PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday April 23, 2013 – Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said she accepted the resignation of her embattled national security minister Austin “Jack” Warner because he had become a major distraction to the work of her coalition People’s Partnership government.
“Mr Warner’s resignation from the Cabinet comes with a degree of regret as he was a highly industrious and productive member of the government, having served with distinction in the Ministries of Works and National Security,” she said.
“His outstanding contribution to country and government and service to people and community shall remain a legacy of his tenure as a cabinet minister and MP,” Persad-Bissessar told a public meeting in her Siparia constituency on Monday night.
“Mr Warner’s resignation would allow for the government of Trinidad and Tobago to continue apace with its developmental objectives without distraction and would further permit him time and space to adequately treat with the matters raised,” she told supporters, who had gathered to celebrate her 61st birthday.
Prime Minister Persad Bissessar on Sunday night said she had accepted Warner’s resignation following the publication of the damning report against him by the Integrity Committee of CONCACAF, which represents soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The report slammed as “fraudulent in their management” the conduct of the soccer confederation’s affairs by Warner and the former secretary general, American Chuck Blazer.
Warner, 70, later submitted a letter of resignation as chairman of the UNC, the biggest partner in the four-party coalition government.
Former Barbados chief justice Sir David Simmons, who headed CONCACAF’s Integrity Committee, presented the CONCACAF’s congress in Panama with the detailed report into allegations of financial mismanagement by Warner and Blazer. Neither man cooperated with the investigation.
But Warner, who spoke to reporters at a separate function prior to the Prime Minister’s statements at the public meeting, said he was taken aback by a statement given to the media by Prime Minister Persad Bissessar on the allegations made against him in the CONCACAF report.
Warner quoted a newspaper headline that said Prime Minister Persad Bissessar was stunned by the revelations, adding “I felt that if she was stunned before speaking to me then it doesn’t make sense. That was the catalyst for my resignation.
“This is the first country in the world where a minister has resigned because of internal pressures for an external issue. I have never seen such a concerted effort to get rid of one man,” Warner said, insisting that he was not pressured to step down.
“Who could put a gun in my back to resign? Not even my wife or my children could do that,” he said, adding “ I decided to resign because I knew I had become objectionable in some quarters in the party and outside.
“I couldn’t fix outside and not fix inside, so having resigned as minister of national security to address the problem outside, I resigned as chairman to address the problems inside.” Warner said, adding “my resignations will enable me to say much more outside of the Cabinet than I can say inside of the Cabinet”.
Warner said his relationship with Prime Minister Persad Bissessar remains “cordial” and defended his decision not to attend the Monday night meeting.
“I am the ex-chairman of the UNC, I am just Jo Bloke, Jack Warner, a floor member. If they have a congress I will attend but I am just a member. I am not bitter and I am not angry. I have learnt in life that what goes around comes around.”
In her address to party supporters, Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that when she took up the leadership of the government, she promised “change and not exchange with respect to transparency and honesty in governance.
“I recommit my Government to your service. We don’t always do everything right; when we make mistakes we correct them and move on. When we disagree we talk and resolve issues; we settle things through consensus and we respect our differences instead of fighting like hooligans.”
She thanked Warner for his years of service to country and also emphasised that his resignation was not forced, but a voluntary one in the best interest of the country.
“That Mr Warner has voluntarily tendered his resignation should be credited to his desire to ensure that the public’s confidence in the government and system of governance are kept intact and to further guarantee that the image and reputation of the Government and people are not subject to any further adverse publicity.
“In the end we did what we had to do because we did not want this issue to continue to be a distraction for the work we have to do,” she told supporters.