A very politically interesting thing happened in Trinidad on Monday night when Afro businessman and former National Security Minister Austin Jack Warner took on the Hindu-dominated, governing People’s Partnership (PP) in an Indian heartland constituency and won, triggering fears about his alleged larger ambitions to either severely weaken the governing coalition or bring it down altogether.
Until late April when Warner, 70, resigned his parliamentary seat in Chaguanas West, gave up the chairmanship of the United National Congress (UNC) and quit as national security minister in the wake of an international corruption scandal, he had been the most powerful person in the cabinet of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
He had also been the man who had put together the PP and was one of its main financiers, drawing millions from his personal wealth to swing it into power. All this has gone with the political wind that blew through Central Trinidad late Monday.
But that all changed when the prime minister said in late April that she had no choice but to boot him from her cabinet as investigative reports about his international financial dealings as a former vice-president for FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, had become too pervasive for her to ignore.
So Warner decided to resign and then campaign afresh for his seat in Chaguanas West in Central Trinidad, a district where the UNC, the largest of the coalition partners, has traditionally won hands down, being 80 percent Indo Trinidadian.
Warner won about 70 percent of the vote, whipping the coalition’s candidate by more than a two-to-one margin and in so doing, has exposed the soft underbelly of a grouping facing credible and widespread allegations of corruption, nepotism and political arrogance.
Now, just hours after his resounding victory and the fact that he would be going into the 41-seat parliament with his newly minted Independent Liberal Party (ILP), have laid bare uncertainties about the future of the coalition, possible defections to Warner and how tough it would be for the PP to rally-out untill general elections in 2015.
This is so because of lingering fears that some of the prime minister’s legislators and cabinet members might defect to Warner’s ILP, eventually forming a grouping that could severely undermine her as the Express newspaper reported this week.
Two coalition members, Rodger Samuel and Winston “Gypsy” Peters have already publicly signaled as such on Wednesday.
Of the two, Peters was a bit clearer, saying that, “I don’t know what would happen tomorrow or the day after. I am a member of the UNC now. That’s what I am. And I am a loyal member of the UNC right now. But one never knows. Politics is a very fluid thing. One could never tell. One never knows what would happen in the future,” he said.
For his part, Samuels noted that he plans to tell the PM first that he is likely to leave shortly.