PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s refusal to dismiss embattled Works Minister Austin “Jack” Warner from government has drawn criticism from Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley.
On Monday, Rowley said the cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar on Sunday night was insignificant since she has refused to act on Warner, who is embroiled in a scandal over the election of a new president for the International Football Federation (FIFA).
“Mr. Warner’s personal conduct has dragged the people and the name of Trinidad and Tobago into international odium,” Rowley told a news conference, adding that the Prime Minister had “arrogantly turned away from the advice” given to her to dismiss Warner.
When she announced the Cabinet reshuffle, the Prime Minister split Warner’s Works and Transport Ministry and appointed the former chairman of the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) Devant Maharaj to the newly created post of Minister of Transport.
There have been widespread calls for the Prime Minister to dismiss Warner, following the bribery scandal that engulfed FIFA.
Warner resigned his position as vice president of the world football governing body as a result of the controversy that followed allegations that he and former FIFA presidential candidate, Mohamed Bin Hammam, had offered US$40,000 to national associations of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) at a meeting in Trinidad, in return for their votes in the FIFA presidential election on June 1. Both men have denied the allegation.
Persad-Bissessar has said she would stand by Warner, who is also the chairman of the United National Congress (UNC), the leading member of the governing People’s Partnership coalition.
“The call was clarion clear that he should not have been appointed a minister,” Rowley said, noting that after the prima facie evidence had emerged from the FIFA Ethics Committee, Warner had indicated a love for Trinidad and Tobago.
He insisted the call for Warner’s removal is “not negotiable,” adding “I have no personal vendetta against Mr. Warner, but he has blotted his copy book”.
The opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) has already written to Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs asking for a probe into whether or not the nation’s laws were broken when the alleged bribe took place in Trinidad.
Gibbs has said that he is awaiting a response from FIFA to his request for further information.