Saturday, December 16, 2017

Why Minister Anil Roberts should resign

Michael Harris logo40

Mark Fraser

Let me make it clear from the outset that I am not calling on Anil Roberts, Minister of Sport, to resign. I am not doing so because I know that it will not happen. The tradition of a minister resigning when some egregious breach has been uncovered is one which really depends upon the existence of a fundamental sense of honour in the minister which is insisted on by the public at large.

Minister Roberts has never given any indication that he possesses any such sense of honour. He has always shown himself to be a loud-mouthed, vulgar braggart, who even before he became a minister was using his position as a radio talk-show host to spew the most vile and outrageous invective at those he perceived to be his political opponents.

But the fact that the same Anil Roberts is a minister in the Government is not his fault. He did not select himself as a candidate for the “new politics” COP; he did vote himself into office and he did not appoint himself a minister.

That Anil Roberts is a minister, in spite of what he is and has always been, is a testament to the utterly debased character of our government, our parties and our politics. The fault is emphatically not in our stars but in ourselves. We have failed to insist on honourable action from our leaders.

So I am not about calling on Mr Roberts to resign. What I wish to do is demonstrate why it would be the meet, right and honourable thing for him to do. If we can understand clearly why a minister in such circumstances should resign, then maybe it would allow us to be more discriminating as to the type of people we choose to represent us.

Just over a week ago, after many weeks of increasingly negative publicity about the LifeSport Programme, which he claims was his brainchild, Mr Roberts said he would “resign from the People’s Partnership Government forthwith if the audit into the controversial LifeSport Programme shows that his ministry has been funding terrorists, criminal gangs, a militia and a sprawling palace”.

Let us ask ourselves why Mr Roberts even bothered to threaten (or promise) to resign. We will come to the conditions he laid down for his resignation shortly, but let us first try to understand the impulse that led to the resignation threat.

The answer is simple but instructive. Mr Roberts threatened to resign because he knows that is the honourable thing to do and, even though he had no intention of ever resigning, he considered that an opportunity had presented itself wherein he could wrap himself in a cloak of honour without risking anything.

He saw an opportunity to fool the people and he took it. The important point is that Minister Roberts understood full well that resignation in his set of circumstances was the righteous action demanded. This means that the principle is understood even if honoured only in its breach.

Since he had no intention of ever resigning Mr Roberts set certain conditionalities on his threatened resignation. For him his resignation depended upon proof that LifeSport was “funding terrorists, criminal gangs, and an armed militia of 250 men in a palace in Carapo...” or that it “had 1,400 ghost names with aliases such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Beyonce and Kanye West, (and) spent $8 million on a sports day for bandits, robbers and crooks…”

Such conditionalities were meant to be specific enough to defy actual proof. But the fact is that while the very specific conditions laid down by Minister Roberts as sufficient to trigger his resignation were egregious indeed, the actual findings of the audit investigation were no less so.

The audit report observed: “From the review it is clear that the LS (LifeSport) Programme has a number of irregularities judging from the widespread absenteeism, absence of proper procurement practices, overpayment for goods and services and possible criminal activities ranging from fraud (where money has been invoiced and paid but goods and services not supplied) to theft and possible breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act. In addition… there may be criminal elements in positions of supervision and coordination within the programme.”

If this is not enough to trigger Minister Roberts’ resignation it does not mean that such a resignation is not the honourable thing to do; it simply means that Minister Roberts is without honour.

Eid Mubarak to my Muslim brothers and sisters.

THE AUTHOR has been for

many years a writer and

commentator on politics

and society in Trinidad and

the wider Caribbean