Clint Chan Tack
A sombre mood will no doubt prevail in the Senate when it sits on Tuesday at 1.30 pm, after the death of its Leader of Government Business and Energy Minister Franklin Khan.
Khan, 63, who had a history of heart-related illness, died at his Maraval home early on Saturday.
When the sitting begins, tributes will be paid to Khan by Senate President Christine Kangaloo and other senators.
Khan’s death means the Government is one short of its quota of 15 members in the Senate. So far there has been no word on who will be appointed to take Khan’s place in the Senate and if that person will also assume the energy portfolio. Government sources said that decision remains solely in the hands of the Prime Minister.
Dr Rowley has been in quarantine at the Prime Minister’s official residence at Blenheim, Tobago since April 6, when he was diagnosed with covid19.
Within the Cabinet, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has acted as energy minister for Khan in the past. One source said a possibility could be for Imbert to act temporarily act energy minister until a substantive minister is appointed.
Current National Gas Company (NGC) chairman Conrad Enill, who served as energy minister from November 8, 2007 to May 25, 2010, has been identified as someone who could take up the post. But there has been no confirmation of this or whether Enill is being considered as the next energy minister.
Former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine and UWI economist Roger Hosein said on Sunday it was important for Rowley to move swiftly to select the most qualified person to lead the energy ministry.
A second source hinted that Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat could become the new Leader of Government Business.
In a social media post on Saturday, Rambharat spoke about the confidence which Khan placed in him to act in this role whenever he was unable to.
“Over and over I experienced the generosity of Frankie’s spirit as he took the time with me and stood down sometimes so that I may have the opportunity to lead our bench even when he was still there. It was truly the measure of the man.”
There are questions over whether Opposition senators will attend, having boycotted the last Senate sitting on April 13 because of covid19 concerns. It also boycotted sittings of the House of Representatives on April 9 and 14 on the same grounds.
On Sunday, Opposition Senator Wade Mark expressed condolences on Khan’s death, on behalf of Opposition senators.
The main item on the Senate’s agenda on Tuesday is debate on the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2021.