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Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Franklin Khan

The smile is gone—a quiet giant rests.

Great sadness pervaded the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) and other sectors following the sudden death yesterday of Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Franklin Khan.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and others yesterday paid high tribute to Khan, who died at his Moka Heights, Maraval home. The Government and the ruling party announced his death.

The loss of Khan plunged the PNM—which he chaired for over ten years—into deep mourning.

He is the first minister from the Rowley PNM administration to die in office.

Police reports are that Khan was last seen by his relatives around 11.30 pm on Friday before retiring to bed. They awoke at 6.30 am yesterday and went looking for him to have their regular morning coffee, but they found his body unresponsive in his chair.

Khan’s body bore no marks of violence. According to the report, his family said he took the COVID-19 vaccine four days before—last Tuesday.

His death yesterday came on the day designated for Parliamentarians from the Government and Opposition to receive COVID vaccines at health centres.

Khan was described as a heart patient. He had suffered a heart attack in 2016 and subsequently underwent triple heart bypass in 2017. From 2018, he shed party workload to devote efforts to the Energy Ministry and monitor his health.

Khan, whose political service spanned two PNM administrations, was Government’s leader of Business in the Senate in this latest leg. Among recent work, he bested an Opposition no-confidence motion against him three weeks ago, including defending Petrotrin’s restructuring. Most recently, he was preparing the refinery for the open market following Patriotic’s failed bids.

A down-to-earth person, Khan’s openness was seen as part of the changing PNM culture. For much of his political life, his eternal smile—even when answering hard questions—was legendary to some journalists.

Talks were on yesterday on what form–according to family wishes–his funeral would take. It was confirmed to Guardian Media that state-owned TTT would carry his funeral live.

Sadness for ‘the quiet giant’

Prime Minister Rowley, in Tobago under treatment for COVID, was saddened by Khan’s passing, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed.

Extending deepest condolences to Khan’s family. OPM stated, “The Prime Minister is extremely saddened by the passing of his colleague and friend who will be remembered as a man who dedicated his life to public service. Dr Rowley mourns the loss of a patriot and son of the soil. May God bring comfort and strength to his loved ones.”

The Mayaro-born Khan, a petroleum geologist, was politically active since 2002 with PNM under late leader Patrick Manning.

PNM deputy leader Joan Yuille-Williams, who “discovered” Khan with the assistance of the late Vernon Gilbert, explained that Gilbert was expected to be PNM’s Mayaro election candidate but was unable due to health issues.

“He recommended Frankie. So I went to Fyzabad, found Frankie and persuaded him to assist. He knew Mayaro. He agreed to speak to Gilbert and it went from there. Mr Manning was satisfied with him, as was Mayaro constituency,” she said.

“Deep dedication apart, Frankie enjoyed what he did. Sometimes he didn’t feel well, but never allowed that to interfere with his work—he didn’t complain. I spoke to him last week and he was pretty comfortable. We are in grief over his passing, but I know he’ll watch over us and T&T.”

Among those serving with Khan in the Manning PNM, Foreign Affairs Minister Amery Browne stated, “His passing has left a significant void in T&T’s politics. A gentleman and mentor who served country and party consistently. Never one to utter crude words or personal attacks across the aisle, Frankie was a voice of moderation, calm, stability and respect, reason, rationality.

“He was a leader in the Upper House in every sense of the word. His warm smile, technical strength and measured tones always reflected excellent standards of what it means to serve one’s nation. He was the most capable, calm source of excellent advice with a worldview anchored by his love of family and humanity. I count myself blessed to have served several periods at the side of this quiet giant.”

Members of the Manning family mourned for “the loss of a gentle giant whose intelligence was inspiring and a guiding light to all.”

No Energy successor yet

Apart from Ministers Clarence Rambharat and Kazim Hosein, who had conversations with Khan last Friday, Social Development’s Donna Cox also did.

She said, “He was a mentor to me so I’d call him at times to chat. (Friday) was one of those days, it was probably the longest we ever spoke on the phone…a long talk. We ended up talking about the Senate, the party, macroeconomics, the country. I thank God for having had the opportunity to serve and learn from him.

“T&T has lost a dedicated, hard-working, committed and intelligent politician. A fair, supportive man who always gave me sound advice.”

Communication Minister Symon de Nobriga–among those who got vaccinated yesterday–said there had been no conversations yet on who would be appointed Energy Minister.

Khan’s death was double sadness yesterday, occurring on the day of Prince Philip’s funeral in England. BBC presenters cited T&T’s presence among representatives of other countries outside St George’s chapel.

His contributions were laudable—Opposition

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said, “I was saddened to learn of the passing of Mr Franklin Khan, Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs. Mr Khan dedicated much of his life in service to his country, and his contributions over a period of almost two decades as a Member of Parliament, a Minister of Government in varying capacities in two PNM administrations and as a Senator, are laudable.

“On behalf of the United National Congress and my own behalf, I offer sincere condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of Mr Franklin Khan. I pray they can find peace and comfort during this difficult time. May he rest in peace.”

