Friday, February 23, 2018

‘Kamla bowed to public pressure’


“ANIL MUST GO!”: Members of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) call for the resignation of Sport Minister Anil Roberts outside the Ministry of Sports, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, yesterday. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Mark Fraser

“Once again the Prime Minister has only acted after there was strong public rejection of her position,” Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said last night in commenting on the “resignation” of former minster Anil Roberts. 

“She had clearly intended to keep and protect Anil Roberts in her Cabinet. And it is public rejection of her position which has now become politically unbearable, which has caused her to cut loose Mr Roberts who lost his prime ministerial protection,” he said. 

“And to the extent that the Prime Minister is now talking about a resignation. It should be a shame that it comes to a resignation, when what was required was the dismissal of the Minister,” he said. He said the Prime Minister chose instead to “mollycoddle” him because “he was her favourite” in the face of all the evidence of wrongdoing in the LifeSport programme over the past few months. 

Rowley said the country should remember that Roberts told the media last Friday as he was busy seeking to give reason why he was not accountable for the fraud and irregularities cited by the audit into the LifeSport programme, that the Prime Minister had told him in a discussion subsequent to the receipt of the report, that she had no problem with him and his responses. At that time, Rowley said,  Roberts was citing precedents and examples to the press as to why he was not accountable. “So what has changed?” Rowley asked rhetorically. 

Rowley also noted that the Prime Minister on Friday announced that she had sent the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Commissioner of Police, the Integrity Commission, but had not done the one thing she was required to do as Prime Minister--to  rid her Cabinet of Roberts--she chose not to do. 

“But the public response was such that eventually both of them (the Prime Minister and Roberts)  had to cave in,” Rowley said. “And I want to make the point that it was not just the minister’s position which was rejected (by the public), but also the Prime Minister’s position,” he added. 

Rowley also stressed that Roberts was leaving office under a cloud after not having acknowledged and properly addressed a previous cloud--involving the Room 201 video in which a man resembling Roberts was seen rolling what was thought to be a marijuana cigarette. Rowley said in that instance, the Prime Minister had stated that there was no evidence of misconduct on the part of Roberts.

“Once again the Prime Minister has been caught defending wrongdoing until wrongdoing becomes too difficult to carry politically,” Rowley stated, adding: “This is not about principle.”

Rowley said the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance must also be held accountable for the debacle that has taken place in the Ministry of Sport. He said they approved expenditure and the secret off-budget funding which resulted in the huge losses of public monies through the fraudulent and corrupt practices which were associated with LifeSport. Rowley said the Minister of Finance is yet to state how much money was put into LifeSport. “So what is required now that Mr Roberts has gone, fired or resigned, is that there must be a forensic audit to find who did what in that programme and to recover the monies that were improperly spent on that programme,” he said.

Rowley said if reports that Roberts intends to resign his seat in Parliament were true, it would mean that the people of D’Abadie/ O’Meara would have had their mistake compounded because they would have no voice in the Parliament.