The very things that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was warned about and came up with sterling defences for, with respect to former minister Jack Warner, are the same things she is now seeing “as terrible” and citing as reasons for not selecting him to carry the party’s banner in the Chaguanas West by-election.
So said Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in an interview with the Express yesterday.
The Prime Minister, speaking at the United National Congress (UNC) Monday Night Forum at Vishnu Boys’ Hindu School, said Warner refused to travel on Government business and had too many controversies hanging over his head to be chosen as the UNC candidate.
His imbroglio with FIFA and the “Flying Squad” were two of the issues which she said haunted the former national security minister.
She said Warner admitted that both he and his family were the subject of an enquiry by the Government of the United States into a range of corporate white collar criminal offences under federal jurisdiction in the US.
“While he sat in the Cabinet as the national security minister he refused to travel on Government business on several occasions. These included matters where the minister of national security would have been required to attend, whether it be in Washington, Toronto, New York and even Haiti,” the Prime Minister noted.
“I am not prepared to burden you with a candidate with all these issues unresolved,” she added.
Rowley responded: “Nothing she (the Prime Minister) is saying to us is news about Jack Warner. It is confirmation to us about her irresponsible conduct as Prime Minister.”
Rowley said all the things which he raised about Warner, and which the Prime Minister did not see as a problem before, she was now pointing to potential embarrassment to the Government and people of this country.
“The Prime Minister is not fooling anybody in this country. Every finger she points at Jack Warner now on any of those issues, she as Prime Minister is personally responsible for having burdened the country with the stress of Jack Warner during this period because she was his biggest defender. She was the only person who could have appointed him to the Cabinet and she did not only appoint him to the Cabinet but, in the face of objections, she promoted him to National Security Minister.
“All these things she is raising about Jack Warner now, that she was vigorously defending (before), had Sir David Simmons (head of Concacaf’s integrity committee) not done FIFA’s work we would still have had Jack Warner because remember, she is telling her supporters ‘I didn’t fire him, he voluntarily left’.”
Rowley said if Warner didn’t leave voluntarily the Prime Minister would still happily have him in her Cabinet.
On the issue of Warner’s travel, Rowley recalled that he raised the issue of Warner being unable to travel at a public meeting in St James last year.
He said Warner said yes, he could travel and that he had gone to New York for a lime. Rowley said his office had contacted the President’s office to find out if Warner had left the country and the President’s office replied that it had no information about him leaving the country and there was no record of anyone being put to act for him.
“Once a minister is in post, as long as he leaves Trinidad and Tobago territorial waters, there has to be a replacement for him,” Rowley said.
Rowley said he had then asked the Prime Minister to state whether he left the country without informing her and/or without a replacement being put for him. She said the Prime Minister never responded to those matters.
“So what is she talking about now?” he said.
Rowley recalled that when there was the Caricom meeting in Haiti, held to treat with regional security issues, the Prime Minister, who was led head of security, attended without Warner “even though his job required him to be in Haiti”.
“She is now telling us why. But when we queried it, she sat there and heard him tell us that he was staying here to fight crime,” the PNM leader said, adding: “The man couldn’t even go Tobago fuss he was scared to go up in the air.
“She is now confirming to us what we know all along—that he was afraid to leave the country.
“She is now talking about his troubles at FIFA. Since when she had a problem with Jack Warner’s troubles at FIFA. ... They (the Government) were taking the position that that was FIFA’s business in the face of serious evidence and concerns. That was their mantra— ‘FIFA business was FIFA business and Government business was Government business’,” the Opposition Leader said.
“As Prime Minister it fell to her to treat with these issues as she is doing now... She chose to defend it...until he walked away voluntarily.”
Rowley said when the issue of Warner’s sons was raised, the Prime Minister said she made “polite enquiries” to find out whether the relatives of any member of her Cabinet were being investigated. “Well, she is no longer being polite now. Is water more than flour now. Is warfare!” Rowley quipped.
Notable Quotes from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar:
The New Flying Squad Investigative Unit
(Statement made to Parliament on March 1, 2013)
“This issue has been attracting widespread public comment, including speculation and generating misleading conclusions by some.
Mr Warner has consistently denied that he was instrumental in establishing any new “flying squad”.
His report to the National Security Council reflected this.
“As chairman of The National Security Council, I wish to emphasise that this course of action was taken at the very first meeting of the NSC upon receipt of written reports from the relevant Government officials.
“Therefore I again repeat that there has been no direct or implied approval ever given by the National Security Council or by the Cabinet for the establishment of any such a unit.
“ I have no knowledge of any such alleged activity. Mr Speaker, I want to make it clear these are allegations and this is why the NSC took the decision to refer it to the Commissioner of Police for investigation.”
The issue of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into Jack Warner and his sons following a story from Reuters News Agency
March 27, 2013
“I will not rely on published reports in the media, but will again seek to get official corroboration of the information now in the public domain before making any determination or pronouncement.
“It would be premature if not prejudicial for me to act without any official clarification or confirmation from the US Authorities on this controversial and sensitive matter. I am committed to upholding the high ethical standards which the public legitimately and rightly expects of my Government, but I am equally mindful that the commitment to the rule of law requires balance and respect for the presumption of innocence.”
Saturday, April 20, 2013:
Following the publication of the Concacaf Integrity Report which accused her then National Security Minister Jack Warner as a “white collar” crimes, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told CNC3 NEWS she was “shocked”.
She said she would like to see the report before making any final judgment.
“Natural justice demands that I see the report first,” she was quoted as saying.
“Should these allegations be true, they tell a tale of a tragic scenario.”
PM’s statement following Warner’s resignation
April 20, 2011
“I have today accepted the offer of resignation of the Minister of National Security, Mr Jack Warner from the Cabinet of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
“I wish to thank Mr Warner for his service to the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago.”