PORT-OF SPAIN: Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has rejected former national security minister Jack Warner’s contention that she was influenced by some members of the Cabinet to accept his resignation. She said that she is not under anyone’s control.
“I don’t know if it is because I am a woman and people think that I am weak or something, so I was controlled by Warner and I was his puppet, and now they say I am controlled by some other persons,” Persad-Bissessar said at a news conference at Piarco Airport after returning from her official visit to Canada last week. “I want to make it very clear, the only people who control me are those who belong to the electorate, the citizenry of Trinidad & Tobago, no one else.”
Persad-Bissessar said she accepted Warner’s resignation based on the findings of the Sir David Simmons-led CONCACAF Integrity Committee. She explained that her decision to accept the resignation was prompted by the report and Warner’s claim that her decision to accept his resignation was influenced by certain ministers was false and that he was contradicting himself.
Persad-Bissessar said she had read “where Warner says that he voluntarily resigned, but on the other hand he is saying that some ministers forced me, made me accept the resignation”. She said his claim was “an oxymoron because you cannot (say) that you voluntarily did this and then accuse ministers of influencing my mind as to what is to be done”.
The Sir David report, which was made public in Panama on April 19, accused Warner, a former FIFA vice-president, of fraud and corruption during his reign as CONCACAF president and also questioned his ownership of the Centre of Excellence in Macoya, which was built by FIFA funds and donations from other international football organizations. CONCACAF is the body which represents football federations from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Persad-Bissessar also confirmed that this was not the first time Warner offered his resignation. She said he also did so shortly after a Reuters report claimed he was being investigated by the FBI and IRS and that his son was cooperating with U.S. authorities in the probe. She said she advised Warner then to respond to the report.
“He did so then and he said he is willing to resign from any or all of those positions,” said Persad-Bissessar. “At that time I did not accept his resignation because I still held the view that I could not act on newspaper allegations.
“So this was no longer a newspaper report, an opinion of journalists, not that I have anything against those, but every Monday morning somebody makes an allegation. Do I then fire a minister, asking him to step down? We don’t operate like that. I don’t think any government can operate like that because allegations do not represent what may be the reality.”
Persad-Bissessar said she did not understand why Warner refused to state his side of the story when Sir David was conducting his investigation.
“Why didn’t he?” she asked. “If he had further information that was different, I found it a little surprising that he did not use the opportunity to put those forward and perhaps now he has a little more time in which he could put his case on his side to these matters in the public domain.”
Persad-Bissessar said Warner’s resignation as MP was a “party matter”. She said Warner’s announcement to contest the seat on a United National Congress ticket was also a party matter and will be discussed.
She said once the seat was declared vacant, a by-election would have to be called within a 90-day period.
“It is not only an issue about the seat, because we all know Warner as being a very good MP,” said Persad-Bissessar. “He served his constituents but there were other issues which came into the pot and into the mix and those remain not yet dealt with.”