The Opposition People's National Movement (PNM) and the Congress of the People (COP), a coalition partner in the People's Partnership, have called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to immediately act in the issue concerning taped statements by Works and Infrastructure Minister Jack Warner. PNM MP Amery Browne said Persad-Bissessar must immediately suspend Warner from the Cabinet and allow a police probe to proceed. COP chairman Joseph Toney, who said he was not at all comfortable with the situation pertaining to Warner, added that the Prime Minister must speak about the issue and the country must be told whether any laws were broken.
The tape was posted on the Internet by London's Telegraph newspaper. In it, Warner allegedly urged fellow Caribbean football officials to accept US$40,000 cash gifts from Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam, a former presidential candidate for world football governing body, FIFA. Warner was at the time speaking at a meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) on May 11 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain. This was before FIFA's presidential elections. The gifts were an alleged payment for CFU members to support bin Hammam's candidacy. Warner was suspended pending investigations into the incident. He subsequently resigned as FIFA vice-president. Warner has admitted to telling the CFU delegates to take the money and use it for development, but he says the tape was doctored.
Yesterday, COP's Toney said: "While Warner is no longer in FIFA that doesn't wipe away everything. "This is not a comfortable situation for the Government or Cabinet and I for one am not at all comfortable with it," he said. "One would hope the matter is cleared up as quickly as possible whether by FIFA, Warner or the Prime Minister. "The country needs to ascertain if any laws were broken, if only to settle this one way or the other...Any action on Warner would be her (PM's) call." PNM's Browne also said: "Warner must be suspended as a government minister and proper investigation done within our shores, taking into consideration the serious allegations made and the evidence that has come to light. "This tape cannot be overlooked using the usual excuses about who has files on who and that 'all will be revealed in time,'" he said.
"This is evidence in black, white and colour. "Hundreds were arrested under the state of emergency with no evidence or less than what has been produced in Warner's case. "Government should be ashamed of continuing to subject citizens to such unjust treatment while turning a blind eye to the glaring evidence of atrocities at the highest level of Cabinet." Noting Warner acted as Prime Minister up to three weeks ago, Browne said: "The Prime Minister can no longer hide from this...She must act immediately and once she does her duty and suspends Warner that will allow the Police Commissioner to conduct the investigation on Warner and the issue which the PNM has been calling for him to do.
"This CFU meeting occurred on T&T soil when Warner was a minister," he added. "If the Police Commissioner needed evidence, this tape now makes it absolutely necessary for this probe to go forward. "If we wait for Warner to resign, it is clear he will never do so no matter what evidence is presented. "The PM must stop vacillating and do what is right for T&T, especially since Government is seeking investment. "The Prime Minister cannot keep parroting that T&T is open for business when by her inaction on this sort for situation she shows she has no concern for T&T's image or the alleged conduct of her ministers."