Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Anil Roberts says if Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner is found guilty by the FIFA ethics committee, it would have a negative impact on local football.

"Warner has been instrumental in not only moving the Concacaf region up to world prominence but also enhancing Trinidad and Tobago's opportunity to succeed at the world's sphere, so any adverse finding against Minister Warner will definitely have an impact on football here in Trinidad and Tobago," he said during a telephone interview yesterday.

He said while he was not going to jump to conclusions about Warner's innocence as FIFA vice-president, he was going to monitor the situation very closely because "it could have some very awesome impacts, not only on sport in Trinidad and Tobago but football on the whole".

Roberts said there were people comparing the controversy surrounding Warner to that of former senator Mary King, but he insisted it was not the same.

"I think there is no real comparison because in that situation, King admitted on three points that she had erred," he said.

Asked whether he thought Warner should continue to hold the posts of FIFA vice-president and Works Minister, Roberts said he saw no problem with it.

"Yes, the stress can have an impact on you, but he has become accustomed to this; on the other hand, we must monitor and wait for all the facts to come out because right now, I repeat, there are no facts, there are only allegations," he said.

Kamla hangs on to Jack.
By: Reshma Ragoonath (Guardian).

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, in a declaration of support for Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner, yesterday vowed to stand by the FIFA vice-president even as the Ethics Committee of the world’s governing body of football issued a provisional suspension of his duties yesterday.

Persad-Bissessar, addressing a media conference last night in Debe, said: “I will not prejudge the allegations against Minister Warner, and until there is evidence to the contrary, I stand by him.”

Yesterday, Fifa’s ethics commitee, meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, issued a provisional suspension banning Warner, the Fifa vice-president and CONCACAF president, from conducting any football business, pending the outcome of a full investigation into bribery allegations levelled against him.

Persad-Bissessar said: “At this time, there is no reason for me to arrive at any conclusion regarding the allegations made against Mr Warner.” While she admitted that, like all citizens, she too was “concerned by the allegations,” the Prime Minister said Warner assured in an e-mail that he would update her on the matter when he returned to Trinidad tomorrow.

The Prime Minister also denied rumours that the Works Minister had offered to tender his resignation in light of the suspension. Asked by reporters if Warner were to be found guilty by the full FIFA investigations what would be the Government’s next move, Persad Bissessar said: “It is inappropriate for me to speculate.”

The Prime Minister was in high praise of Warner whom she described as “a son of our soil” who served this nation faithfully at that very football organisation and who was instrumental in leading Trinidad and Tobago to its very first World Cup qualification just a few years ago.”

She said he “must be allowed every opportunity to present his case against the allegations made about him.” The decision by FIFA to initiate a provisional suspension against Warner, pending an investigation, Persad Bissessar said, “is not a determination of guilt, but part of a process that we trust will be fair and unprejudiced.

“A provisional suspension is not to be equated with a finding of guilt, far less a sentence based on a finding of wrongdoing,” she said. Under the Constitution, it was a “fundamental tenet,” the Prime Minister said, that “a man is innocent until proven guilty.”

She said: “It would be unfortunate if we made premature adverse judgment and pronouncement on a matter that is under investigation. This would be contrary to the spirit and letter of the laws of our land.”