If Jack Warner is not crooked, neither is the Lady Young Road. I so declare completely mindful of the presumption of innocence.
Let it be very clear that I am not saying he is guilty of any of the crimes with which he has recently been charged.
But I am saying that I would not be in the least surprised if he were to be found guilty of all of the crimes with which he is charged because he is not just crooked, he is a man completely without conscience.
How dare I say that? Simple. I am not dealing with the allegations that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently attempting to nail down. Now a sexagenarian, I have known Warner for about half a century since I was the teenage secretary of my football club in Tunapuna and he was the secretary/treasurer of the Eastern Football Association (EFA).
So the evidence I have of the man’s crookedness dates back to long before the first “indiscretion” that is a matter of public record, the dastardly sell-out of the Trinidad and Tobago versus United States World Cup qualifier of 19 November 1989.
I could start by telling you the story of how I got my ticket for that ill-fated match long after the tickets were officially sold out. But not tonight. Later.
Or I could start by telling you how the EFA president, whose brother had been a teacher at my primary school, sat me down one day and warned me, complete with illustrations, of how dangerous a customer the EFA Secretary/Treasurer was.
“Keep your eyes open around that man, Best,” he exhorted me.
Or I could start by telling you about how, when Constantine Park in Tunapuna was being built, the right hands were greased so that Jack’s trucks would simply turn around and leave again after the clerk had signed for receipt of their load but before the load had been delivered.
But that is not where I wish to start. The place to start is with an explanation of what moved me to put metaphorical pen to paper.
It happened when I was reading an article by Trinidad Guardian reporter Radhica Sookraj, on June 14, who sought to confirm for us that Warner is truly an honourable man.
Blatter is his friend, the story, headlined “Jack still loyal to Blatter,” said and friends don’t sell their friends down the river. An honourable man indeed!
In The Real Mother Goose, I recorded it this way:
Jacky, come and give me thy Blatter:
“Jacky, come give me thy Blatter/If ever thou mean to thrive.”/“Nay, I’ll not give up my Blatter/To any man alive/If I should give up my Blatter/They’ll think that I’ve gone mad/For many a joyous day/My Blatter and I have had.”
In the run-up to the 2001 Under-17 World Cup, Warner pulled off a huge coup, setting up a private company called C.O.N.C.A.C.A.F and landing lucrative contracts to construct the stadia for the event.
He had had some experience of construction. In the late 1990’s, he had built the Centre of Excellence, ostensibly for Concacaf but in fact for himself as “a gift” from his biggest FIFA benefactor, Joao Havelange.
The Brazilian, arguably his mentor, had taught him well how to hide his filthy lucre in plain sight. But it was the damning Concacaf report into the handling of their funds that caused Jack to cross swords with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, his former bosom pal and UNC political leader who chose him to act for her on no fewer than five occasions.
Having lost the political power he had bought for himself, he was forced to go it alone and set up the ILP.
Little Jumping Jack:
Here am I, little jumping Jack/Since I leave the UNC/I have to watch my back.
And the stories started coming.
The House that Jack rented:
Jack was the farmer throwing the corn
That kept the voters that got up every morn
That waked the pundit all shaven and shorn
That performed the dharay when the PP was born
That made the PNM all sad and forlorn
That controlled the Treasury whose coffers were now gone
That fed the financiers
That got the contracts
That funded the kickbacks
That allowed the largesse
That paid for the house that Jack rented.
If Jack’s former political boss was expecting the same courtesies extended to Blatter because she had sometimes let him act in her stead, she was in for a shock. After she very theatrically walked out of Parliament while he was speaking, Jack publicly warned her that the gloves were off
She responded, addressing herself directly to the man she said was never her benefactor, not even in any of the four elections she lost:
Diddle diddle dumpling, my friend Jack:
Diddle diddle dumpling, my friend Jack/The gloves are off, bro, that is a fact/So you go make US jail and you not coming back/Diddle diddle dumpling, my friend Jack.
But Jack’s stories still kept right on coming.
Little Jack self:
Is little Jack self/put Kamla on the shelf/Because she would not take him back./When he called her out,/She make couillon mouth/And said on her he had “Not one fact!”
“Since Mister Jack/once my ace in the pack/because he had money to burn/now putting water in my eye/I’ll help the FBI/to chase him down wherever he turn.”
So, a little hearsay to sweeten the pot. I know someone who, in the run-up to that unforgettable November 19 match when everyone was beginning to see red, heard Warner’s daughter—not with his wife—say, “My father printing tickets.” In a supermarket. Out loud. I swear. My Mother Goose explains:
Jack be nimble:
Jack be nimble/Jack be quick/Jack jump up/and print your own ticket.
And now the story of how I bought a World Cup qualifier ticket directly from Jack in 1989.
