Warner should step down
GEORGE ALLEYNE Wednesday, September 12 2012
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WARNER'S FRIEND: Attorney General Anand Ramlogan greets National Security Minister Jack Warner as Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Marlene...
In accordance with long established convention, former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, should step down as a Cabinet Minister until such time as he is cleared of allegations made against him by FIFA et al.
All Cabinet Ministers are governed by this convention. While under Trinidad and Tobago law which was fashioned after United Kingdom law, when this country was a British colony and later adopted on the achieving of independence in 1962, a person is presumed innocent until proved guilty, nevertheless Warner should step down. It should be understood, clearly, that his stepping aside, voluntarily, or his being relieved of his portfolio by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, until such time as matters should be settled in his favour or otherwise, in no way starts off by negating the presumption of innocence.
While constitutional conventions are not legislated rules, it is, nonetheless, accepted that they should not be infringed. In the same manner that Warner, who is Minister of National Security, in commenting on the recent revoking of the appointment of Collin Partap as Minister in the Ministry of National Security, had stressed that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had signalled that no one was above the law, he is almost certain to agree that no one is above established conventions.
An important arm of the People’s Partnership coalition Government, the Congress of the People, indeed its Political Leader, Prakash Ramadhar, had raised the question more than a year ago that the Prime Minister should act with respect to the former FIFA Vice President. And although a motion by the COP’s Vice Chairman, Vernon de Lima, proposing that the PM should relieve Warner of his Cabinet portfolio or the COP would withdraw from the People’s Partnership was defeated on Sunday, there was an amended motion which sought the same thing without the threat of leaving the Government.
COP Political Leader Prakash Ramadhar would say, “We think the moral strength of the argument is strong and we expect the Prime Minister to act in accordance with what is best for Trinidad and Tobago on that matter. We have also asked in that motion (the amended motion) for the police to conclude as speedily as possible any criminal investigations in relation to that Minister.”
There has been a rising, though questionable, tide of argument in some Commonwealth countries, within recent years, that there were conventions which should be viewed as law by the judiciary. The United Kingdom and Canada have been two such places. Although this column is not versed in law, nonetheless because of events in Trinidad and Tobago, one convention which should be binding in law is that a Cabinet Minister who has critically serious allegations levelled against him, should be required to step down until he/she is cleared of the allegations.
Or, failing this, then whoever is Prime Minister should be required to recommend to the President that the Minister’s appointment be revoked.
There would still be the presumption of innocence, however. But what is important is that it should not be the prerogative of any prime minister to decide whether or not the appointment of a Cabinet minister should be revoked.
Meanwhile, the COP has come out of Sunday’s handling of de Lima’s motion as lacking in resolve. Whether or not the party is a minority member of the People’s Partnership coalition Government, it was elected by a relatively substantial number of voters to represent its and the Partnership’s interests. Vernon de Lima’s motion was in keeping with this. Those who voted for the COP were among an even larger group of voters who would have been taken aback by the PM’s clearly dismissive attitude to the long established convention within whose ambit the Warner issue has fallen.
This column wishes to make it clear that although it is not right wing, and the COP is right wing, it still was of the view that the party would have supported, unreservedly, what was inferred by the de Lima motion. In the meantime, Newsday’s Page One headline of Monday, September 10 “De Lima motion defeated, but, COP to PM: DEAL WITH JACK”, effectively conveys COP’s sad story.
The Prime Minister has not acted in accordance with convention on the Jack Warner issue, but the COP instead of adopting a firm stand, as befits an equal member of the coalition Government, pleads with her to “deal with Jack”. No! No! No! Warner should step down from the Cabinet until he is fully cleared of all allegations against him, or the PM should seek the revoking of his Ministerial portfolio.