TWO WEEKS ago today Jack Warner, the crafty politician with seemingly abundant energy and a capacity for springing political surprises, announced that he would initiate legal action against Barbados’ retired chief justice, Sir David Simmons for, as he claimed, slandering his reputation in a report commissioned by Concacaf.
After retaining his Chaguanas West parliamentary seat by a second landslide it was expected that Mr Warner would give priority attention to vindicating himself from the claims of fraudulent management of Concacaf’s financial affairs.
Not so. The wily, go-getting high profile former cabinet colleague of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is behaving as if contemptuous of public opinion regarding corruption claims in the Concacaf Ethics Committee report submitted by Sir David in his capacity as chairman of that body at a meeting in Panama a few months ago.
Instead, Mr Warner seems obsessed with his vision of humiliating Trinidad and Tobago’s two traditional political thoroughbreds — the United National Congress (UNC) and People’s National Movement (PNM). He has been conjuring images of sweeping victories by his overnight Independent Liberal Party (IPL) across ethnic and party lines, even in strongholds of both major parties at local government elections expected this October.
Well, as Michael Harris, my fellow Express columnist and well known commentator on national and regional affairs wrote on Monday in his piece headlined, “In the wake of Chaguanas West”, Warner may well be chasing a mirage in focusing on local government elections this year.
Harris, who has been quite objective in his articles on Mr Warner, the recent Chaguanas West by-election, and the possibility of his victory being a “game-changer” in local electoral politics, noted that Mr Warner’s weeks-old IPL is not yet even a party.
“It has no constitution, no structure, no plans, no programme and few members.” Harris surmised that without the expected (local government) elections “party-building is going to be a long and arduous road and Mr Warner is emphatically not interested in any organic growth. And this is precisely why the Government is now seeking to postpone the local government elections.”
So much for rumblings and strategies in relation to local government elections this year. For now, I return to the issue raised earlier about Mr Warner’s strange failure to pursue as a priority legal action against Sir David for alleged slander.
In this column on July 30, the day after the by-election, I had observed that “Warner, a redoubtable politician with lots of money, who has been dogged by allegations of corrupt private dealings, has never been found guilty in any court of law of financial malpractices…
“What is also true,” I wrote, “is that his resignation from Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s cabinet as Minister of National Security became unavoidable once the report into financial irregularities, authorised by Concacaf, was released by the federation’s Ethics Committee…” That same day, Mr Warner told the local media that he had “instructed a team of lawyers” to initiate legal proceedings against (Sir David) Simmons, and deemed the Concacaf Integrity Committee report as “flawed” (Express, August 4).
Well, I have contacted Sir David and though he was reluctant to offer any public comment, one thing is quite clear. As of yesterday the former Barbados chief justice of some eight years with a distinguished legal practice in criminal and civil law, and who was integrally involved in arrangements for the creation of the Caribbean Court of Justice, had received no communication whatsoever relating to Mr Warner’s threat of legal action against him.
However, while Mr Warner appears to be expediently playing footsie with this very sensitive issue of much national, regional and international interest, those anxious enough can access the Ethics Committee’s report on the Concacaf website.