“People would not make threats against persons in the LifeSport programme unless there was some kind of criminal activity there in the first place,” National Security Minister Gary Griffith stated yesterday.
He was commenting on reports that Deputy Director of the Physical Education and Sports in the Ministry of Sport, Ruth Marchan, had received a death threat and Director of the LifeSport Programme Cornelius Price had been informed by security forces that there was a threat on his life.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley had said permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Ashwin Creed, was forced to flee the country, after receiving a death threat.
Speaking to the media before the start of yesterday’s sitting of the Senate, Griffith said: “What I find quite ironic is that the same individuals who told us that Griffith was making things up and that it was a figment of my imagination, all of a sudden they find that there are threats being made against them.”
He said the same persons who held the “cosmetic conference to claim that the LifeSport programme was the best thing since slice bread”, were now complaining that threats were being made against them by people within the LifeSport programme. He said law enforcement official would conduct all the investigations into any threats.
Several weeks ago, Price defended the programme, slamming reports that LifeSport was fuelling crime and taking issue with statements made Griffith.
Griffith, who had spoken out about the infiltration of criminal elements into the programme, stated: “It is exactly as I said”.
The minister said he remained totally committed to removing the criminal elements and the individuals who feel that they own the LifeSport programme. “That is why you are hearing the threats now. It is over. And they certainly cannot intimidate the Ministry of National Security. They cannot intimidate members of the Defence Force. We intend to remove the rogue elements from the Life Sport programme, the URP and all other aspects of the State-funded programmes,” he said.
“I have no intention of negotiating with criminals. They are not Robin Hoods. They are criminal elements who have deprived citizens of their fundamental rights to safety and security. And if I can do anything to cut their financial cord, make life difficult for them, it is going to make it easier for the law enforcement officials to confront them, head on,” he added. He said there would be no gang leader or ghosts in the programme under his portfolio and that he had received no death threats.
“As I said then and I say now, I intend to ensure that the LifeSport Programme is something that would be sanitised of all aspects of criminal activity, sanitised from ghost gangs and it should not be nothing more than something positive that ensures that youths can utilise their energies away from a life of crime,” Griffith said.
He said the Defence Force would be used not only to provide sports training but in character traits of discipline, leadership, punctuality etc. He said he would also try to acquire the services of local sporting icons, such as Brian Lara, as well as involve the sporting bodies.