JACK Warner, 70, last night announced that he will today advise Speaker of the House of Representatives Wade Mark of his resignation from Parliament as Chaguanas West MP effective midnight tonight, in the process triggering the holding of a bye-election for the seat within 90 days.
Addressing a crowd of supporters at a special rally at the Pierre Road Recreation Ground, Charlieville, Warner said he came to a decision to resign as an MP since Sunday and has advised Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of this decision.
“With events having unfolded as they are to this point, I wish to let you know that tomorrow, (today), I would be advising the Speaker of the House of Representatives that effective midnight on Friday night I am resigning as Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West,” Warner announced to a stunned crowd.
He said he was resigning in keeping with high Parliament tradition, after having resigned his Cabinet portfolio as National Security Minister, last Sunday, amid allegations of fraud.
“I felt that the proper thing to do would be to offer to you my constituents, the explanation and the facts and resign as the Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West in keeping with the highest Parliamentary traditions,” Warner said. He said would seek to contest the bye-election as a UNC candidate. When he was making his resignation announcement, the crowd at one stage cried, “No!” They cheered when he assured he would be voted back in.
In an immediate reaction last night, the chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Dr Norbert Masson said the EBC will be ready and noted the date of the bye-election will be determined by the Executive.
“If a bye-election is called, then the EBC will simply have to deliver the goods: the EBC will have to stage a bye-election,” he said. He noted the date of the election will be determined by the Executive. “It would be a matter for the powers that be. But we will have to be ready and we will have to conduct all of the normal processes. We have to go through electoral procedures, such as the nomination of candidates.”
Acting Prime Minister Errol Mc Leod, in response last night, said, “this is something which I will have to confer with my Cabinet colleagues on. This is a decision I was not aware of.”
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, on a State visit on Canada, could not be reached.
The bye-election, for what is regarded as a UNC stronghold seat, will be due July 24, Warner said. Such an election would come in a year in which Local Government elections are also scheduled to take place. The current Local Government term is due to expire on July 26, triggering an election within three months of that date.
The Chaguanas West MP said he would still face today’s Opposition motion against the Prime Minister over his conduct in Parliament.
“There is no mark to buss. Worse of all on Kamla Persad-Bissessar. In fact there is no mark to buss on the PP Government,” he said.
Warner, who resigned the UNC chairmanship on Monday, last night said he had informed the Prime Minister on Sunday of his decision to resign.
“Let me tell you that when I spoke with the Prime Minister at her residence on Sunday, I told her that if it became necessary for me to resign as Minister and UNC chairman – which it now had – I would also wish to resign as the MP for Chaguanas West,” Warner said. “In my meeting last Sunday, I had advised the Prime Minister of my thinking on ths matter. I also did tell her that I will want to contest the bye-election as a UNC candidate for the Chaguanas West seat as I am UNC to the bone.” Section 69 (3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago states where a vacancy arises in the House of Representatives within the first four years of the life of the Parliament, a bye-election shall be held to fill such vacancy not later than 90 days from the date of the announcement of the vacancy by the Speaker, Warner noted.
The former minister said, “ninety days from April 25, 2013, will be July 24, 2013 and who knows? With luck, love and your support, Jack Warner will be back. I know many of you are still crying and I too as well am crying but from inside where it is even more painful. The Prime Minister in our meeting last Sunday even suggested that even if I do offer myself up for re- election I shall win and with your help and support, I too do feel so.”
Warner continued, “then together – hand in hand – we shall set right all the wrongs that have been committed. We shall work together to strengthen our UNC and our Government and ensure that the people are truly always the first to be served – and that they are served with dignity.”
“I promise that come what may, I will never leave you and I will never disappoint you,” Warner said. “I thank you my constituents for giving me the hope to carry on. Today a new day has dawned.”
