When a week ago Jack Warner was appointed Minister of National Security I wasn’t perturbed because all the signs to date had pointed to the inevitability of the appointment. Warner, after being sidelined in the wake of a slew of allegations last year seemed to be on his way out of the party. After securing a victory in the UNC’s internal elections and retaining the chairmanship of the party resoundingly the tide began to turn in his favour. It seemed as if the PM’s faith in Warner was renewed. He survived the PURE audit and was quietly placed on the National Security Council. An appointment that didn’t cause uproar, though it did cause comment. Weeks after Warner was appointed to the Security Council a SAUTT office was broken into. Files and equipment went missing. Some of the files were alleged to be related to Warner. The story first broke in this newspaper. The Government didn’t deny it, but they sought to downplay the seriousness of the incident. It was then I figured Warner was well on his way to political ascendancy.
Now, it’s pretty clear to everyone that making Warner Minister of National Security is a huge gamble on the PM’s part especially because of his international reputation. British and American newspapers have been having a field day with the antics of this government ever since Warner became an elected member of parliament. And the Prime Minister, who travels regularly to promote Trinidad and Tobago internationally, doesn’t seem to be even slightly worried about Warner’s impact on our reputation. When pressed by the media to explain her selection of Warner despite accusations of corruption and bribery, Persad-Bissessar’s response was that allegations are allegations. Yet in 2010 the allegations against Calder Hart, who her government can’t seem to charge, were reported by her constantly in Parliament as if they were facts. Facts that de Lima and Ramadhar no longer seem able to substantiate in a court of law. To date all this government seems to have on Calder Hart is perjury. I guess yesterday was yesterday and today is today, riiiight?
Yet, as much as Warner’s appointment was a gamble, I felt that perhaps this was Persad-Bissessar’s boldest move yet. In the aftermath of two annual Eat Ah Food Fetes popular opinion was now against her. People were fed up of the constant masquerade and pappy shows and were beginning to wonder when her government was going to buckle down and actually try and run the country. Even her staunch supporters and financiers in the online groups were beginning to openly grumble. And after the psychological blow that Abdulla’s MSJ hit her governance and government by withdrawing from the party and speaking out against the corruption and nepotism, the PM needed to regroup.
So she regrouped and reconfigured; and made two significant changes to her bloated and redundant Cabinet. She brought on Larry Howai to fix the damage done by former finance minister Dookeran: who gave us the two largest budgets and deficits in the history of the country. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially from a former Central Bank Governor. And of course, she moved the effete John Sandy and put Warner in his place.
Warner has both detractors and supporters, but what they both agree on is that he is a man of great cunning. Capable of doing the impossible. Action Jack! And so, both sides waited to see what exactly would be his first strike. Gang warfare? Big Fish? A large drug haul and sting operation? A meeting with all the community leaders with pictures of them hugging up Warner and promising to keep an eye on their community? No. Not even close. Warner would voop for a big six and miss when he decided to attack a small, defenceless group of environmental protesters with a full team of soldiers and police. And not only did Warner issue the orders and possibly breach both the Constitution and the chain of command for both police and army; he struck the first blow and oversaw the demolition of the camp site.
What Persad-Bissessar’s greatest weapon against crime has shown us is that “Action Jack” likes more gallery and show than even his boss does. He has made a grave mistake. And angered not just detractors of the government, but supporters too. No amount of damage control PR and marketing by the Attorney General and Sat Maharaj is going to wipe away the image of smashed murtis and Dr Wayne Kublalsingh being detained by police. No amount of mindless blogging can change the fact that Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-Route group aren’t the criminal threat that’s holding this country to ransom with murders and robbery. Criminalizing them to defend Warner’s behavior isn’t going to help this government or the country.
Warner has shown us that as Minister of National Security he’s just as ignorant of the laws as the average citizen. Ramesh LAwrence Maharaj never takes cases he can’t convincingly win. Kublalsingh has indicated that the land they were evicted from belonged to a member of the re-route movement. While the land would have been claimed by the Government under the Highways Act, the Land agencies here don’t have government approval to use force to remove squatters or occupiers of lands using police and army. Further, for Warner to deploy police and army in the way he did is to imply that the State was itself facing a threat from this group of environmentalists. Even further, for Warner to issue orders to both Army and Police violates separation of powers. If as Warner has defiantly stated, we aint see nothing yet….then I’d be afraid, very afraid. But as a first move with his new portfolio, Action Jack looked and acted the Fool! And had to rely on imported celebrity power to be a weapon of mass distraction!
Doesn’t matter how many Shaquille O’Neal’s and Nicki Minaj’s the government flies in to walk through depressed neighbourhoods. That’s not going to solve crime. The PM’s greatest weapon missed his mark this week and will continue to do so. And in the meantime, to hide their lack of a crime plan they will gallery and entertain with sport heroes and hip hop stars. Warner already knows how to wear his cap to the side. All the PM has to do is develop a limp and throw on some gold teeth.
De Vice Cyah Done.