Anil off the hook for now
PORT OF SPAIN –– Minister of Sport Anil Roberts has told Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar he has never used drugs, including marijuana, during his tenure as minister, and has “never taken, used or experimented with illicit or illegal drugs, or ever been involved in any form or fashion with prostitutes”.
Persad-Bissessar, in a statement last night, said Roberts had given the explanation to her in a letter on Tuesday in relation to the controversial ganja video matter. And on this basis, she said, she had no reason to remove Roberts from her cabinet at this time.
The video arose in the public domain just over three weeks ago. It showed a person resembling a government minister rolling a substance believed to be marijuana into a cigarette in a hotel room with two women.
Roberts had refused to confirm or deny to the media whether he was the person in the video.
But after revealing the contents of Roberts’s letter yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said: “After considering the strong denials made by the honourable minister, and having regard to the fact that there exists no evidence to corroborate any of the allegations made against Minister Roberts, I find that there is no matter arising which requires my consideration at this time.”
Roberts has remained mum on the video, save to vehemently accuse the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) of being behind “the mischief”.
However, the Congress of the People (COP) suspended him from the party after he blocked an investigating team’s moves. COP’s executive began exploring severing ties with him permanently, adding Roberts should step down as a minister until the allegations were cleared. COP chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan then said the ball was in the prime minister’s court. After the suspension, Roberts was absent from Parliament last Friday and also from last Thursday’s Cabinet meeting. He was present at yesterday’s meeting, sources said.
Roberts’ sport ministry is also at the centre of an audit by the Ministry of Finance concerning allegations about its former Life Sport programme. Minister of National Security Gary Griffith was reported to have said he had concerns and information on that. On May 24, Persad-Bissessar cut the programme from Roberts’ ministry and transferred it to National Security, ordering the audit. Minister of Finance Larry Howai says the audit will be completed in about three weeks.
In yesterday’s statement, Persad-Bissessar dealt primarily with the issue of the “ganja” video. She said: “There has been a clamour in some quarters for me to have taken immediate action in relation to allegations made against Minister of Sport Anil Roberts. “I have demonstrated in the past on many occasions that I do not hesitate to act in addressing any matter, but I’m also measured in the decision I arrive at through careful thought, always allowing deep process to take place.
“I have the authority to make many decisions every hour as prime minister, but I do so always with consideration of what is right and fair, conscious always that with great authority, comes great responsibility.”
She said she had allowed the COP to address the matter involving Roberts, “as is their right to so do”.
“Having allowed due process to take place and in receipt of a full report from Minister Roberts, I am now in the best position to make public, my position regarding these allegations.