Trinidad PM stands by Warner amid FIFA suspension
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday May 30, 2011 – Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has declared that she and her government are standing by Works and Transport Minister Austin ‘Jack’ Warner who was “provisionally suspended” by football’s governing body FIFA over bribery claims, even though she is concerned about the allegations.
She said in a statement issued to the media late yesterday evening, hours after FIFA’s Ethics Committee announced the suspension, that Warner must be allowed every opportunity to present his side.
“I am fully aware that events like this involving a senior Cabinet Minister will be of immense concern to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Likewise, I am concerned by the allegations made and expect an update from Mr. Warner upon his return, which he has assured he will do,” said the release issued by the Office of the Prime Minister.
“At this time, there is no reason for me to arrive at any conclusion regarding the allegations made against Mr. Warner...I will not prejudge the allegations against Minister Warner and, until there is evidence to the contrary, I stand by him,” it added.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar pointed out that it is a fundamental tenet of the rule of law that a man is innocent until proven guilty, a right that is enshrined in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.
“And so, the decision by FIFA to initiate a provisional suspension of its Vice President Jack Warner, pending investigation, is not a determination of guilt but part of a process that we trust will be fair and unprejudiced,” she stressed, adding that the process must now be allowed to go its full course.
“FIFA is an international sport body that is not part of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago; we therefore have no knowledge about its procedures and the dynamics of its unique internal politics. It would be unfortunate if we made premature adverse judgement and pronouncement on a matter that is under investigation. This would be contrary to the spirit and letter of the laws of our land.”
The prime minister described Warner as a “son of the soil” who served the twin-island republic faithfully at FIFA and who was instrumental in leading the country to its very first World Cup qualification a few years ago.
FIFA is to carry out a full investigation into allegations that Warner and another executive and president of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, offered bribes at a meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in Trinidad on May 10 and 11. It is alleged that payments of up to US$40,000 were made to secure votes for Bin Hammam in his campaign to challenge Sepp Blatter for the presidency in upcoming elections, scheduled for Wednesday.
Hours before appearing before the Ethics Committee yesterday, Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy.
Along with Warner and Bin Hammam, CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester were suspended from all activity connected with the game until the probe is completed.
If they’re found guilty of bribery, they could be expelled from the organisation and banned from all football activity.
Warner says suspension an abuse of power
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon in response to the Ethic Committee’s ruling Warner described his suspension as “an abuse of process” which “achieves no real purpose”.
“I intend to say a lot more on this matter shortly. In the meantime, I will vigorously defend my reputation as well as the reputation of the rest of the Caribbean members,” he said.
The suspended FIFA vice president and president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) also expressed disappointment with the way the Ethics Committee hearing was conducted yesterday.
He said he was given less than 24 hours to submit a statement for consideration by the Committee before he appeared before it around noon.
“Moreover, one of the five members of the Committee is from Uruguay and did not have the value of a translated version of my or Mr Bin Hammam's submission. This lack of translation services brings into question the issue of due process,” he said.
“In addition, FIFA did not have the courtesy to provide me with copies of the allegations before the hearing and it was only during the hearing were the allegations read to me.”
Warner was also peeved that he had to learn of his suspension via the media, even though he had requested before leaving the hearing that he be contacted when a decision was handed down.
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