I was directed to that particular unofficial ticket outlet by the now late Laurence McDowell, who was then employed in some capacity at the National Stadium. Jack took the ticket out of a pouch in a briefcase in the trunk of his car and put my money in his pocket.
I am quite sure that there are scores, maybe hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people who acquired their November 19 tickets in exactly the same way as I did. And these purchases were made, it almost goes without saying, long after the tickets were reported to be sold out.
You probably think I’m giving a jack a bad name just to hang him. Far from it. Long before 1989, he was already a practised hand at slackness. Judge for yourself.
I was the coach of my school’s football team for a spell in the 1970’s before another Warner, Roderick, took over. One Saturday morning, we were scheduled to play a game in South against either Presentation or Naparima and Jack turned up on my doorstep at sunrise. He wanted me to drop off a package at the TTFA office in South.
No problem, I said, consider it done. End of conversation.
The errand completed, Jack was back on my doorstep even earlier on Monday morning, this time to ask me to sign a receipt for “courier fees.” Like the maxi driver in Bally’s ‘Maxi Dub,” all he family, I expose to the way they born. That was the end of that.
Or was it? Maybe the TTFA records do show a receipt for courier fees bearing my signature. Jack, remember, was still honing the craft that would earn him a vice-presidency at FIFA, the world’s most successful university of graft and corruption…
Two decades later in the 1990’s, I got evidence of what a past master he had become. I had temporarily abandoned my primary profession of teaching to become an Editor with Responsibility for Sport at the Guardian.
Those were the days before that paper’s Sports Editor decided to drop the campaign to get Warner brought to justice for November 1989, agreed to switch sides and write Jack’s author-biography (STET) Upwards through the Night.
The 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup was on and someone called me and asked whether I would agree to help out by acting as a liaison officer for the French-speaking teams. It was just what the doctor ordered for my then teenage francophile son, so I agreed and volunteered his services as well.
We had great fun, my son and I, helping Guadeloupe and Martinique navigate their way around T&T. Like good citizens, we gave our time and energy to make the Cup a success and we got great satisfaction out of it.
Surprise, surprise! When the Cup accounts landed – fortuitously – on my desk some time later, they showed that the liaison officers had been paid $2,500. Each.
I’m not saying they weren’t; I’m simply saying that we weren’t – and we were official liaison officers. Hear Mother Goose:
Jack Sprat/Would never do that/The TTFA’s hands were clean/But still betwixt them both/They licked every platter clean.
Hard to believe? Ask yourself this question: if a man can knowingly involve his own sons in shady business and then, when they get into trouble with the authorities, say that they are 39 and 46 years old, so they can handle their own stories.
If a man can take hundreds of thousands of US dollars in aid money intended for earthquake victims in Haiti, Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations, and claim the lion’s share of it as his own. What guilt would he feel about taking $5,000 from a gullible editor and his teenage son?
Mother Goose has this to say:
Jack the Grinch:
Jack, the Grinch/went Port-au-Prince/To take aid money for Haiti./Said he was broke/It’s not a joke/Took $700K’s – gave them eighty.
Wise Jack got and home did trot/to start another caper./He lay in bed and scratched his head/then started the Sunshine paper.
Little Jack Warner:
Hungry Jack Warner/sat in the corner/counting aid cash from Korea/He put in his hand/withdrew 700 thousand/and said “What a smart man I am.”
When the Koreans and Japanese came a-calling in Trinidad during bidding for the 2002 World Cup, I had moved across Independence Square to the Trinidad Express.
Assigned to cover the event, Garth Wattley, now the Sports Editor at that paper, came back to the office from the Hilton in a state of shock. Jack had told him unabashedly, on the record, that the bidding had “exceeded our wildest dreams. I wish it could go on forever.”
It seemed to me like a Freudian slip; subsequent events suggest that Jack’s ego was certainly involved but that was no slip. His greed knew no bounds.
Finally in mid-2011, it cost him his FIFA vice-presidency when he urged CFU representatives to accept a US$40,000-each bribe from Qatar’s Mohammed bin Hammam, who was bidding to unseat Jack’s old crony, Blatter, as FIFA president.
Handy-Pandy, Jack-a dandy:
Handy-Pandy, Jack-a dandy/Loves US dollars; they get him randy./He got some from a Qatari bin/and ha man ready to worship him.
At last, it now looks like his misdeeds may have finally caught up with him. And if we are lucky, the DOJ will take him off our hands.
I, for one, shall shed no tears.
When, years ago, British journalist Andrew Jennings put a question to him about his international skullduggery, the angry world football giant roared.
“FIFA FO FUM! I smell the blood of an Englishman.”
And, while the BBC television cameras rolled, he did what any honourable man would do under the circumstances. He offered some very sage advice to the persistent Britisher.
“Ask yuh mudda!”