Anil Roberts’ accident kept secret

However in publicly disclosing Roberts’ accident, Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner revealed but never explained why Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar did not want Roberts’ accident to become public knowledge.

As the sitting began Persad-Bissessar and other Government MPs thumped their desks when Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal boasted the Government would answer all questions on the House Order Paper. He asked Deputy Speaker Fuad Khan that Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley be allowed to ask the first question to Warner about the the Government’s distribution of the 200 vehicles purchased for the Summit and the CHOGM by the former PNM administration.

Warner said Government gave 135 vehicles to the National Security Ministry and its PNM predecessor gave two vehicles to the government of Grenada. He added that 44 other vehicles have been given to other government ministries (including the Office of the Prime Minister and the Sports Ministry) and 19 vehicles will soon be put up for public auction.

After saying none of the vehicles were given to a government minister or parliamentary secretary, Warner found himself in difficulty when he had to answer a part of Rowley’s question which asked if either a minister or parliamentary secretary was driving one of those vehicles and that vehicle was involved in an accident.

“I want to say this too because it does not give me any pleasure in making this public because the Prime Minister deliberately did not want to make it public but the question from Member for Diego Martin West has forced me to do so and therefore I have to make it public,” Warner said. Persad-Bissessar looked on emotionless as Warner continued his response.

“One such vehicle was involved in a motor accident and was driven by the Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs,” Warner said. “What?” PNM MPs asked. “I have not been briefed on the extent of the damage or cost of repairs at this stage,” Warner said. When Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert asked if the vehicle was a write-off, Warner countered that it was “a minor accident.”

Rowley asked Warner if he knew that Roberts’ accident constituted “an adjustment to the terms of an engagement of a minister of government as laid down by the Salaries Review Commission.” Warner replied, “As far as I am aware, the vehicle is for official use by a minister in his official capacity in the ministry. Of that I am aware. Nothing else.”

Rowley then asked Warner if it was the Government’s policy to allow its ministers “to operate public vehicles for their own private use incurring maintenance cost, operation cost and repair to damage to cost.” Khan told Rowley this was a new question but Warner insisted on responding to Rowley. “This long question has a very short answer. It is no, it is for official use,” Warner said.

Warner also said the Office of the Prime Minister gave former prime minister Patrick Manning one of the vehicles following last May’s General Election, in keeping with a promise which Persad-Bissessar made to him.Newsday later spoke with Roberts, who said on October 6, 2010, he left his ministry at 6.30 pm with his driver Naraj Satram and his personal assistant to attend a meeting in Chaguanas. While driving along the Priority Bus Route, Roberts said he saw Satram was in discomfort, having taken medication earlier for a back ache.

The minister said he offered to drop Satram off at his home in Barataria to rest, drive the vehicle himself to the meeting, return to Barataria and then Satram would drop him home. “On reaching Chaguanas, I was approaching the Divali Nagar site, when a car slowed in front of me to turn into the Nagar. I indicated and began to swerve to pass that car,” Roberts said.

The minister said he then heard a loud crash, felt something hit the side of the vehicle and saw a Suzuki car crash into a tree. Roberts said he stopped his vehicle and went to the aid of two young men who were in the car. Stating one of the men was “holding his ribs”, Roberts said he called for an ambulance, went to the police station to report the accident and then to the health centre to make sure both men were all right.

Roberts added neither was seriously injured and one had bruised ribs.

Roberts said he subsequently reported the accident to his ministry and the comptroller of accounts but is yet to get an estimate of the damage to the Prado from the Vehicle Maintenance Company (VMCOTT).

Asked why Warner would say the Prime Minister did not want his accident to be known, Roberts said he thought it was because Manning also received a summit vehicle for his use.

Stating he would have given full details if the question was posed to him, Roberts said: “It’s not a major issue. For it to reach in the Parliament shows the frivolity of the PNM.”

The minister said while the situation was not ideal, it only happened once. “I am paid by the Government of TT. I am insured to drive the vehicle. I am a licensed driver. I was not at fault in any way,” Roberts said.


"Anil Roberts’ accident kept secret"

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