Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Roberts rides out into political sunset

Anil Roberts was first elected to the House of Representatives on Monday May 24, 2010 as the Member for D’Abadie/O’Meara and was appointed Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs on May 29, 2010.

Known for the high decibel levels at which he spoke and his combative, strident and boisterous style, he became the Government’s first line of defence.

He was generally the MP called upon to respond first to Opposition Leader Keith Rowley in key parliamentary debates. From the People’s Partnership and from the UNC platforms, he launched many attacks on the PNM.

In December 2010 Roberts narrowly missed a probe by the Parliament’s Privileges Committee. In defending the Nicki Minaj concert sponsored by the Ministry of Sport, Roberts denied that there was any obscene language used at the concert.

Diego Martin Central MP Amery Browne was able to prove that this was not true by producing a tape of Minaj’s performance. The Parliament however ended the session before the Privileges Committee could adjudicate on the matter.

Roberts also made headlines for his battles with his party, the Congress of the People. Though he entered Parliament on a Congress of the People ticket, Roberts was openly critical of his party under the leadership of Winston Dookeran and incumbent Prakesh Ramadhar, whom he challenged unsuccessfully for the position of political leader in 2012. For example, he slammed the COP for its criticisms of Jack Warner’s action against the Highway Re-route movement.

Roberts also criticized his COP colleague, chairman, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, on numerous occasions. In fact Roberts increasingly was regarded as a ‘UNC’ supporter, rather than a COP member.

Roberts also found himself in the spotlight when questions of a possible conflict of interest existed in his coaching of George Bovell 111 at the Athens Olympics in 2011.

In January, he showed his softer side when he married his wife, Shandell in St Lucia.

However in May things took a dramatic turn for Roberts.

Firstly a video surfaced on TV6 news and went viral, featuring a man who resembled Roberts rolling what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette. Also in May the Express began an investigative series on the Life Sport programme.

Roberts refused to address the issue of whether or not he was the person in the video. When the COP called him to a meeting for an explanation, he bluntly refused to provide any explanation, telling the party that he was acting on the advice of his attorney.

The COP suspended him. Roberts slammed the party’s decision. And the call for his removal from ministerial office began to take root with the now infamous “201 video”. The Prime Minister however stated that she did not have the evidence required to take action against her minister.

As more and more information and articles about the irregularities, fraud and corruption associated with LifeSport were published the political tide against Roberts continued to grow. The death of one person associated with the LifeSport programme and the death threats alleged issued against other persons, caused public dismay and alarm.

By the time the Prime Minister laid the Audit into the LifeSport programme, done by the Ministry of Finance, the call for Roberts to go, reached a crescendo that even his loud mouth with all its sound and fury, could not silence.

He fought it nonetheless, saying he was not accountable, that he was not named in the Report, that he was unaware of what was taking place.

By Friday the inevitable happened.

The Prime Minister announced that she would accept his “resignation”. Roberts indicated in his letter of resignation that he intended to demit office as a Member of Parliament.

Today Anil Roberts is expected to ride out into the political sunset.