It was late one night in the 1990s. I was sitting in the back seat of a car.
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Creed breaks silence on absence: I am due to retire soon
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Ashwin Creed, in an e-mail exchange with the Sunday Guardian, says he has accumulated more than 250 days leave which he is utilising. After this ends, Creed may be proceeding on pre-retirement leave. Creed and other ministry officials have dominated the media as, week after week, more information regarding the multi-million dollar Life Sport programme has come to the surface.
There were numerous unanswered questions, including some with regard to Creed’s prolonged absence from the job, in the light of the ongoing audit into the contentious programme. While many have attributed sinister reasons to Creed’s absence, with both Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and former minister of National Security Jack Warner claiming that Creed was out of the country because of threats to his life, Creed explained his prolonged absence to the Sunday Guardian.
“I have 33-and-a-third years service, and I have accumulated 250 days unused leave since I have not taken leave for 12 years...I left on personal and family business as I am entitled to do,” he said. “I am due to retire soon,” Creed added, heightening speculation that he may not have to return to the PS job, but may proceed from time off straight into pre-retirement leave before exiting the public service. Creed said when he left the country on May 13, 2014, there was no probe into the Life Sport programme.
“I could understand the furore if I had left the country while the probe was already undertaken. If the probe had been initiated while I was still in the country, I would not have left. There was no probe of the programme when I left the country, and I am not going to return until I have completed my business abroad, since I am entitled to my unused leave,” he said. He said despite reports that his absence was holding up the probe, he was not running away from the audit. He was also willing to be interviewed, Creed said.
“I am not afraid of scrutiny because there were three previous audits undertaken. Two were undertaken by Central Audit and one by the Auditor General. I presided over all three, and I am certainly willing and prepared to make myself available for the fourth one. I stand ready to assist and to respond to the concerns of the auditors,” he said. Despite the rash of negative attention the programme has been receiving recently, Creed defended the programme as a positive one.
“The Life Sport programme is an evolving programme. The programme is really virgin territory and as the programme evolves, then changes can be made to it to meet the new changes. For example, when the programme started it identified musical talent. “But as the programme developed, it identified other creative areas and therefore the programme evolved to accommodate those new and creative demands.
“So to use the term ‘keep the programme in its original format’ is unduly restrictive and will only lock down the programme too narrowly, which is not necessarily desirable,” he said. He refused to comment on the programmes being moved from his own line minister, Sport Minister Anil Roberts, to National Security Minister Gary Griffith.
“The decision to move the programme to the Ministry of National Security (MNS) is a Cabinet policy decision. I am a public servant, and it is not my place to comment on policy decisions as a public servant,” he said. In a subsequent e-mail, Creed added that it would be “hard to determine any fallout” as the programme moved from the Sport Ministry to National Security.
“Everything depends on the vision that MNS has for the programme and how they intend to administer it. I can’t predetermine the vision of the MNS for the programme. But the programme, by its very nature, requires a holistic national agenda in transforming the lives of the ‘at-risk’ in the society. The best way to do this is to forge alliances with civil society, NGOs and other ministries of government. The underlying philosophy of the Life Sport programme is nation building for the future,” he said.
When asked if his absence would cause further harm to the programme and to deputy director Ruth Marchan, Creed said the strength of the Life Sport programme was not in the PS alone. “The strength of the programme resides in the director, the two deputy directors, the regional managers, the co-ordinators, and the coaches who make up the whole cadre of persons who administer the programme. The PS merely gives oversight to the programme,” he said.
“The strength of the programme has also been in the participants themselves. They made the programme work. They embraced the opportunity afforded to them for growth, and the co-ordinators and coaches facilitated this change process,” he said.
“The format that the programme adopts has to be determined by and is dependent on its performance. So that as the programme evolves there is a research component to track and assess the programme’s development over time, which information would then inform how the programme evolves. It was always the intention of the Life Sport programme to partner with other stakeholders. For instance, the Ministries of Education, National Security and Social Development,” he said.
“As the programme’s vision broadened over time, naturally wider stakeholder discussions would have had to be engaged in,” he said. He also refused to comment on the alleged plot to hurt Marchan and the murder of Curtis “Tallman” Gibson. “Threats to Ms Marchan are a police matter and it is therefore not prudent to speculate,” he said. Creed’s attorney Peter Taylor who facilitated this interview is out of the country on personal business.