(Trinidad Guardian) Last month’s Cabinet reshuffle may have been a close call for Sport Minister Anil Roberts, as a reliable source said yesterday that the Government had approached former West Indies and T&T cricket captain Brian Lara to be his replacement. The T&T Guardian was told that recently-appointed National Security Minister Gary Griffith had approached Lara on September 4, the day before the reshuffle, to find out if he was interested in the position. However, the double world-record holder turned down the offer because the notice was so short. Calls to Roberts’ mobile phone went to voicemail yesterday, but Cabinet colleagues who chose to speak on condition of anonymity described the claim as a rumour. “That is just old talk,” one government official said yesterday when asked about Roberts’ near-dismissal. “You really feel Brian Lara will come into that with all those endorsements he has overseas?”
The Cabinet source said another former T&T cricket captain, Daren Ganga, had also been rumoured as a replacement for Roberts, but maintained it was just old talk. Both Lara and Ganga were part of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s delegation to India last year as T&T sport ambassadors. A government minister yesterday admitted that he had heard that Roberts might be replaced, but did not know for what reason. “To be honest with you, I heard something, but I can’t confirm that…Maybe that was just a rumour floating around the place, but I really can’t say yes or no to it,” the minister said. “Honestly, I really don’t know, but politics has a way of doing these things to you. I am in politics long enough to know these things.” When asked for confirmation yesterday, Housing and Urban Development Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said in a text message that talk of Government’s scouting of Lara was untrue. In announcing her third Cabinet reshuffle in three years on September 5, Persad-Bissessar described the changes as a move towards a reinvigorated government, adding she wanted to fast-track delivery and development.
Controversy follows Roberts
During his tenure, Roberts has engaged in several public battles with local sporting bodies, including the National Amateur Athletic Association (NAAA) over the lifting of suspensions on sprinters Semoy Hackett and Kelly Ann Baptiste, who withdrew from this year’s World Championship in Moscow, Russia, after testing positive for banned substances. Last year, he also came under fire from the T&T Football Federation (TTFF) after telling the Parliament the Auditor General had found more than $6.4 million in financial discrepancies in the accounts managed by the authorisation committee of the TTFF, which was chaired by Anthony Harford. This led Lennox Watson, former acting TTFF president, to call on Roberts to withdraw his statements, saying they were untrue.
Roberts also lashed out against the T&T Cricket Board (TTCB), saying they had sold out all-rounders Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo to the Indian Premiere League. He even criticised national and West Indies batsman Darren Bravo for a post on social micro-blogging Web site Twitter, which showed a dilapidated sink at the National Cricket Centre (NCC) in Couva.
Roberts’ response was, “Probably if the T&T Cricket Board don’t have to pay big salaries to players then they would be able to bring the centre up to scratch.” He added that when players made duck, they did not tweet about it. Even within his own party, the Congress of the People, Roberts has had public spats with executive members, even threatening legal action against chairman and Minister of Public Administration Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. At one time it was even rumoured that he would have be thrown out of the party, after he refused to meet with the executive to discuss an alleged probe by the Integrity Commission. Last April, Roberts threatened to quit as Sport Minister if Cabinet decided to retain Daniel Solomon as chairman of the Chaguaramas Development Authority. Solomon was retained, but Roberts remained at his post.