By STEPHON NICHOLAS Tuesday, May 27 2014
In a massive show of support for the controversial Ministry of Sport Life Sport programme, participants from the various centres came out in their numbers yesterday at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva to show the country its importance to their lives.
With chants of “No Ghosts, No Ghosts!” instigated by Life Sport Director, Cornelius Price, Life Sport participants sought to refute an Express article on May 25, 2014, in which National Security Minister Gary Griffith stated that in each area half of the 60 participants are “ghosts”.
A passionate-speaking Price also blasted the article headlined “Life Sport Fund financing criminals”, arguing that Life Sport does not fuel crime but curtails it, citing the success of the programme in areas such as Beetham, Morvant, Sangre Grande and even in the Youth Training Centre (YTC).
Price acknowledged though that Jamaat-Al-Muslimeen member Rajaee Ali, who was on a murder charge in 2004, is indeed a coordinator of the programme in Carapo but categorically denied Ali was receiving $1.5 million a month in profit.
“This is a figment of the Honourable Minister of National Security’s imagination. One simple call to me, the Director of the Life Sport Programme, would have debunked this dangerous myth,” he stated.
The Director explained that each of the 40 coordinators receives $30,000 a month “from which they pay their entire staff,” leaving the coordinator with an average of $17,000 for themselves.
He further expressed outrage about Griffith’s allegation that the Ministry of Sport hosted a Family Day which cost $8 million.
“The Ministry of Sport has not spent $8 million on anything to do with a Family Day or Fun Day,” he declared. Price noted that there was a Life Sport Festival held in October 2013 but this did not exceed $500,000.
In concluding, Price welcomed an independent probe in the Life Sport Programme which was announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, the brainchild of the Life Sport concept, said he is not disappointed that the Prime Minister has moved the Life Sport from under his jurisdiction to the National Security Ministry and does not believe her actions are an indictment against him.
“The Life Sport Programme is an anti-crime initiative and it’s indeed a pleasure and privilege that the Honourable Prime Minister has moved the Life Sport Programme into the Ministry of National Security where there are greater avenues for organisational structure for the programme to blossom, bloom and move forward. It’s like moving from early childhood into secondary school and as the daddy of the baby from early childhood I am proud and I accept and agree one hundred percent.
“It’s an absolutely perfect fit. The Life Sport programme as incorrectly reported (by the Express) was a brainchild of Anil (and not Permanent Secretary Ashwin Creed). “It was born out of the desire to see young black boys come off the streets, come off the crime and stop killing themselves.
“Those who were not academically inclined; those who did not fall into the vocational programmes; those who didn’t want to do manual labour in URP and Cepep, Life Sport was engendered to encourage their participation through the beauty of sport, the passion of sport, give them a stipend so with the change in lifestyle they would have some money to eat a food and feed themselves and their family.
“And then we will identify the talent, teach them life skills, teach them management...All of this in the Life Sport over the last two years has been such a tremendous success, it has moved from a small programme in ten communities now it’s in 40 communities with 21 communities waiting for it,” he declared.
Roberts also welcomed an audit into the programme which he says is nothing to be afraid of.
“The scrutiny is very good. Once you’re involved in public funds and public programmes, scrutiny is fantastic. There is a probe coming from the Ministry of Finance? I welcome the probe...Nothing is wrong with a probe, everyone is entitled to information,” he declared.
Roberts also refused to comment on a statement by Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi who speculated that the now infamous video with someone resembling a Government Minister was released by members of the Government to get Roberts out of Cabinet.
Instead, Roberts trained guns on Al-Rawi and PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley.
“What we need to do is link some information about One Alexandra (Street) and about the rent that Al-Rawi and his family get from tax payers and whether he should give back all of the money..., upwards of $18 million over the last five years. It was before we (People’s Partnership) came in, one million a month the PNM signed,” he said.
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