The odd couple

Among those persons endorsing Persad-Bissessar is Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner who sent his support on Wednesday from Abu Dhabi where he is doing the business of FIFA of which he is a vice-chairman. Warner himself is being reported as being interested in standing for the post of UNC chairman. While no-one has yet suggested it, the next obvious question to ask is whether Persad-Bissessar and Warner might link up and both be part of a possible slate of candidates.

However before any further gelling of any new such political alignment, we would really like Mr Warner to explain the sudden and hitherto unexpected shift in his allegiance from Maharaj to Persad-Bissessar. He shared the past year/two years on the back-benches with Maharaj, in protest at Panday’s delaying of UNC elections until the Government held Local Government elections which have been repeatedly put off three years. Warner claims the RamJack faction is being disbanded because it has achieved its goal of forcing a UNC election, but we wonder if there is more to it than that. Was there a falling out between Warner and Maharaj, and if so, why?

After the initial brave step of rebelling against the party leadership, to share the back-bench with Maharaj, why is Warner apparently severing his connection to Maharaj? He must explain.

You see, Warner is no ordinary MP but is a wealthy political financier, and some might even go so far as to allege, a political investor. In fact in hindsight, one might wonder at the political odd-couple that Maharaj and Warner made, the first an intense moral-crusader and the second the globe-trotting, deal-making businessman.

Maharaj is seen as a hard-man corruption-buster (pilotting the Integrity in Public Life Act and Freedom of Information Act), while on the other hand, several question-marks have arisen over some of Mr Warner’s business dealings.

People are entitled to ask whether there was an inherent contradiction between what each man stood for, and whether this led them to part ways. Further, despite Persad-Bissessar’s rhetoric of not being anyone’s “political dulahin” and of not being for sale or rent, observers may well ask whether Warner’s support for her is due to some sort of perceived self-interest that might not be manifested by a Maharaj candidacy. Warner had financed the UNC, and then shifted to fund an alternative RamJack “constituency office” in Couva North to undermine local MP Basdeo Panday. Should we take seriously his promise that he would not now fund anyone in this very important UNC internal elections?

Persad-Bissessar has publicly declared that she has struck no deals with Warner. She is entitled to issue such as statement, especially in a country where the party funding is a murky issue.

Persad-Bissessar has largely used her own steam to reach this point of being many people’s favourite to win the UNC leadership election. While she is perfectly entitled to accept endorsements from any quarter — UNC, PNM, COP or elsewhere — she must carefully assess the respective benefits and drawbacks to these endorsements, and judge how she responds to them.

All eyes will certainly be watching, for example, to see whether or not she in turn reciprocates the endorsement to Mr Warner, and if so, whether or not that would help or hinder her own cause.


"The odd couple"

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