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Congress of the People chair, Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, says she is disappointed by the decision of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to retain embattled COP member and Sport Minister Anil Roberts in her Cabinet. In a release on Thursday, Persad-Bissessar said Roberts would remain in Cabinet, as she was satisfied that he had nothing to answer for at this point in time, after accepting his argument in the controversial ganja video matter.
Roberts, in his letter, said a video recording of someone who resembled and sounded like a Government minster rolling what appeared to be a ganja cigarette in a hotel room with two women was mischief in the extreme. He said he had never used any form of illicit drugs, nor had he ever fraternised with any prostitutes during his tenure as a member of her Cabinet.
The PM said after hearing the strong denials from Roberts and the fact that there was no evidence to corroborate any of the allegations made, she could not act on calls to fire Roberts from her Cabinet. But in Seepersad-Bachan, in a brief interview yesterday, admitted they were not happy with the PM’s decision. “Yes we are a bit disappointed,” she told the T&T Guardian.
“We stand by our position. Mr Roberts did not co-operate with us, he did not address the issue of the video and as a consequence of that we stand by our position and the suspension stands.” She said she had called a national executive meeting for today to discuss the latest developments. She admitted that COP leader Prakash Ramadhar might have met with Persad-Bissessar on the issue, but she could not confirm this and the COP was waiting to hear the outcome of the meeting if there had been one.
Ramadhar waiting on clarity
In a separate statement yesterday, Ramadhar, the Legal Affairs Minister, confirmed Roberts would remain suspended from the party, 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 said while the COP respected Roberts’s legal right to silence, it could not ignore its greater duty to its membership and the national community to ensure that representatives of the COP adhered to the highest standards of behaviour.
He said the suspension would remain in effect “until he co-operates fully with the party and until he provides the clarity which the party requires to make informed decisions.” Ramadhar also commented on the separate issue of whether Roberts was guilty of wrongdoing.
In that regard, he said the COP maintained that the concept of natural justice, which guaranteed the right of individuals to due process and which presumed a person to be innocent until proven guilty, had been and continues to be central to its philosophy. Ramadhar said on the basis of that philosophy, the COP must respect the PM’s decision to keep Roberts in the Cabinet.
However, Ramadhar noted, “It is disappointing that while Roberts moved with alacrity to provide the Prime Minister with a written report on the matter, he has refused to do likewise with the party to which he belongs.” He said the COP remained open to be re-engaged on the matter.
Dear Honourable Prime Minister,
Re: Request for clarification on what is being called as a viral video that has grabbed the attention of the media over the last fortnight
Let me state at the onset that I, Anil O.E. Roberts, have never indulged, partaken or used any illegal drugs in my entire life nor have I ever indulged, solicited, requested, engaged or employed any form of prostitution. Further, I have no recollection of the events portrayed in the video.
I confirm that I have not used any drugs inclusive of marijuana during my tenure as a 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.
Since this “news item” was first broadcast on the preferred station of our detractors, and may I remind you that accusations and innuendo about a video resembling what we now witness were thrown at me by none other than Dr. Keith Rowley, Senator Faris Al-Rawi and Fitzgerald Hinds among others, as well as the PNM's preferred newspaper the TnT Mirror over a year and a half ago.
There has been no legitimate allegation being made or to be made by any official agency and no investigation launched against me. To this point not one allegation of misconduct, criminal activity or activity warranting further investigation has been made. I have been instructed by my attorneys to remain absolutely silent on the matter.
From what I have seen in the video, I am unable to determine when it was, where it was, and what substance is alleged to have been held by me. Indeed, there is no material visible. In much the same way, I have been advised by my attorneys that there is no way in which any of the material displayed on the video may be verified. The production of this 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.
I was informed through the media of a decision made by the Congress of the People purporting to suspend me. I attach my letter of inquiry, which to date remains unanswered. I note in the Trinidad Express reported comments of the chairman of the party admitting that the constitution of the party contains no power to suspend me, and there is a nebulous reference to a code of ethics.
I also note that the production of this video was in tandem with a sledgehammer of misinformation attacking the LifeSport programme. This programme remains a most innovative reformation programme that signals hope to the much maligned and at risk youth. I attach a statement of the director of the programme which rubbishes all of the reports. I respectfully also await the outcome of the investigation.
Honourable Prime Minister, as your Minister of Sport, as your member of Parliament for D’abadie O'meara, your supporter and a 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 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.