The Prime Minister has doubled down on his support for government presidential nominee Christine Kangaloo. The nomination papers, signed by 12 government MPs, were submitted to the Parliament on Monday.
Speaking during a media conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Port of Spain, on Monday, Dr Rowley addressed what he said were several untruths which had been fed to the public since the announcement of the nomination on Friday.
Referring to comments made by Opposition Senator Wade Mark, in which he described Kangaloo as a “yes woman” and “PNM puppet,” Rowley said this disturbing rhetoric was fearmongering of the worst kind being used to mislead and incite the population.
He said Section 24 (1) of the Constitution states that where a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives is elected president, his seat in the Senate or the House of Representatives, respectively, shall thereupon become vacant.
“That means that the makers of the Constitution, which I am sworn to uphold, understood that a member of the Senate is seen to be fit to hold the office of the President. It also means that they have to vacate their seat in the Senate. Do they want me to uphold or break the law?”
Rowley said the election of the President takes place by secret ballot, which meant that contrary to statements made by commentators from UWI, Kangaloo’s election was not automatic due to the government’s majority. He also addressed the issue of the election of ANR Robinson as president while he was minister extraordinaire in the Basdeo Panday government.
“When this nomination was made for ANR Robinson, I was an opposition member of the House, and in the conversation in my party, I did not agree with the nomination offered by my organisation, but the Constitution makes provision for secret ballot for good reason.
"And when the votes were counted on this day in the Parliament, you would have seen that Robinson got more votes than the votes of the party that sponsored him, and I think that’s important.
“It’s important for the intellectuals and the columnists to take note of that, because if you do, you would realise that the person who today is leading the government in this process could tell you now, that as a PNM member of Parliament, I voted for the UNC nominee, ANR Robinson, and I was not the only one. I think there were two others from the PNM. So the process and the system worked.”
Asked about what he thought about the nomination of attorney Israel Khan, SC, by the Opposition, Rowley said the Constitution made provision for the Opposition to put forward its own nominee.
“Israel Khan is her personal lawyer. Israel Khan has been in a number of political parties, the ONR, the NAR, and I dare say he is now a UNC activist.
"Israel Khan has been very outspoken in abusing me publicly, and the PNM, and others. And, therefore, I think that’s a good pick for Mrs Persad-Bissessar. It shouldn’t surprise any of us.
"But of course it falls to members of the Parliament. If he gets 12 votes, if he gets 12 nominees, he will be a properly nominated person. And then we go and we’ll all vote in secret, and the matter will end there.”
Opposition Leader Persad-Bissessar, in a release on Monday, confirmed that the papers had been filed for Khan to be a nominee for president.
The release noted that the Opposition had never questioned the legality of Kangaloo's appointment but her ability to impartially represent the interests of all citizens of TT.
It referred especially to Kangaloo’s involvement in the termination of the former governor of the Central Bank, Jwala Rambaran.
“I remind the nation that it was the acting president Christine Kangaloo who signed a termination letter to unlawfully dismiss the then Central Bank governor. It was the Privy Council that subsequently declared the acting president's action unlawful.
"The PM's words today confirm that Kangaloo did so on the instructions of the Rowley cabinet. This is evidence that Kangaloo is more than willing to ignore the rule of law and the good of the citizens of our nation in favour of the unlawful instructions from her PNM masters.”
Rowley said during the media conference that Kangaloo would have satisfied herself that all was satisfactory under the law before signing the order.