Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley took Sport Minister Anil Roberts to task at a post-budget public meeting at Piggott Corner, Belmont, on Friday evening where he accused Roberts of globe-trotting with local swimmer George Bovell III, while leaving his ministry on auto pilot.
Roberts is Bovell’s swim coach.
Paying tribute to Bovell whom he described as a national “icon”, Rowley said Roberts was a minister in absentia who was neglecting his portfolio.
He said this was clear after hearing Roberts speak for 75 minutes in response to him, in the Parliament on Friday.
Taking issue with the government for putting Roberts to respond to him, Rowley said: “To my shock, surprise, horror and amusement a government that has just committed to spend $61.3 billion put Anil Roberts to respond to me.”
He said Roberts had nothing new to throw at the People’s National Movement (PNM).
“And it was the same nonsense he was saying, Ken Julien, Uthara Rao, Karen Tesheira, Calder Hart ... but you know in all that 75 minutes of chronicling ... that he know about, not a summons was sent to one of them, after three years, to appear in court charged with anything,” Rowley said.
“So I have to conclude that he is protecting criminals, because if you know all of this, about all of that and you eh tell the police, and the police eh act on that, then you wasting my time.”
Rowley said Roberts lack of coherent response to his contribution was the first time ever in the Parliament he had heard a minister say absolutely nothing about his portfolio.
“You know why? Because if he had attempted to say anything about his own Sport portfolio, he might have been taken down to be locked up by the bottom of his pants, because everything in that ministry there are chronicles of it in something called the Auditor General’s report, and when you read that report you ask yourself, what is going on here?”
Rowley said despite the fact the budget had risen by tens of millions, “Our 15-year-old footballers had to be cancelled out of a tournament.
The same Jehue Gordon who they jumping all over about … you know they sent Jehue abroad without any money to buy food and Anil in the Parliament saying he never know a hungry man could run so.”
Rowley also blasted the government for discriminating against PNM constituencies and for failing to provide relief to flood-hit areas, not controlled by the government.
Making reference to the recent flooding which impacted dozens of homes in Diego Martin early last Friday, Rowley reminded that earlier this year Parliament approved an additional $30 million to help alleviate flooding in flood-prone areas.
Rowley said parliamentarians met after seeing what had happened in Diego Martin in August, 2012 and decided there was a need to prevent that pain and hardship that people went through from ever happening again.
He said a supplemental of $30 million was approved specifically for flood abatement.
“When we reviewed the documents a few weeks ago, we saw that other UNC government and their COP partners had spent every single cent of the $30 million in constituencies that did not carry a PNM MP.”
Meanwhile, Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert disagreed with Government claims about clean-up operations in his constituency.
He said during his visit to his constituents in the area of Maraval, Patna and Waterwheel he did not see any government machinery providing any relief to the people.
He accused the government of doing nothing, adding, “When disaster strikes is a parade, a parade down there about ten million cameras following them in their tall boots. And they say we on the ball.”
Imbert also urged his party’s supporters to vote out the UNC in the upcoming local government elections.
“We have a local election coming in ten days, send a message to this wicked, oppressive and vindictive government, send them a message. Chase them out of town. Make sure PNM wins every single seat. Let them understand that their days are numbered, they better plan for retirement and who ain’t planning for retirement, plan for jail,” he said.