LifeSport, launched on June 19, 2012, was the brainchild of former sport minister Anil Roberts and was marketed as an anti-crime measure, with sports as the focal point.
?“LifeSport, as the name suggests, is a second chance, it’s about life support and it’s a concept that is not novel but is real,” Roberts had said at the launch of the programme where Independent Liberal Party’s (ILP) chairman Jack Warner gave the feature address.
??“We have many programmes that have been instituted, with all sorts of names, from YTEPP to CCC to MYPATT, all created with the right intentions but how effective are they? We have URP, we have CEPEP, providing the right services but not getting down to the root of the problem,” Roberts had said at the launch.
On May 19, the Express published an exclusive story on how the Carapo-based Jamaat was being funded through the programme.
Within a week, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar transferred the programme from the Ministry of Sport to the Ministry of National Security and directed Finance Minster Larry Howai to conduct an audit into the financial irregularities in the programme.
Despite the fact that the Express broke the LifeSport story, Roberts has never spoken to the Express when asked for comment.
Following are some of Roberts’ comments on the LifeSport programme made at press conferences and in Parliament:
July 20, 2014, Trinidad Guardian
“If it is proven that a programme I conceptualised to help poor black people is funding terrorists, criminal gangs, and an armed militia of 250 men in a palace in Carapo...a huge compound from which they can train, operate and terrorise the people of Trinidad and Tobago, I will resign forthwith.”
July 22, 2014, Trinidad Express
“Let me state from the on-set that LifeSport is an organisation separate and apart from the Ministry of Sport. LifeSport has its own logo, its own organisational structure, its own directors, its own bank account, its own cheques and its own signatories,” he said at a news conference in Port of Spain.
“This is the Ministry of Sport that spends $112 million a year for national sporting organisations, caterers, janitorial, elite funding, all sorts of things across the board. To print a Ministry of Sport cheque, make an entire story about LifeSport and taking money from taxpayers, I only wish somebody would take the time to check the facts before printing.”
July 26, 2014, Trinidad Express
“Absolutely not...I am not resigning,” Roberts said to reporters during the tea break of the sitting of the House of Representatives. “A minister does not procure. A minister cannot hire. A minister cannot sign a cheque. A minister cannot award a contract. A minister does not approve all of these things,” he declared. ??
“There are no terrorist links, no Jamaat al Muslimeen is receiving $1.5 million or $3 million, there is no 250 militia being funded by Life Sport, there’s no palatial residence that is funded by Life Sport, there is no $8 million sports day for bandits!” ??
“Ministers are responsible for policy and it is sad to see that...people with degrees and (expertise) could 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 Life Sport.”
July 30, 2014, Trinidad Guardian
“I will say no more on this issue but will allow the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Office of the Attorney General, the Integrity Commission and the head of the Public Service to do their own investigations and determine the next steps,” he wrote yesterday in response to a T&T Guardian editorial.
“As it stands, several officers are preparing responses to the issues unearthed in the Central Audit Report. In the meantime, the Prime Minister has sent the findings to various Government agencies who will, in turn, do their own in-depth investigations.
“Therefore, at this time, I must continue to do the work of the people and focus on my mandate as Minister of Sport.”
July 28, 2014 CNC 3
“The ministry officials, the permanent secretary, the Sport Company, the LifeSport contractor, the directors and so on are given an opportunity to respond to any queries or any statements made here...so this is not the final thing. They would do that this week and so on but when you look in here, something that bothered me terribly was that laptops were bought for poor people, poor children, I call them children, some people call them criminals...well, whatever you want to call them, who were making the wrong choices, who were on the street, who were robbing, who were involved in crime, this programme is to take them out, try and get them in. The coordinators are not supposed to be mentors, they are supposed to be able to get these fellas off the streets,” he said during an interview on CNC3’s The Morning Brew programme.
“I just appeal to them to stay calm, the Prime Minister will find another avenue.”