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 Q&A: Jack Warner says Sorry to England, Forgives Kamla  Wants USA knocked out early in World Cup

Q&A: Jack Warner says Sorry to England, Forgives Kamla

Wants USA knocked out early in World Cup

 

FORMER FIFA vice president and government minister Jack Warner sat down on Friday with Editor-in-Chief of AZP News Prior Beharry at his Sunshine Today newspaper office in Arouca to discuss politics in Trinidad and Tobago and why he supported Russia and not England for the 2018 World Cup. He said he has forgiven then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for firing him as a minister after he was indicted for alleged corruption in FIFA. He also revealed that former prime minister Patrick Manning had invited him to his home to complain about current head of government Dr Keith Rowley. See Q and A below:

PB: How shall I describe you – retired politician, businessman, publisher?

JW: I can be an embodiment of all three. I am a publisher. I have my own newspaper – Sunshine Today. It’s the only weekly in the country and people do tell me very often almost on a weekly basis that it’s the best newspaper that they read. It is very informative and it gives them a lot of inside information on current and future policies of the government.

I am a businessman because I have my businesses basically rental businesses. I have various properties throughout the country where I have tenants and they, by and large, were people who were suffering from the pandemic, many of them have not paid rent for over two years, but I refuse to evict them because when times were good they were good and therefore… I am talking to them to see how best we can come to terms with what outstanding they have.

PB: How much you think you have lost?

JW: I would say conservatively a couple of million dollars well and want to be conservative about it because in this country you put a figure and people want to kill you after.

Thirdly, I thought I am a retired politician and in some ways I am. But every day when I see the state of this country – when I see what’s happening in terms of crime, the economy, agriculture, you name it. Many a times I feel to put on my guns again.

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PB: What can be done in terms of crime solutions? What are the solutions?

JW: What can be done is so simple. And I don’t understand why it hasn’t been done. In the first case, I would like to see all the retired police officers retain their titles as they do in the army… The mere fact that these people carry their title and their weapons and so on will act as a deterrent.

More importantly and I am making the point over and over again that we need to have some coastal police stations to prevent the influx of guns coming into the country.

You can say what you want, everybody knows that Moruga, Cedros, Matelot, Erin – these are areas where guns come into the country.

I read last week where a guy got murdered from some Spanish speaking people and of course Venezuelans and one of the guy who was murdered had hit the ground, the guys were in their boat going back to Venezuela. In Moruga.

It is not only putting police officers on the street, that doesn’t solve the problem. We have to make better use of the army. The fact is the army some five, six, seven thousand strong, they are lounging down in Chaguaramas. Why don’t we put them into action and get them to do the kind of patrols day and night that the country needs.

The time has come for us to start hangings once again. You can say what you want about Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj he of course was an attorney general that everybody feared. He was the only guy in the world today who hanged six of them in one day and until we begin to get people to be afraid of the consequences of their crime, nothing would have…

PB: It was actually nine over four days in 1999.

JW: Well yes nine over four days.

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PB: And the state of roads in country?

JW: I have pity for (Minister of Works and Transport) Rohan Sinanan because I know he means well. In fact, we talk from time to time. But, until the government gets serious about funding, and put in quality control in the contractors who fix these roads, we in trouble.

Also you have to have what we call preventative maintenance. You don’t wait till a road collapses before you fix it. If you take a taxi or a car… from here (Arouca) to Matelot you would see about ten or 15 landslides that will happen in six to ten months’ time.

Why do we have to wait until these collapse before we fix them?

Who look at our bridges over the years to see what needs repairs or not. Must these bridges collapse before we fix them?

And then when the bridges collapse, they take a long time to be fixed. Look at the bridge by the Golden Grove Prison. It has collapsed and I tell you this… you may even see your grandchildren before that road is fixed.

PB: Is it that we don’t have a culture and history of maintenance in this country?

Jack Warner at his Sunshine Today newspaper office in Arouca. AZP News/Prior Beharry

JW: Prior, I hasten to add, we don’t. Look at our sports facilities (former prime minister Basdeo) Panday built four stadia in 2001. Twenty years later, look at them, fallen to pieces. Not one has a coat of paint. I mean elevators not functioning, doors lacking hinges and so on…

The government maintains nothing. And people argue with some justification and the reason for that is when the thing collapses then they have a contract to give to some friend of theirs to refurbish it and that is of course their friends and their financiers and so on make money. But it’s not fair to the country.

