A member of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen named in the LifeSport funding scandal yesterday called for an apology from Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley, who last Friday claimed to have documented evidence of Rajaee Ali’s “racketeering” in the programme.
Ali, at a news conference with his attorney, Christon Williams, in Port of Spain, said his name is being maligned and he has not collected public funds amounting to a $1.5 million monthly pay-off from the Ministry of Sport through the now-controversial programme.
In addition to being linked to corruption in the LifeSport programme, Ali said attempts are being made to connect him to the May 4 assassination of senior counsel Dana Seetahal and he feels at this time he has become a “scapegoat”.
The involvement of the Jamaat in the programme came into the public domain via a Sunday Express story on May 18, which stated: “The Carapo-based Jamaat-al-Muslimeen is controlling the mammoth share of the Ministry of Sport’s $113,502,273 LifeSport Programme, which the Ministry of Finance has found to be riddled with irregularities.
“The coordinator of the programme is Rajaee Ali, son of the north-west leader of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, Imam Hassan Ali.”
Questioned about allegations money was being collected by “ghost” participants, amounting to over $1 million per month, Ali said this was not true.
In the story, the elder Ali also claimed the organisation has assisted past and present governments to rally supporters.
At a Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) public march-turned-rally in Port of Spain last Friday, Rowley, one of the keynote speakers, appeared on stage with several leaves of paper, which he said were letters dated June 12, 2013, from the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance and the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Sport.
Rowley said a document had been submitted to the Ministry of Finance and had been signed by Rajaee Ali in both the position as the coordinator of the State-funded LifeSport Programme and the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Sport.
Ali yesterday said Rowley should come forward and have the signatures on the documents verified.
This can be done by a handwriting analyst, Ali said, and he insisted he has no know ledge of the documents from which Rowley read.
“This is very unjust,” Ali said. “I want to ask him to provide this document.”
Ali added: “If he can’t prove that it is my signature, then he should apologise to me.”
Ali said he has been involved with the programme for about a year, but was a coordinator of the Carapo operations and was not in charge of the entire East Trinidad leg.
Asked to clarify the monthly funding coming to him and the Carapo Jamaat branch, Ali declined and would only say it was much less than $1.5 million.
He said he was also puzzled over an Express story headlined, “I did not kill Dana”, the first in a series based on interviews he did.
Ali yesterday claimed no question regarding Seetahal had been posed to him, and the headline was “weird”.
Parts of the interview had been printed verbatim in the article and read as follows:
Sunday Express: So did you kill Dana? Were you behind it?