Warner’s announcement came at the very end of an almost three-hour event which saw him deliver a long speech responding to fraud allegations against him in relation to his Concacaf football affairs. While in his speech he committed himself to the UNC, Warner nonetheless issued broadsides at the People’s Partnership Cabinet, suggesting that three unnamed MPs – including one he described as his consistent “antagonist” played a role in the Prime Minister’s decision on Sunday to accept his offer of resignation.
Warner said the Prime Minister had initially, on Sunday at a meeting at her private home at Phillipine, indicated that she would take time to consider Warner’s offer of resignation and would come to a decision after her return from Canada today.
However, after apparent intervention by the three unnamed MPs, the Prime Minister changed her mind, Warner said. He said though he had left to attend a puja, was called back to the Prime Minister’s residence.
“Friends, it is easy to fight external enemies like the PNM and Rowley but the hardest fight is to strike a blow against internal enemies and I have had to fight against my internal enemies for too long,” Warner said.
“If we in our party continue to be consumed by hatred for each other as we have practiced in the past, we will not survive. I am not bitter but when my friends are targeted, when my associates are targeted, when their jobs are threatened because of their association with me then we can never be successful ever again.
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My three sons have opted to live outside of Trinidad and Tobago for peace of mind and even that they have denied.”
Warner alleged an unnamed member of the Cabinet had shown malice towards him. He alleged the minister had told the State’s televison station CNMG to not broadcast last night’s rally.
“We cannot win as a party if a Cabinet member bears so much malice as to deprive me from telling my side of the story by instructing CNMG to cancel coverage of tonight’s meeting,” Warner said. “We cannot win as a party if within one day at the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure we are threatening to change communication departments in the Ministry because of its ethnic composition.”
“I cannot live with that kind of belligerence nor should any member of the People’s Partnership Government. This hurts our party. And it hurts our Government. Whether they like it or not I am and will continue to be a member of the UNC. I will never hurt my party nor interfere with its chances to win an election,” Warner said. Of the Prime Minister, he said, “She has her advisors who advise her to her detriment and her country’s detriment.”
Warner also said, “We cannot win my people if as a Government people’s jobs are lost because of their closeness to Jack Warner. When these things begin to happen it is because some of us are misinterpreting the responsibilities given to us and when large portfolios like two mega Ministries are placed under one man’s control. It sends the wrong message not only to the person in charge but also to the national community especially when one’s race or ethnicity can be punished because of the historical patters of some us.”
Last night’s meeting began at about 7.02 pm but Warner made sure to keep the crowd waiting until 8pm to begin his speech. A twenty-minute video recapping Warner’s career – complete with footage of his constituents and music by Rod Stewart (‘Everything I Do, I Do It For You’) and David Rudder (‘Ganges and the Nile’) – was played before a dancing Warner took the podium at 8.50pm. Upon arrival he was greeted with tassa and Minister of Community Development Winston “Gypsy” Peters.
Warner denied wrongdoing in relation to the issue of the ownership of the Concacaf Centre of Excellence. Sir David Simmons, in a report for Concacaf’s integrity committee, alleged fraud and deception on Warner’s part in relation to the sport facility. Warner distributed to the media documents and had documents read out which, in his view, proved him innocent. The documents included invoices showing a FIFA development company paying rent for some rooms at the Centre of Excellence and a letter from Dr Joao Havelange in which Havelange promised to discuss the possibility of gifting the centre as a “donation”. There was also a 2003 evaluation report listing the owner of the facility as Renwar Limited, Warner’s private firm. Warner said if these documents were not shown to Sir David, Sir David was deceived.
Sir David, in his report, stated he had credible and compelling documentary evidence to base his conclusions. Warner also said discrepancies in Concacaf documents listing the name of the facility were due to the fact that Concacaf was not registered as an external company until 1999. He said none of the allegations against him relate to his tenure in office as a minister.
“I said I would never use politics to enrich my wealth or fatten my bank accounts. And I have kept my word,” the Warner said. Warner said his bye-election campaign would start tomorrow morning.