A ‘hit the road, Jack’ moment

If Jack Warner, Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of works, had any class (“integrity” would throw us into laughing-stock territory), he would walk and spare Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s government the embarrassment of enduring yet another of the scandals her administration has sprung, geyser-like, since taking office. It was (or should have been) obvious to all that when Warner resigned earlier this year from his cushy FIFA position, it was all about saving his bacon in the aftermath of the bribery scheme he had allegedly worked with similarly disgraced Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.

There’s simply too much detritus that has long surrounded Warner’s name for his pretentious line, when he quit his powerhouse football post, about opting to serve the people of Trinidad and Tobago, to have been swallowed whole by any but sycophants. Now, it looks like Warner’s attempt at a preemptive strike, in disengaging from FIFA, may have been check-mated by who knows which member(s) of an extensive enemies/victims list the guy has amassed. The release recently of incriminating video showing Warner as signal-caller, lecturing Caribbean football rep’s about the $40,000 “gifts” being parceled out to them to support bin Hammam’s FIFA presidential bid, would appear to have this artful dodger dead to rights.

In the face of what looks to be incontrovertible evidence, Warner offered some horseradish about the video having been “doctored.” The doctoring action is something about which Warner presumably knows a thing or two, he having famously been party to use of an obviously doctored crowd image in a political advertisement a few years ago. Back then, it was part of Warner’s determined effort to rise, by any means necessary, to a position of political significance in Trinidad and Tobago. Today, having last year arrived at that political promised land, there’s no stopping the man…at least, so he must evidently believe.

His hubris not about to take a holiday, Warner continues with his “guilty of no wrongdoing” routine. And further, he even got front and center the other day in demanding the resignation of the chairman of the country’s Integrity Commission, no less. Talk about in-your-face pompous! Clearly, the guy feels that given his fat wallet, his “big daddy” role in getting the governing party to the finish line last year, his having allegedly orchestrated Persad-Bissessar’s wresting the party leadership from Basdeo Panday and the space he reportedly occupies as a peerless heavyweight in the government, he has earned, and reserves the right to flaunt, “untouchable” status.

Even when, following news breaking of the bribery scandal and Warner’s FIFA resignation, the writing was unavoidably on the wall, the prime minister was obviously determined to do nothing about the stamp of disrepute Warner represented for her administration. Having now seen the new damning evidence of Warner’s complicity in skullduggery, Persad-Bissessart announced she had passed it on to the attorney general for him to advise, as she quaintly put it, whether there was “anything to be concerned about.” What, exactly, does that mean? A wild guess: The prime minister meant to ask whether this latest cloud over Warner had exhausted all bob-and-weave possibilities.

Bad luck for Persad-Bissessar and her crew, Warner’s performance with the Caribbean football people is video that went viral, after it was released by the Telegraph in Britain. Lots of folk are now hip to this particular bit of “dirty tricks” maneuvering from a guy who supposedly is some kind of past master at this stuff. The prime minister‘s handing off of the implicating evidence to the government’s chief lawyer was perhaps her own best stalling maneuver. But this is the second time around for her government resorting to wrapping a Jack Warner issue in legalese, when conventional standards of acceptable conduct on the part of a public official are all that ought apply. That Warner was allowed to become a cabinet minister while insisting on keeping his gig as FIFA vice president was the original pirouette. In the instant matter, Persad-Bissessar knows as well as any other Joe Blow who has seen and heard Warner in his element, that he has no business holding any ministerial portfolio.

It would be at once laughable and pathetic if the “hardest working minister” subterfuge Warner has engaged in were allowed to influence the course of what’s to be done here. His Johnny-on-the-spot grandstanding as works minister, even if commingled with a certain amount of legitimately needed public service activity, is faint justification for giving a pass to anyone as steeped as Warner is in behavior that has so contemptibly betrayed the public trust.

Which leads back to the class thing about this guy. Nothing we’ve seen from Warner suggests he would do the honorable thing at this juncture. It’s pretty safe to assume he would still be a FIFA big cheese had there not been a falling axe that bore his name. Maybe a common refrain among his supporters that, “We know he’s crooked but…” has also fed into the sense of impregnability he readily projects. Which is all very well for an ego-tripping Warner, but could be every bit a doomsday scenario for the prime minster, if she is fool enough to be sucked into fluff that camouflages the real issue she can no longer defer.

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