National Security Minister Jack Warner, in a fighting mood yesterday, said even though the Miscellaneous Provisions (Defence and Police Complaints) Bill was shot down by the independent senators, he believes it will make a successful comeback. Speaking with reporters at his Chaguanas West constituency office yesterday afternoon, Warner said the independents did not fully understand the intention of the bill and its relation to the ongoing battle against crime.
“I could empathise with the independent senators, who did not understand the history and the rationale for the bill, because they do not represent any voters or constituents like we do. “We—except the PNM MPs with their own agenda—understand the cries of the people and victims of crime. “These senators do not have that level of interaction. Our role for the next few days is to transfer that level of understanding to them.”
When debate on the bill began in the Senate last week, it did not get the support it needed from the independent senators. The bill, which needs a special majority, would give soldiers the same powers and immunities as members of the police service. On Wednesday, the Government adjourned the debate to April 23. Senate leader Ganga Singh said the Government had listened to the concerns raised and would review the bill.
Warner said for far too long certain groups had distanced themselves from the effects of crime. “One gets the impression that people become concerned when their relatives and friends become affected, but that must not be the norm in this country. “The norm in this country must be where we are above bipartisan politics on matters like crime and look at what is good for the whole, and it’s in that context that we have to go back and restrategise and the bill will become accepted.”
Warner said not even the PNM would benefit politically from crime and if it were not tackled today with full force, the generations to come would feel the blows. He said former prime minister and PNM leader Patrick Manning “did not contain crime…that is why we are facing the whirlwind we are facing today.”
Warner, who attended the funeral in San Fernando yesterday morning of Jerome Ramsahai, who was gruesomely murdered, said he had been told the police were making a breakthrough in the crime and would be issuing a statement very soon. Yesterday too Warner put the media under the microscope. He has come under intense scrutiny recently after reports that his son Daryan was a co-operating witness in an FBI investigation said to be connected with international football.
In a prepared statement, Warner argued that he had a right not to answer questions which he said could impugn his character and were posed by journalists with their own agendas. Warner said he had ample evidence of defamatory articles that had damaged the character of not only himself, but his family, and pursuing legal action against such reports did not “subtract the damage already done and the purpose served by those who choose to destroy anyone’s name.”
The statement was a response to written questions put to him by Express investigative reporter Camini Marajh, which dealt with issues that included Fifa, the Caribbean Football Union, the Centre of Excellence and the T&T Football Federation. “If I choose to answer any one of your questions, wrapped within your own expression of opinions and false judgment, what I would be doing is validating character assassination posing as investigative journalism,” Warner fired back.
“If one is asked a question on matters that never really existed in reality and it is denied, the headlines then scream ‘Jack Warner denies X’ which simply places the fabrication out there and achieves the assassin’s true objective,” the minister continued.
While agreeing that public officials like himself should be held accountable, he asked: “Shouldn’t there be equal accountability by any member of the media and the media house represented? Who investigates the background and agenda of the author of the investigative piece when bias is alleged by the hapless victim of any contrived story?
“The right of you or anyone else to ask a question should be equally weighed by my own right to question the true intent of the reporter and the media organisation represented. My obligation to answer your questions for an article which I am advised will appear in your paper this Sunday must be equally met by your own dutiful obligation and that of your paper to be fair, unbiased, balanced and professional. In the absence of that I am released from my own duty to provide any responses to your many questions,” Warner said.