It may not be the kind of information that interests comedian John Oliver or the United States Department of Justice, but disgraced former Vice President of FIFA Jack Warner, who is wanted by US authorities to answer corruption charges, has been making good on his televised promise to reveal damning information that involves the country's People's Partnership government.
As Warner himself said, “the gloves are off” — and Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been at the receiving end. He has claimed that marijuana was allegedly found at Persad-Bissessar's home in south Trinidad two years ago and that there was a subsequent cover-up by public officials.
Having recently announced the date of the country's upcoming general elections as September 7, 2015, Persad-Bissessar has been spinning Warner's first major revelation as silly season propaganda. However, three days after Warner dropped that little bomb, he has come out with supporting evidence in the form of incriminating audio recordings and documents, holding a nearly hour-long press conference to share the details:
"Warner maintains that on Friday, April 12, 2013, when he was the country's minister of national security, Mervyn Richardson advised him that security officers had found a four-ounce packet of marijuana outside a window of the prime minister's residence. Warner called Roodal Moonilal, a minister of parliament whom he describes as the “leader of government business”. Moonilal recommended calling Persad-Bissessar, who was apparently out of the country at the time, though the government, in an effort to discredit Warner's story, says she was not. Warner informed the prime minister of the discovery and says that she was “surprised”, allegedly asking him whether she should return to the country and resign."
In Warner's words, he “prevailed upon her not to do so”. Warner claims that in the end, Moonilal, Richardson and himself would “bury it”; he then informed Captain Gary Griffith, Persad-Bissessar's national security advisor, of the situation. Warner also gave a written statement to journalist Denyse Renne, which was published as part of an investigative story that was published last Sunday.
The country's Dangerous Drugs Act, under the section Burden of Proof and Presumptions, says “if a dangerous drug is found to be concealed in any premises, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proven, that the said drug is so concealed with the knowledge of the occupier of the premises."
In the view of popular satirical website Wired868 though, the crux of the matter “is not so much whether marijuana was found on the Prime Minister’s window sill or under her pillow”:
"It is not just that her former advisor, Gary Griffith, is so dishonest he has to ask Warner’s permission to speak the truth or to help him recognise sincerity in the first place. Or that her closest aide left in the Government, Moonilal, is so fluent in dishonesty it probably qualifies as his first language. But it is that the Police Service is so shamelessly crooked, incompetent and allergic to truth and justice themselves, they might as well join the Partnership and be done with it."
So why reveal all this now? Warner told the press conference that after defending the prime minister at every turn, he felt betrayed that she would turn him over to the US without a second thought:
"Last Friday, I felt I owe it to this country after she announced the date for elections, to expose this teflon prime minister who for five years has fooled me. I felt the truth must be told. And if after all of this the country wishes to reelect her and the People's Partnership, that’s the country’s business, but my conscience will be clear. I am prepared to sacrifice myself today not because I love me less, but because I love Trinidad and Tobago more."
Warner began to produce his evidence — three audio recordings he is using as “proof to show the country who the prime minister is…and who Jack Warner is.” In taped conversations between Captain Griffith and Warner, it is revealed that the prime minister routinely took five-day weekends; Griffith also alludes to other “ammo” that he and Warner have on her. When they discussed the alleged marijuana find, Griffith was intent on trying to clear his name from being involved in the cover-up.
The country's acting commissioner of police confirmed yesterday that marijuana was indeed found at the prime minister's home; a formal investigation has been launched. Social media users, meanwhile, have shared photos of cheques, emails and receipts that Warner released, which incriminate other members of her government. The prime minister has since issued a statement on the allegations, saying she was out of the country at the time “a substance” was found outside her residence and that many staff have access to the grounds:
"Needless to say, I am horrified and disturbed to hear these reports. While the timing of this disclosure is clearly political, I have faith in the police to investigate their own conduct and that of all the law enforcement professionals involved."
Wired868 was having a hard time with the many about-turns the government and police were doing:
"As Warner prepared to reveal Griffith’s uncensored opinion about Tanty Kamla’s love of five day weekends and the chalice at her Philippine palace, everyone suddenly recovered from their marijuana-induced short term memory loss."
[Deputy Police Commissioner] Gould remembered the illicit discovery; and Acting Police Commissioner Williams, who is as bad an actor as he is a policeman, responded by requesting a police probe into the police probe of the police cover-up. Naturally, it will be done by the Trinidad police. And Persad-Bissessar remembered she was indeed out of the country at the time stated and that the joint could have belonged to any one of the dozens of mens [sic] who control her compound. It sounded like something you ought to hear in Taxi Cab Diaries rather than from the Office of the Prime Minister."
Throughout the press conference, Warner refused to take questions from local and international media alike about his alleged football improprieties. He did however, say:
"Now is time for re-election and I am saying Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is unfit to be elected. I can’t hold this back anymore because the public must know. What you have heard here is the tip of the iceberg. I ain't start yet. And if this one thing has caused so much amount of confusion […] what about the second and the third and the fourth? Because there are, and I will tell you all and they could do me what they want because those things are already in the hands of lawyers, all of them except two."
Warner has said that he has been receiving death threats. Curiously, the former FIFA vice president-turned-politician is tying these revelations to his own political events, perhaps a strategic move that he hopes may win him enough public support to keep himself politically relevant for the upcoming general election:
"At every community meeting of the ILP [Independent Liberal Party], I’ll play one of those tapes […] until the country understands that the prime minister is a liar, Richardson is a liar, the commissioner of police is a liar and therefore ask yourself, ‘Why are they lying?’
By Janine Mendes Franco - Global Voices/June 17, 2015
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