“The happiest time of my life, is when I am able to make a difference in someone’s life. I live for those opportunities. They allow me and those I help to appreciate the value of life even more.”
This was the quote that Matthew Pierre now carries with him, that was relayed to him by the late Franklin Khan.
“He lived the life of helping people, trying to make impact on people’s lives in a positive way,” said Pierre, who was Khan’s assistant during his stint as Member of Parliament for Ortoire/Mayaro from 2002 to 2007.
He had won the seat on third attempt, after losing to Winston Gypsy Peters twice previously in the 2000 and 2001 General Elections.
His time as MP changed a dynamic that had not been seen in the community for some time according to the People National Movement’s Mayaro constituency chairman Clifford Campbell as the constituency had a representative for the area who still lived there.
“He would have brought back a sense of a resident representative because in the past we would have suffered,” said Campbell directly referring to the tenures of Keith Sobion and Selwyn Richardson, who both won the seat while not living in the area.
“Of course they had roots in the area but they weren’t actually living there. In Frankie’s case he eventually moved to Moka but he had built a home here and he was often here moving around the community,” he said.
This ability to relate with the common folk, was something that even his political opponents acknowledged.
“As Member of Parliament for Mayaro, Franklin Khan attempted to utilise his home-grown background with his familiarity in the energy sector to service the constituency,” said Rushton Paray, the current Mayaro MP.
Paray however felt despite his willingness to stay among the people of Mayaro, his duties perhaps did not allow him to be around the constituency enough.
“He remained a pleasant person but his city-based duties kept him away from the people he represented,” said the UNC MP, “Constituents will remember him as easy-going and friendly, but regretted that he was unable to provide the transformative representation they had anticipated.”
The transformations may not have happened under Khan, but according to Campbell, he was the catalyst for some the changes seen.
“As far as developmental, I know he would have pressured the oil companies in the area, National Energy in particular with respect to the advancement of Point Galeota, so I know that was one of his initiatives as well as the establishment of the NEC trade school in Mayaro to the benefit of the local youths in the area who qualified and were able to go to that training institution to acquire skills,” said Campbell, who pointed to other projects such as the completion of the Fire Station in Mayaro in which Khan was very involved.
“Some of those planned projects may have come to fruition when he was not Minister of Works so he would not have gotten the kudos,” he said.
Campbell noted that many of these plans were acted on after Khan was prompted to step down due to allegations of corruption in public office which surfaced in 2005. Allegations which, he would later be cleared of years later.
Pierre and Campbell both recalled that during his time as Minister of Works, Khan embarked on extensive road improvement works in the area.
“There were a number of road improvements projects, that would have stretched back in the day Ortoire Mayaro stretching from Guayguayare to Moruga,” said Campbell, “So of course the entire constituency there would have been road improvements albeit not akin to a highway but generally improvements in the condition of roadways and stuff. Especially into Moruga.”
Campbell also recalled Khan’s plans which would have transformed Mayaro to a tourism destination similar to Oistin’s, a fishing village in Barbados which has become a popular tourist attraction. Campbell lamented that this was only now coming into being with the growing popularity of the Ducky’s and other private entities emerging in the area.
Another long time political opponent of Khan, Mayaro regional corporation chairman Raymond Cozier said there were few legacy projects in Mayaro that can be directly traced to Franklin Khan, but he did help a lot of people in the community.
“He would have helped plenty people in all different ways, he would have help some people get jobs, he would have help people get houses, a lot of different personal things,” said Cozier, who was Gypsy’s campaign manager in the early 2000 when Khan contested the Ortoire/Mayaro seat.
Pierre however said Khan was far from an absent MP, noting that he did his best to manage a major Ministerial portfolio along with a large constituency.
“What I could say is that he serve his constituency religiously. Ortoire/Mayaro is a constituency that stretch from Mayaro Guayguayare straight into Moruga Barrackpore. And every day of each week of the month, which is a Thursday. He had four offices one in Mayaro, one in Rio Claro, one in St Mary’s and one in Basseterre Moruga and he would go every Thursday to an office to hear the concerns of the people,” he said. “He was not an MP who was missing in action. Issues would range from housing, people who want housing. He is responsible for assisting a lot of people who got a house in Plaisance in Mayaro.”
And even when he was not in office, he could be approached by people in the street, Pierre said.
“He was approachable to anybody could have come to him and during the period you would always see him in Mayaro moving around in a short pants walking around talking to people, the normal people or casual people on the street,” said Pierre, who having served as councillor for 14 years is currently a Community Liaison Officer for BPTT.
Khan’s sudden death may have once again denied him the opportunity to see a legacy project in Mayaro directly connected to him come to fruition.
“The Quick Shoppe in Mayaro, the NP, the Gas station which is 24 hours that is close to completion he would have opened that,” said Pierre, “he turned the sod and he would have been directly instrumental even though he was not the MP as the Minister of Energy he saw the need because of Mayaro being a destination for local tourism and he saw the need, we have one gas station here and he saw the need to bring that gas station to Mayaro.”
“I would say is something that is super critical and crucial to tourism and people to Mayaro to be part of the hospitality and tourism industry that he ensure in his latter days here that that came to Mayaro,” Pierre said.