By RICHARDSON DHALAI Friday, August 1 2014
ANIL ROBERTS is out of government both as a Minister and Member of Parliament.
The embattled Minister of Sport and MP for D’Abadie/O’Meara resigned from both positions yesterday, although there are conflicting reports over the sequence of events leading up to the announcement by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that she had accepted Roberts’ resignation as a member of her Cabinet and raising questions over whether he voluntarily resigned or was forced out.
The Prime Minister did not mention Roberts’ decision to also quit as a MP, but reliable sources revealed that this indication was included in his letter. Cabinet sources stated the Prime Minister advised Acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith to revoke the Ministerial appointment hours before Roberts had a change of heart and tendered a resignation letter to her. The Prime Minister, however, did not give a specific time-line of events when she disclosed her decision to accept the resignation at the post Cabinet briefing.
Roberts himself also could not be reached for any comment on yesterday’s development. He had been saying all week since the publication of the Ministry of Finance damning audit of the Life Sport programme that he saw no need “absolutely” for him to resign, suggesting he was not responsible for the ills of the programme.
In making the announcement at the post Cabinet briefing in San Fernando yesterday, the Prime Minister said she continued to be “disillusioned, disappointed and distressed” by the level of deception and dishonesty associated with the Life Sport programme. The programme had been initially tailored to assist disadvantaged young persons through sporting disciplines. She told the briefing she had decided to accept the resignation of the Sport Minister under whose Ministry the programme was created and administered.
She also announced that Minister of Science and Technology Dr Rupert Griffith, was given the additional responsibility to oversee the Sport Ministry. Her announcement yesterday, came almost a week after she laid the Finance Ministry’s audit of the controversial programme in Parliament.
Reading from a prepared statement at the post Cabinet briefing, Persad-Bissessar who was regally outfitted in Emancipation Day African wear, complete with headdress, said Roberts’ duties had become “burdened” by the controversial programme.
An online “Anti Anil” petition, aimed at getting the Prime Minister to fire Roberts reportedly garnered over 2,500 signatures over a three-day period. The Opposition PNM, Independent Liberal Party (ILP), former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas and the Movement for Social and Justice (MSJ) had all called for Roberts to be removed as a Minister.
The MSJ also initiated a small but noisy picket outside the Ministry of Sports on Abercromby Street.
The Prime Minister observed that the political landscape had changed with the election of the People’s Partnership administration in 2010 with the population expecting a higher level of governance in the coalition government.
“The expectation of the public that something will be done when wrongs are committed in public office are now the hallmarks of good governance,” she said. “Consequently, I have decided to accept the offer of resignation as Minister of Sport from Mr Anil Roberts.” She also stated that the decision was immediately effective as acting President, Timothy Hamel-Smith had been advised of the decision in accordance with the provisions of section 3 (9) and 79 (1) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.
Persad-Bissessar did not take any questions following her statement.