PB: But, was that how it was when you were minister of works?

JW: It wasn’t so in my time because I was emphatic about maintaining these facilities, maintaining the roads.

Remember… I am not trying to boast, after 28 years it was I who built the Mt Pleasant bridge in Arima, which for 28 years the PNM said couldn’t be built.

Remember it was me who opened the road from Piarco to St Helena. Remember it was me who fixed the road next to San Fernando Technical Institute. And the list goes on and on. I take no boast for this but I believe I was a visionary who worked for a dollar a month, who never bought a tax-free car.

PB: You never bought a car tax-free as was your right as a minister?

JW: So help my God, never a tax-free car at no point in time. For seven years I was in Parliament. Because I didn’t went there to take, I went there to make.

I never travelled on taxpayers’ money. I travelled once to Jamaica and I paid my way. So I am saying this to tell you that until people become committed to improving the society and not taking from it we shall be in trouble.

PB: You said you only took $1 salary as a minister, people could say that you were getting a hefty amount of money from FIFA during that time?

JW: Agreed! But there are guys who are getting even heftier than that even locally and they still taking.

If a guy has 30, 40 properties and you went into government… if you getting $24 million a year, $30 million a year, why should you take an additional salary. Why should you?

How much money can you spend? Prior, how many beds can you sleep in? How many vehicles can you drive at one time? How many homes you can sleep in at one time? What is this urge? This greed? What for?

Yes, I was being taken care of externally. But, I am saying that there are guys who have been taken care of internally, better than I was and they still taking.

PB: What was your salary at that time with FIFA?

JW: FIFA never gave a salary, they give a stipend. And it was easy to make US$10,000, US$15,000, US$20,000 a month if you want to. Then after at the end of every World Cup they give you an allowance that was substantial and so on. Remember I’m there for 30 years and therefore, this speaks a lot. So, therefore, I was well taken care of by FIFA.

PB: Do you miss FIFA?

JW: I don’t really. I have travelled enough. I have gone to 177 countries some of them seven times over. I don’t need to travel anymore, especially with the kinds of restrictions you have now, don’t travel with your belt, your shoes, your shocks and so on.

I have met kings and queens and princes, I mean there is nobody, and this is not a boast Prior, there is nobody in the Western world who has travelled more than I have travelled; who has met national leaders from (Nelson) Mandela go back to (Vladimir) Putin, go back to Queen Elizabeth, you name them, I have met them.

From (Joe) Biden to (Bill) Clinton to (Barack) Obama, I have sat with all of them. And therefore I don’t need that anymore, I have had my fill.

I am now able to look back as a senior citizen, if you want to call it that, and say what I have accomplished and what I have not accomplished.

PB: But, do you miss the travel?

JW: I don’t. I don’t. I swear to you, I don’t. Not these days.

PB: But, is it that you are wanted in the US that you don’t travel?

No, no, no. The US may have contributed to that but I stopped travelling long before the (indictment in the) US.

The US have their axe to grind and in the future we shall decide who is right and who is wrong… I stopped travelling long before the US restriction.

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PB: Your matter is before the Privy Council and England doesn’t like you because you voted for Russia to get the 2018 World Cup and not England. Do you think that you will get a fair hearing and ruling by the Privy Councillors?

JW: History has shown that the Privy Council disregards events that take place outside their domain. I have seen the Privy Council give some decisions on matters here in Trinidad that sometimes astound me. And therefore they are brave. They have no axe to grind. I feel safe and sound that I should be judged fairly before them and at the end of the day I am just waiting to see what the outcome shall eventually be.

PB: The Privy Council vs the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal for T&T?

JW: I am not for the CCJ.

PB: Why is that?

JW: Because I believe the CCJ can be easily tainted by local prejudices. They have to be outside of the realm of local politics for me to be secure about them and therefore, I am saying that I am not happy at all with the CCJ. I hope it doesn’t come into being in my lifetime.

PB: How old are you?

JW: I will be 80 on the 26th of January 2023.

PB: You had Covid. How are you now? Any Long Covid?

