Opposition protesters lined the pavement opposite the Red House on Friday as parliamentarians arrived to elect a successor to President Paula-Mae Weekes.
The Government’s choice was Christine Kangaloo, whereas the Opposition nominated Israel Khan, SC.
Protesters numbered in excess of 100, until it started raining at around 12.30 pm causing their numbers to dwindle. Their chants alternated between “Rowley must go” and “No to Kangaroo.”
Whenever a government representative arrived, they were greeted by loud boos. When the Prime Minister exited his vehicle at 1.15 pm, they booed even louder. He waved at them.
The Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, arrived at 1.30 pm. Her message to the independent senators, “Do what you think is best for the country. Put your country first, put your own biases or your own inclinations aside. Whichever way it goes, we will never stop fighting.”
Asked if the Opposition was ready to support whichever head of state was elected, Persad-Bissessar said, “The Opposition will hold the head of state to account, as we will hold all the institutions to account.”
Princes Town MP Barry Padarath said, “We will not simply partake in today’s meeting of the Electoral College. We have demonstrated that we are the voice of the people, and today’s truly the death of our democracy by installing Christine Kangaloo as the President.
“The independent senators, they are themselves beholden and they are conflicted. They should have tendered their resignation instead of participating in today’s Electoral College. They are beholden to Mrs Kangaloo, and it is this same person that they are dependent on, to put them back or keep them in the Senate.”
Padarath asked which one of them would have had the testicular fortitude to vote against Kangaloo, who served as the President of the Senate until her resignation earlier this week, knowing she is the person responsible for selecting the next set of independent senators.
“The status quo will remain the same with respect to the independent senators as they sing for their supper, but we in the Opposition will represent the voices of the people.”
Government senator Randall Mitchell said he expected no surprises during the vote for the new President. “The best person will win,” he said. On the protests, Mitchell said, “They’re never really effective.”
Asked if her appointment was ethical considering her links to the governing party, Mitchell said, “I see no credibility to that argument at all. The Constitution makes provision for her to elevate to the office of President.”
Additionally, he believed Kangaloo resigned from the party as early as 2010, returning her party card.
One protester, Councillor Doodnath Mayrhoo, with 17 years’ service in the Siparia Regional Corporation, carried a fake kangaroo head on a stick. He also bore a sign which read, “Rowley, keep your kangaroo in Balisier House.”
Mayrhoo said he was protesting against “the threat to democracy.”
“No time in the history of this country has a President been elected who was political, deep into the bowels of a political party, and we are not happy because we do not think she will be impartial in her deliberation to the country.”
However, former president Arthur NR Robinson, the then leader of the National Alliance for Reconstruction, was an MP and minister in a coalition accommodation with the United National Congress, when he was nominated to serve in that office in 1997.