The following is the full address as presented by Jack Warner in response to allegations made against him and his family during a three-part series in the Trinidad Express on december 25, 26 and 7, 2005. The Media Conference was held on Tuesday January 3, 2006 at the Crowne Plaza, Port of Spain.
Members of the media, friends and colleagues, today I was supposed to have been in London for part of the critical preparations required for our national football team’s appearance at the World Cup. Instead I find myself here before you to defend my good name and that of my family against the mischief and character assassination scribed by Lasana Liburd in a series of libelous articles which appeared in the Express newspapers, beginning on the front page of that paper on Christmas Day.
I believe that the three-part series which was published over the Christmas weekend is part of a well timed, carefully orchestrated character assassination, designed to devalue any political currency which opponents of the UNC feel I might have been developing as a result of the Soca Warriors World Cup qualification alongside my own efforts within the United National Congress to unify the party and country.
In response, I have held lengthy discussions with my attorneys, family and members of the UNC. It was generally felt that it was sufficient to expose the story for what it is rather than to perpetuate its agenda by a law suit in the light of gross misrepresentations and inaccuracies even though I unreservedly withhold the right to do so at anytime.
The intention of the articles is to change the reference point of Jack Warner in the minds of the public, or more importantly, the electorate. It was designed to sully the Warner name and to reframe the recent achievements I have yearned and struggled for over many years in the football arena and which the national community embraced in a way that even Patrick Manning had to admit “brought people together like no politician had hitherto been able to do”.
This was not my doing of course but the result of the wave of nationalism inspired by the Soca Warriors’ huge, historic efforts on the football field. But my close involvement with the team and sport over the years and that of the politics, presented for the ruling party an untimely, and unwelcome national acknowledgement of Jack Warner that had to be stopped at all costs, by any means necessary.
You might have noticed that at the last Annual Convention of the PNM Patrick Manning devoted considerable time in attacking Jack Warner and Winston Dookeran. In fact, not a syllable of criticism was made of our feisty Opposition Leader, Basdeo Panday. The easier way to get at Panday and the UNC was to launch “Operation Get Warner.”
It is unfortunate that the way politics is conducted there are no sacred cows when it comes to advancing one’s cause, however twisted and destructive that may be. How, I ask myself, can we have taken one of the most euphoric moments to have occurred in our country’s history, one which can become a catalyst for meaningful and lasting change in the way people see themselves, each other and their birthplace, and seek to dismantle it all only to serve selfish, petty, parochial political interests?
This is not to say that an attack on me is an attack on the achievements of our national football side but you must admit that I humbly and unreservedly share in the success of Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup qualification and to impute that there were selfish and improper motives designed for personal gain to the dedicated efforts and sacrifices I have made over two decades, is to steal the sweet moment of victory not from Jack Warner alone but from the people who worked so hard and tirelessly to deliver it while others stood by on the sidelines doing exactly what we see and hear today in those malignant articles.
You will have noticed that I have not even begun to deal with Mr. Liburd’s fabrications and inaccuracies. That is easy to do and I will do so point by point but I refuse to begin without placing his articles in their proper context.
Let us not get carried away by treating this venomous, vitriolic personal attack with a clear political agenda as being nothing more than that. I will unmask what poses to be a piece of investigative journalism for just what it happens to be, so before we address the specific obvious points of departure between truth and fabrication, let us return to the real author and the broader political context.
If I came here today to announce a law suit, that would have been the lead story and the headline serving only the agenda of the PNM by perpetuating the lies, and feeding the monster. If I came here only to refute Mr. Liburd’s story the headline would have been: “Jack defends himself against allegations”. I hope that you will, by the end of this news conference, not only be able to report the truth but to expose the plot hatched by my political opponents and those of the UNC which they have in fact named “Operation Get Warner: A prelude to the General Elections of 2006.”
Unfortunately, I cannot divulge the source of my information for it would expose someone whose membership within the PNM did not override his sense of moral obligation to unmask the hideous scheme and to warn me about it even before the articles appeared.
It should not surprise us that these people would go to such lengths to hold on to power. You will recall in the midst of the last general election, when Patrick Manning sat with so-called community leaders to negotiate a so-called truce on crime, he had promised some state lands at the time and after the public outcry had to withdraw the offer. The so-called community leaders then campaigned openly for the PNM, mounting political platforms of their own and threatening UNC voters. After the general elections with billions of your dollars flowing into CEPEP and URP programmes, gangs began fighting for the turf. It was payback time and we had suddenly become like Jamaica where gangs are involved in the political scene.
