PORT-OF-SPAIN: Former national security minister Austin “Jack” Warner launched his Independent Liberal Party (ILP) last Friday evening in a bid to be retained as the parliamentary representative for the Chaguanas West constituency in Central Trinidad.
However, in an immediate response, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told supporters of her ruling United National Congress (UNC) that Warner’s move was designed “to bring down your duly elected government”.
Warner resigned his post as both a government minister and parliamentary representative following the release of a CONCACAF Integrity Report that accused him of fraud.
The report accused Warner of using deceptive methods to secure funds from CONCACAF and FIFA, as well as induce FIFA to transfer funds earmarked for development purposes to bank accounts he controlled.
Warner has questioned the procedure used to gather the information for the report, describing it as flawed. He resigned his seat in parliament and told supporters he needed a fresh mandate from his constituents. But Warner, 70, was bypassed in favour of Khadijah Ameen, 32, who is also acting chairman of the ruling party, a post Warner also vacated in April.
Persad-Bissessar said that Warner had his eyes not only on Chaguanas West but the entire country, hence the formation of the party.
“It is not just for Chaguanas West, it is an attempt to bring down your duly elected government. Mark my words,” she told supporters Friday night, questioning whether her former cabinet colleague would now put up candidates against the UNC to contest the upcoming local government election.
In his address to supporters, Warner said the symbol of the new party was the sugarcane next to an oil rig, enshrined by two circles.
“The sugarcane represents our coming together from Africa and India and conjuring up images of the struggle from slavery to indentureship from which we have been emancipated and remains a solid remainder that never again will we be enslaved physically, mentally or politically,” he said.
Warner said sugarcane and the oil rig represented the struggle and tears of the people of Chaguanas West.
“The oil is the bloodline of our economy…and with sugarcane, the message is our history will not be forgotten,” said Warner.
Warner said the party’s colour, green, embodied ideas associated with fertility, life and growth. He said green also “symbolizes a people who are well balanced, in harmony and are of a sound mind and represents good judgment and morality”.
Warner said after the July 29 by-election, he plans to formally apply, on behalf of the ILP, to become a full-fledged partner in the coalition People’s Partnership government.
The UNC is the biggest partner in the three-member coalition government that came to power in 2010.
However, Warner was also critical of some members of the government saying they had changed since getting into office.
“Before 2010, they used to walk the streets among you. In those days they used to give you their phone numbers…and waved to you and your children. Today, they move around in chauffeur-driven high-priced SUVs and cars, some bought and some leased, their faces are no longer friendly, their humility is gone.
“Their children are no longer going to the same schools as yours, their telephone numbers have changed, and if by chance you get it, the only way you can communicate with them is by text. That is not the change you voted for on May 24, 2010, but that is the representation they want to offer you now in Chaguanas West.”
Warner said the government officials had become arrogant about the contracts they give to their friends and family who never supported the UNC while it was in opposition and who were now benefitting more than “the members and supporters”.