Tuesday, June 3, 2014
I am almost certain that most people will have missed the real story behind the suspension of Sports Minister Anil Roberts from the COP. By that, I mean, why did the Congress of the People (COP) not simply expel him instead of suspending him and dragging the matter out further?
For the benefit of my overseas readers let me just do a very brief recap: about two weeks ago the Express newspaper's television station, TV6, aired a video which has gone viral on the internet showing a man in a hotel room with some girls. The man appears to be rolling a joint of marijuana and commenting on it. The video shows a hotel key with the room number 201. The man looks and sounds exactly like Mr. Anil Roberts, who currently holds the Sports Ministry portfolio in Trinidad & Tobago. Mr. Roberts has refused to either confirm or deny that it is he in the video and has retained all of his legal rights against self-incrimination. The problem is that Mr. Roberts is the Member of Parliament for the constituency of D'Abadie/O'Meara which he won in 2010 on a COP ticket. The political Leader of the COP, Mr. Prakash Ramadar, and Mrs. Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, the Chairman of the COP, summoned Mr. Roberts to a meeting last week and requested an explanation from him. Mr. Roberts (probably on his lawyers' advice) chose to say nothing and effectively stymied the nascent inquiry by refusing to answer any questions on the video.
The COP has always tried to project itself as the Party of morality and integrity and of always doing the right thing. But the 'right thing' includes a person's right to be heard as well as being presumed innocent until found guilty. So the Party argued that because he had not yet been heard that they couldn't act. Mr. Roberts refusal to co-operate left the Party's leadership in something of a quandry in that they they didn't want to be seen to be acting precipitously. They have also said that there is no provision for expulsion in the COP constitution. At least, that's what they said.
Then the Party's executive met on Monday night to discuss the issue and after quite a long session emerged to tell the waiting Press that Mr. Roberts was now suspended from the Party until such time as Mr. Roberts clarifies the situation and the facts surrounding the video. They then said that the removal of Mr. Roberts from his Ministry is solely the prerogative of the Prime Minister. But they didn't call for his removal! Interesting, eh? In other words, they simply 'kicked the can down the road' and ended up standing for nothing while pretending that they did. And the man being touted as the 'saviour' of the COP (Winston Dookeran) is also keeping very, very quiet and is not taking a firm stand on this at all. Who do they think they are fooling? Certainly it really appears that all they stand for is holding Ministerial office and let the devil take all the rest. And Anil Roberts continues to refuse to confirm or deny that he is the man in the video. (But let's all be clear on one thing: if the man in that video is not the T&T Sports Minister that will be the biggest news since Jesus walked on water! Never have I seen such a perfect double of another!) Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is going to have to act on this ... and soon!
So, we come back to the all important 'why'? What are they waiting for? The answer is quite simple: if an MP's seat is declared vacant at any time during the life of a Parliament then there must be a by-election within three months of that declaration EXCEPT in the last 12 months of the life of the Parliament. There can be no by election in the last 12 months of the life of a Parliament. So? When is the 'magic' date? It ain't May 24th! The first sitting of this Parliament (the Tenth Parliament) was on June 18th 2010. So, the 'magic' date is June 18th 2014. In other words, there can be no by-election for any seat after this date. And this is what the COP and the Prime Minister are obviously waiting for! Because the truth is that the last thing that neither the COP nor the ruling UNC want right now is a by-election in a seat that will probably fall to the PNM if an election was held now. The propaganda victory that would result in favour of the PNM from such a loss would be enormous even though there would still be enough seats for the Government to carry on. And the COP would be so badly defeated that the reality that it has very, very little support in the general population would be the last piece of dirt that buries an already dead Party. No. Both the UNC and the COP have very good reasons for not wanting Mr. Roberts' seat to be declared vacant before 18th June 2014. After this date, it doesn't matter. And this is why we have all these shenanigans and no clear and forceful decision is being taken now. And you thought that politicians always tell the truth!?
Posted by Robin Montano at 11:38 AM