COP Ministers: T&T PM disrespected party on Roberts

(Trinidad Guardian) Two Congress of the People (COP) ministers in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Cabinet, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and Lincoln Douglas, have said the Prime Minister has disrespected the party by retaining Sport Minister Anil Roberts. After receiving a hand-delivered letter from Roberts on the controversial “ganja video” of a man who resembled and sounded like a Cabinet Minister wrapping an illegal substance in a hotel room, Persad-Bissessar said she saw no reason to remove him from the Cabinet. Public Administration Minister Seepersad-Bachan and the COP have been calling for Roberts’s dismissal because of the video. Leader of the COP, Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, in a statement issued last week, said while Roberts’s suspension from the party remains in effect, the COP “must respect the decision of the Prime Minister who has relied on statements from Minister Roberts as well as on centuries of jurisprudence, including the very principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ in arriving at her decision to keep Roberts in the Cabinet.”

In a brief comment during Monday’s House of Representatives lunch break, Seepersad-Bachan, who is also Public Administration Minister, said the party maintained its position that Roberts should step down. She said the decision to retain Roberts in the Cabinet was a demonstration of what happens where there are no rules of engagement between the partners. The COP is a member of the PP Government. “When you are to have engagement between the partners in a coalition-type arrangement (with parties) which have their individual identities, there must be respect between partners,” she insisted. Seepersad-Bachan said the party’s position in the matter was no different from others before, involving other ministers. The COP position was not taken in any ad-hoc manner but was reached after careful analysis of its code of ethics, she said, and on that basis the leaders of the partnership should have met to discuss the matter, adding that Ramadhar had promised to meet with his counterparts to discuss it. “It therefore tells you that we don’t have the engagement right on this basis,” the COP chairman said.

She said a national executive meeting is to be called soon to discuss the issue, adding that the cry from among the party’s membership was for his Roberts to resign as a minister. On Ramadhar’s position, she disagreed with his comment as the matter was not a legal one but a moral issue. Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Lincoln Douglas also spoke with the media, saying Ramadhar “will have to live with the implications of his decision (to support the PM’s decision to retain Roberts in the Cabinet).” Douglas said he maintained the decision was “a disrespect for the leadership of the COP and the party itself.” He said Ramadhar’s response was “more of a problem for the party and it might be one of the reasons why we are where we are.”

Seepersad-Bachan and Douglas are contesting the post of COP leader against Ramadhar later this month.


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