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The final blow?

By Raoul Pantin

“The country seems to think that the big consequence of the (LifeSport) audit with its damning parade of greed, theft, misuse of public funds and lack of patriotism should be either the resignation or firing of the creator of LifeSport, Anil Roberts. It is not! The big consequence ought to be the resignation of the Government.”

-Political analyst Winford James, July 31, 2014 

 Mr James may be absolutely correct in his judgment on this issue but I don’t think the Government will resign. Nobody walks away from power in this country and certainly not the neophytes in this Government.

But I believe this LifeSport disaster is going to continue to have negative repercussions for this Government well into the future.

The Prime Minister’s announcement last Thursday of revoking Mr Roberts’ appointment as Sport Minister has been hailed from almost every corner — though not by the Express, which seemed to regard it as too little too late. And for sure a lot of people believe it should have happened much sooner.

But by acting as she finally did, the Prime Minister, I believe, has also pulled her Government back from the brink of electoral extinction because, mark my word, this LifeSport debacle has got people steaming mad and ready to ditch the Government for any electoral alternative — even if it means not that they have faith in a new political party or government but that they want to punish this spendthrift madness that has seen $400 million of taxpayers’ dollars go down the drain ( or into the pockets of some very questionable characters).

As I said just prior to the Prime Minister announcing his dismissal last Thursday:  “Let Sport Minister Anil Roberts remain where he is. And when the Government loses the next general election, let Mr Roberts take full credit.”

I didn’t say that purely out of bad mind or because I’m against this Government. I was simply repeating what I had been hearing from people everywhere in the last few weeks. This LifeSport thing and the minister responsible for it — never mind he claims otherwise — has evoked a lot of passion in people who are, to use an old Trini expression, “blasted vex”!

Now I must tell you I don’t know Anil Roberts. I have never met him nor spoken to him. But over the last few months I have looked on with increasing dismay at Mr Roberts’ antics and obviously over-blown sense of entitlement and loud-mouthed arrogance.

When that infamous video tape showing someone looking very much like Mr Roberts getting ready to imbibe something that looked suspiciously like an illegal drug first entered the public domain, I was one of the few people prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I even said several months ago on a current affairs programme I was then taking part in on Radio 91.1: “I won’t put my head on a block that that is Anil Roberts in that video.”

Friends of mine were totally dismissive of this. They were/are convinced that it was him. And they approved of the nickname -”Two Pull”- that he was thereafter christened with.

I remained doubtful. And when the Prime Minister finally cleared him I thought, well whether it was him or not I think the Prime Minister was right in her final judgment.

And then came the LifeSport bacchanal, fiasco, scandal — which amounts, to date, to the biggest blunder this Government has made since taking office in May 2010 and the good Lord alone knows there have been many blunders between then and now. 

I think it should also be noted  that it was an Express reporter, Asha Javeed, who first broke the shocking details on the LifeSport programme’s giveaway of taxpayers’ monies to likely criminals and her follow-up stories were more eye-opening revelations.

Without such exposure in the Express we might never have known about this absolutely shameful, and inexcusable, blunder (which is a mild word to describe what has really happened here).

Let me therefore take this opportunity, as one journalist to another, to congratulate Ms Javeed. This is the stuff of which good journalism is made. 

As we all know it was Minister Roberts who declared — when the Prime Minister first ordered an audit of the programme — that if it is proven that the programme was funding terrorists, criminal gangs and an armed militia in Carapo he would tender his resignation.

The audit in fact revealed corruption galore involving some $400 million worth of taxpayers’ monies and Mr Roberts then changed his mind. And his tune. Now it was not his responsibility but that of public servants in his ministry. He simply created a programme to help “poor, little black boys”.

It is the people who managed the nitty-gritty details of that programme who converted it into a den of iniquity.

And Santa Claus is a man who lives in the North Pole.

Let it also be noted that in his resignation letter Mr Roberts could still say, without his tongue in his cheek: he had “done absolutely no wrong whatsoever, having not been mentioned not even once in a flawed Central Audit Report” and “an erroneous report” at that. 

Mr Roberts tells us he was “forced into this position” of submitting his resignation “because I don’t want to have a negative impact upon my team, the People’s Partnership Government.”

Now I ask you, with “friends” like this does the Prime Minister really need “enemies”?

There may yet be further repercussions to this LifeSport debacle because that audit report has also gone to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the acting Commissioner of Police, the Integrity Commission and the Head of the Public Service. Even Mr Roberts is threatening to take his own version of events to all these parties and institutions.

In short, don’t hold your breath but it’s quite likely that the jamming now start! And what a lot of people are asking is, will this LifeSport scandal  turn out to be the final blow for this Government’s spell in office? Stay tuned.

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