Friday, February 23, 2018

Politician Anil vs talkshow host Anil

Express editorial logo430

Mark Fraser

If Anil Roberts were still a radio talkshow host, and a video emerged showing a man resembling a Government Minister carrying out some suspicious activities, would Mr Roberts have been satisfied if the said minister refused to deny or confirm who was in the video?

Would Anil Roberts, who as a talkshow host promised principle in governance, have accepted a Government minister resorting to legalisms to duck citizensí legitimate concerns?

Would talkshow host Roberts have praised a Prime Minister who refused to fire the minister in question?

It turns out, however, that politician Anil Roberts is a very different beast from the talkshow host who used to vehemently criticise official wrong-doing, whether illegal or unethical. Sport Minister Anil Roberts sees no issue in refusing to offer his resignation or, for that matter, in treating citizens like fools.

Apart from the stark contrast to his past incarnation in media, Mr Roberts is even more culpable since he belongs to a political party which has always emphasised its commitment to principle. The Congress of the People is now in national focus, with its response to the defiance of Minister Roberts grabbing rare headlines. Markedly since taking office in May 2010 as a junior partner in the Peopleís Partnership administration, the COPís self-assertion has diminished. So too has public appreciation of its influence and clout within the coalition headed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The emergence of the damning video coincided with the COPís internal election season, involving political leadership contenders jockeying for position. Suspended from the party after refusing to submit to questioning by a COP team headed by chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Mr Roberts has threatened litigation to challenge the authority and process of the party executive.

His dismissive grandstanding in ministerial office and his political support of Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar invitingly offers itself as a political football for the COP platform. It is unclear, however, whether the COPís executive has any further shots to play, for the party has been reduced to so ineffectual a state as to be equally incapable of commanding compliance by Mr Roberts or exerting influence on the Prime Minister.

In the final analysis, however, this does not really matter. As head of the Cabinet, Ms Persad-Bissessar has the ultimate responsibility for Mr Roberts. She has already started the ball rolling by removing the LifeSport programme from his portfolio, ordering an audit, and requesting a report about the video. But suspect financial transactions have already been exposed in the Auditor-Generalís 2014 report, the video evidence is more than prima facie, and Mr Roberts has not submitted the report requested two weeks ago.

A whole two weeks have elapsed since the PM saw the video and requested a report yet Mr Roberts has not complied and neither has he said a simple yes or no to the question of whether it is him in the video.

These are sufficient grounds for the Prime Minister to fire him now.