SPORT Minister Anil Roberts described yesterday as a “very sad day” Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had stopped his brainchild, the LifeSport Programme.
Roberts however said he would not be resigning his Cabinet portfolio, despite allegations of impropriety unearthed by a Ministry of Finance audit into the programme, as he was “not mentioned once” in the audit report nor was there any confirmation the programme financed terrorism.
Roberts made the statements at Parliament, during the Lower House’s tea break.
“It is a very sad day to know that a programme that was helping young black boys who were on the streets committing crime, over 2,250 of them, is forced to be halted because of the greed of certain people,”
“When people are entrusted with managerial positions and entrusted to follow the rules of procurement and to ensure that things are done properly, it is very important that they do so because the ones who now suffer as this programme is halted are those young, poor fellas who now have nothing to do, who were very proud of the programme, who are improving; yes, their attendance was not the greatest, so it is very sad and it is very serious,” he said.
Roberts congratulated those who conducted the audit.
“It is amazing that from evil comes good and then bad. What do I mean by that? The original reason for the audit report was serious allegations of an international nature that the LifeSport was funding terrorists and the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen was collecting $1.5 million to $3 million a month, that there was an armed militia of 250 men being trained in a palatial compound in Carapo and that there were 1,400 ghosts and that there was an $8 million sports day for bandits to take money,” Roberts said.
“All of these things have been proven by the audit to be absolutely fabricated, no truth whatsoever,” he said.
Roberts said he could take no pleasure in being vindicated, however.
“I can take no pleasure in that or no feeling of vindication because of what was unearthed,” he said.
Roberts called on those who facilitated wrong-doing in the programme to be held accountable.
Roberts said he was “totally unaware” of the “amazing” things that were taking place in the programme.
“I am right here strong and I will continue...absolutely not (tender resignation) as I repeat, there are not terrorist links, no Jamaat-al-Muslimeen is receiving $1.5 or $3 million, there is not 250 militia being funded by LifeSport, there is no palatial residence that is funded by LifeSport, there is no $8 million sports day supported by bandits and so on, so I am not resigning, I am sad,” Roberts said.
“Those who are responsible, the buck stops with them and they will pay for it; I am not responsible for managerial issues, ministers are responsible for policy, and it is sad to see that those who were paid, people with degrees and so on, can allow things like theft of computers, over-invoicing and so on. The ones who are going to suffer are the young, poor fellas who were really benefitting from that programme,” he said.
“The minister is not mentioned once (in the audit report)”, Roberts said.
“PNM (People’s National Movement) people would love to blame me, (Opposition Leader Dr Keith) Rowley would love to blame me, it does not exist, it is not there, but that does not mean that I celebrate today; I’m not going home today after 11 weeks of stress to celebrate that it is fantastic,” Roberts said.