Filth on our hands

 

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Category: Profiles 07 Jun 15
 

Before we swoop down like corbeaux to pick at the carcass of the reputation of Jack Warner with the hypocrisy of the self righteous (as we do—oh how we love a lynching. Oh how good it makes us feel about ourselves— oh how it helps to distract us from our own infractions, our own little sneaky ways of getting around the law in a small banana republic that operates on getting away with as much as we can, on keeping the dial on a delicately balanced mediocrity, on idolising a smart man). Before we get the gloves out, let us hang our heads in SHAME. Yes, that was capitalised on purpose. It’s my Shame, it’s your Shame, it’s our collective Shame.

On May 28, Jack Warner surrendered to the fraud squad to face an arrest warrant issued at the request of US authorities, which filed corruption charges against him and 13 others tied to international football.

Charges included ‘racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy’. The US Department of Justice charged them with “hijacking” international football to run “a World Cup of fraud” to line their pockets by US$150m.

Warner was arrested alongside eight senior current or former Fifa officials—including Fifa vice-presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo. Jack Warner spent a night in jail. Jack Warner appeared in court in Port-of Spain, where a judge read eight counts against him and then set bail at 2.5m TT dollars (US$395,000).

Jack Warner was made to surrender his passport and report to police twice a week. Who is this man and what does he say about us? Instead of crowding around the lynching party, we should all hang our heads in shame. Jack Warner, a son of the soil, a man born in Rio Claro in 1943, brought up alongside two brothers by a single mother, Stella. A man who won a small scholarship from Trinidad Clay Brothers after which he attended Presentation College in Chaguanas.

A self-made man who after attending Teachers’ Training College graduated with a BA and earned a diploma in International Relations from the University of the West Indies. A man, who in 1972 taught at the Northeastern College while lecturing in UWI in sociology, and the Polytechnic Institute till 1993.

His tactical brilliance (and some other smart man attributes besides) took him from being a teacher to secretary of the T&T Football Association (TTFA), to president of the Caribbean Football Union, to the chairman of Joe Public Football Club, to T&T’s Professional Football League, to Fifa vice president and Concacaf president.

He resigned from those offices in 2011 after facing corruption and bribery charges from Fifa's ethics committee. Jack Warner today is at the centre of the US Department of Justice's investigation into Fifa.

In 1998, Warner purchased the Scarlet Ibis Hotel in St Augustine for $6 million (TT), which he renovated and renamed the Emerald Apartments and Plaza. He also owns Kantac Plaza in Arouca. He may well have earned it.

In 2002, after global media publications alleged he made a profit of US$350,000 selling 2002 Fifa World cup tickets via a family-owned travel company Simpaul, a red flag was raised. Exposés from local journalists in 2005 led to Warner being hauled up before the Fifa ethics committee that concluded Warner ‘abused’ his position to obtain personal benefits and failed to declare business interests.

In a report submitted to Fifa in March 2006, Fifa estimated that Warner's family had made a profit of at least $1 million from reselling 2006 World Cup tickets, that Warner had directly ordered or sold on behalf of the TTFA. He was ordered to pay a hefty fine to Fifa that he failed to do despite repeated reminders.

After that, Warner became a political star. In 2007, we elected him as chairman and co-leader of the United National Congress. We then elected him as the MP for Chaguanas.

In May 2010, when the then PM Patrick Manning called a snap election we re-elected him AGAIN. We re-elected Jack Warner in Chaguanas West with the highest national vote total. We made him Works and Transport Minister, who ironically described the former government as the “most corrupt ever” and pledged to enforce hanging for death row prisoners.

The then attorney general Anand Ramlogan responding to queries from the Opposition Leader Keith Rowley defended Warner. He said as Warner did not receive a salary from Fifa, and ‘Trinidad benefits from Warner’s appointment’ conflict was unlikely.’

We made Warner act as prime minister at least once during this period. We made him the minister of national security. In 2011, Jack Warner resigned as Fifa’s vice president and Concacaf president after facing corruption and bribery charges from Fifa's ethics committee. A damning videotape of the disciplinary process emerged.

Jack Warner was not fired. The videotape was simply filed away. In 2013, a political fallout with the UNC Warner resigned as chairman of the United National Congress on April 22, 2013, and resigned as MP for Chaguanas West four days later, triggering a by-election in his constituency.

What did we do then? We voted him in again. Warner formed a new political party, the Independent Liberal Party (ILP). We voted him in again. He won the by-election for Chaguanas West in 2013.

Jack Warner is not an aberration but a symptom of our society. We all have filth on our hands.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur