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Anil: PM buckled under pressure

Published: 
Friday, August 1, 2014
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, centre, receives the Child Protection Task Force report yesterday from the organisation’s chairman, Diana Mahabir Wyatt, second from right, and members of the Child Protection Task Force at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital Chancery Lane, San Fernando. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL

Sport Minister Anil Roberts says he was forced to resign from the People’s Partnership Government due to mounting pressure from the public, the Opposition and even his own Cabinet colleagues. Some of his own Cabinet colleagues were against him, he said. Roberts also threw in the towel as MP for D’Aabdie/O’Meara. During an interview in Diego Martin yesterday, moments after penning his resignation letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Roberts said during the four years he spent in Government he realised one thing... politics has a morality of its own.

He said the last thing he expected was being asked to resign. Roberts said resigning with a “heavy heart was an understatement” since his entire life was surrounded by sports.
 “If a minister has been forced to resign or have to resign, having done nothing wrong, a minister of government, duly elected by the people, is put into a position to resign, then where do we go from here?” he asked. 
Asked why his Cabinet colleagues were against him, Roberts replied: “You would have to ask them because, me, to tell you the truth, one of my weaknesses from having lived a life in sport is that I am too much of a team player. “My wife always tells me that I believe in people too much. I have learnt the hard way today. That is the regret I have.”

Asked if he was supported by his Cabinet colleagues following the audit, Roberts said: “A few were supportive, some were openly unsupportive, and some who I thought were colleagues were actually not. It is amazing.” 
Yesterday, a sombre-looking Roberts, accompanied by his 22-year-old wife, Shandell, who is 25 weeks pregnant, said despite what has happened “life will go on.”
Roberts said several ministers, whose ministry came under question, were never asked to resign. He asked: “All of a sudden pressure was brought to mount from all over and pressure was put on my Prime Minister and forced me to resign. Did I want to resign? No!”

Is there a cabal in the Government?
“There is no cabal. The PM is in charge. She makes her decisions.
 “However, there would be some who would be for you, some who are against you and most importantly, many who are for themselves.” 
He said he was not surprised by the turn of events because people said politics was a dirty game.
 “I have learnt that it is a filthy game and it is getting filthier every day, where fact and truth have no place and where investigations and documentation is irrelevant. 
“Is just who can make the most noise with the most indisciplined journalists in history. 
“Those who do not adhere to the tenets of journalism, who are unable to state their biases openly, but you can see it clearly.” 
Asked if the PM buckled under pressure, Roberts said:  “Well, yes! I guess you have to buckle under pressure in politics... because politics has a morality of its own. 
“So even though you did nothing wrong and the audit is flawed and natural justice has not taken its natural course, decisions are made based on politics.”

In spite of all of that, Robert said he had no regrets about joining the PP Government and serving his country.
 “Despite the PP’s flaws, they are far superior to what the PNM could offer.
 “I have regrets not being able to finish what I started, to leave a lasting impact in sport for the next generation... and that I have been forced to leave, having done nothing wrong,”  he added. Roberts said he was sad to leave.
“For me, personally, politics is just pain and torture. It’s financially crippling.” 
Before entering politics, Roberts was a talk show host and coach. He also operated a successful restaurant.

He said: “As a minister, I made far less money. I accepted the ministerial position because of one thing... for the love of country.
 “Going into Government you take a huge pay cut. Now I can go and make some money and relax myself and deal with less stress. 
“Am I celebrating? No! because I made up my mind to serve and I didn’t get the opportunity to fulfil my objectives.”
Will he resign from the Congress of the People?
 “I was never really interested in the COP. You cannot resign from a corpse. The COP is dead. They are just a comedy of errors. I hope that Prakash (Ramadhar) gets some more votes because he called for my resignation.”
 Roberts said there was legal advice inside and outside to the board of the Sport Company, “dictating and telling them they were obligated to pay. Well, so be it! You live and you learn.” 
He asked: “If the population and pressure groups had that information, would the pressure been less? I think so.”
Roberts said no other sport minister was able to achieve what he did. 
Was he dealt an unfair blow?
Roberts said, “Yes.”

$34m EBeam contract
Roberts said most of the clamouring from the public surrounds the $34 million contract to EBeam Interact Ltd, which was raised in the Life Sport audit.
 “It appears to the population that somebody in the Sport Company of T&T has stolen $34 million. It was stated by an official report that the second tranche of $17 million was paid, despite the board receiving advice not to pay.
 “Now that is a very serious thing. Any reasonable person who reads that, they would think that is total corruption and stealing.
"The problem is, that is not the truth.”

What the PM said
Roberts said at 1.30 pm yesterday, the PM telephoned him to say “that due to the pressures from the party, Government and so on, that she has to accept my resignation. She also indicated that she knew I did nothing wrong.” 
Roberts said: “ I told her, God bless.” 

Will Roberts continue to stay in politics?
“No! don’t call me, text, e-mail or leave a voicemail on my phone. I going to hug up my wife and take care of my unborn baby and other children and relax. However, you don’t get out of politics until you dead.” 
Asked if he thought the PP had a good chance of winning the 2015 general election, Roberts said he believed so, “but they (ministers) have to stop the petty politics, immaturity and work like a team, rather than look for individual glory.” 
Roberts said while the PNM was celebrating his resignation, they were not an alternative for the people.