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Opposition Senator Wade Mark

Former People’s Partnership sports minister Anil Roberts will be appointed a United National Congress senator today along with veteran Wade Mark, two brand new faces and two unsuccessful General Election candidates.

The UNC yesterday announced Roberts among its senators for the new term. They will be sworn in today as Senators and MPs-elect take their oath of office at the Red House, Port-of-Spain, launching the 12th Parliament.

The UNC’s senators are: Roberts, Mark, newcomers Jayanti Lutchmedial and Damien Lyder and unsuccessful election candidates David Nakhid and Jearlean John.

Of the six, Mark is the only person who has served in the Senate consistently before.

In a statement yesterday, UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar stated, “The Opposition in the Senate will be strong, formidable and most importantly will hold the Government to account at every juncture. The Opposition bench in the Senate will continue to defend the Constitution and the rights of all citizens against any attempts to thwart their fundamental freedoms. With the appointment of patriots of such a high caliber to the Opposition bench, I remain satisfied the rights of the people will be assiduously defended.”

She added, “The Opposition Senators will continue to reflect the mandate of the UNC, to bring more people to the decision-making table. I’m happy to ensure that qualified citizens are given the opportunity to serve the nation by contributing to good law and holding the Executive to account. The UNC remains committed to providing opportunities for young people to lead, as we prepare them for the future.”

Of Roberts’ appointment, Persad-Bissessar said, “As he returns to the Parliament as a Senator, Mr Roberts will continue the fight he started so many years ago when he first decided to focus on young people through sports.”

Roberts was first elected to Parliament in May 2010 as the D’Abadie/O’Meara Member of Parliament under the Congress of the People (COP). He was the PP government’s Sport Minister. The UNC stated he’s “well known as the swimming coach of Olympic bronze medal winner George Bovell III and as the host of the nationally popular television sports show Spalk.

Robert was at the center of controversy in 2014 when the PP government had to terminate the Life Sport programme, which was under his then ministry and which it’s reported he created. Persad-Bissessar as PM then had to halt the programme after a report found it was riddled with corruption. Then PP National Security Minister Gary Griffith (now Police Commissioner) had spoken out about the programme, which cost taxpayers $400 million. Police said it was fuelling criminal behaviour and was infiltrated by criminal elements.

After the programme, Roberts resigned as sport minister and as MP in 2014. He also resigned from COP and joined the UNC later. The audit report on the programme was quashed by the courts in 2016. Persad-Bissessar said it cleared the way for Roberts to return to the frontline.

But in June police confirmed a probe into Robert’s involvement in Life Sport has been on since 2019. He’s said he has nothing to hide and is only focused on “ridding T&T of the worst government”. During the recent General Election campaign, Robert’s “Dougla Politics” talk show was featured heavily on UNC social media sites.

Meanwhile, for Mark, it will be yet another turn. First appointed to the Senate in 1990, he’s one of the longest-serving senators in T&T history.

Persad-Bissessar said he “provides a wealth of valuable experience and knowledge to guide the new younger Senators along their journey.”

Former House Speaker Mark has headed local and regional branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA); served as Public Administration and Information minister, Senate Vice-President and chaired several Parliamentary Committees. A veteran trade unionist, he holds Economics, Political and MBA degrees.

Other Senate newcomers

Newcomer Jayanti Lutchmedial, an attorney, has served as special advisor to the Attorney General on compliance with international FATF requirements and country compliance for the Mutual Evaluation process, civil fraud, money laundering and anti-terrorism matters. She possesses a wide range of experience in civil, commercial, public law litigation and anti-money laundering law.

Another newcomer, businessman Damien Lyder, holds a Business Administration and Commerce degree. The party stated he’s “deeply involved in community affairs and has been involved in politics for quite some time.”

Tobago-born Jearlean John unsuccessfully contested the La Horquetta/Talparo seat during the August 10 election. She’s a chartered accountant, professional accountant and management accountant. She holds an MBA and a Chief Executive Training Certificate. Among posts, she served as HDC managing director with the PP government, Transport Minister, CEO of PTSC, VMCOTT director and on TTEC and YTEPP’s boards.

Unsuccessful Tunapuna candidate David Nakhid is a former professional footballer and T&T captain. He was the first T&T player to play in Europe, playing professionally in Switzerland, Belgium, and Greece. He’d also served as a chief scout and assistant coach for the T&T World Cup team. He also holds an International Relations degree.

Other senators

Government’s 16 senators are: Hassel Bacchus, Yokymma Bethelmy, Dr Amery Browne, Donna Cox, Nigel De Freitas, Christine Kangaloo, Paula Gopee-Scoon, Kazim Hosein, Franklin Khan, Laurel Lezama, Randall Mitchell, Clarence Rambharat, Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal, Rohan Sinanan, Avinash Singh, Allyson West.

The nine Independent Senators are: Evans Welch, Paul Richards, Dr Varma Deyalsingh, Anthony Vieira, Amrita Deonarine, Hazel Thompson-Ahye, Charrise Seepersad, Maria Dillon-Remy and Deoroop Teemal.