Today, as much as the Prime Minister postures before the public that he is serious about attacking the crime problem, there is an obvious lack of political will because certain nefarious elements will once again be needed to achieve the political ends of the ruling party come election time.
What has all this got to do with the attack on Jack Warner? It has everything to do with it, because it is football they see as the great unifying force across the country and that spells doom for the insular and inept ruling party that has over the past few years led our great, beloved country to ruin.
Many people have even expressed the view that the World Cup qualification of the nation has helped in some way, even temporarily, to ease the tension of the scourge of crime sweeping the country. And all of this would have been very useful to the PNM had it not been for the Jack Warner/UNC connection to the event.
United as a people we can also now turn our attention to the real problem in the country – that of how the PNM’s connections with certain elements and its funding of gangs through misdirected funds from the CEPEP and URP have produced the tsunami wave of crime.
And so, that is the political context of the series of articles which appeared in the Express newspapers over three days and given front page coverage. Now that I hopefully have been able to explain the real objective of the stories, I can go on to refute certain key points in Mr. Liburd’s fabrications (and I must admit Liburd is appropriately named.)
Lie - burd
Credit must be given to Mr. Liburd for demonstrating that he is both a mathematical genius and an inventor of facts. In his magical script more apt for the Warner Bros. Studios than the Warner family, Mr. Liburd estimates that the local Warners will rake in a cool fifty million dollars in revenue from World Cup ticket sales alone! Apart from his illogical calculations, this unrepentant and inveterate liar has even outdone himself in that no application for World Cup tickets of any kind has been submitted yet to FIFA by the TTFF or me!!!
As a consequence, no World Cup tickets of any category or price has been assigned to Simpaul’s or to any other organization and/or person in Trinidad and Tobago or the TTFF and I wish to repeat that no application has yet been made to FIFA for World Cup tickets of any kind or any category nor has any been assigned to Simpaul’s Travel Service.
At this point in time, no one in T&T really knows (except perhaps a creature called Liburd,) who in T&T will get World Cup tickets, what quantity they will receive or the criteria which will be used in the determination of ticket allocation. In the absence of all this information, including the cost of tickets, only a Liburd can arrive at any kind of tally much less the gigantic proportions he sensationally manufactures.
Several persons and/or organizations have submitted requests for tickets including but not limited to a Government Ministry; a quasi-Public organization, private companies, and others. But the fact is that no decision has been made on the ticket allocation for T&T fans and no official or other responses on the number of tickets to be allocated have been made to these requests.
Mr. Liburd’s irresponsible statements and falsehoods are a clear departure from the truth but they arrive in dangerous times when such comments jeopardize the safety and security of my family. And in the context of what is happening in the country today I have raised my concerns about the protection of both my family and myself with the Commissioner of Police and have made a formal request of him for police protection.
Warner Group of Companies (WGOC)
Let me say unequivocally, that I make no apologies for the business interests of the Warner Group of Companies. It is not a crime to be successful even for people like me, but no one should attempt to impute improper business practices and conflicts of interest to me when the reality has been that I have given selflessly to the cause of Football and the aspiration of the nation’s interest in this area. It is easy to make an allegation with the intent of creating doubts in the minds of people but it is quite another task to establish an irrefutable truth.
Consider the following facts and ask yourself how you would feel if you were Jack Warner in light of the dark purpose of these articles:-
1. All monies received by me were put back into local football.
2. By the end of 2004, the total sum of indebtedness by the TTFF to me is $17 million dollars (TT). This figure does not include the amount of my personal funds which were expended in preparing Trinidad and Tobago for the World Cup Tournament.
3. Over the years I have paid up a significant part of the TTFF’s debt with the exception of $827,000 which is owed to Simpaul’s Travel since 2001. In fact, many of the arrangements made with companies such as Simpaul’s with which I have an interest have been to the benefit of the TTFF and to my own disfavour because of non-payment by the TTFF. To the contrary, Mr. Liburd’s article suggests that businesses owned by the Warner Group, specifically Emerald Plaza Hotel & Apartments and D’Coal Pot restaurant benefit significantly from football. But quite the opposite is true.
4. The records show that the earnings of these organizations have suffered because of the subsidized rates which I insist they charge for the services provided and for which the TTFF has not been paying. At this point in time the Football Federation owes these two entities well over half a million dollars.
5. I recently paid a debt of the TTFF amounting to $1.7 million which was owed to CMB – Collier, Morrison and Belgrave of 13 Rust St., St. Clair. Ask Ian Collier, himself.
