Clouding the celebrations
It should have been the week, beginning on Tuesday, that all over T&T we extended the blessings of Allah to our Muslim brothers and sisters; a week, when on Friday, thousands of Africans would be taking to the streets to commemorate the anniversary of Emancipation — but with the recognition that although liberated from the physical torture of the plantation, they are still enslaved, in various forms, by the all-pervasive, and more pernicious propaganda of black inferiority.
This week should have been one of praise and celebration, but the events of last week seemed to serve as a sad prelude, or better yet, a telescopic insight into the sorry state of the nation.
There was the report on the St Michael’s Home for Boys which detailed 21st century abuses that appeared as a replay of Dickens’ horrendous tales of 19th century English children’s homes.
There was the testosterone fight between the Ministers of Sport and National Security over the use of the words, “Trinidad and Tobago” as part of the Red Steel name in the T20 cricket competition.
The Sport Minister, appearing more like a person in need of sedation, was first off the mark, instructing the cricket organisers, reportedly because of a personal dispute with Dwayne Bravo, that there was no room for negotiation —the words had to be removed.
The National Security Minister, siding with the organisers, claimed that national emblems were within his portfolio, and the words were to be reinstated.
The Sport Minister shot back that the National Security Minister could take such action only in his mind, because Cabinet alone had the authority to reverse the decision.
The National Security Minister replied with the blow that for months the Sport Minister had not been attending Cabinet sub-committee meetings. And had he attended the last one, he would have known that his colleagues agreed on the reinstatement of the words.
What did the Prime Minister do? She came bearing gifts, for this week, of a 20 per cent reduction on flour, rice and oil, and, in an aside, announced that she told the feuding ministers of her dissatisfaction with their public spat.
Then there was the depressing repartee from the National Security Minister, appearing to function more as the “Army Minister”, as he thrashed the comments of retired Brigadier-General Ralph Brown on the Army’s illegal patrols in Laventille and the subsequent rebuke of Independent Senator Helen Drayton.
Had Brown been worth his salt as a general he would have known the difference between Army operations and patrols, the former captain said. Worse, he described Brown’s comments as part of a political agenda.
Drayton, he felt, was a person who always opposed the Government and she was being “emotional”.
But this was the mere sideshow for the PM’s announcement —probably to be recorded as one of the saddest days in the history of the House—on the findings of the audit into the $300 million LifeSport programme.
With the sombre-looking Sport Minister sitting directly behind her, the PM told the country of the investigators’ LifeSport findings: breaches in procurement procedure and the Proceeds of Crime Act; deviation from Cabinet decisions; fraud by suppliers; theft of equipment; poor control and monitoring by the ministry’s executives.
The PM’s decision? The programme, which she had earlier transferred to National Security, would be discontinued.
“For those who really sought to improve their lives and positively benefit from the programme, I am sorry that had to happen. However, do not despair….through other working programmes we will reach out to our vulnerable,” she said.
What of the Minister’s future? The PM said nothing, and he stood firm in spite of his public promise last weekend that should the audit indicate malfeasance, he would resign.
So Minister Anil Roberts remains untouchable, and survives to preside over the PM’s promise of other multi-million-dollar programmes.
For the youths in Laventille and across T&T? The LifeSport Programme was not just a bad week, but another woeful chapter in the lives of the black and disadvantaged.
• THE AUTHOR, a former
Express news editor, has
since followed a career in
communication and management