Despite vociferous and unreserved objections from the United National Congress (UNC), the Government has confirmed Christine Kangaloo will be its nominee come January 20th when the Electoral College meets to elect this country’s seventh Head of State.
“This matter is going very smoothly, according to the Constitution, according to the practice and according to our history,” Dr Keith Rowley told journalists during a media conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s yesterday.
However, armed with his own copy of the Constitution, Dr Keith Rowley seemed prepared to respond specifically to UNC Senator Wade Mark’s attacks on Kangaloo.
“He has to be dealt with,” the Prime Minister said sternly.
The Prime Minister said Mark has been in the media calling Kangaloo and “PNM yes woman and puppet.” He said Mark was even questioning the constitutionality of Kangaloo’s nomination.
With the Constitution in hand, Dr Rowley flipped to page 29, paragraph 24 and read aloud, “Where a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives is elected as President, his seat in the Senate or the House of Representatives shall thereupon become vacant.”
Dr Rowley said the purpose of him reading out the law was for the benefit of “John Public” who, he claimed, was being misled by the “horse manure coming down from the UNC and those others.”
But the Prime Minister said he was not surprised at going into the Electoral College without UNC support, as he claimed history has shown that the Opposition’s motive is to object to everything in spite of its benefit for the nation.
He then drew reference to the election of former President Arhtur Napolean Raymond Robinson, who he said was the UNC government’s pick for President in 1997. The Prime Minister said he went against the People’s National Movement nomination and voted for Robinson in the Electoral College.
“I was a member of the House, an Opposition member, 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 Mr Robinson got more votes than the votes of the party that sponsored him, and I think that’s important,” he said.
Dr Rowley added that he was also not the only one who voted for the UNC’s nomination.
“I think there was at least two other votes from the PNM, so the process and the system worked,” he said, in an apparent defence against those who felt that ruling party would always have the advantage in the voting process by virtue of its strength in both houses.
The Prime Minister also again defended Kangaloo as his choice for Head of State.
The main arguments against Kangaloo include her long affiliation to the PNM and the fact that she is a sitting Senate President, also earned via a PNM nomination, which many believe will make it hard for her to be an independent mind in the Office of the President.
When Guardian Media asked Rowley if there was anyone without political ties who could have been considered, the Prime Minister said they did weigh quite a few people but Kangaloo stood out.
“Before the Government came to a conclusion, we did look from Cedros to Charlotteville, Sangre Grande to Carenage, to see who are the people we can consider to approach and we did that and we believe we came up with what is in effect a good choice.”
The PM said while there may be people against her appointment, there are also thousands in support of Kangaloo. He also said there aren’t many presidents internationally who have never been involved in the political arena.
“I’m not impressed with the fact that if you’re not connected with anything in the country, it qualifies you to be holding the highest office in the land.”
Meanwhile, asked by Guardian Media what he thought about the UNC’s pick for on Senior Counsel Israel Khan, Rowley said he was not surprised by Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s choice.
“Israel Khan is her personal lawyer, Israel Khan has been in a number of political parties, the ONR, the NAR and I daresay he was 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 Kamla Persad-Bissessar.”
He explained that the next step will be Kangaloo vacating her position of Senate President in preparation for January 20th’s sitting of the Electoral College, where the President will be elected.
With a wry smile, he said he has someone in mind to replace Kangaloo in the Upper House but he is not yet ready to reveal that name.