JW: I’m ok now, I spent 13 wicked days at the Couva hospital (the main Covid facility in T&T during the pandemic).

I must confess that I thanked the Lord, because nobody at my age and who was as sick as I was survived. I was the only survivor who was that old (and) went through that kind of Covid turmoil and survived.

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PB: Were you in ICU?

JW: I was in HDU (high dependency unit).

PB: Did you like the treatment?

JW: The treatment was good. Nurses did their best, but I did not like the meals. I cannot understand. I’m not a greedy person for meals. But I can’t understand why it is in Couva, you have to get meals from Mt Hope. And Couva has the best kitchen in the Caribbean. Why is it that we had to get meals from Mt Hope that’s cold, that’s late and sometimes not at all.

PB: Overall, how do you think that the Government handled the pandemic?

JW: I think the government made a lot of money from it. Money that they received from donations from various sources. I don’t think that they spent all the money on the pandemic and at some point in time the truth shall be revealed.

There was too much of a kind of terror tactics being used by the ministry of health and by some of the doctors… terrorising people as such and telling people don’t do this, don’t do that and at no point in time, they were saying let’s put our heads together and see how we can draw from another experiment as the case maybe. And it’s in that sense I have some problems with that.

PB: After you were dismissed from the government in 2013, you resigned as MP for Chaguanas West and caused a bye-election to be called and then went back to win that seat again. How did you achieve that when you weren’t in government and that was UNC safe seat?

JW: I’ll go further to tell you I am a Negro and was fighting in an Indian constituency. I am a Catholic fighting in a highly Hindu constituency. I was living in the East fighting in a constituency that was in Central. And last of all, I was fighting the government’s collective machinery…

But, you know something Prior, why I was able to do what I did? Because I was able to represent those people in a way nobody else ever did.

And up to now (in) Chaguanas West there are guys who consider me there to be a demigod, a semi-god ‘cause I fix their roads, their bridges. I went to their functions. I gave scholarships for children of cane farmers. You name it I did it. Wherever a problem arose I was present.

My hours and this is not meant to be a boast. My hours in Chaguanas West on a Friday might be from midnight Friday night to five, six, seven pm on Saturday afternoon. People will come from all over the country to see me.

PB: And you saw everyone?

JW: I saw everybody. I saw every single body and Prior you know something, if even I wasn’t able to help some of them, everyone left with a smile. My door was always open.

And therefore, I felt because of my representation I would have won and I did.

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PB: You have a reputation as an early riser because this morning you called me at 5.47?

JW: That was late. I was in the office already.

PB: Tell me how does your day go?

JW: I come to office five in the morning. I would work until nine (o’clock), ten (o’clock) and then the phone starts to ring, I go crazy because everybody is calling and calling.

At eleven, twelve, I would go and see some of my businesses talk to some of my tenants, see what the problem is. Then go to the Centre of Excellence…

I love to play All Fours. I am an All Fours genius, star.

PB: So you claim?

JW: I will show off now. I will go and play some All Fours at a place called The Palace where I have some interests- a club, a bar on First Street in Five Rivers. And then do some reading and go to bed about eleven.

I’ll be up by 2 am. Then I go to walk. Every morning I walk for an hour. In a park next to me called Warner Park.

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PB: You are not worried about crime?

JW: I have an armed security that walks with me. Every morning for an hour – from 3.30 am to 4.30 am.

PB: You said, ‘you think’ that you are now a retired politician. Is there an opportunity now for you to go back into the politics?

JW: I have been asked and called upon every day.

PB: By whom?

JW: I hate to tell you but you’ll will be surprised by the people who called me just for me to acknowledge them, and I say I am not ready. I don’t want to make a premature return that at the end of the day I regret. So I am looking on to see what’s happening outside there and grieving inside to see the state of the country.

I am offended to see this racial bogey of what the Indian and African polarization has done to a country because until that is fixed the country will not progress.

So, therefore, you have Indian for UNC, African for PNM and a few thousand in between.

I had gone to the UNC to fix that, to readjust that. I had gone to show that you can go to an Indian party and still be a person. But of course, Suruj Rambachan and others dashed that.

PB: Are you going to look at the World Cup?

JW: Football?

PB: Yes, Football World Cup

JW: I don’t look at football anymore. I look at cricket. I am a cricket fanatic now. T20.

