Sunday, December 17, 2017

Deathbed confessions


Mark Fraser

It is said that when people are on their deathbeds, staring Basil in the eye, anything they say is very likely to be the truth. Truth, not so much in the sense of being factual, but in the sense of representing who the person truly is and what he stands for.

Anil Roberts is not dying, of course, but it is not too far-fetched to say that his resignation as Minister of Sport and his expressed intention to resign from Parliament constitute his political death. And in his wide-ranging interview with a newspaper reporter, he said much that was worthy of note and it speaks volumes as to the kind of person he is.

The first point is, notwithstanding what was stated in his letter of resignation, Mr Roberts made it clear that he was forced to resign. Even as he lay dying (politically speaking) Mr Roberts still could not see or understand why there was such a clamour for his resignation.

He still insisted that he had done nothing wrong and expressed outrage at the idea that, “a minister of government, duly elected by the people, (could be) put into a position to resign, then where do we go from here?” He even hinted darkly at conspiracies on the part of some of his Cabinet colleagues to get him out.

It speaks volumes about the kind of man Mr Roberts is that he seems unable to grasp the concept of ministerial responsibility. And his feeling of deep hurt is palpable. He says: “So even though you did nothing wrong and the audit is flawed and natural justice has not taken its natural course, decisions are made based on politics.”

So for Mr Roberts, as long as his hands, as the executive in charge, are clean (or at least not seen to be sullied) then it does not matter how outrageous or scandalous the performance of his subordinates is; he is absolved of all culpability. Such a concept is mind-boggling and leaves one to wonder what Mr Roberts, and perhaps some of his former colleagues, consider the job of a minister to be.

Secondly, we need to note what he said about his erstwhile party, the Congress of the People (COP). Mr Roberts stated, and it is important to use his own words, “I was never really interested in the COP. You cannot resign from a corpse. The COP is dead. They are just a comedy of errors.”

Two points we need to note. First, as far as he is concerned, the COP is dead. Now I agree with that diagnosis but I have never been a COP member. Until a few days ago Mr Roberts was. He was an MP representing that party. He contested for the position of leader of that party and he has spoken on the election platform of that party.

If today he can blithely state that the party is dead, then the level of hypocrisy and duplicity betrayed by Mr Roberts is astounding. But it gets worse. What does Mr Roberts mean when he states, “I was never really interested in the COP”? Is Mr Roberts saying that back in 2010, when he was loudly campaigning for the COP, that he was merely using that party as a vehicle of convenience? What other way are we to interpret that statement? And if the interpretation is correct then what a thoroughly unscrupulous individual we are dealing with!

Finally, we need to note Mr Roberts’ evaluation of the relative strengths of the People’s Partnership and the PNM. He stated that, “Despite the Partnership’s flaws, they are far superior to what the PNM could offer”.

What is of most interest to me is not which party he feels is stronger but that in his mind the choices are limited to these parties. The fact is that for 20 years we have been alternating one of these parties after the other in government and it has not made a difference; the old adage about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results rings true.

But Mr Roberts is no different in this regard from the PNM supporters. It is in both their interest to have the population believe that we have no choice but to live with the two of them. But they are both essentially the same and we shall not rid ourselves of politicians like Mr Roberts until we get rid of the parties that give them succour and comfort.