|‘I did not use ganja, prostitutes’ |
By Julien Neaves Friday, June 13 2014
PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar will be taking no action at this time in relation to allegations against Sports Minister Anil Roberts noting his “strong denials” of any misconduct in a letter she received from him, and also a lack of any corroborating evidence to the allegations.
In a media statement yesterday, Persad-Bissessar noted there has been a “clamour in some quarters” for her to have taken immediate action in relation to the allegations made against Roberts.
She noted she had given Roberts an opportunity to compile a report and make a statement on all matters pertaining to allegations made against him.
“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,” she 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,” Persad-Bissessar added.
She noted that she holds “fast and true to the inviolable principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It is the basis upon which our judicial system is founded and it informs my own approach in arriving at any conclusion in matters of this kind.”
The first allegation against Roberts surrounds a viral video of a man resembling him handling what appears to be a joint of marijuana. In her statement, Persad-Bissessar reported receiving a letter from Roberts delivered by hand and dated June 10, 2014 in which he categorically denies the use of illicit drugs. She read from the letter: “I confirm that I (Anil Roberts) have not used any drugs inclusive of marijuana, during my tenure as Minister of your Government. It is with great sadness that I have watched a relentless media campaign designed to defame, hurt and disrespect not only me, but my wife, children and unborn child, as well as my constituents, my government and you, my beloved Prime Minister.”
She noted that regarding the video Roberts “refutes the notion that it represents any evidence of misconduct or criminal activity or that any verification of such can be made”.
Roberts stated: “The production of the video is an extreme form of mischief which places one in an unenviable place to ‘defend’ oneself by making statements and pronouncements that in turn will be used in tandem with the video of dubious origin and delayed production to condemn the speaker.”
On the second issue, allegations of financial impropriety and links to criminal activities in the Life Sport programme, Roberts described the reports as “unsubstantiated” and said that he respectfully awaits the outcome of the investigation.
Roberts’ statement concluded with: “Honourable Prime Minister, as your Minister of Sport, as your member of Parliament for D’Abadie/O’Meara, your supporter and patriot who has served my beloved country as a former national swimmer, a former national footballer and a national Olympic medal-winning coach, I assure you that I have never taken, used or experimented with illicit or illegal drugs nor have I ever been involved in any form or fashion with prostitutes as has been implied by (Opposition Leader) Dr Keith Rowley. I certainly have not treated lightly with the trust and confidence in which you have reposed in me and I remain at your service.”
Persad-Bissessar noted that the investigation initiated by the Finance Minister Larry Howai on the allegations within the Life Sport programme “will continue aggressively until a determination is made”.
“I wish to take the opportunity to re-affirm my position with regard to the responsibility which must be shouldered by every member of my Government or indeed by anyone who holds a position in public office that integrity and humility must be the hallmarks of your work and character at all times,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar noted that she has 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 pointed out that she has allowed one of the Government’s coalition parties — Roberts’ party the Congress of the People (COP) — to address the matter. COP has suspended Roberts for non-cooperation in their queries about the video.
Persad-Bissessar noted that she is “not judge or jury” and “can only weigh the statements made by any member of my government against the evidence or lack thereof presented to me”.
Persad-Bissessar added: “I have demonstrated in the past on many occasions that I do not hesitate to act in addressing any matter. But I am also measured in the decision I arrive at through careful thought, always allowing deep process to take place.”