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Raffique Shah


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It's time to pay the Devil

By Raffique Shah
July 14, 2013

In the euphoria of the People's Partnership resounding elections victory on the night of May 24, 2010, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in her acceptance speech, identified only one member of the UNC executive for praise: Jack Warner. Before mentioning Warner by name, she had thanked only God and the people who voted the Partnership.

Let me quote the PM (from the written text): “Tonight I want to thank the chairman of the UNC Jack Warner…Jack Warner, thank you!”

Indeed, my recollection is that she thanked Jack thrice at that point. “Thank you, Jack, thank you, Jack, thank you, Jack.” Much later, she thanked husband Gregory and a niece (Lisa), as well as workers at the party offices in Rienzi and Siparia, and lower down the order she mentioned Winston Dookeran and the COP, and Tobago's TOP.

At the time, I did not have to speculate on why she singled out Warner for praise. A few months earlier, he had engineered the eviction of Basdeo Panday as leader of the UNC following a glitzy and costly internal elections campaign. In March, the Partnership staged the most expensive elections campaign in the Caribbean, if not the world (on a per capita basis). I hazard a guess that the Partnership spent more than $100 million in goodies and paraphernalia, advertising, concert-type stages, T-shirts and polo shirts by the miles, flags, buntings, and much more.

The PNM, still holding residual power, could not match the Partnership extravaganza. This country had never seen anything like it.

Jack Warner was central to the huge sums of money that flooded the Partnership coffers in that campaign, in the local elections that followed, and, he reminded us recently, another $25 million spent in the THA elections. He had a “bottomless pit” of money then, which the PM and her colleagues were very comfortable with, and which only a few journalists and columnists dared to query.

He is also a gutter-fighter of international repute, having cut his claws in the corrupt cockpit that is FIFA, associated with dubious characters such as Joao Havelange and Sepp Blatter. He brought to the 2010 campaign strategies he had honed in many ruthless battles in which the body count or collateral damage did not matter.

Indeed, he was the only strategist in the Partnership, the other players having nothing to contribute by way of dollars or sense. It is why Jack emerged on top of the heap. It was why he was given strategic, lucrative, ministries, until he chose to resign. Members of the so-called cabal, and the lesser mortals who, for all their posturing, played only bit parts, bowed behind Warner, kissing his cheeks until two, three weeks ago.

When, therefore, the PM, comes today, panic-stricken, asking Warner the very questions that we in the media have asked since 1989, sober and sane people must wonder: whey she come from?

The religious among us will probably say that when you sleep with the Devil, sup with the Devil, some day you will have to pay the Devil.

For Kamla and her clueless crew, that day has arrived. They are facing the Devil in mortal combat in the by-election, and it seems they have neither the chalice nor the cross nor the crescent to prevent him from devouring them like two dozen doubles, slight pepper.

I am not saying that Warner will win, although it looks that way. I am no political pundit or psychic. I know, too, that a week in politics could bring dramatic changes to an electoral equation. But I've been in town long enough to read political signs, and any which way I look at it, Warner cannot lose—except if he ends up in an FBI cell before polling day.

If he wins the by-election, Warner will go on to wreak havoc in the local elections, aggravating a Partnership-slide that began in Tobago last January, and which, even before this implosion, suggested that the PNM would regain its traditional bases. In a worst-case scenario for the Partnership, a Warner intervention could see the PNM triumph in the marginal regional corporations. And a nightmare that must haunt those who danced with the Devil is that prospects for the 2015 general elections look grim.

Should Warner lose but gain substantial numbers of votes, which is a worst-case for him, he still poses a serious threat to the Partnership. How so? The Devil does not die, nor does he spare those who sold their souls to him. The scriptures also say that hordes of people will flock around the Devil, and that too we are seeing.

There can be no doubt that every-man-Jack and every-woman-Jenny in the Partnership sold their souls to Warner. They elevated him to the sky: he was the first to act as PM in 2010. As his latter-day sins unfolded, piling up on those of the past, they defended him. They cussed, abused and threatened citizens who dared to demand justice.

Now that the Devil is threatening to consume them, they are running scared and crying foul. It's time to pay the Devil.

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