Can Jack Warner survive as a force in UNC?

(Trinidad Express) Perhaps the only interest which the population has in the UNC internal elections is whether Works Minister Jack Warner would emerge victorious in the four-man race for the chairmanship.

Many believe that the election result will indicate whether Warner, whose power within the Government seems to be whittling away, could survive as a force in the party, he once dominated, or whether the tentative steps taken to strip him of power have affected the rank and file of the party who votes in next Saturday’s election.

But yesterday, speaking with the Express, during a telephone interview Warner said he had no personal stake in these internal polls.

“What is at stake here is the election of 2015. And whoever becomes chairman has to assist in steering the fortunes of this party in election 2015. If the party believes that there are people better able to do it than Jack Warner, then so be it,” he said.

“My claim to fame is my record which shows that I have been able to take the UNC from its weakest moment in 2007 to put them where they are today. And nothing anybody could do, could take that away from me. I have been the one, and I say so in all humility, nobody could have moved Mr Panday because they were all afraid of him. And the fact is I was able to do it. Based on that…then I was able to bring all the other parties together to oppose the PNM. And if that is the record anybody wants to take away from me, then go ahead. But they can’t!” Warner said.

Told that if he lost the election next Saturday, he would be humiliated, Warner said: “So what happen for that? Winning or losing is not the end of the world. That is what life is about, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” he said. “What is there to be humiliated about?” he asked.

Asked whether winning would mean him entrenching himself in the party, Warner said if he won, the party won. “I am secondary. What is primary is the party in 2015 (elections)”.

The Chaguanas West MP said he was confident of victory because the base of the party, “the grassroots”  have ever left him. “And I don’t think they ever will,” he said. He cites as evidence, the large numbers which flock to his constituency office every Saturday.

He said the people who rush to the media and who send anonymous letters can’t vote in the UNC elections.

His colleague, Housing Minister and Deputy Political Leader Dr Roodal Moonilal announced a slate on Saturday, consisting of himself, a number of Ministers (including Foreign Affairs Minister Suruj Rambachan), local government officials but no candidate for chairman. Asked to comment, Warner said he had stated from the inception that he did not want to be on anybody’s slate.

“I want to be a man alone,” he said. “If you want to be chairman of a party I don’t think you should pick a slate. I want to work with whoever the party gives to me,” he added.

Told that his statement in the House of Representatives during the debate on the no-confidence motion that he colluded with the PNM to remove Rambachan from the mayor’s chair is being used as an indictment against him in the campaign, Warner said : “Before I said it, I knew what I was saying. I didn’t say it because I was drunk or sleepy or tired or unconscious or somebody put a gun to my back. I knew why I said and did it. And I made the point to show that I had to do certain things to bring the UNC into reality, including but not limited to, moving Mr Basdeo Panday. And if others had to be moved in the process, then so be it. I had to make the UNC attractive for other people to join it. And they did. And they (my opponents) could use that against me anytime,” Warner stated.

On Ashvani Mahabir’s suggestion that he may have a secret slate on which Sunil Ramjitsingh (who works for Warner) is contesting one of the positions of deputy political leader, Warner said: “Because someone works for me they must not go up for elections? So working for me precludes you from going up for elections? So what about the man who works for me and goes out there saying things that are even untrue that I wouldn’t even bother to correct, like (saying) he writes my speeches,” he said, in veiled reference to Mahabir.

Stressing that working for him (Warner) was no indication of a person’s political activity or allegiance, Warner recalled that during the time Mahabir worked for him he (Mahabir) even resigned from the UNC and went to work for the COP. Warner said Mahabir worked for him (Warner) for three years until he fired him.

Warner said whilst every effort was being made to paint the electoral contest as a battle between himself and Mahabir, he had no intention of “going down to that level” or “dignifying that foolishness”.

“I stand by my record,” he said, adding that every attempt was being made to draw him into “kochur and confusion”.

He said the election was a race between himself and others for the chairmanship as well as a referendum on his stewardship as chairman.

Warner also dismissed Mahabir’s allegation that he may be colluding with Panday, who is fielding a team of candidates for all posts except chairman.

“Oh my God! Please! Where does the credibility level begin and end?” the Works Minister stated.

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