Making it clear that no one controls her, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Saturday night rejected the contention of former minister Jack Warner that some members of the Cabinet influenced her to accept his resignation.She made this clear during a news conference at Piarco International Airport on her return from an official visit to Canada.
Many people in T&T say she was "controlled by Mr Warner," the Prime Minister said."I don't know if it is because I am a woman and people think that I am weak or something, so I was controlled by Mr Warner and I was his puppet, and now they say I am controlled by some other persons," Persad-Bissessar said."I want to make it very clear, the only people who control me are those who belong to the electorate, the citizenry of T&T, no one else."
Responding to questions on Friday's resignation of Warner as MP, Persad-Bissessar said she accepted his resignation based on the findings of the Sir David Simmons-led Concacaf Integrity Committee.Persad-Bissessar said that report influenced her to accept Warner's resignation as national security minister's a week ago.She also said Warner's claim that her decision to accept his resignation was influenced by certain ministers was not true and that he was contradicting himself.
Persad-Bissessar said she read in the newspapers "where Warner says that he voluntarily resigned, but on the other hand he is saying that some ministers forced me, made me accept the resignation."She said his claim was "an oxymoron because you cannot have (say) that you voluntarily did this and then accuse ministers of influencing my mind as to what is to be done."
The Simmons report, delivered at the recent Concacaf congress in Panama, concluded that the association's former leaders, Warner and former general secretary Charles "Chuck" Blazer, were "fraudulent in their management" of the body. The report noted that Warner had failed to disclose that the US$25.9 million (�17m) Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence was built on his land, while Blazer received US$20 million (�13.3m) from Concacaf.
Warner had claimed the response from both within and outside the party in the wake of the report led to his ultimate resignation.On Saturday, the PM also confirmed that last week Sunday was not the first time Warner had offered his resignation. She said he also did so shortly after a Reuters report claimed he was being investigated by the FBI and IRS and that his son was co-operating with US authorities in the probe. She said she advised Warner then to respond to the report.
"He did so then and he said he is willing to resign from any or all of those positions. At that time I did not accept his resignation because I still held the view that I could not act on newspaper allegations," Persad-Bissessar said.
Asked if her discussion with a US official in Washington days after that incident influenced her decision to accept Warner's latest resignation, she said: "What happened thereafter, what was different to two weeks ago to last Sunday when I accepted the resignation, was the report by a very eminent jurist (Sir David Simmons, chairman of the Concacaf Integrity Committee).
"So this was no longer a newspaper report, an opinion of journalists, not that I have anything against those, but every Monday morning somebody makes an allegation...do I then fire a minister, asking him to step down. We don't operate like that."I don't think any Government can operate like that because allegations do not represent what may be the reality."
She added: "It was the report presented by former (Barbados) Chief Justice Simmons and others who put their report forward and I felt in all of the circumstances I would want to accept that offer of resignation. That is what changed in that period of time."The PM said she felt Warner's resignation now offered him an opportunity "to clear his name."
She said she also did not "understand why when Sir David Simmons was doing his investigations, Mr Warner did not put out his side of the story, because I read in the report that he did not co-operate and I was concerned about that.""Why? Why didn't he?" she asked of Warner's refusal to respond to the allegations before the commission.
"If he had further information that was different, I found it a little surprising that he did not use the opportunity to put those forward and perhaps now he has a little more time in which he could put his case on his side to these matters in the public domain."
Asked if she would also allow Warner to contest the forthcoming by-election on a UNC ticket as he desires to, Persad-Bissessar said the former minister will have to go through the normal party process. She said she was not prepared to say more on the matter, adding the party will decide on it in due course.
"It is not only an issue about the seat, because we all know Mr Warner has been a very good MP but there were other issues which came into the pot and into the mix and those still remain not yet dealt with and still outstanding and swirling around. So we see the way forward and put God in front and do what is right," she said.
Persad-Bissessar was met at the airport by Labour Minister Errol McLeod, who acted in her absence, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Works and Local Government Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan and others.