6. An additional sum of some $3 million dollars of a $5 million dollar loan owed by the TTFF to Republic Bank was paid by me and the balance of $2 million dollars was due by December 31st 2005. Ask the Branch Manager of Republic Bank, Long Circular Mall.
7. I have never at any time made any demands on the TTFF to make a repayment of the sums of money outstanding to me or to Simpaul’s.
1. Simpaul’s Travel was purchased by the Warner family some 10 years ago. At the time the Football Federation owed Simpaul’s over two hundred thousand dollars, which sum I paid.
2. Since 1992, Simpaul’s Travel has been the official travel agency of the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation and since then the Football Federation has owed Simpaul’s tremendous sums of money, the last being $827,000 in 2001 and which remains unpaid to date.
3. Simpaul’s has been the official tour operator for the T&TFF since the 1994 World Cup Final, when it paid to the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation a sum of twenty-five thousand dollars for that facility. This was increased to fifty-thousand dollars for the 1998 World Cup Final, one hundred thousand dollars for the 2002 World Cup Final and five hundred thousand for the 2006 World Cup Final, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, in cash and two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in kind.
4. In August 2005, based on the usually exclusive status given to Simpaul’s by the Football Federation, certain tour packages were arranged with another European counterpart for which the following fees were paid:
19TH July 2005 – 26,532Euros
19th August 2005 – 172,800 Euros
26th August 2005 – 106,560 Euros
17th September 2005 – 280,800 Euros
All of the above referenced payments were made before T&T had even dreamed of qualifying and copies of the various receipts are here today for your perusal!!! Several other payments have since been made.
Where were Liburd and his friends then?
When the Warner family had to mortgage the family house for local football’s survival in the 1980s, where were Liburd and his friends?
During this qualifying campaign when T&T had played three matches and had only one point, where were Liburd and his friends?
When Beenhakker and a new staff were then employed at US $100,000 per month (the same cost for the monthly rental of Blimp 2), where were Liburd and his friends?
When CONCACAF had only one team qualifying for a World Cup Tournament and we came second; then CONCACAF got two qualifying teams and we came third; then CONCACAF had three qualifying teams and we came fourth and I continued to lobby the FIFA for an extra place and CONCACAF received 31/2 spots, where were Liburd and his friends then?
Even as we launched 2010 World Cup programme at the Marvin Lee Stadium last Wednesday (Dec 28th 05), where were Liburd and his friends? Or are they waiting until we qualify for 2010 and then to do another article and another hustle?
Why have there never been similar outbursts about tickets for the Olympics or the Hockey World Cup? Graphix Advantage has been given exclusive rights to produce 11 different types of memorabilia for the Soca Warriors ranging from sun visors to pencils, for which the firm has paid $400,000, why is there no outburst against them or against Busta for their exclusive status or Carib or even TSTT ?
But I prefer not to ask more questions at this stage, and now…
Who is this man Liburd?
Apart from the fact that he attended Arima Government Secondary School where his Principal and Vice Principal were both Warners (how he must hate that name today) what is his claim to fame?
Apart from his boast that he was the CCN reporter who was taken to London to report on the Privy Counsel matter between Ken Gordon and Basdeo Panday, who is he?
Apart from the fact that he has been consistently refused accreditation to the World Cup Qualifying matches in T&T, who is he?
Apart from the fact that he is working against his employers, the CCN Group acquiring the broadcast rights for the World Cup in 2010, who is he? In 1994 I obtained the local TV rights for WC for the princely sum of $1USD and sold it to TV6 for $250,000 USD which sum went towards the development of football in the TTFF. The same was done in 1998, 2002 and 2006 with increases in each case. Liburd continues to make this an issue and I can give him only one assurance today and that is that I will review the sale of these rights to his employers for the 2010 World Cup.
So again, I ask the question, “Who is Liburd, what is his claim to fame?”
If his claim to fame in the man is to bring down Jack Warner or to take away any “honour” that may be bestowed upon me, then let him think again.
The greatest honour for me is not the “Individual of the Year Award” or “Sports Administrator of the Year Award” or, in fact, any Award of any kind. These are, of course, appreciated. The greatest honour for me is not a title. The greatest honour for me is when the man on the street, from all walks of life, greets me and genuinely, from the heart says “Thanks, Mr. Warner, thanks for what you are doing for our local football and for our country”.
That, for me, is the greatest honour, Liburd, and you cannot take that away from me. Your aim, I know, is to drive a wedge between the players and myself thereby destroying the unity and respect among us all that is so critical to the success of the team. We have seen the results of this in West Indies cricket but the difference here is that I know these players from the time they were very young and whatever differences we may ever have had in the past, none of them distrusts me nor questions my best intentions.
