(Trinidad Express) In a statement issued last night, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Roberts, in a letter to her, “categorically denied using illicit drugs” during his tenure as Minister. And the Prime Minister has decided she would take no action against him “at this time”.
The Prime Minister’s decision came exactly three weeks after a video showing a man resembling Roberts rolling a marijuana cigarette surfaced and generated intense public discussion. The Prime Minister herself acknowledged that “there has been a clamour in some quarters” for her to have taken “immediate action”.
However, the Prime Minister has been persuaded by Robert’s letter to her in which he “attested his innocence”. Robert’s letter stated: “I confirm that I have not used any drugs inclusive of marijuana, during my tenure as 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”.
The Prime Minister said: “I am not judge or jury. I can only weigh the statements made by any member of my Government against the evidence or lack thereof presented to me. I hold fast and true to the inviolable principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.” She added that this was the basis of the country’s judicial system and informed her own approach in arriving at any conclusion.
The Prime Minister noted that with respect to the video, “Minister Roberts refutes the notion that it represents any evidence of misconduct or criminal activity or that any verification of such can be made”. She said Roberts “affirmed” that “the production of the video is an extreme form of mischief which places one in an uneviable 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”.
The Prime Minister said she had demonstrated in the past on many occasions that she did not hesitate to act in addressing any matter, but that she was also “measured” in her decisions which are arrived at “through careful thought, always allowing deep process to take place”.
“I have allowed one of our Government’s coalition parties to address the matter involving Minister Roberts, who is a member of that party as is their right to do. The Congress of the People suspended Roberts for his failure to cooperate with the party, in providing an explanation about the video. Roberts had refused to answer questions when he appeared before the party’s disciplinary committee, telling them that the matter was in the hands of his attorneys.
The Prime Minister said Roberts also described the reports (of corruption and gang-related criminal activity) in the LifeSport programme as “unsubstantiated”. He “submits that he respectfully awaits the outcome of the investigation”, the Prime Minister said. This investigation which is being conducted by the Ministry of Finance, is expected to be completed in three weeks time.
In an immediate response, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said he was not surprised that the Prime Minister was making this statement “and I daresay in collusion with the Minister”. “For him (Roberts) to make statements like that and for her to accept it and repeat it, one can only think that they are acting in concert. Secondly I want to remind the Prime Minister that from the very first moment of public information with respect to (former minister) Mr (Collin) Partap, Mr Partap had pled his innocence with respect to what he had alleged to have done- which was refusing to take a breathalsyer test. The Prime Minister fired him before daybreak. And all of what she has said there (with respect to Roberts) about how she proceeds, was not the procedure she followed when she took action against Collin Partap” (and fired him as a Minister).
Rowley said now he also wanted to advise the Prime Minister that all the money that her Government has spent installing cameras around Trinidad and Tobago had been wasted. “They must now take down all those cameras. Because if the Prime Minister is asking us not to believe our eyes and our ears when we get information presented to us in this manner, then we should cease to look to the cameras around the country for any assistance with respect to identifying any person who may appear on the camera.”
Rowley said he wanted the Prime Minister to know that she was fooling no one on this matter. “She is unable to act, she refuses to act and she has put the country in a very invidious position. The (Sport) Minister is a laughing stock and this statement would confirm that they are a mutual protection society, that they are mutual protectors of wrongdoing” the Opposition Leader stated. “All her lofty speeches, contradictory as they are, impress no one. This is a Prime Minister who is failing to act in a situation that calls for Prime Ministerial intervention,” he added.
The following is the full statement delivered yesterday by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar:
There has been a clamour in some quarters for me to have taken immediate action in relation to allegations made against Minister of Sport, Anil Roberts.
I have demonstrated in the past on many occasions that I do not hesitate to act in addressing any matter.
But I am also measured in the decision I arrive at through careful thought, always allowing deep process to take place.
I have the authority to make many decisions every hour as Prime Minister, but I do so always with consideration of what is right and fair, conscious always that with great authority, comes great responsibility.
I have allowed one our Government’s coalition parties to address the matter involving Minister Roberts, who is a member of that party as is their right to so do.
I have also given regard to the need for the said Minister to be given an opportunity to compile a report and make a statement on all matters pertaining to allegations made against him.
Having allowed due process to take place, and in receipt of a full report from Minister Roberts, I am now in the best position to make public, my position regarding these allegations.
I am not judge or jury. I can only weigh the statements made by any member of my Government against the evidence or lack thereof presented to me.
I hold fast and true to the inviolable principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
It is the basis upon which our judicial system is founded and it informs my own approach in arriving at any conclusion in matters of this kind.
Honourable Minister of Sport, Anil Roberts has penned a letter delivered by hand, dated June 10th 2014 and addressed to me as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a copy of which will be subsequently made public via distribution to all media.
In the letter, Minister Roberts categorically denies the use of illicit drugs. Minister Roberts’ letter attested his innocence, quote:
“I confirm that I have not used any drugs inclusive of marijuana, during my tenure as 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.”
Regarding the video, Minister Roberts refutes the notion that it represents any evidence of misconduct or criminal activity or that any verification of such can be made. Minster Roberts goes on to affirm the following:
“The production of the 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.”
As regards the allegations of the Lifesport programme, Minister Roberts describes the reports as “unsubstantiated” and submits that he respectfully awaits the outcome of the investigation.
Minister Robert’ statement concludes as follows:
“Honourable Prime Minister, as your Minister of Sport, as your member of Parliament for D’Abadie/O’Meara, your supporter and 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.”
After considering the strong denials made by the Honourable Minister, and having regard to the fact that there exists no evidence to corroborate any of the allegations made against Minister Roberts, I find that there is no matter arising which requires my consideration at this time.
The investigation initiated by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Larry Howai on the allegations within the Lifesport programme will continue aggressively until a determination is made. I wish to take the opportunity to re-affirm my position with regard to the responsibility which must be shouldered by every member of my Government or indeed by anyone who holds a position in public office that integrity and humility must be the hallmarks of your work and character at all times.