By Raffique Shah
April 28, 2013
The issue here is not Jack Warner’s amoral attitude, his disdain for integrity in the conduct of public affairs. We have long established that Warner does not conform to the rules of the engagement, be it campaigning in an election, running a ministry or navigating the murky waters of global football. We expect no better from him.
What is at stake is morality of the society as a whole. And events of the past few weeks have underscored its rapid descent into Dante’s Inferno, into an abyss of nothingness. We are not on the brink of collapse. We have already plunged into a netherworld in which negative forces, backed by a mass of ignorance, have so overwhelmed the moral minority that the latter have been reduced to rubble.
Not surprisingly, Warner is once more central to this unholy mess. Forced out of public office following the damning findings of an integrity committee that was commissioned by Concacaf (“the confederation”), the regional football confederation he had led for 20-odd years, he seems set to make a mockery of morals and democracy for the umpteenth time.
His orchestrated exit from Parliament won’t rescue us from damnation. Too many well-placed people who easily sacrifice integrity and morality on the altar of political expediency have brought us to this sorry pass. They will ensure that we retain the title of the stupidest people on earth, bar none.
The composition of the committee was as important as its findings. One does not treat lightly with the ex-chief justice of Barbados, Sir David Simmons, who won much respect in Trinidad as he chaired the Commission of Enquiry into the attempted coup of 1990. Retired US Judge Ricardo Urbina served for 31 years at the circuit and federal levels, and Ernesto Hempe, the third member, has extensive experience in accounts and financial matters.
The committee probed eight issues, one of which was ownership of the Centre of Excellence (CoE). Others of importance were the failure of the confederation to meet its tax obligations in the USA, the whereabouts of funds generated by a major sponsorship contract, and the accuracy of the organisation’s financial statements over the past five years.
Jack chose to address only one issue when he went public among his supporters last Thursday night—ownership of the US$27 million CoE. He produced information and letters exchanged between himself and Joao Havelange to show that he and his family, not the confederation, owned the facility. He explained that this ultra expensive gift was bestowed on him by Havelange at a time when the former FIFA head, who still has a huge cloud of corruption hanging over his geriatric head, needed Jack’s support to have Sepp Blatter succeed him as president.
Jack said that Blatter was “the most hated man in FIFA”. He didn’t explain why he chose to have the region’s 30 votes cast in favour of this “hated man”, except that Blatter was Havelange’s choice. Worse, he admitted that at the critical election, with Haiti absent, he had Jamaica’s Captain Burrell’s girlfriend vote as the Haiti representative.
The crowd roared in approval of this patently fraudulent act: Jack smart eh? The great benefactor did not say why, when Havelange conspired to vest the CoE in his name, he did not say, “Look, chief, I appreciate your kindness, but since it’s Concacaf money we using, and the facility is intended to lift regional football, let the confederation or the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) own it.”
Instead, he boasted how he charged the confederation that should be the rightful owner for use of its own property. And the crowd applauded. Pundit, imam, priest, politician and peon all paid homage to the paragon of virtue that stood before them, guaranteed that they would support him in any showdown with the beleaguered moral minority.
Warner never touched the non-payment of taxes issue: I imagine he and Chuck Blazer would want to stay very far from this particular “oversight”. That is cause for serious concern in the US jurisdiction: remember Al Capone.
He did not address queries over Concacaf’s financial statements, except to say that under his leadership, the confederation’s fortunes improved immensely. The Simmons Report concurred with this assertion. But it also condemned Blazer and Warner for enriching themselves by fraudulently converting the federation’s resources for personal gain.
Long before these most recent findings of the Simmons Committee, which are limited in scope, there were huge queries over Warner’s activities as they related to football at all levels. There was the money-for-votes scandal in 2011 that was captured on video, for which several recipients of bribes were disciplined by FIFA. Warner pre-empted punishment by resigning from all football-related positions he held.
Before that, the team that took us to the World Cup in 2006, took legal action, and won (as far as I know), claiming that the local association had promised them incentives it never paid. Warner’s name was central to that issue. Back in 1989, in that infamous tickets scandal in the match against the USA, no one was held accountable for what was wholesale fraud. Again, Warner was a key official at the time.
Warner’s name has been associated with scandals ever since he rose in the ranks of the football world. His questionable character did not deter many in this society, politician and priest of every hue and religion, supposedly respectable persons in the society, from bowing at his feet, sharing in the loot, licking his boot.
One might excuse the ordinary Ram or Khan for accepting Warner’s gifts much the way beneficiaries of banditry and murder share in the blood money provided by the perpetrators of heinous crimes. But what of those who know better, who daily condemn crime, but who greedily feast on the bread that the Devil knead? You tell me.