PORT OF SPAIN — Sport Minister Anil Roberts must demit office pending a probe by the Director of Public Prosecutions into allegations of misbehaviour in public office levelled against him.
This is the view of Congress of the People chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas yesterday.
The Integrity Commission last week referred Roberts, his permanent secretary Ashwin Creed and special adviser to the T&T Boxing Board of Control, Boxu Potts, to DPP Roger Gaspard, in relation to a complaint of alleged misappropriation of funds at the TTBBC relating to several events, in particular a $1.9 million boxing card put on by Potts’ son Giovanni.
The complaint was filed in 2011 by former TTBBC board member Ricardo Phillip, who was fired two days after he refused to support approval of the card for Potts’ son.
Speaking about the development yesterday, Seepersad-Bachan said: “I take very seriously this matter where ministers are required to answer to any charges of corruption or conflict of interest involving their ministries or agencies that report to them.
“In such a case, they ought to step aside to facilitate the investigations, any form of investigations being carried out by the DPP,” she added.
Noting that the matter was of a serious nature, Seepersad-Bachan said she consulted with political leader Prakash Ramadhar on the matter yesterday and a party decision was taken to meet with Roberts before any pronouncement was made on the matter. As such, they have summoned Roberts to an emergency meeting tomorrow.
“I have directed the general secretary to send a letter on my behalf to Mr Roberts, requesting him to attend a meeting to discuss the matter by Friday, so that we can hear his side before we make any pronouncement on the matter,” she said.
“It is a very serious matter and we cannot have different strokes for different folks. We did have such a situation with former government minister Mary King and you will note what happened in that situation. They moved very swiftly for that one, and we also want to move very swiftly with this one.
“However, in accordance with the principles of natural justice we felt it was important that we gave Mr. Roberts a hearing.”
Dumas, too, suggested that the appropriate thing was for Roberts to step aside pending the outcome of the probe.
“Although the minister has not been charged, and may not be, in the interest of transparency he should step aside until the matter has been dealt with and he is cleared,” he said. (Guardian)