PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s decision to pick up the US$1.3 million (TT$8.2 million) bill owed to the former Soca Warriors was, on her part, a smart political move at an opportune time, political analyst Dr Winford James said yesterday.
James said Persad-Bissessar saw an opportunity to cash in public favour as the 2015 general election looms and her generosity is likely to cast a pall on the character of her former Cabinet minister, Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner—the man accused of denying the Warriors payment since 2006, when they created history by qualifying for the World Cup in Germany.
The money will come from taxpayers’ pockets, which James said yesterday may be “the only problem”.
Ideally, the money should have been paid from a football kitty, he said.
The former Warriors have been embroiled in a legal battle with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) since 2006 over the outstanding payment.
“The fact that she (the Prime Minister) took a decision means that she feels good about it,” James said in a telephone interview.
The Prime Minister acted after sensing an opportune political moment, James said, and with criticism being heaped on her Government over all kinds of perceived corruption, she is now diverting attention to an event that is much more positive.
This is particularly true with the fallout from allegations of massive misappropriation of funds in the LifeSport programme, and a better or more timely gesture could not have been had, James said.
“Lots of people will think it’s a good gesture,” James stated.
“Lots of people identify with the plight of the Soca Warriors and the Prime Minister is now thinking, ‘I am going to have one up on Jack Warner’. And she will.”
James said the shrewd move means Persad-Bissessar will be credited with easing the Soca Warriors’ pain, while Warner’s light will be tinted.
“I think she has done one better than him,” James said. “The only problem is that she is using public funds and not FIFA or Concacaf money.”
James also said the perception that the Prime Minister should be physically present in the country—especially during these times of unrest among public servants in the Immigration division—may be unnecessary.
“She has probably come to the judgment that some of these matters can be taken care of by the relevant institutions or the various courts,” James said.
“The fact is that short of clamping down with a state of emergency, there is little else she can do to help these matters. I don’t know that she has to be here physically to steer the ship. I am sure she is in touch and therefore can lead remotely,” he said.
James said the situation is such that the courts would be the institution to help the State where the closure of Government offices is concerned, as has been happening at the Immigration offices in Port of Spain and San Fernando under the command of the Public Services Association.