By Ria Taitt, newsday.co.tt
Despite his stunning win at the UNC polls, new Deputy Political Leader Jack Warner had mixed emotions yesterday.
On one hand he was heartened and elated over the fact that he had won, but he was still somewhat distraught that his personal friend and mentor, Basdeo Panday, had campaigned almost single-handedly against him.
The undoubted importance of his victory was not lost on the football jefe. "I, an African, was successful and led the battle in the race for Deputy Political Leader in every single constituency save Siparia" (which had the largest turnout) and which voted overwhelming for the Panday slate, he noted.
"And if nothing else it gives me cause for tremendous joy - that in an Indian party where Mr Panday overwhelmingly campaigned against me - and still seems to be campaigning (against me) - that I received the endorsement of the community," he said.
On Monday, Panday said he was not prepared to retract his statements about Warner, whom he still believed would be "abroad too often."
"When I joined the UNC, I lost the (support of) the African race, but I gained the (support of) the Indian race. And nobody could make me ever give this up now," Warner said, with conviction.
He said the message of the vote in his favour was that people would support you, if they felt that your heart was with them. Told also that people of the UNC must have remembered vividly the extent to which he was there personally for Panday when he was in difficulties at the courts, Warner, who stood bail for Pandayís wife, Oma, stated, "And I will still be there for him."
Warner, who was on the Progressives slate, said he bore no acrimony towards his friend since he believed that Panday was being ill-advised. He said he was not sure whose Pandayís advisers were. "I used to be among them," he said. But, he believed that now, "in the twilight of his years," Panday was not receiving correct advice, he said. He expressed that he had no regrets, and if presented the opportunity, he would do it all over again.
Stating that he had put the bitterness of the campaign behind him and was ready to work fully with the team, which included Panday, Warner added, "But I would be foolish of course to tell you that it would pass tomorrow. Over time it will, and we have to put it behind us," he said. He said the campaign had been bitter and bruising, and in his view, "unnecessarily so."
"But having said that, I feel we now have to put our energies to fight the common enemy - the PNM," he said. Warner said the Government was pursuing a "scorched earth policy"- of spending the money as soon as it received it. And this was very painful for him, he said.
"The party I come from, which is mainly Indian, they donít live so. They know about saving for a rainy day. You tell me that the Prime Minister decides to build a sporting facility in Tarouba and whatever Tom, Dick or Harry says, his position is that he is still building it. You are there to represent the people. What arrogance!"
He said it was "hurtful" to witness this kind of excessive spending because his children lived here, and had an investment in this country. "I am pissed, quite frankly," he said.
On Pandayís statements that he would be abroad a lot, Warner said, "I will be here more often and longer than he (Panday) could imagine." He said he was beginning to put mechanisms in place to keep himself fully informed at all times. In this regard he had placed an advertisement for a political secretary and he planned to open an office to deal with party and political matters.
He stressed, however, that this information age had rendered distances irrelevant. He noted that through computers, internet and conference calling, one can be anywhere and be an active participant in matters affecting the party and the country.
Moreover, Warner said, after the Trinidad and Tobago football team qualifies for Germany "and it will," he would rest his political bucket down firmly.
What of his personal relationship with Panday? "It is not what it used to be." He said he planned to call Panday to wish him well, and to invite him for a drink before the week was out. "I would be happy if he could come. I do not think, I cannot perceive myself as having Mr Panday as an enemy. I canít! We can disagree on a particular issue, but the disagreement should not be of a personal nature. I canít lower myself to that. And therefore I have decided that before the week is out, I would call and to invite him for a drink, as old times. And if I know Mr Panday, I am quite sure he would accept. In fact it might start a renaissance towards a process of reconciliation)," Warner stated.
As he reflected on the elections results once again, Warner said one of the things that really touched him was the fact that in one of the polling stations, on one of the ballot papers, "so help me God, someone went in the booth and voted for one name only - Jack Warner." This act so moved him that he has decided to dedicate his life to this party and this country. "And I am now prepared to make some kind of appearance on the national political front," he said.
Warner also thanked FIFA, which he said was "fully behind him." He recalled that FIFA had a plane waiting to take him to Peru on Saturday, after he had campaigned all week.
Asked how she saw her new role, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, one of the Deputy Political Leaders on the Panday slate, said healing was the first priority for the party, given the bruising campaign. After that, the goal was preparing the party to win the election. "We have gone inward. Now we have to go outward, and that means that we have to stay focused on the eye of the enemy. The enemy is the PNM," she said.
Asked if she saw any possible difficulties for herself, especially since she was widely considered to be one of the potential candidates for the position of Political Leader, she said, "Once there are humans around, there will always be conflict of some sort. But I believe we are mature enough to overcome them. I am very excited and I will work as part of the team. Our goal is one goal, our aim, one aim."
Persad-Bissessar said the partyís electorate showed that they had minds of their own. "It was clear that for certain positions they chose individuals rather than going with the slate -even though overall they kept the comfort and confidence of what the Patriot slate was saying," she said. She said the membership also clearly demonstrated that they wanted Panday in the political mix. She thanked all those who came out and worked, especially in her own constituency of Siparia.
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