PB: Who are you supporting now, since West Indies are out (of the T20 World Cup in Australia)?

JW: I never supported West Indies. I knew from the start they were non-starters. And I didn’t allow my emotions to get the better of me. I knew they wouldn’t make it. But I was backing Pakistan. I was backing Babar Azam and (Mohammed) Rizwan and after I see Zimbabwe beat them by a run I almost cried.

And right now I have transferred my support from Pakistan to India.

PB: So you don’t look at football at all. I see that England, America and Iran are in the same group in the World Cup. When England play American who will you support?

JW: That happen before, a couple World Cups before.

PB: Who would you support when England play America?

JW: I don’t care who win. It doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter to me who win. I mean, if you ask me that twice, I’ll tell you England because America has done damage to me and my family and therefore I am pained with America so I hoped that they get knocked out first. But beyond that, I don’t care.

PB: England would say that they hate you because you voted to give Russia the 2018 World Cup over England.

JW: Yes they hate me. But hatred doesn’t last forever. Hatred doesn’t last forever. At some point in time they have to come back to reality. The world isn’t made that way. When you hate somebody so much it tends to consume you and that is what affects you in the end.

PB: So do you regret voting for Russia against England?

JW: No! I thought it was Russia’s time. Where I failed I should have told England very early of what my intention was. I did not do that and therefore they were led along to believe I was supporting them. I failed, I erred and I apologise profusely for that but I thought it was Russia’s time to host a World Cup and I have no regret.

PB: You met (David) Beckham, you met Prince William… you gave them the impression…

JW: I met the Queen. I met her husband. The Queen gave me her plane to go to Ireland. The Queen put her plane at my disposal and her pilot to go to Ireland. I did all these things. England was very good to me. They brought courses to the Caribbean but in the end when I sat down and realise that England has hosted World Cups before.

PB: Only one in 1966.

JW: Yeah, but Russia had hosted none. Russia had never hosted a World Cup and I felt it was Russia’s turn. And when I sit back now and I reflect I have no cause for grief because I believe honestly, I did the right thing.


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PB: What did you tell Prince William when you met him?

JW: I never said I would vote for them. I said, of course, I would give it some serious thought. At no point in time, thank God, did I tell England I voting for them.

PB: But, that was the impression people got in the media etc?

JW: The media don’t worry me. I know what I said. Even when the English team came here (Trinidad) and Beckham came and (did) coaching courses and so on, they asked me to make a statement that Jack Warner of CONCACAF now supports the England bid. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. I never made a public endorsement of anybody.

PB: But did you give them the impression privately?

JW: That’s where I erred. I gave them that impression and I should not have. And that’s where I erred and possibly I am paying a price for that today. Who knows?

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PB: Do you follow local football?

JW: There is no local football. You can’t name five national footballers on the national team at this point in time.

PB: Kevin Molino…

JW: I said five… I was heartened to read that the secondary league had a nice final on Wednesday and they had a big crowd.

PB: So that augurs well for football in T&T?

JW: For the secondary football league, not for football in T&T

PB: Why?

JW: Because what they have to do here is what I did and succeeded years ago. Prior, you don’t get success instantly; you have instant coffee, instant cocoa, you don’t have instant football. You have to go build. I began building at an early age – (Russell) Latapy, Dwight Yorke and these guys. I had CONCACAF youth tournaments here like crazy. I built a base of youth footballers and at that point in time, therefore I built a cadre of them and they were able to face a World Cup.

You can’t go and hope to find a (Columbus Crew midfielder Kevin) Molino here and Molino there and anywhere that is hit and miss. And it does not work that way.

And that is why you see football wouldn’t rise in here in a hurry.

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PB: The difference now than in 2006 when T&T made it to a World Cup?

JW: Chalk and chesse. Guys today can’t trap a ball, and asking you, ‘how much you will pay me’. Guys today cannot pass a ball and asking you what you have to give them. What do you tell them? There is no pro league in this country. There is no national league in this country. There is no inter-league in this country.

PB: What are your thoughts on the Ascension League?

JW: I don’t know enough about them to speak on them. I see a headline now and again but I don’t read on football. So I don’t know much about them, but if they were successful to me they would have been more effective. They would have been as effective as the secondary schools’ football league is now.

