Jack Warner: Armed and Dangerous

For years now a lot of people - myself included - have felt certain that sooner or later the law would catch up with Jack Warner. His catalog of sins is so voluminous, his criminal career so extensive, his venality so widely known, that no man guilty of so much - stealing money donated for the feeding of the hungry and homeless victims of a hurricane being merely the latest chapter - could possibly expect to avoid having to face a day of reckoning for it all.

The recent announcement by police authorities that there was no evidence of Warner having done anything illegal - the sworn affidavits of 30 people to the effect that Jack dispensed bribes totaling a million dollars (US) in smuggled currency is of no probative value, apparently - notwithstanding, sooner or later Jack would have to face the music.

If nothing else the recent publicity given to the fact that the man blatantly stole a $22 million sports convention complex that sits just up the road from the seat of government would surely be enough to, at the least, force him out of the T&T cabinet.


So yesterday when I came across a link from intrepid Trinidadian reporter Lasana Liburd headlined "T&T PM Reshuffles Cabinet" I said to my frighteningly naive self "AT LAST".

Certainly the story would be that she's been forced to face the fact that her government is, and will continue to be, widely seen as hopelessly corrupt as long as one of it's leading members is a world-renowned thief, crook and liar and toss his sorry ass out on the street.

Which, in a way, is what she did.

She tossed him out of his Public Works job, where his main tasks involved drainage ditches, sewage treatment and culvert repairs, which he was probably tired of anyway.

Instead, he's now the Minister of National Security.

Specifically, this puts him in charge of:

The T&T Defence Force (ie. the Military): 4000 service people, including an infantry regiment and an assortment of small planes, helicopters and patrol boats)

The T&T Police Service: 6,500 Police Officers in varying ranks organized into nine Divisions and 18 Branches, Special Squads and Units.

The T&T Prison Service: 1200 Prison Officers operating all the country's detention facilities.

He also now runs the T&T Fire Service, The T&T Cadet Force (Paramilitary training for volunteer youth), the Immigration Service and more.

Right after the election Jack famously crowed that he was the "HNIC".

Now he really is.

As evidenced above, the T&T military establishment is hardly what one might call formidable, consisting of about 2000 members of a "regiment" and a relative handful of aircraft none of which could be considered tools of war unless you think a Piper Navajo or a Cessna 310 can strike terror in the hearts of international evil-doers.

They also have a few search and rescue helicopters and some nifty boats better suited to drug interdiction (or possibly wakeboarding).

Not exactly an extensive stable of hardware.

There are, however, two other things he's now in charge of:

Defence Force FC, which competes in the T&T Div I Professional league and is the most successful team in island history (They've won the national championship something like 20 times and won the old CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1985), creating a conflict with his promise to stay out of football, but FIFA will, as usual, simply ignore it I'm sure.

AND the World Famous Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force Steel Band:


Which is pretty cool and will certainly come in handy when he's hosting gala receptions at his Center of Excellence.

Now of course none of this is particularly scary to an actual army. Yes, the US could wipe up the streets with Jack's Merry Band and still make the early luncheon service in Miami, but so could T&T's friendly neighbor, Cuba, who would be decidedly less gentle about it.

But for most of the Caribbean - aside from Jamaica, who could give them a decent fight - they might as well be the Red Army.

Domestically however, in a country where the government can declare a State of Emergency when the mood strikes, 4000 military, 6500 cops and control of the jails is not something to take lightly.

Furthermore, thanks to the Ever-Vigilant Pablo Chicago, we have this link to Staebroek News (Guyana)wherein Jack promises the “dawn of a new era as he hopes to institute a new level of morale in the protective service and a new level of respect for the law."

A cynic might note that Jack has never previously displayed the remotest interest in "respect for the law", but that's not what he's referring to.

Rather, Jack will soon be announcing new initiative aimed at stemming a wave of crime on the island, and says what is needed is a "back to the basics" approach which could mean "bringing back the flying squad and getting more social groups as the girl guides, scouts and cadets active in all schools".

The "Flying Squads" refers to a special police detachment from a decade ago who were unquestionably successful in catching criminals. Unfortunately, they tended to cast a rather broad net which caused any number of innocent people to be sent to prison, beaten and/or robbed by the police.

It was finally disbanded when they were caught smuggling drugs, guns and contraband goods into the country.

This is the era that Jack longs to repeat, only this time he wants them aided by the nation's schoolchildren.

Messy civil liberties aside, the really important thing here is that the Head of State, Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, has doubled down with regard to Jack Warner.

The message is clear: not only am I not tossing him overboard, I'm making the very public point that I'm 100% behind him.

For T&T High Court Judge Rampersad, who has ordered the T&T Federation to bring charges against Warner, this has to give pause. He can order all sorts of legal remedies against Warner, but who is he going to get to enforce them?

For Richard Groden, current President of the T&TFF, his choice now is to bring action against his country's Minister of Defense or go to jail, and it was already looking like he was picking door #2 back when Jack was still just the Supervisor of Smelly Water.

(Actually, Groden is now attempting to create a third option: attack the Judge instead of Warner which, given the circumstances, might be a good deal safer.)

To everybody else - common citizens, journalists and opposition party leaders - it's a clear signal that the government has no intention of backing down. They'll stick with Jack until the bitter end.

As for the chances that the police will be conducting their long-awaited investigation of Jack Warner's many crimes, well, the guys who do the investigating now work for Jack.

Let's see CONCACAF try and get that building back now.