Armed with proof—a letter from the Integrity Commission which stated he was not under probe—Sport Minister Anil Roberts yesterday said he will be seeking justice in court against Guardian Media Ltd for false reports, as well as Congress of the People (COP) chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan.
The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the Integrity Commission last week referred Roberts to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), in relation to a complaint of alleged misappropriation of funds at the Trinidad and Tobago Boxing Board of Control.
Yesterday, the Guardian reported further that Roberts was summoned to a meeting by the COP on this issue and that Seepersad-Bachan, as well as former head of the Public Service Reggie Dumas, had indicated he should demit office pending the DPP probe.
Political analyst Bishnu Ragoonath had also commented on the matter in the Guardian report.
Roberts was the lone minister at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday.
He came to clear the air that he was under no investigation, and as a result, he will be taking legal action against a number of persons. In addition to Guardian Media Ltd and Seepersad-Bachan, Roberts said he also intends to sue Dumas, Ragoonath, COP general secretary Clyde Weatherhead and Ricardo Phillip, former boxing board member, who filed the complaint with the Integrity Commission in 2011.
Other media facing a lawsuit include i95FM and the Trinidad Express.
The minister said he was willing to forgive Dumas and Ragoonath, should they apologise, as he claimed they were “duped” by Guardian reporter Anika Gumbs-Sandiford.
Roberts said following the Guardian report on Wednesday, his brother Shastri Roberts, an attorney, wrote to the Integrity Commission on his behalf, seeking answers.
The minister said on that same day, at 3.15 p.m., his brother received an e-mail from the commission, from the legal counsel of investigations and compliance, indicating he (Roberts) had not been referred to the DPP for investigation. The commission, by letter dated March 21, also stated same.
Roberts said he shared the e-mail with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who was relieved, and with fellow-ministers who were concerned and, also, Seepersad-Bachan.
“...When I showed that letter to Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, she was the only one who requested to read it twice; she questioned the veracity of the document and went on to mumble and mutter, ‘But they told me’...at that time, I said, ‘Ma’am, I hope you did not make a statement on something that you failed to get the facts on’.”
Roberts pointed out that Seepersad-Bachan had instructed Weatherhead to call him to a meeting—and this was done after she had already commented on the issue.
While he intends to engage in legal battle with Seepersad-Bachan, Roberts commended COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar for being a “gentleman”.
Ramadhar, he said, discussed the issue with him via phone and did not “rush to judgment”.
Roberts, in response to questions, said he remains in the COP despite his issues with some of the party’s executive members as the COP membership supported him and were happy with his performance.
Roberts also made grave allegations against the Guardian reporter, claiming she never spoke to him yet quoted him in a report.
The minister said he never spoke to Gumbs-Sandiford and challenged her to produce phone records proving otherwise.
He said a pre-action protocol letter was already sent to Guardian editor-in-chief Judy Raymond and Gumbs-Sandiford.
Roberts also disclosed he had inside information on what was going on at the Guardian.
“To Ms Judy Raymond, who congratulated at 10.02 a.m. on Thursday, who congratulated, on the second floor of Guardian Media Ltd, Anika Gumbs-Sandiford for her lead story and told her she is now mandated to get a comment from the minister, who gave no such comment, but Anika Gumbs-Sandiford created, fabricated and published a quote purported to come from me.”
Roberts said he also intends to write Norman Sabga and Jerry Brooks of the Ansa McAl group on the issue.