President-elect Christine Kangaloo: I’m ready to serve

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PRESIDENT-ELECT: Former senate president Christine Kangaloo who was elected by the Electoral College to serve as the next President of the Republic at the Red House on Friday. –

PRESIDENT-ELECT Christine Kangaloo promised to serve the nation of Trinidad and Tobago with love and a belief in the people, in a brief statement after her overwhelming election on Friday by Parliament’s Electoral College, where she comfortably beat the Opposition’s nominee, attorney Israel Rajah Khan, SC.

“Now that the election is over, I look forward to serving our country in the only way I know how – with love for all and with an unwavering belief in the innate goodness of our people.”

Kangaloo was humbled by her election as President.

“I am grateful to everyone who participated in the electoral process, and to Mr Israel Khan, SC, in particular, who graciously offered himself to serve.”

She wished Khan the very best as he continued serving TT.

In light of Opposition fears of possible partisanship in her move from past politician to President, Kangaloo promised to act properly.

“I am also grateful for the healthy public discourse that has taken place about the Office of President, and the characteristics our citizens feel should be demonstrated by persons who aspire to hold the office.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley votes during the Electoral College’s sitting to elect TT’s new President. – SUREASH CHOLAI

“Having heard all the concerns, I commit myself to discharging the duties of the Office of President in a manner that will put those concerns to rest.”

She said due to propriety, she would defer meeting the media until receiving her formal instrument of election.

“For now, I express my gratitude to the media for facilitating so effectively, the public discourse that has taken place.”

Earlier, the Electoral College sat for two hours and 40 minutes in a sitting chaired by Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George.

Kangaloo received 48 votes and Khan 22, with three ballots rejected, according to a tally by House Clerk Jacqui Sampson-Meiguel.

The results showed that Kangaloo won 48 votes which corresponded to the sum of the government votes (39 votes, comprised of 23 from the House and 16 the Senate) and the nine Independent senators.

Khan’s tally of 22 votes was three less than the 25 UNC MPs and senators present, the margin corresponding to three ballots rejected.

Before the vote, the Prime Minister spoke for seven minutes to support Kangaloo’s nomination while Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar spoke for Khan for nine minutes.

Dr Rowley said Kangaloo, as an assistant registrar, had once overseen the construction of the supreme court building in San Fernando, practised law, cared for her injured brother the late Justice Wendell Kangaloo, and then become a senator, minister, MP and finally Senate president.

Saying Kangaloo had acted as President on 33 occasions, Rowley proposed her as “a most worthy candidate.”

Persad-Bissessar said Khan was Criminal Bar president, “He is fair and fearless, fiercely independent and strong-willed. He possesses the indispensable qualities of merit, ability and integrity which are needed to effectively perform the onerous duties of the President of our country.

“He is not a ‘yes Mr Prime Minister’ person.

“I call on members of this Electoral College to place country before party, to place people before politics and to place the Constitution before personal agenda as we aim to preserve the sacred independence of the office of President.”

Members of the Government bench who voted in favour of Christine Kangaloo to serve as the next President of the Republic, when the Electoral College convened at the Red House on Friday. – SUREASH CHOLAI

Each senator and MP in the Electoral College in alphabetical order went behind the Speaker’s chair to fill their ballot paper and deposited it in a box near the House Clerk.

D’Abadie/O’Meara MP Lisa Morris-Julian and Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo scrutinised the vote count.

During this Government members were animated and chatty, while the Opposition was subdued.

Annisette-George declared Kangaloo to have won and invited speeches.

Independent Senator Paul Richards told the Electoral College that as senate president Kangaloo had shown temperance and dignity. Persad-Bissessar promised to hold the Office of President to account. Rowley said the well-written TT Constitution had functioned well, with Electoral College members having acted smoothly and dutifully.

Saying Kangaloo was a plus for the country, he thanked her and her family for offering service to TT, and noted that bigger countries than TT have problems carrying out such an exercise.

Persad-Bissessar, at briefing later at the Red House where she was flanked by 20 UNC MPs/senators, said she was unfazed by Khan’s tally falling short by three UNC votes.

“I’m not surprised. In politics every day is a new day.”

She interpreted the results has indicated all Independent senators voted for the Government while three Opposition members spoilt their ballots.

Persad-Bissessar recalled Rowley’s recent confession of having once voted for Arthur NR Robinson as president, not the PNM’s nominee retired judge Anthony Lucky.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar votes during the sitting of the Electoral College at the Red House on Friday. – SUREASH CHOLAI

Asked by Newsday if the three missing votes was an affront to her as UNC leader, she quipped, “Do I look affronted? Thank you for inquiring.”

Persad-Bissessar later quipped that a government minister (National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds) had jested that she might need fingerprint and polygraph experts to determine whose ballot had been spoilt in the UNC.

Pressed about Khan’s suitability, given his statement about penalising parents of unvaccinated children, she said, “We don’t need a yes-man or a yes-woman. He’s a fearless person. We trust our President will not be a yes-person. We are looking for someone to be fiercely independent.”

Persad-Bissessar said a president must be a check on both the government and opposition. She said the Opposition would wait and would scrutinise every act of the new president.

She viewed Kangaloo as “a blatantly political, partisan person, spreading the PNM’s gospel.” If the Government uses Kangaloo as a rubber-stamp, that would have a chilling effect on democracy, said Persad-Bissessar, vowing to not stand idly by. “She’s a well-heeled active politician. We intend to keep her in line.”

Newsday asked what had changed in the political landscape to move from having consensus candidates in the persons of Anthony Carmona and Paula-Mae Weekes to now having rival nominees.

She replied that at a recent bipartisan meeting, the Opposition had awaited word of many possible nominees such as ex-judges but the Government only gave Kangaloo’s name.

“What has changed is that the nominee is so overtly political, from the bosom of the PNM.”

Persad-Bissessar said a law court had recently criticised the firing of Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran as approved by Kangaloo as acting president.

She also alleged that the Government was now very tyrannical and had offered a nominee in Kangaloo who would allegedly “take instructions from Cabinet.”