Electoral College meets to elect new President

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


DAVID LEE, Opposition whip in the House of Representatives, hopes some Government members will not support the Government’s nominee Christine Kangaloo for President, but vote for the Opposition’s nominee Senior Counsel Israel Khan when the Electoral College meets at 1.30 pm on Friday.

He said it will be a secret ballot, and recalled the Prime Minister’s recent admission of once defying his party in electing Arthur NR Robinson as President in 1997.

On Thursday, Lee told Newsday the Opposition regards Kangaloo, the former senate president, as unsuitable.

He questioned her political affiliations and past involvement as acting President in terminating Jwala Rambarran as Central Bank governor.

However, Senate Leader Dr Amery Browne, in a text to Newsday, fully endorsed Kangaloo and, in turn, questioned Opposition members’ suitability, citing their conduct in October 2021 in the Electoral College debating the Opposition’s unsuccessful call to impeach President Paula-Mae Weekes.

On Friday in the Electoral College, the Government will have 39 votes, namely 23 from the House and 16 from the Senate, including two presiding officers.

Against this, the Opposition will have 25 votes comprised of 19 from the House and six from the Senate, while the Independent Senators have nine votes.

This means even if every Independent Senator voted with the Opposition to total 34 votes, the Government’s 39 votes would still carry, provided there were no defections to the Opposition’s nominee.

Rowley had hailed Kangaloo as a past opposition senator, government senator, government MP, government minister and senate president.

“I don’t disqualify people on the basis of being active politicians. Having been a government minister is part of her pool of experience. She is also a lawyer and has served on both sides of the Parliament floor and both houses.”

Rowley said the Constitution specifically envisaged an MP or senator becoming President.

However, the Opposition has feared Balisier House (the headquarters of the ruling party) influencing President’s House.

St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen on Wednesday made an eleventh-hour call for Kangaloo to withdraw her nomination.

Lee told Newsday that Khan was “a very noble and upstanding candidate” with no political affiliation, but someone who has been critical of many governments and even Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

He said Kangaloo has been a strong PNM activist and former Pointe-a-Pierre MP.

“The electorate then rejected her in favour of Errol Mc Leod in 2010.”

GOVT’S NOMINEE: Christine Kangaloo. –

Lee alleged, “She has been left very wanting over the past seven years in her judgement whether it be as senate president against the Opposition, and when she has acted as President.”

He reckoned Khan could get elected instead of Kangaloo.

“We feel that tomorrow, if good sense prevails among the Independent Senators along with some of the PNM members, PNM MPs or PNM Senators, our candidate should be chosen.”

Lee said Rowley recently admitted supporting Robinson rather than the PNM’s candidate retired judge Anthony Lucky.

“I am hoping that this time around the same good sense that four PNM members, including Rowley, showed in the candidature of ANR Robinson, they will see it in the candidature of Israel Khan.

“So we hope and we pray something good will come out tomorrow, because we will be in some dark times if and when Christine Kangaloo wins.”

Lee said the Government seemingly has the numbers to win.

“The Opposition just has 19 plus six which is 25, so we need some support from the Independents and also from the PNM. It is done by secret ballot.”

Lee said Kangaloo’s first act as acting president had been to terminate Jwala Rambarran as Central Bank governor, but a court had recently ruled in favour of Rambarran, saying the process of firing had been unfair.

He opined, “She should have waited until then substantive president (Anthony Carmona) returned from vacation. I don’t think an acting president should take that kind of role.”

Lee also complained about Kangaloo’s partial proclamation of the Data Protection Act to controversially grant certain rights to the police.

“If she is President she has got to appoint nine Independent Senators. Will we get nine independent senators or will they be a carbon copy of the PNM bench?”

On Friday, Browne told Newsday, “What I can say about Mrs Kangaloo is that she is an outstanding citizen, a proven servant of the people of TT, and a lady of immaculate integrity.

“I have absolutely no doubt that she will maintain the highest standards of the Office of the President of the Republic, and will bring her own unique personality and presence to the Presidency.

“As Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, I have been privileged to witness the class and charisma of then acting president Kangaloo during her hosting of state events for visiting heads such as the President of Guyana in 2022, and I was left with a deep sense of admiration and appreciation of the energy, patriotism, and compassion of our nominee for this office.”

Browne noted the Opposition’s nominee, saying, “Dissent and divergence are important parts of democracy.

“Those who hold an opposing view are entitled so to do, and any such members are empowered under our Constitution to vote as they see fit.

“When this election process is completed, we still have to live together, work together, and improve and develop our land for the next generation. The Prime Minister has made an outstanding choice as the Government’s nominee.”

Asked how proceedings might go on Friday, he said the Opposition’s behaviour was hard to predict, based on their allegedly “appalling behaviour” and “verbal abuse” of Independent Senators at the Electoral College when it sat in relation to Weekes’ tenure.

“What I do know is that the members on the Government side will conduct ourselves with dignity and a solemn sense of duty to the people of this land under our Constitution. Whilst we cannot always control the disposition of others, it behoves us to ourselves maintain the highest standards of conduct.”

Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath told Newsday there was an “urgent need for Constitutional reform” in the composition of the Electoral College.

Asked about the Government’s majority against a combined Opposition and Independent vote, he said the Electoral College majority resulted from the membership of both houses. However, he said the House and Senate numbers were designed to give a government a majority against any stalemate over finance bills, but were not originally intended for an Electoral College.

Saying Weekes and Carmona had been consensus candidates, Ragoonath viewed Kangaloo as “an overt politician” seeking the Presidency, whose bid the Opposition could not support.

Asked if Independent Senators faced undue pressure to vote for Kangaloo so as to be reappointed, he said they should not have to sing for their supper. Whether they should complete their five-year term or resign upon her election, was entirely a personal choice for each independent senator, Ragoonath said.