Gunness Persad, the man who discovered national sprint champion Keston Bledman, has made an impassioned appeal to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to relay the track at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
“She said ‘serve the people, serve the people, serve the people’. Are we who use Manny Ramjohn not people?”
Back in May, Persad said that because school sports could not be staged at the Ramjohn Stadium, the Simplex Athletic Club talent pool had dried up. Persad had recruited many athletes for Simplex after seeing them perform at school sports at the Ramjohn Stadium. Top of the list was Bledman.
Four months later, and Persad is even more dismayed about the situation at the Ramjohn Stadium.
“I’m happy,” Persad told the Express, “the clubs in Arima who use Larry Gomes stadium have their track. But people are hurting because of Manny Ramjohn.
“The track has not been used since 2012, and the last time a meet was held there was in 2011. I was told they would start work in August, but I fear it might not be ready for 2014. On the 26th of July, I met with the contractor and Mr (Anthony) Blake, facilities manager of all stadiums. They said the plan is to order pumps from Germany to drain water from the ground. There are young, bright civil engineers in Trinidad who could solve the drainage problem in a short space of time.”
But Blake, Manager/Facilities Management at the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT), told the Express it was necessary for Porplastic--the German company contracted to relay the track--to attend to the drainage issue as well.
“If we use someone else to do the drainage, the five-year warranty we’re supposed to get from Porplastic would be voided.”
Blake said the Ramjohn Stadium track could be relaid by late November/early December. He added, though, that achieving that goal was dependent on favourable weather conditions, explaining that rain could lead to further delays.
Persad--one of the coaches that travelled with the Trinidad and Tobago team to the World Championships in Moscow, Russia last month--said he was very disappointed that Minister of Sport Anil Roberts had allowed the Ramjohn Stadium to remain unavailable for so long.
“It appears the Minister of Sport has no plans to fix Manny Ramjohn. How could they award a contract and then speak about a drainage problem?
“When the Minister was a talk show host, he made a big stink about things not going right. If he were still a talk show host, he would be steupsing still over Manny Ramjohn. Pumpkin and watermelon are growing on the field.
“Madam Prime Minister,” Persad continued, “it appears that the Ministry of Sport and the Sports Company have started to canvas for the People’s Partnership government to lose the next general election in 2015, by not fixing the Manny Ramjohn Stadium for the people of south, and all of Trinidad and Tobago, because people from all over run there.
“I want to advise those in authority that the people they meet on the way up, they will meet on the way down. Please fix Manny Ramjohn for us, so we can start to train for 2014 and host Games and all school sports in 2014.”
Persad, who serves as a trustee on the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) executive committee, said he was surprised there has been no outcry from local football authorities.
“How come SSFL and TTFA are keeping silent on the issue? There has been no football at Manny Ramjohn for 2013.”
In response to Persad, Minister Roberts said the Ramjohn Stadium delay was necessary.
“Since 2001, when these tracks were put down, no real work was done on them. The delay is because of the need to put down perfect work. We don’t want to do what PNM did in 2009, spending $10 million for the Caribbean Games, and within three years the work had to be done again. The work was delayed at Manny Ramjohn because of the drainage. These tracks are very expensive, and when there is a variation you have to get approval. We will not waste taxpayers’ money.
“Mr Gunness Persad,” Roberts continued, “we commiserate with him, because we always want to have athletes training. But he finds the time to complain about very good work. I wonder if he has the time to explain to the nation why Semoy Hackett was allowed to run at the World Championships.”
In response to Persad’s assertion that the Ministry of Sport and SPORTT “have started to canvas for the People’s Partnership government to lose the next general election”, Roberts said: “I will not respond to an armchair politician.”