|COP: Anil still on suspension |
By Sasha Harrinanan Saturday, June 14 2014
Congress of the People (COP) political leader Prakash Ramadhar has made it clear that Anil Roberts remains “suspended from all party activities”, even though the Prime Minister on Thursday revealed that Roberts, in a letter to her, strongly denied recent allegations of drug use made against him.
“Mr Roberts’ initial and continuing suspension is on the basis of his failure to co-operate with the party, and to provide clarity as to his presence, or lack thereof, in a video within the public domain,” Ramadhar stated yesterday.
Three weeks ago, a video was made public of a man resembling Roberts handling what appears to be a joint of marijuana in the presence of women believed to be prostitutes.
Roberts, who holds the posts of Sport Minister and Member of Parliament for D’Abadie/O’Meara, wrote to Prime Minister (PM) Kamla Persad-Bissessar this past Tuesday, assuring her that he has “never taken, used or experimented with illicit or illegal drugs, nor have I ever been involved in any form, or fashion with prostitutes...”
Having received Roberts’ statement, the PM on Thursday informed the nation that, “there is no matter arising which requires my consideration at this time.”
Yesterday, Ramadhar noted that while the party respects Roberts’ “legal right to silence, it cannot ignore its greater duty to its membership, and to the national community, to ensure that representatives of the COP adhere to the highest standards of behaviour.”
Hence the decision that Roberts will remain on suspension from all COP activities, until he co-operates fully with the party, and until he provides the clarity which the party requires to make informed decisions.
“On the separate issue of whether Mr Roberts is guilty of wrongdoing,” Ramadhar added, “the COP emphasises that the concept of ‘natural justice’ which guarantees the right of individuals to ‘due process’ and which presumes a person to be ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been and continues to be central to its philosophy.”
He said it was against the background of this philosophy that the party must respect the decision of the PM to keep Roberts in the Cabinet.”
Ramadhar didn’t mince words though, in letting the public know he found it “disappointing that while Mr Roberts moved with alacrity to provide the PM with a written report on the matter, he has refused to do likewise with the party to which he belongs.” COP chairman, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, later told reporters during the Lower House tea-break yesterday that the party not only stands by Roberts’ suspension but maintains that he should resign as a Cabinet Minister. “We are of the view that Mr Roberts ought to step down from his ministerial portfolio as Minister of Sport,” she said.
Seepersad-Bachan said the COP is a “bit disappointed” by the PM’s remarks that Roberts had no case to answer, adding she has called a national executive meeting for today to further discuss the issue.