Israel Khan, UNC choice for President: ‘I’m willing to serve my country’

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Israel Khan, SC, head of the Criminarl Bar Association. –

The Opposition has proposed one of the longest serving criminal defence attorneys, Israel Khan SC, as its nominee to be the seventh president of TT.

Khan, 75, has been in private practice for 43 years and is the current president of the Criminal Bar Association. He was once aligned with the National Alliance for Reconstruction but resigned from the party in 1992.

In a statement on Saturday, the Opposition said it had objected to the Government’s nominee, Senate President Christine Kangaloo, on the basis that she is a sitting PNM politician.

The UNC claims that “serious issues would arise about apparent bias in decision-making.” The party maintained its “willingness to work towards a consensus nominee.”

“Given Mr Khan’s fiercely independent track record, significant experience within the legal fraternity as well as his dynamic contributions to our national development, we are of the view that he is a suitable candidate for this distinguished office,” the statement said.

Israel Khan, SC, and his son, attorney Daniel Khan, leave the San Fernando High Court after a murder trial in 2007. – File photo/Lincoln Holder

In a brief telephone interview, Khan said: “I have consented to be nominated and I am willing to serve my country.” He declined further comment.

On Friday, PM Dr Rowley disclosed Kangaloo was the Government’s choice to be the next President of the country when the current President Paula-Mae Weekes demits office after serving one-term later this month.

The Opposition intends to formally submit its choice of candidate on Monday.

On Friday, Rowley, leader of government business Camille Robinson-Regis and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young met with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the Opposition’s whip in the Lower House David Lee and Opposition senator Wade Mark where they were told Kangaloo was the Government’s choice. The Opposition did not offer a candidate at that meeting and Persad-Bissessar said that the party will make its choice known on Saturday.

Rowley said on Friday that it would be better for there to be consensus on a candidate before the Electoral College meeting on January 20 to vote for the next President.

Rowley said 12 members of Parliament had to nominate the candidate and he had left five slots available for the Opposition but the Government will fill all in the absence of opposition support.

On Friday, Persad-Bissessar conceded that the Government’s nominee will succeed because it had the majority in the House.

She said she intended to ask Rowley to reconsider Kangaloo and offer alternative nominees.

Khan has had a colourful and somewhat controversial career starting with his decision to advertise after he was admitted to practice in 1977, which was in contravention of the Legal Profession Act.

He was a member of the commission of enquiry appointed to examine the construction sector and the Urban Development Corporation between 2008-2010 under the former Manning administration.

He was the attorney who said he advised the police to charge former chief justice Satnarine Sharma for conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and get a warrant for his arrest.

Khan also represented Persad-Bissessar in the criminal investigation into E-mailgate which disclosed what Rowley had alerted the Parliament to a conspiracy to harm a journalist, spy on the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and other illegal conduct. That case was closed without any charges based on a lack of any sufficient evidence.

In this 2016 file photo, attorney Israel Khan SC arrives at the Hall of Justice for a meeting of the Law Association. – File photo/Angelo Marcelle

He has been an outspoken critic of Chief Justice Ivor Archie over the appointment and subsequent resignation of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayres-Caesar as a judge who left 53 matters pending in the magistrates court.

More recently, he called on current Attorney General Reginald Armour to resign after he was accused of not being forthright when he signed an affidavit in a Miami court downplaying his involvement as a defence attorney in the Piarco Airport corruption case.

“I believe he is a person of impeccable character and integrity. I have known him for 22 years and there is not a single instance of him being dishonest. I believe he will resign. I think it will be about three weeks before he resigns,” he said in June 2022.

He has also been a critic of the Opposition Leader who had criticised the silence of lawyers in commenting on Armour’s conduct because they were “grovelling” for state briefs.

In a letter to the editor in July 2022, Khan said Persad-Bissessar, who is also a senior counsel, had no shame and was not a leader of the inner bar.

He said then he was not a member of the UNC, but supported the party and recognised Persad-Bissessar as its leader.

“I accept and know that you are an extremely strong woman, an astute and cunning politician who deserves a second chance to be the Prime Minister of this country.”

But, he said he did not recognise her as a leader of the inner bar, neither civil nor criminal, and as a leader of the criminal bar, and did not accept or recognise her as an attorney deserving the status of senior counsel.

In the letter, he questioned her receiving the honour of “silk,” asking for particulars of her practice as an attorney.

Khan has also called for a criminal investigation into the collapse of the criminal charges against former UNC attorney general Anand Ramlogan and former UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen after the main witness Vincent Nelson refused to testify on the basis of an indemnity agreement settled by former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi.

He was also the lead prosecutor in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman trial.