What was Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar thinking?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

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BY our laws, a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and so we express no opinion on the question of Mr Jack Warner's innocence or guilt.

But we can ask what was the political thinking of Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar when she forged a close political alliance with Mr Warner for the general election of 2010, after persistent public allegations about his conduct in the affairs of CONCACAF and FIFA, leading to his resignation from posts in both organisations.

Although he had not been formally charged or convicted of any crime, there was certainly enough smoke for any reasonable person to surmise that there may be some fire. In such a situation, why would a politically astute and seasoned politician take the risk of close association with Mr Warner?

What was Mrs Persad-Bissessar thinking when she allowed him to become chairman of the United National Congress (UNC) Alliance? Was it the fact that Mr Warner is an Afro-Trinidadian and could racially balance the Indo-Trinidadian UNC party?

Further, it begs the question what was the prime minister thinking when she appointed Mr Warner minister of works and transport in 2010? He continued in the post even after he had to resign from his top positions in FIFA and CONCACAF in 2011 under a barrage of accusations of fraud and misconduct.

What was she thinking when she appointed him minister of national security in 2012? As national security minister, Mr Warner could potentially have had access to the files that the police had on him and be privy to the co-operation between the law enforcement bodies of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago as they cooperated with US authorities in the FIFA investigations.

Was Mr Warner a financial contributor to the campaign of 2010 that brought the UNC to power? The prime minister denied that she received any money from him to fund either her own or the UNC election campaigns.

The questions we have raised demand answers of someone we know as a person of mature years, a lawyer, University of the West Indies graduate and an experienced politician who is capable of sober thinking. The proof of that is in her becoming leader of the UNC, her victory as head of the PPP coalition over Mr Patrick Manning and the PNM and becoming the first woman prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

What was she thinking? Perhaps we will know when Mr Warner takes off the "political gloves" and tells his side of the story. In the meantime, Mrs Persad-Bissessar has distanced herself from him.

The lesson in all of this is that politicians must be held to the highest standards of integrity. Mr Warner will have his day in court. But it is eminently good sense that, until the smoke clears, State positions of such crucial importance should not be occupied by anyone with a cloud over his or her head.

As Jamaica approaches the next general election, let us as a nation keep this firmly in mind.

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