Congress of the People leader and Justice Minister Prakash Ramadhar yesterday urged former Fifa vice president and Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner to go the United States to face trial in connection with the ongoing corruption scandal, insisting that the country's reputation has been tarnished.
"This is the battle for truth and T&T has to have its image repolished so that the true beauty of the nation be seen and not be identified by the actions of Mr Warner and those around him. I think it is so important for him to save the reputation of this country," Ramadhar told local and international members of the media during a press conference at the COP's Flagship House in St Clair yesterday.
Warner is one of 14 people wanted by the United States on suspicion of soliciting bribes worth millions in his Fifa dealings. He has been charged with multiple offenses, including racketeering and bribery, but has denied the charges.
Warner, currently on $2.5 million bail after his arrest locally, is expected to reappear in court on July 12. However, he has threatened to reveal secrets regarding "resources" he provided for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar's 2010 general election campaign, which are purportedly linked to Fifa.
Scoffing at this yesterday, Ramadhar said if Warner was innocent as he claimed he should not have a problem going to New York to face the courts."Go to your trial so that we will hear what the facts are and not what you say they are. And when you go we hope that what you speak will be the truth and not further allegations, as what we have had with you over the last couple of days.
"This is a problem for all of Trinidad and Tobago and the solution rests in the heart, conscience and in the hands of Mr Warner. If it is that Mr Warner cares about this country then he should go to the US and have his trial there."He added, "At the end of the day we don't want technicalities. We want truth. As a lawyer, and I will tell you that for many years the innocent always rush for an early trial, so as a patriot I am asking for him to do so."
On details of the questionable transactions made by Warner, Ramadhar said due to the judicial process it would be inappropriate for him to speak on matters before the court."These are charges that emanate from the United States and therefore the conduct of this Government is only to ensure that the judicial process for extradition is engaged. The Attorney General has done what he has to do," Ramadhar said.
But he warned that sometimes extradition matters could be dragged on for a lengthy period by attorneys.On his relationship with Warner, Ramadhar described it as one of indifference. He said since 2011 he had called for Warner's removal from the Cabinet, adding that when the ILP was created he also had views on that, especially with the use of money in politics.
"I thought that it was a very dangerous development...he having been elected to Chaguanas West having regard to all the allegations," Ramadhar said."I thought that at that point in time something had gone wrong with the democracy. I thought that it had been disturbed and the Congress of the People had taken a strong position on that. We do not belive in the use of money for political heads."Mr Warner's actions of the past has really polluted the stream of the politics of this nation."
No PP membersquizzed by FBI
Congress of the People leader Prakash Ramadhar says neither he nor any other Government member has been interviewed by US authorities regarding political funding which may have been provided to the party by Jack Warner.However, he pledged this country's cooperation with the ongoing probe.
"I have no knowledge of Mr Warner's funding but I can tell you Mr Warner has embarked on a process of getting rid of the Congress of the People from very early on. So it will be shocking if he helped us financially," Ramadhar said as he responded to reports that the FBI had questioned some Government officials in connection with the case.
Asked if he had any conversation with Warner about handing himself to US authorities Ramadhar said he had not.Warner, who still holds the position of an MP, was also problematic, Ramadhar said.Saying that Warner was still popular, Ramadhar added that he not only had a say in the Parliament but also questioned the integrity of many.
"It is a problem because he stands in the Parliament with the authority of the Parliament, but that is the democratic process we have engaged in and there is no process to remove him unless he is extradited," Ramadhar added.But he said he was certain the constituents of Chaguanas West would deal with that matter appropriately.
On whether he believed Warner has not acted in the best interests of T&T, Ramadhar was also vocal on this."I will not say that he has not acted in the interests of Trinidad and Tobago, but what is being unearthed now is that it is a serious self interest and I can't say now what proportions of his actions were in the interest of T&T or that it was self motivated under the cover of the interset of T&T," Ramadhar said.
Efforts to contact Warner yesterday were unsuccessful as he did not answer calls to his cellphone.