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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Minister Bharath opens Pandora’s box
Local horse racing hit rock bottom on August 20, when for the first time in living memory, a Minister of Trade and Industry descended into the day to day administration of the sport and issued a directive to the TTRA. This was no ordinary directive. It was a directive to discontinue the investigation into the Boogie Blues matter which has dogged the industry for the last two years. Without getting into the pros and cons of the case against Boogie Blues, which has been well ventilated over the years, there are many aspects of this development that should be troubling. Firstly, the Minister seems to have appointed himself judge, jury and executioner in this matter. He has singlehandedly determined that Boogie Blues should be cleared of the charges and there should be no change to the result. Can justice really ever be served when it is the product of the views of one individual? A democratic society is built on institutions and not the opinions of one individual. There have been many occasions when each of us would have felt that decisions or justice could have been served in a more timely manner if processes did not have to be followed. Unfortunately, it is the very same disregard of process and institutions that, if left unchecked, results in an eventual erosion of democratic rights. Every dictator in history started off as being welcomed by the people of their territory. That a Minister should choose to abrogate those rights is of great concern. Where will it end?
The second issue of concern is that the Minister’s letter which has been circulated to the media has obviously been drafted by someone other than the Minister. This, in and of itself is probably normal. However, no one in the Ministry had previously shown any affinity or knowledge of the sport and the core institutions of the Betting Levy Board and Racing Authority seem to have not been involved in its crafting. The Minister therefore should disclose to the nation, who his advisors on this matter were. This is necessary to clear the air as to whether there was any undue influence exerted to have this matter brought to an end. The third issue which stands out in this correspondence by the Minister is how he seeks to obfuscate the picture by re-iterating what many, including this writer, has been saying about the sector over the last few years. Quoting directly from the letter, the Minister states:“I have also noted with grave concern that the local racing industry has been in a sharp decline due to inter alia the following reasons:
a. the antiquated legislative structure that, among its other inadequacies, permits representatives of long defunct entities (such as the Tobago Race Club) to be appointed to the boards of statutory corporations;
b. the inability of the three main institutions in racing, namely, the Arima Race Club, the Betting Levy Board and the Authority to properly undertake their respective functions;
c. the lack of accountability and policing in the conduct and management of racing fixtures and related activities;
d. the deterioration of the physical plant used for racing due to the lack of essential maintenance and investment and;
e. the general distrust and lack of interest in the racing industry that has been growing over the years and has now reached to a state of crisis. For the reasons set out above, I am of the opinion that if the current state of affairs is allowed to continue the local racing industry may collapse within the next few years. It is clear that the racing industry must be reformed and modernised. In the circumstances, it is my intention as an initial step to appoint a Committee to examine the Act and the Rules of Racing to determine and make recommendations on whether the Act or the Rules of Racing ought to be amended in the interest of the local racing industry after considering the views of the Authority and other stakeholders.”
What is disturbing about this revelation is that the Minister chose a letter in which the prime purpose was to seek to terminate a legitimate investigation to outline his concern over real challenges confronting the industry. He goes on to state that he will be writing the relevant bodies in the coming weeks with his plans for reform. Does Minister Bharath believe that all of the people of Trinidad and Tobago are gullible? Did he not read Balgobin’s treatise on the parasitic oligarchy? Three weeks will come and go and we will not hear one word about his reform plans because he has none, and never had any intention of doing anything. He seems to believe that by raising these issues at the end of his letter and throwing a bone about his reform plans, his dangerous prime directive will be overlooked. That is a 1960s thinking, though it is consistent with an often used distraction tactic. I doubt anyone will be distracted on this occasion. The sad aspect of this development is that each of those five issues is of much greater importance to the industry than the Boogie Blues matter. A matter which should have been settled quickly and has dragged on too long as a result of personalities rather than the interest of horseracing. The Minister should use the powers vested in him to issue prime directives aimed at resolving the issues that are causing him grave concern. However although he hasn’t, but since we know that he now has a proclivity for using his powers, I am sure all involved in the sport will be lining up at his door to have him exercise that power going forward. I trust he appreciates the Pandora’s box that he has just opened, despite what may be his best intentions.
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