PORT OF SPAIN – Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she may appoint former government minister Anil Roberts to the Senate shortly.
She made the comment during a public meeting of the United National Congress (UNC) in Diego Martin on Monday night, moments after Roberts made a return to the platform after a self-imposed hiatus of some 27 months.
Roberts was asked to resign as minister in the former People’s Partnership regime in 2014 after allegations of corruption were made against him and others in the million-dollar LifeSport programme.
But on Monday, High Court judge Mira Dean-Armorer quashed an audit conducted by the Ministry of Finance after finding that three people named in the report were not given an opportunity to respond.
“The Spalk [Anil Roberts] is back,” Persad-Bissessar said to loud cheers from the crowed at Diego Martin North Secondary School for the meeting held in support of the party’s candidates for the November 28 Local Government elections.
Recalling the times shared in Cabinet, Persad-Bissessar described Roberts as a great minister. She said the People’s National Movement Government was now taking credit for projects initiated by Roberts, including the National Aquatic Centre and the Siparia Regional Complex.
Persad-Bissessar said she now wanted to put Roberts “in the people’s House [Senate]. So we will put [Spalk] back in the people’s House in the parliament.”
She did not elaborate but sources speculated yesterday that former Arima MP Rodger Samuel could be the one to be replaced. Both Roberts and Samuel were members of the Congress of the People (COP).
Roberts, in his brief address, said he was happy to be back on the political platform. He said he was in the country for the past 27 months and did not go anywhere as was claimed in the media.
He said he spent the time swimming, playing football, in the gym “and by Bobby’s eating doubles every morning”.
But Roberts said he returned to the public platform because the legal challenge to the LifeSport programme was dismissed and it was time for him to get serious, as he could now break his silence on the issue.
He said the LifeSport programme was aimed at helping “African youths who were most at risk”. He said the programme was intended to help the young people and to prevent them from engaging in a life of crime.
Persad-Bissessar said the UNC was not bothered by five of the party’s rejected nominees for the local government elections who have now gone to contest districts under the PNM banner. She said she wanted to warn the PNM that those same people “will jump ship again”.
She said they decided to cross over to the PNM “only when they were not selected as UNC candidates”. She said the party should not be troubled by that development.