The passion I hold for my country’s football and sports in general cannot be measured, for it is Football which has given me success on an international scale and a deeper sense of nationalism. There is no price I can put on that and if I am in a position to assist it is true to my core values to do so. Any individual both on and off the field can attest to this.
Through Football and Trinidad and Tobago I have reached the dizzying heights of the FIFA administration and have had the pleasure of sharing precious time with inspiring minds from Nelson Mandela to Pele. These experiences have humbled me and grounded my faith in Trinidad and Tobago and while I do not expect everyone to understand my passion, commitment and material contribution, I will not accept anyone’s judgement based upon spurious allegations with their own hidden agendas.
That is the background to my contribution to the TTFF. It is also what moves me to play a role politically as I hold out the same expectation and belief for my country as I do for our national football side.
But let us get back to Liburd Manufacturing. In his article, Mr. Liburd suggests that Kenny Rampersad is a Director of Simpaul’s Travel and the auditor of the TTFF. Kenny Rampersad is neither a Director of Simpaul’s nor is his company the auditor of the TTFF. In fact, the TTFF auditor is the firm of KPMG who has graciously sent a representative this morning to answer any questions you may have about the integrity of the auditing process and to affirm his company’s role in auditing the TTFF’s books. Copies of the latest audited statements of the TTFF by KMPG are also available this morning for your review.
Mr. Liburd also had to go back 16 years to the age old issue of tickets printed in 1989. He alleges that I printed 16,500 tickets during the World Cup qualifying campaign of that year. This is a blatant lie. This allegation raises a very old issue that has no basis for truth and no bearing on anything today.
To fulfill the real purpose of the article, which is to discredit me, Mr. Liburd throws in any and everything that could bring my good name into disrepute.
The question to ask is why would Mr. Liburd allow himself to be used to serve someone’s political agenda? Well, the answer to that is that the PNM found in him a convenient hatchet man since Liburd had already aligned himself with an English journalist, Andrew Jennings, who consistently maligns FIFA, its President, Sepp Blatter and myself.
In fact, Liburd spent a considerable period of time in the U.K over the past year collaborating with Jennings on his soon to be published book called FOUL which is to be released just before the World Cup. The timing is deliberate and is purported to bring disrepute to FIFA on the eve of the World Cup Football Final.
A draft manuscript of this book FOUL is in my possession, highlighting my name, FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s, and others whom he plans to malign, in the hope that they can do damage to the character of Mr. Blatter and Mr. Jack Warner. In the book, Liburd and Jennings accuse me of fixing matches to benefit T&T, siphoning funds and a host of other accusations which can only come from a pair of warped minds.
They have vowed to bring down the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter and one of his Vice Presidents – Jack Warner. Liburd is also billed to serialize the book in the Express Newspaper later this year – his editor, no doubt a willing partner in this exercise.
Even as I speak to you this morning, there are plans afoot by Liburd and his English accomplice to initiate a series of anti-Blatter/anti-Warner campaigns in the Caribbean later this month beginning in Jamaica – always Jamaica!!! Massa day done; Massa day come back!!!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real story behind the Express Liburd articles. I do not intend to continually reply to Mr. Liburd’s concoctions since this will serve his purpose only too well and that of the PNM.
In fact, I am emboldened by the Express attack on me and quite frankly hold no grudge on the paper. Keith Smith did what he felt he had to do (in spite of the fact that he changed a positive article designed for his Sunday Christmas newspaper into a negative and most vicious one), but I, ladies and gentlemen will also carry out my own national duty which is to rescue my country and return it to being the sweet, sweet T&T we all remembered it to be just a few years ago before the PNM resumed office.
The FIFA of which I am proud to be an official has a membership of 207 countries with a cumulative population of over 3 billion people. Of this number 24 persons have been selected to be on the FIFA Executive Committee of which Trinidad & Tobago has a member and a Vice President at that!!! In each of the other 23 countries, being a member on the FIFA Executive Committee is considered an honour. In Trinidad & Tobago, however, such a membership seems to be a curse! And why? It is because, in some ways, some people of this country, our country, are cruel and unkind, always bent on belittling persons who are successful, particularly persons like me…
In this country, one has to hide and become almost faceless if he or she is successful and all this, regrettably, is aided and abetted by some willing accomplices in the media.
I ask for no favours of anyone and I expect none. However, to me, my family is sacrosanct, and when one goes out of his way to undeservingly malign them, one has crossed the Rubicon...Lie- burd has just crossed!!!
