No PM Jack
By ANDRE BAGOO Saturday, August 18 2012
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NOT ME: Minister of National Security, Jack Warner, speaking yesterday in parliament. He pledged never to become Prime Minister ...
NATIONAL Security Minister and UNC chairman, Jack Warner, yesterday declared in Parliament that he does not, did not and will never have any aspirations to become prime minister, as he launched an attack on critics and political opponents.
“I Jack Warner never had an aspiration to become Prime Minister of this country. I don’t have now, and I will not have tomorrow, or ever,” Warner said, speaking during a debate in Parliament on anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism measures.
“That is now on Hansard; so on the platform, talk about something else, alright?” he said, looking at the Opposition.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at a political rally recently alleged a plan for Warner to become Prime Minister, and for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to be made President.
Warner, speaking for the first time in Parliament in his capacity as Minister of National Security, sought to lash back at critics, and to dismiss those who have called for him to account for the findings of an international court in relation to his past football activities. Also, the bribery allegations involving former FIFA presidential candidate Mohammed Bin Hammam.
Warner made no explicit mention of any of this, but threw jabs at Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and the PNM executive for publishing advertisements calling for his removal after the Court of Arbitration for Sport said he was an “unreliable witness” and had administered a secret football bank account while he was Works Minister.
Warner said yesterday’s debate of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago and Anti-Terrorism) Bill 2012 could have happened in September, but the Government was doing it for reasons of “efficiency” before then. (In fact, Cabinet sources hope to pass the bill in order to make a good impression on a visiting team of international inspectors due here by the end of the month.)
Even as he spoke on the bill, he seemed to focus more on defending his reputation and attacking the Opposition for criticising him over football affairs. “I sleep very well at night,” he assured at one point.
Warner sparred with Opposition Chief Whip, Marlene Mc Donald over Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley. Warner, once more, criticised Rowley, alleging that he had failed to open up the Diego Martin West constituency office to offer assistance to flood-victims affected by last weekend’s disaster. But McDonald, getting hot under the collar, rose in defence of her leader, who was absent from the chamber.
“You close your office,” Warner said of Rowley. “Not even a toffee or sweet offered. You take out a full-page advertisement about me but not even one about Olympic gold medallist, Keshorn Walcott.” Mc Donald interrupted on a point of clarification.
“You have said a number of things about the member for Diego Martin West, who is not here to defend himself,” she said. “On Sunday morning I met the member for Diego Martin West at his office where I brought a lot of hampers for him to distribute. I think you have to be careful in making these flippant statements.”
Warner retorted, “You may call them flippant, but I call them the facts. For the whole of Saturday night I put a camera to take pictures. And for the whole of Saturday night it is black, black, black. I have a picture big so (gesturing). It black like me because the place close!”
Rowley could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon. The phone-line to his constituency office was busy for hours.
Of the legislation, he said, “what we came to do here today is tidy-up your job. We are taking steps to correct the bill which we found deficient, and which we inherited.”
Warner said $38 billion was diverted into the Caribbean every year, according to some estimates, for money-laundering. He said some casinos fund politicians.
“These casinos pay the bills of some politicians; political meetings; and some politician’s airline tickets, and some of the salaries of politicians,” Warner said. He noted that a team of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will be arriving on August 27 to August 30 to determine if this country is in compliance with anti-money-laundering rules.
“Let the FATF come,” Warner said. “When the FATF comes nobody on this side has any cause to run.” The Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald added, “neither on this side!”