PNM chairman Franklin Khan’s opening statements at Wednesday’s PNM Macoya Divali celebration noted that Divali transcends politics.
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Wait for end of audit—Roberts
Sport Minister Anil Roberts says the Life Sport programme was necessary for the safety and security of citizens. He made the comment yesterday as he spoke about the now controversial programme established by his ministry in 2012 to assist less fortunate young, black males. He was speaking in debate on a private motion brought by Opposition MP Colm Imbert, which called on the House of Representatives to censure Roberts for “facilitating, through Life Sport, the funding of criminals and criminal enterprise.”
The programme is currently being audited by the Finance Ministry after several allegations, including that it was funding criminals.
The Deputy Director of Physical Education in the Ministry of Sport, Ruth Marchan, and others in the ministry have reported that death threats were made against them after alleged financial improprieties in the programme were made public. One of those named as being marked for death, Curtis “Tallman” Gibson, described as Marchan’s bodyguard, was shot dead by a gunman who entered his Malabar, Arima home early Thursday.
But Roberts said yesterday that Gibson, a PTSC employee, was never employed by or connected to Life Sport in any way whatsoever. He said Life Sport was intended to assist in the fight against crime by giving youths an option. “Before Life Sport they were on the street robbing, shooting, hurting citizens, and since coming into the programme many of them have started to live positive meaningful lives,” he told legislators, adding, “Life Sport is a necessary initiative to ensure safety and security for our citizens.”
Roberts said he had been silent on the matter over the past several weeks to allow the audit by the Finance and Economy Ministry to be completed. He welcomed the audit as a positive development intended to make the programme a better one. Legislators, Roberts said, should await the completion of the audit before condemning the programme, saying it was established partly after a recommendation by Prof Selwyn Ryan, in a report to Cabinet, for sport to be used to assist less fortunate young black males.
He also dismissed a claim by Imbert that there were ghosts in the programme, adding another claim about there being a super co-ordinator of the programme would be determined when the audit was complete.
Roberts also responded to concerns raised by Imbert based on a report of the Auditor General about a funeral costing the minister an estimated $180,000. He said the sum was not for a gangster but for the funeral of David Cumberbatch, a member of the Coast Guard who had accompanied national teams in every sport as a massage therapist for 20 years. Roberts also said permanent secretary in the ministry, Ashwin Creed, who is on leave until next week, was out of the country on family business.
There have been claims Creed left the country because he feared for his life.