“[…] Mr Brian Lewis is not the only individual to head a sporting body with a political affiliation. Mr Azim Bassarath, chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board currently serves as a UNC Alderman in the Princes Town Regional Corporation and has appeared on national political platforms.
“Is Anil Roberts concerned about the independence of the TTCB being compromised due to that affiliation?”
The following Letter to the Editor on United National Congress (UNC) Senator Anil Roberts’ call for Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis to resign, on account of his political affiliation, was submitted by Anthony James of Petit Valley:
I was recently taken aback by an unwarranted attack on the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee President, Brian Lewis by former Minister of Sport and current UNC Senator, Anil Roberts.
Lewis, in his usual informative style penned a commentary on sport as it relates to the budget—calling for increased corporate sponsorship and a reorientation of thinking towards entrepreneurship in sport to become more self-sufficient, among other things.
This drew the fury from the boisterous former minister of sport who called for the resignation of Lewis, citing a political affiliation to the PNM and what Roberts saw as the undermining of the independence of the TTOC.
In my view, this attack on Lewis is unjustified, unfair and highly hypocritical of Anil Roberts. Roberts’ argument is that if one chooses a political side, you cannot hold a position of independence in this country.
Firstly, it must be noted, our constitution guarantees citizens the right to political affiliation and that does not diminish their capabilities to operate responsibly in high offices.
Secondly, if the argument is that, if one is politically affiliated, they cannot serve in independent offices, then Anil Roberts is being hypocritical because there are many instances of this occurrence in the administration in which he served and either supported the practice or had no problem with it.
In the UNC administration Mr Roberts was a part of, Mr Nizam Mohammed, a former NAR MP was appointed chairman of the Police Service Commission—a constitutionally independent office. Anil Roberts did not object to the appointment of a politician to head a constitutionally independent commission then, even as concerns were raised by the national community.
Instead, he wholeheartedly supported it via his vote, which is on record in Parliament, even as the opposition objected to it.
Roberts had absolutely no issue with another former MP, Winston Dookeran, being appointed as the governor of the Central Bank. Though I am no way casting a shadow on the contribution of Mr Dookeran, the fact is, a politician was appointed to head one of our most important institutions, whose independence is paramount.
Mr Dookeran, upon demitting office, returned to active politics and served in the same administration as Roberts. The same is true of Jwala Rambarran, who was appointed as Central Bank Governor, by the UNC government Roberts served in.
Upon demitting office, Rambarran appeared as a UNC senator. Where was the concern for the independence of these institutions then?
Lastly in sport, Mr Lewis is not the only individual to head a sporting body with a political affiliation. Mr Azim Bassarath, chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board currently serves as a UNC alderman in the Princes Town Regional Corporation and has appeared on national political platforms.
Is Anil Roberts concerned about the independence of the TTCB being compromised due to that affiliation? Is he calling for Bassarath’s resignation?
The answer is no and exposes the double standard Anil Roberts holds and how conveniently he bends his sanctimonious principles to play politics.
Anil Roberts has no moral authority to offer commentary on what is proper governance in sport. Under his failed tenure as a minister of sport, which ended with his resignation, he presided over the dubious Lifesport program which saw over $400 million of taxpayer’s funds allegedly channelled into criminal activity.
He has offered no explanation to the population on the matter except to exclaim loudly in parliament, ‘long live Lifesport’!
On the issue of anti-doping, which he mentions in his rant, Roberts is still to explain a video showing a likeness engaging in activities the TTOC anti-doping thrust may frown upon.
As I have just demonstrated, the call for the resignation of Brian Lewis—a man whose hard work, integrity and commitment to sport development in this country is unparalleled—by Mr Roberts is unwarranted, unjustified and simply hypocritical.
Anil Roberts also has no moral authority to comment on governance in sport, given the debacle and travesty he presided over as a minister under the UNC. I see this for what it is, a political attack and unnecessary noise making.