Saturday, February 17, 2018

Of LifeSport and deadly games

Michael Harris logo37

Mark Fraser

I am certain that we have not yet been exposed to the full depth of iniquity which has been flourishing in the belly of the LifeSport programme. But we have heard enough to recognise that it is riddled with corruption and criminality and that it is a cancerous growth which has apparently spread to the public service as well.

Remember, the stench from the programme only hit us when it was revealed that the prime suspect in the assassination of Dana Seetahal, one Rajaee Ali, was, and in fact for all I know still is, the co-ordinator of the LifeSport programme in Carapo.

Of course, our acting Commissioner of Police would no doubt be quick to point out that he never stated that Mr Ali was a suspect in Ms Seetahal’s murder. But not even our ever-so-cautious acting CoP can deny Mr Ali’s credentials as a hardened criminal.

To quote Colm Imbert speaking in Parliament recently, “(it is this) same man who was charged for murder, who escaped from prison, bribing a prison guard, the same man that police described in 2007 as armed and dangerous. This same man is hired to run the Carapo arm of LifeSport.”

But let us not fool ourselves. This cancer is not confined to Carapo. Its deadly cells have infiltrated everywhere. According to Finance Minister Larry Howai, the programme has expanded from three centres when it began in 2012 to 43 centres at present.

And we do not have to look too long or too hard to realise that the money spent on funding the programme (the actual amounts Mr Howai either does not know or refuses to divulge) is not spent on anything to do with sport.

The programme has become—and is recognised by its participants, its organisers, its co-ordinators and its directors as such—a gigantic feeding trough from which everyone involved is “eating” without even the pretence of doing something worthwhile, like training youth through sport.

Listen to one person described as a “coach” in the programme: “All kinds of money missing all round the country, not only LifeSport. Money missing all about! We have no problem with that. What we saying is we keeping some (money) for the youth.”

And listen to another gentleman described as an “elder” in the programme (it would be interesting to find out what role an “elder” plays): “Why should anyone oppose the poor people and say $1,500 is too much for them? How could the politicians alone want to eat all the food while we stay hungry?”

You see why I describe the programme as a cesspool of criminality and corruption? But you do not have to take my word for it. Our Minister of National Security himself has stated: “Any child would see there are questionable activities going on in LifeSport and they behaving as if it is the best thing since sliced bread. They are trying to fool the country that there are no criminal connections in LifeSport... that is undermining the intelligence of this country and they are fooling no one.”

Take the word, too, of the lady described as the programme’s deputy director who, according to reports, is ensconced in a safe house, fearing for her life: “Who trying to kill me have to come real good, because I am real good with the guys on the ground, the gang leaders. If someone kills me, it comes from the top.”

Do you believe that? Do you believe that Mr Howai, having appointed a team to audit the programme, had to extend the deadline because the auditors feared for their lives while going to some of the centres to do their investigations?

Do you believe that the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sport has been away from his office and out of the country for months and, according to Jack Warner, is not returning since he is afraid for his life?

Do you believe that after LifeSport was supposedly transferred from the Ministry of Sport to the Ministry of National Security, and after Mr Howai assured us that no more funds would be disbursed to the programme until the audit was completed, the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sport approved $14 million for the programme?

Do you believe that LifeSport has anything to do with sport? Or is it an arena for deadly games? Do you believe the Government cares?