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Student puts Hamel-Smith in hot seat: Why is Anil still in Govt?
Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith was put in the hot seat by a student during a function yesterday, after she asked him why Sport Minister Anil Roberts had not been fired from the Cabinet. The question was posed to Hamel-Smith, a senior member of the Congress of the People (COP), by 17-year-old Latesha Taylor at the Chaguanas North Secondary School, where he had gone to do a Parliament outreach programme. Hamel-Smith had just finished lecturing to students of Chaguanas North and South Secondary Schools on understanding the Standing Orders of Parliament, and students were invited to ask questions. Taylor went up to the microphone in the middle of the auditorium and asked: “I would like to know why Anil Roberts wasn’t fired by the Government?”
There have been calls from the Opposition for Roberts resignation and the national executive of his party, the COP, after the leak of a video showing a man resembling a government minister rolling a substance resembling marijuana in a cigarette in the company of women in a hotel room. Roberts has neither confirmed nor denied he is the man in the video and has constantly told the media since it was aired that his lawyers were now handling the situation. His lack of co-operation with a COP team probing the issue has also led to his suspension from the party.
Historian Prof Brinsley Samaroo, who was seated at the head table with Hamel-Smith yesterday, answered the question. He said Roberts had not been fired because Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had to decide how long before he became an MP the video was made and whether he was in it.
Samaroo added: “These are important considerations for the Prime Minister before she makes her decision. “They are now doing inquiries whether it was a cigarette the man in the video was smoking and if he was smoking weed, whether it was something illegal during that time. “She has to be very careful about the decision she makes. That explains why Roberts has not been fired.” Samaroo told Taylor many people may have ambitions to enter Parliament and it was important to start living an exemplary life from now. “People go back into your past— ten, 15 years ago—and make up all kinds of things you are alleged to have done.” He recalled that when former US president George Bush was a presidential candidate, someone said he had smoked marijuana with him 15 years before and it became big news. “You have to watch your behaviour from long before,” Samaroo advised the students. Samaroo said it was yet to be determined whether the video was made long before Roberts went to Parliament. “The Opposition is saying it does not matter if it was made before, during or after, that he was seen pulling a ‘joint’,” he added. The schools involved in yesterday’s event are attended by children from surrounding areas, including Enterprise and Edinburgh 500.