To Minister Boynes, who, as part of the “Operation Get Warner” exercise has tried to discredit me by attempting to give the public the impression that that there is some tardiness on my part in submitting a budget for T&T’s participation in the World Cup or something sinister or both, I wish to advise Minister Boynes that, if he can, he should not let others push him into behaving as “Boyishly”.
The simple fact is that no budget could have sensibly been prepared unless all the facts and figures are available, where, by and large, they now are. From all the facts and figures available, a budget has just been prepared conservatively estimated at some 40 million dollars and the details of which will be revealed at another news conference later this week.
But why the haste, Minister Boynes? Why not hustle to pay the coaches’ salaries for October, for November or even December which you had promised to pay since early October?
Why not pay the big truck and the performers hired for the Soca Warriors’ victory street parade on November 17th on their successful return from Bahrain? After more than 4 weeks and a lot of haggling between your Ministry and that of Community Development, why not pay the poor performers – Roy Cape All Stars Band ($22,000), Don Ramdeen Transport ($15,000), Earl Crosby/Crosby Sounds ($10,000), Sagicor Exodus ($10,000), St James Tassa Group ($2,500), MSI Sound Company ($18,000), Agency Coordination Charges ($12,500) and others - A total of a mere $106,950.00. Do you need a budget for those payments, Minister Boynes? Why not pay that sum of $106,950.00?
It is informative to note that I have since paid the coaches’ salaries for October, November and December, as well as their bonuses for having brought this country to its first ever World Cup Final.
It is also informative to note that I have since paid the big truck and all the performers related to your Government’s hiring despite the fact that I had nothing to do with these arrangements. Remember Minister Boynes all of this – the Soca Warriors Victory Street Parade - was done by your Government for the welcome home of your government’s newly adopted Soca Warriors!!!
In fact, Minister Boynes, I do wish to state publicly here and now that, in my capacity as Chairman of TT Germany 2006 Ltd, we do not wish to have any funds from your Government for this World Cup project. We have come this far without any funds from your Government, except for $2.6 million TT dollars given at an earlier period, and we shall complete the journey without any further Government funding.
All I ask of you and your Government is to give the footballers a little “ka ka da”. At least match us, since we have decided to pay each of them a sum of money ranging from $20,000 United States dollars to $100,000 United States dollars based on some well defined criteria. I leave for London this weekend to meet with the players to advise them accordingly.
Pay the footballers directly, Minister Boynes. Do not give TTFF or TT Germany 2006 Ltd any Government funding to participate in the World Cup Final in Germany later this year.
Pay the coaches’ salaries and bonuses directly and retroactively but do not make any other financial contribution to us. We shall overcome. But I shall say more about that later this week at a special football news conference to be called for such a purpose.
I wish now to formally present my Football Gun Amnesty Plan of which I had spoken recently. It is based upon the fact that many of our footballers emerge from down-trodden neighbourhoods, where drug dealers are as commonplace as doubles vendors and where crime is seen as a career choice.
The recent victory of our national team has touched even the gang leaders, for they identify with the success of the players. Many came out to celebrate. Members of the team are ready to make an impassioned plea to these very gangs to put down their guns, to give themselves, their communities and the country a chance.
This Gun Amnesty Plan will use whatever leverage and influence the national football side has with some of these misguided individuals. If the effort produces one positively altered life, or just a few guns, it would still have been worth it. And who knows how far the message may reach!!! Using the song “Laventille” performed by a local reggae artiste called Mr. King, a 60 second ad on the Gun Amnesty Plan has been developed, a demo of which I will share with you this morning.
We understand that some people may feel the word “Warrior” in Soca Warriors has a negative connotation, but we also wish to remind those who feel this way that not all warriors are wicked; especially those who fight injustice and champion the cause of good over evil, and in this case, those who despite humble beginnings can overcome all obstacles and against all odds, bring pride and glory to country. It is therefore, in this context, that I wish the general public to view our Soca Warriors as a group, a positive force, committed to doing for this country what “no other politician has done to date” or will ever do…
The television ad “Laventille” which will be shown now is part of a multi-media publicity campaign designed to persuade gang-leaders to respond to the call for putting down their guns. I hope the Gun Amnesty Plan I propose will be embraced by the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security since it is a strategy that has had great success in many parts of the world, but unfortunately, I do not expect a positive response from them, unless like the Limp Blimp, they feel it has some public relations benefit.
The showing of this ad will be an appropriate conclusion to the news conference as it refocuses the national community on the real issues before us rather than the distraction which I was forced to address this morning.
May I take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you, your beloved families and our nation a blessed and joyous New Year. God bless. And thank you all.