaker presides over the debates in the House but cannot participate. The Speaker maintains order, enforces the rules as necessitated, interprets Standing Order and the practices of the House, deals with points of order and give rulings when called upon to do so.

Current Speaker of the House of Representatives is Mrs. Brigid Annisette-Georger. Deputy Speaker is Mr. Esmond Forde.

PARLIAMENT
The Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago consists of the President, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Parliament makes laws for the peace, order and good governance of Trinidad and Tobago through Bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, that are assented to by the President.

For more information about the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago visit the Parliament website.

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The Constitution provides for the office of the Attorney General, responsible for the administration of legal affairs in Trinidad and Tobago. Legal proceedings for and against the State are taken:

  1. In the case of civil proceedings, in the name of the Attorney General;
  2. In the case of criminal proceedings, in the name of the State.

The Attorney General is the principal legal advisor to the Government.

Apart from the Prime Minister, the Attorney General is the only member of the Cabinet specifically mentioned in the Constitution relating to the Executive. This may be because the Attorney General is responsible for the administration of legal affairs in Trinidad and Tobago and legal proceedings for and against the State. The Constitution also provides that in exercising his powers, the Attorney General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.

The current Attorney General is Mr.Faris Al-Rawi.

THE JUDICIARY
The Chief Justice is the Head of the Judiciary, the third traditional branch of Government, which is responsible for administering justice. The Chief Justice is President of the Court of Appeal and is the Chairman of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. He is also ex-officio, a judge of the High Court and can therefore sit in that Court.

The Constitution provides for the Chief Justice to be appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Other Supreme Court Judges are appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.

The Supreme Court consists of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal which exercise all such jurisdiction and powers as are conferred on them respectively by the Supreme Court of the Judicature Act, Chapter 4:01 and the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Act, 1976. There are also Courts of Summary Jurisdiction and Petty Civil Courts.

Current Chief Justice is The Honourable Mr. Ivor Archie.

For more information about the Judiciary of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago visit the Judiciary website

THE HIGH COURT
There is provision for eleven Puisne Judges of the High Court.

The Chief Justice is ex officio a Judge of the High Court. The Puisne Judges have in all respects equal power, authority and jurisdiction.

The High Court is a superior court of record and unless as otherwise provided by Parliament shall have all the powers of such a court including all power as is vested in the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago immediately before the commencement of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago 1976.

There is vested in the High Court all such original jurisdiction as is vested in and exercisable by the High Court of Justice in England under the provisions of the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act 1925(U.K.).

APPOINTMENT OF JUDGES OF THE SUPREME COURT
The Chief Justice is appointed by the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The other judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.

There is also an Industrial Court and a Tax Appeal Board which are both superior courts of record. Appeals from the Court and the Board lie with the Court of Appeal.

There are no Administrative Courts in Trinidad and Tobago, but there is a provision for an ombudsman under section 91 of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Act, 1976.

COURT OF APPEAL
There is provision for seven Justices of Appeal, who, with the Chief Justice as President, comprise the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal is a superior court of record and unless as otherwise provided by Parliament, has all the powers of such a court. In hearing appeals, the Court is comprised of three judges sitting together, except when the appeal is from a Summary Court or from the decision of a High Court in Chambers. In such cases, two judges would comprise the Court.

Appeals from the Court of Appeal may be made to the Privy Council under three circumstances:

  1. as of right
  2. with the leave of the Court of Appeal
  3. with the special leave of the Privy Council.

THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
The Constitution provides for a Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). It is a public one. The DPP has power, in any criminal cases in which he/she considers it proper to:

institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court in respect of any offence against the law of Trinidad and Tobago take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other person of authority; discontinue, at any stage before judgment is delivered, any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by himself or any other person of authority.

The current Director of Public Prosecutions (Ag.) is Mr. Roger Gaspard.

THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago states that there shall be a Leader of the Opposition. That person is appointed by the President who, in the President's judgement, is best able to command the support of the greatest number of members of the House of Representatives not in support of the Government.

The current Leader of the Opposition is Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissesar.

THE OMBUDSMAN
The Constitution provides for an Ombudsman who is an officer of the Parliament and who is required to hold no other office of emolument nor engage in any occupation for reward than the duties of his/her office. The Ombudsman is appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and shall hold office for a term not exceeding five years and is eligible for reappointment.

The principal function of the Ombudsman is to investigate complaints of administrative injustice in respect to decisions made or acts done or omitted by a Minister or department or authority of Government. In short, the Ombudsman can best be described as a "grievance person" to whom a citizen can make a complaint with a view to redressing the mistakes, delays, rigidity, carelessness and perhaps heartlessness of the government bureaucracy. However the role of the Ombudsman is an advisory one and the consequence of any investigation he/she makes can only lead to recommendations and the submission of reports by him/her to relevant persons, authorities or to Parliament.

The Ombudsman is responsible only to Parliament to which he makes annual reports on the performance of his/her functions including statistics of the complaints received, and the results of his investigations. The office is non-political.

The current Ombudsman is Mr Patrick Mark Wellington.

THE TOBAGO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Under the Tobago House of Assembly Act 1980, the Tobago House of Assembly was established for the purpose of making better provisions for the administration of the island of Tobago and for matters connected therewith. This Act was replaced by the Tobago House of Assembly Act 1996 which has increased the administrative and decision-making capacity of the Assembly.

The Assembly is responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy in respect of matters pertaining to Tobago and in respect of such responsibility, the Assembly shall give due consideration to national policy. In the discharge of its responsibility the Assembly may, subject to the Constitution enact "Assembly Laws" which shall be subject to negative resolution of Parliament.

For the better performance of its functions, the Assembly may devise mechanisms to ensure protection and security of property under its control, enter into such contracts as it deems fit and obtain from international donors any grant, aid or technical assistance.

The Assembly's areas of responsibilities includes Finance, that is, the raising and collection of revenue, Tourism, State Lands and all other matters with the exception of National Security, Foreign Affairs, Civil Aviation, Meteorology, Immigration, Central Statistics and Legal Affairs which are areas of responsibility of the central government.

The Assembly consists of twelve Assemblymen elected at an election held in accordance with the provisions of the Representation of the People Act and four councilors. A Chief Secretary and Deputy Chief Secretary are elected from among members of the assembly by a secret ballot.

The Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly is ex-officio a Justice of the Peace and presides over all meetings of the Assembly at which he is present. In his absence the Deputy Chief Secretary presides.

The current Chief Secretary is the Honourable Ancil K. Dennis.

For more information about the Tobago House of Assembly visit the Tobago House of Assembly website.