Tributes with the tears

Franklin Khan chaired the PNM from 2002 to 2005. He stepped down when faced with alleged charges in 2005 which he was cleared of. He was re-elected in 2010 with the Rowley leadership serving until 2018.

The PNM and general secretary Foster Cummings said Khan worked tirelessly to reshape and prepare the party for governance in 2015 when PNM won general election.

“His warm infectious smile was the foundation upon which many friendships were built. His fatherly counsel to those who served alongside him was highly sought after and deeply appreciated. His political and professional knowledge, his capability and his passion for his country were hallmarks of his legacy of love and service. The People’s National Movement is tremendously grateful to his family for sharing Frankie with us and with the national community. We pray for the Khan family. Thank you, farewell Franklin Khan, a good and faithful servant. Your work here is done.”

PNM WOMEN’S LEAGUE/CHAIRWOMAN CAMILLE ROBINSON-REGIS: “I considered him my friend. His heart and soul was PNM from childhood. Party and members were his family after his devotion to his wife, Laura, children and grandchildren. He was caring, well respected and loved for his commitment and sage advice. He devoted his life to service with humility. He’s remembered for his affable, unassuming manner and for being one of the most approachable politicians in T&T.”

ATTORNEY GENERAL FARIS AL-RAWI: “He was a statesman of unique measure—an astute charming man who exemplified clean heartedness and compassion. He communicated firstly with that infectious smile and secondly with his spirit. Technocrat, politician, leader, fighter, leader, mentor, husband, proud father and even more proud grandfather he balanced life for decades in service to the people. I deeply cherish the many years I was privileged to work alongside Frankie and for the mentorship he so selflessly provided.”

AGRICULTURE MINISTER CLARENCE RAMBHARAT: “I’m shaken…shocked. I’ve lost a good friend. We spoke at length (Friday), partly about Mayaro. He laughed and laughed.”

LOCAL GOVERNMENT MINISTER KAZIM HOSEIN: “He dedicated his life to public service—a true representation of dedicated service and good governance. He has undoubtedly left an undeniable mark on the political landscape of T&T.

“I fondly remember our many conversations from political interactions in Manning era even up to (Friday night). He was a mentor—my friend and brother in service, I’ll truly miss our conversations and those wonderful moments of laughter. You were indeed a visionary.”

THE ENERGY MINISTRY: “During his tenure as the Minister, Senator Khan accomplished a multitude of feats for the Ministry’s benefit and ultimately, the country. These accomplishments included the successful restructuring of Petrotrin. In 2018 Minister Khan was an integral part of Government’s Empowered Negotiating Team, which undertook negotiations with Shell and BP to address the issue of revenue leakage in the LNG sector. Under Minister Khan’s leadership, the Ministry embarked on the first large-scale renewable energy project in the country.”

EX UNC MP DR FUAD KHAN: “I knew Frankie since 1995. He was always a soft-spoken, genuine person. Unlike members of my party, he was always supportive of me. People don’t understand the stresses of politics is worse when you’re a minister and particularly with a ministry like Energy, it can kill anyone.”

PNM CHAIRMAN (2006/2010), NOW NGC CHAIRMAN CONRAD ENILL: “I’m shocked and saddened at the news of his untimely passing. The loss to the energy sector, oil and gas industry and T&T is immense. Franklin was committed to seeing through the energy sector’s current challenges. He provided steadfast leadership through past and present challenges and his unwavering commitment was immeasurable.”

PNM’S TOBAGO COUNCIL: “Minister Khan’s contribution to the party and T&T’s development will forever be part of his legacy. We lost a true patriot who will be remembered for his enduring service to country he was always willing to listen and encourage others. There’s so much we can learn from him even through tough times with his legal battles. He was always pleasant with his unique smile and showed much tenacity

HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY CHIEF SECRETARY ANCIL DENNIS: “Khan wasn’t simply a politician, but someone who spent most of his life contributing to T&T’s progress and development.”

PNM YOUTH LEAGUE: “He dedicated his life to serving people. His sterling contributions to social policies and community development were instrumental in shaping Local Government reform. He was a statesman at heart. His warm and infectious smile was his personal way of greeting everyone, sharing his positive attitude towards life with all. The League’s Executive would have had the distinct advantage to experience and witness the leadership of Uncle Frankie, an excellent role model for young people..farewell to a selfless servant of the people.”

EX PNM GENERAL SECRETARY ASHTON FORD: “We worked together in a very difficult period including when PNM was in Opposition and when his court matter was won and he withstood that. A true T&T patriot, always humble–he left his mark on the PNM and country.”

PNM’S TOCO-SANGRE GRANDE UNIT: “That’s we boy! A past student of North Eastern College and long-standing friend to our constituency he pushed through many obstacles whilst serving, representing and defending our beloved nation. Sir, we salute you, your dedication was second to none. You’ve been steadfast in your resolve, you’ve smiled through every form of adversity and never once forgot that you came from the rural parts of T&T…You’ll be missed dearly.”

TOCO-VALENCIA COUNCILLOR TERRY RONDON: “He was always there for me, giving political advice, calling to find out how things were going. PNM’s lost a great man…to his family, I’m always there for you.” (GA)