Trinidad and Tobago's newly appointed Minister of National Security is no stranger to controversy – and he has started off his tenure with an action that is proving to be quite contentious – the removal (by army troops, no less) of members of “The Highway Re-Route Movement” a protest group demanding that the leg of the $7.5 billion Point Fortin highway which passes through their community be abandoned or, at the very least, redirected.
Trinidad and Tobago News Blog republished a tongue-in-cheek opinion piece which took the view that Minister Austin “Jack” Warner's action “was the right thing to do”:
Now is the time to terminate the carnival mentality approach toward crime in T&T. Overt lawlessness must end. The former PNM administration failed miserably to address/deal with this national dilemma. Now is the time for the People’s Partnership government to attack this problem with full force.
And the only person at the helm to reverse this lawlessness trend is Austin ‘Uncle Jack’ Warner, period.
Well Jack Warner flew into South Trinidad this morning like an overzealous Jack Spaniard with his side kick Colin Partap (I hope they had on cape and tights!).
Yes Folks the UNC All Fours Team has launched it’s latest crime plan and it involves destroying prayer spots at protest camp sites and arresting environmentalists….THE REAL CRIMINALS!
Her tone then got much more serious:
When Jack got to the site he threw the first stone as a symbol of him authorising the destruction of the campsite and removal of protesters, and this included the religious symbols set up by persons belonging to the protest group…symbols for Trinidad’s three major religions: Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. People were at these holy spaces fasting and praying. In the course of the demolition Kublalsingh [the group's leader] was arrested. Warner is alleging that Kublalsingh attacked a soldier.
Forget the rising murder toll…forget all the robberies we experience daily. Forget the rapes, the attack on children…Forget the drugs and guns and gang warfare…Warner’s first act as Minister of National Security is to secure the Debe Highway so that Kamla Persad-Bissessar, her cronies, and UNC financiers won’t go buss on this particular project.
The blogger also noted some of the reactions to Warner's move:
Attorney and fmr AG Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj has already spoken out and said it is an abuse of authority, because police and defence staff were issued instructions to destroy the protest camp not from the usual quarters but from the Minister of National Security who oversaw the destruction in its entirety. Already phrases like ‘Constitutional breeches’ [sic] are filling the air.
MSJ Leader David Abdullah has openly condemned the move and says the country is heading to a police state under this government.
Plain Talk added:
The ethical dilemma that is Jack Warner continues to send ripples if not convulsions through the highest offices of the land, based in no small part on the man, his history, and his propensity to leave carnage in his wake as he does ‘as he damn well pleases.’ His recent elevation to the extremely sensitive National Security Ministry has caused many including learned jurists to pause and reflect on this new challenge to what can be considered wrong or right in law as opposed to what one can get away with, and this is the problem that must be faced sooner rather than later.
The post referred to the many allegations of corruption that were aimed at Warner during his tenure as Vice-President of FIFA, criticised his strong-arm tactics as Security Minister and even suggested that the Prime Minister is jeopardising her own position by keeping him there:
Arguments can and have been made that allegations are not convictions and until charges are laid there is no case and this would be true in circumstances where the presumption of guilt does not do damage regardless of the assumption of innocence. In the United States the President can be brought down for committing both ‘high crimes or misdemeanors,’ leaving no room for negotiating how seriously the framers viewed integrity in public office.
Now to compound the matter we are faced with his brash and jackbooted approach to his new position and has made such a mess of things that I cannot see how he still has this job. That we as a nation have not yet torn up our own constitution in our attempts to rid our country of the scourge of crime is a testament to our desire to still have a democracy after, and this ‘strong man’ approach needs to be resisted with everything we have and put down before it does more harm than good.
Humour – at least in the blogosphere – seemed to be the best way to cope with current developments, as The Eternal Pantomime ended by conjuring up a little political yarn about “a warrior so mighty and so strong, that even religion bows to him! It is the tale of Jagdeo Warnersingh”:
Eventually Jagdeo began eyeing the highest seat in the land, but he was blocked from it by two demi-gods, both of high caste, the Panday and the Manning. Warnersingh then vowed to remove these two demi-gods from his path and looked for an instrument.
The instrument he found was as beautiful as he was not, and if he were Ram, she would be his Sita. Kamla was eager for his financial support, and Jagdeo was eager for her voter base.
Together they made history, and then Jagdeo hit a dark period. The Titans of Fifa turned against him, our hero was left in the valley of the shadow of Suruj, and it seemed that he was on his last leg when an internal elections returned him to his strength and gradually the Rani, who seemed to have turned her back on him, remembered the powerful files in the back of his throat and put Jagdeo to serve her on a secret council of Security. Then, when she felt no one in the Kingdom would care, she elevated Jagdeo to be her right hand and keep the land secure!
So great the Warnersingh had once again become that he smashed all murtis and sacred spaces in his path to success and Brahmin by Boat pundits with the surname Maharaj rushed to place malas around his neck and proclaim him the true warrior of Dharma!
But wait! Lo! Behold, Lawrence of Maharaj and The Keith are waiting in the wings my dear devotees…This Leela isn’t done!