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After mounting calls Anil quits

Friday, August 1, 2014
Former sport minister, Anil Roberts, is comforted by his wife, Shandell, during an interview with the T&T Guardian at the home of a friend in Diego Martin after handing in a letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday. PHOTO: MICHEAL BRUCE

After mounting calls and an online petition calling for his removal, Sport Minister Anil Roberts has resigned. 

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced Roberts’ resignation and her decision to accept it as she addressed the weekly post-Cabinet media briefing at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital.

Persad-Bissessar also announced Science and Technology Minister Dr Rupert Griffith had been assigned the Sport Ministry, in the interim, in addition to his present portfolio until a suitable replacement is found.

Her announcement follows the findings of the financial audit into the controversial Life Sport programme. 

The audit, which was laid in Parliament last week Friday, unearthed widespread corruption prompting her to terminate the programme immediately. 

Persad-Bissessar said there was enough evidence to warrant a probe by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the acting of Commissioner of Police, the Integrity Commission and the head of the Public Service.

Delivering her statement at yesterday’s briefing, said: “I continue to be disillusioned, disappointed and distressed by the level of deception and dishonesty associated with the well intentioned Life Sport programme.”

Prior to her statement there was speculation that Roberts was going to be removed from the Cabinet. 

At 3.15 pm, after reporters were invited to the Teaching Hospital for 1 pm, the Prime Minister entered the conference room where journalists were waiting for the briefing. 

She presented cheques to the Emancipation Support Committee and four representatives of Islamic organisations and told journalists not to leave. She hinted she had more to say later and they should wait. 

Shortly after 4 pm press secretary Francis Joseph returned to the conference room and announced that acting Energy Minister Dr Bhoendratt Tewarie and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran would make announcements at the briefing and they would be followed by a statement from Persad-Bissessar. 

At 4.30 pm Persad-Bissessar emerged and delivered her brief statement. She did not take questions.

In her statement she said she had “resisted quick judgment and rash decision” and had demonstrated “patient allowance for all sides of the story to be heard through an independent audit” and had “allowed due process to occur.”

However, she said, the election of the Peoples’ Partnership Government had changed the political landscape and “the expectations of the public that something will be done when wrongs are committed in public office are now the hallmarks of good governance.”

In this vein, she said: “I have decided to accept the offer of resignation as Minister of Sport from Anil Roberts.”

She said she had advised acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith that with effect from yesterday, in accordance with the provisions of section 3 (9) and 79 (1) of the Constitution, that Roberts’s appointment as Minister of Sport be revoked and that Griffith be assigned the responsibility for Ministry of Sport in addition to his present duties.

She reminded reporters that at the hint of corrupt practices she immediately ordered that the programme be switched to the Ministry of National Security and instructed an independent audit be conducted.