Jack Warner at his Sunshine Today newspaper office in Arouca. AZP News/Prior Beharry

PB: And the Normalisation Committee that FIFA has in place?

JW: I think that FIFA has done a disservice to the country. The guys who were in power should not have been removed. They did that to spite Jack Warner and thought that in a way they would have hurt me. They haven’t hurt me one bit, they hurt football in T&T.

I am disheartened to see that nobody in the media or in authority had spoken out strongly against this disservice done to this country.

But again this is how we are as a people, anything foreign is good and if foreigners put the committee there, then so bet it.

PB: What about the Netflix movie (FIFA Uncovered) on you and FIFA coming out next month?

JW: On FIFA not on me. I will be involved in it they say. It doesn’t interest me.

PB: You won’t look at it?

JW: It doesn’t interest me. I stop looking at football. I say to Netflix, ‘get a life.’ But if they believe that that will help them to make some money go ahead.

Four years ago, a fella called Andrew Jennings wrote a book called Foul, just before the World Cup where is he today? He’s dead.

Netflix is… doing a movie on FIFA and Jack Warner. Four years from now look and see where they’ll be. It doesn’t bother me.

I have insulated myself from criticism from football, if not I would have been dead already. So it doesn’t worry me. I won’t watch it and I don’t even want to hear about it.

PB: Is it that how you get along now?

JW: That is correct. I live deliberately in a kind of cocoon. I have internally migrated, for want of a better term, and therefore these things don’t worry me anymore.

A headline in the papers on Jack Warner used to worry me long time. But it doesn’t worry me anymore. A guy attacks me on social media it does not worry me anymore.

PB: Are you on social media?

JW: No I’m not on social media not on Facebook.

PB: Basdeo Panday, Patrick Manning, Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Dr Keith Rowley. Who’s the best?

The best was Basdeo Panday.

PB: Why?

JW: Basdeo Panday was the first Indian prime minister. He came in at a time when this country had no money. He came in at a time when the oil (price) was at its lowest. And if one was to sit down and look objectively at what he had achieved during that period then they would have nothing else but good things to say about him…

Look at his achievements, look at how many police stations he built, look at the scholarships he gave. Look at the man who gave free education to all, that was Panday.

But, the worst prime minister this country has ever seen is Keith Rowley. And don’t ask me why. There is nothing good I can say about him and my grandmother told me that if you can’t say good don’t say bad.

Rowley is the worst thing to happen to this country.

And you know what is sad. Manning called me in his home. He and I weren’t good friends. He called me to his home. Prior, I swear to you this morning…

PB: When was that?

JW: A month before he died. He asked to see me. I went to his home. He sent out his wife and children. He had a Bible on his leg and his hand was kind of flicking and so on, turning the pages. He asked me, he begged me never to allow Rowley and (Colm) Imbert rule this country. I told him, ‘yes sir, I agree with you, but why didn’t you stop them in their tracks when you had to go up for election.’ He said if he had done that, there would have been a revolution in the PNM. I said okay sir.

You know something. Three or four months after when Kamla called election, I supported Rowley. I helped Rowley, he could say what he wants, I did.

PB: Why?

JW: Because Kamla had hurt me. She had hurt me passionately and of course the things she said about me in the Chaguanas West bye-election, the things she said about me even after pains me and pains me still. Of course, I don’t care what anybody say, I contributed in making Kamla what she eventually became.

PB: Have you spoken to her since?

JW: No I haven’t.

PB: Would you forgive her?

Yes sure. I was bitter in those days but right now I am not bitter.

PB: Would you support her now against Rowley?

JW: Well actually she is the lesser of the two evils and surely I would. Rowley is bad news…

There are over 6,000 students who would graduate from university at (a function) at the Centre of Excellence this week.

Where would they get jobs? Where would they work? On top of that you are telling me now that you are going to move the retirement age from 60 to 65. So how these guys coming into the system? Who would they replace? And therefore what would these young people do?

If I were a young person in this country I would head north, not USA, but Canada, Toronto. There is no hope for young people in this country as it is at present.

And I am not saying that because I am bitter but I am saying it because I am pragmatic, I am realistic.

There is no middle class in this country. Poverty is rampant and of course with poverty, crime. What do you do?

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