United National Congress Presidential nominee, Israel Khan SC, has rubbished Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s claim that he was a UNC activist.
Rowley made the claim during a media conference on Monday, as he made an argument for why he was sticking with the People’s National Movement’s decision to nominate Senate President Christine Kangaloo for the position.
During an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, however, Khan said, “I wish to categorically deny that I am an activist for the UNC. That is a blatant untruth. Also, I’m not a member of the UNC, I’ve never canvassed for the UNC. It is a fact that I support Kamla as the de facto leader of the UNC but I’m not a member of the UNC.”
Khan’s comment came even as sectors of society continued to debate the issue of the Office of the President becoming tainted due to the perceived allegiances of both candidates, with both parties heading into the vote on January 20 with their nominees.
During Monday’s media conference, Prime Minister Rowley remained resolute in Government’s choice, although the UNC has labelled Kangaloo an agent of the PNM and a “yes woman.”
In defending Government’s nominee, Rowley also cited section 24 of the Constitution, which made provision for a sitting Senate President being considered and even qualifying to be elected as the head of state.
But while Dr Rowley also questioned the impartiality of the UNC’s choice, Khan maintained he was no UNC mouthpiece.
However, over a decade ago, Khan actually voiced support for the PNM. In an article published in the T&T Guardian on July 15, 2007, Khan went on record in backing the then Patrick Manning-led PNM government.
Journalist Clevon Raphael had asked whether or not Khan had sold out to the PNM, to which Khan responded,
“No, I have not sold out to the PNM, but at this point in time, I am a supporter of the PNM and I support the party.”
Raphael followed up by asking what had caused the change, since Khan, in 2003, had told him he had not gone PNM.
Khan stated, “Well, I am satisfied the present leadership of the PNM is making a great effort to include every national in the party.”
Fast-forward to Monday’s media conference, where the PNM’s current leader, Dr Rowley, took aim at Khan for what he said has been his (Khan’s) outspoken public abuse against him.
However, Khan yesterday said he was not repenting and cited several incidents where he claimed Dr Rowley needed to be reprimanded.
“Also, in relation to insulting or abusing the Prime Minister, he put himself in that position and now pretending to be the victim, when he called lawyers bottom feeders on one occasion when they say they claiming costs, I put him in his place and said he is a rogue and vagabond.”
He added, “Also, when he referred to Inshan Ishmael and he told him to ‘kiss my a**’, I told him it is unbecoming of a Prime Minister to do such a thing. It is the first time in the Commonwealth and he does not deserve to be Prime Minister, that he is an imposter, he is a charlatan and he dressing in Prime Minister’s robes.”
Khan, however, maintained he has spoken out against leaders, past and present, for their alleged transgressions.
Just last year, the Senior Counsel wrote a letter to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, condemning her for what he said was her baseless attack on lawyers. Persad-Bissessar had accused senior attorneys of “singing for their supper” by voting against a no-confidence motion against Attorney General Reginald Armour SC.
In the letter, Khan called on Persad-Bissessar to return her title of Senior Counsel for what he described as an attack on her legal colleagues.
Khan, while serving as the Director of the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority, also dispatched a written correspondence to former Prime Minister Patrick Manning in 2002, registering a complaint against then Legal Affairs Minister Glenda Morean-Phillip for wearing the PNM’s party symbol while conducting the nation’s business in the House of Representatives.
In the letter, Khan stated, “A PNM Prime Minister is the nation’s Prime Minister and so too is the Minister of Legal Affairs. Also, the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority serves the entire nation and thus under my watch, I cannot in good conscience encourage and or support the Minister of Legal Affairs to politicise the Legal Aid and Authority in her capacity as Minister of Legal Affairs responsible for the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority via vis policy direction.”
Then Prime Minister Manning acknowledged the letter and noted, “Your expressed statement that you pondered for two weeks before sending the letter may suggest that the two sides of the argument have strong validity.”
Meanwhile, Khan, who is also the president of the Criminal Bar Association, said when he was approached and consulted by the UNC on the President’s post, he acted ethically.
“There is a snowball of a chance that anybody coming outside the PNM going to be elected so they say it is going to be a principled position and I left it like that and as we came closer, other people approached.”