David John-Williams is standing on the par-5 fifth tee at the golf course at Savonetta, addressing his tee ball with his driver. Investigative notes in hand, Mark Bassant ‘ambushes’ him.
“Is your middle name Apullnaris?” he asks.
Startled, the ex-president blocks his shot.
“Right!” he yells.
Bassant did not need the confirmation; he already knew that, having done his homework.
CNC3’s Bassant and Wired868’s Lasana Liburd started their journalistic journeys in the same place, the Sports Desk at the Trinidad Guardian, around the same time, the early 1990s. Perhaps that is why both have arrived—by very different routes—at the same conclusion, to wit, that David Apullnaris John-Williams is not the best thing for Trinidad and Tobago football.
Unsurprisingly, DAJW does not agree. However, he never quite says so in so many words. What he does use many words to say is that Bassant’s 10 September documentary on CNC3 titled ‘TTFA’s Secret Panama Trail’ was nothing but crap.
In it, Bassant talks a lot about a cuenta bancaria panameña but, if we are to believe John-Williams, it’s all made up, created, fiction. Nothing but a cuento de hadas trinitario.
In the ex-president’s response, one finds ‘…several articles and […] news stories created by Mr Bassant’ (my emphasis) and ‘all of the allegations made against me are false’. There is too ‘false and defamatory allegations…’ and ‘the untruths, the distortions and the falsehoods’ as well as ‘… odious and contemptible allegations […which] are baseless’.
And here’s the kicker: ‘… attempts to elevate sensationalism and character assassination to the ranks of journalism’.
But, as Liburd points out in his latest story, there is no attempt at refutation. Nary a word.
Liburd, mind you, has always gone out of his way to be fair to the former TTFA big sawatee with the unusual middle name. For example, in a story posted on Wednesday discussing allegations of possible million-USD malfeasance on the part of the ex-president, the Wired868 Editor opts for a headline about DAJW’s successor.
Liburd defends his choice on the grounds that he deemed that angle to be ‘more topical’?
But William Wallace’s major sin, any fair-minded commentator can see, is naiveté, innocence, a lack of street wisdom, being a little unsuspecting sardine in a shark-infested ocean.
Liburd makes links between DAJW and all kinds of people like Veron Mosemba-Ongo. But he steers very clear of the course in the plains of Savonetta.
Not so Bassant. He goes well out of his way to bring fear to DAJW. For over almost half a year, he made several trips—virtually!—to the USA and Panama to unearth possible dirt on the alleged TTFA-president-cum-at-one-and-the-same-time-TTFA’s-House-of-Football-contractor. For any investigative reporter, says Bassant, such journeys are par for the course.
I doubt he was hoping there to show us a Tiger Woods but no such luck. Anyway. All he encounters is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Remember all the promises we heard both before and after the election in November 2015?
“I hear that United TTFA is missing some greenbacks?” the reporter continues. “Do you know how many millions?”
“Fore!” comes the cry. The ex-president has sliced his drive again.
“Actually,” Bassant says dryly, “it’s more than that. But, say what? What’s a few million between footballing friends?”
The reporter backs off, biding his time. If DAJW finds himself not in the fairway but in the rough or in the bunker, lies are going to be an issue. In fact, if the last answer is any guide, lies are more than likely to be an issue anyway.
So when the ex-president’s iron shot finally comes to rest on the fringes of the green, Bassant seizes his moment.
“What’s in your bag?” he asks pointedly. “Dólares?”
DAJW looks like he has seen a ghost. And he probably has. Chuck Blazer’s. It’s the full tape of Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin Hammam that begins to roll before his eyes.
Strategically, the reporter falls silent again. No point causing anybody’s sudden death, right?
Hole 6 is a par 3. That’s the best place for the ace. And Bassant has one up his sleeve.
As the ball rolls slowly towards the hole: “Where did you putt it?” he inquires. “En Panamá?”
Time to beat a retreat.
“You think I could see your card?” he throws over his shoulder at the ex-president, taking his leave. “Not the TTFA FCB one, the one from your personal account in Republic Bank.”
Bunkered! It’s not often you see a man pull a sand wedge on the green.
But it’s not often either that a former high-flying eagle realises that he’s now an albatross around football’s neck.
And, worse, all of footballing T&T—including Liburd’s Wired868—is about to find it out…