‘Houses by the hook, or crook'

Warner, who a few weeks ago pledged there would be no corruption in his fledgling political movement, the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), sought to give a glimpse of aspects of the philosophy which seems to guide his new party at his first ever ILP rally in PNM Port-of-Spain heartland. He employed poetry and high rhetoric as he sought to knock on the doors of the constituencies of Port-of-Spain South, Laventille West and Laventille East/Morvant and arguably areas of Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West.

“I will get houses for the people by the hook or by the crook,” Warner said. The large crowd roared and applauded. Many seemed pleased with Warner’s paraphrase of the saying “by hook or by crook” – which dates back to 1380 and means “by any means necessary”.

The ILP “interim leader” continued, “The ILP will not remain silent while you live in squalor and over 2,000 homes are strewn about unoccupied in many communities across the nation. Give people houses and let the people fix it themselves.”

Warner attacked Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, who has oversight for the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

“I understand the lack of desire to distribute HDC homes to the people of Laventille because the Housing Minister Moonilal sees us all as convicts and criminals of which he is the landlord,” said the former FIFA vice-president and regional football jefe who is subject to an ongoing criminal probe into bribery allegations. “The ILP will advocate for houses for you who are being marginalised,” Warner said. He pledged a “land for the landless of Laventille” programme and suggested residents could be re-classified as “squatters” to make them eligible for land grants.

The crowd was large, even as traffic snaked its way through Piccadilly Street. There were many familiar faces wearing ILP T-shirts, but also many faces who were new to the scene. Corn-soup and beer flowed freely in some sections of the crowd. Most seemed to have arrived at the meeting on foot: there were few vehicles parked nearby. Warner played a video to the crowd, showing American slam poet Daniel Beatty reciting a poem entitled, ‘Knock Knock’, which recounts one man’s ordeal of living life without a father.

“We shared a game, / Knock knock, / Until that day when the knock never came,” the poem reads. “Twenty-five years later I write these words for the little boy who still awaits his papa’s knock.” Warner appropriated the poem’s refrain of “Knock knock” using it throughout his speech as he launched attacks.

While on the one hand Warner promised houses, “by the hook or by the crook”, he also purported to lash out at corruption. He said he was “summoned” to the Integrity Commission on Monday in relation his allegation of impropriety relating to Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh whom he has suggested has improperly procured six houses.

“The Integrity Commission summoned me to provide evidence of how this country has been systematically raped,” Warner said. He also targeted corrupt cops, saying, “One corrupt police officer is one too many.” He made no mention of Concacaf findings that he was guilty of fraud and deception in his football affairs; his refusal to answer FIFA charges of bribery; an ongoing police probe into matters related to a cash-for-votes allegation centering around a meeting he attended at the Hyatt Regency in 2011 while a Cabinet minister.

Also speaking at the rally was Akil Bayne, a Morvant resident who was described as a “Ministry of Agriculture” employee. Bayne seemed to receive more applause and cheers from the crowd than Warner did. He attacked the PNM, citing wealth inequality in the country.

“We are getting poorer and they are getting richer,” Bayne said. “Did we vote for that? No!”

Warner promised the ILP would give out more book vouchers; establish a “Food Bank”; recruit persons from the area to work in the protective services; introduce a community-based system of water distribution; increased “investment” in the area and more sporting programmes. The ILP plans a meeting with residents of John John on Saturday.


"‘Houses by the hook, or crook’"

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