The Curious Case of Anil Roberts: Roller Coaster Return to Grace Pt. 1

Mostly known for his involvement in the now scandalous LifeSportt programme, Anil Roberts’ rise to parliamentary stardom was spearheaded by his involvement in the affairs of the Trinidad & Tobago sporting world. His accolades have him down as a former Olympic Swimming coach, one of the persons responsible for moulding the talent of our most credible athlete in the 50M pool, George Bovell III. His charismatic side was quickly shadowed by his lack of charm as he showcased his “talent” as a sports commentator on the show stylised as SPALK (Sports Talk), something like a lighter less talented version of Shaka Hislop for ESPN FC, on the local station The Gayelle. After having a successful spell on television this put Mr. Roberts’ rise to stardom on an uphill climb, so much that he was tipped for a place in the United National Congress’ party as a parliamentarian. The then “Honourable” Anil Roberts was first elected to the House of Representatives on May 24th 2010 as the member for D’Abadie/O’Meera for the snap general election, then appointed Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs on May 29th 2010 and subsequently the Minister of Sport from 27th June, 2011 to 31st July, 2014.

In typical “opposition now turned victorious party” fashion Roberts in his first days on the job condemned the former PNM administration and more surprisingly the SPORTT (Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago) by brandishing it as “Madness” supported with the slew of financial mismanagement accusations, “omissions, errors, impropriety and downright corrupt practices….. from the Caribbean Games, which never came off, to the legacy flag at Hasley Crawford Stadium, to the hiring of interns, the leasing of expensive SUVs, duplication of duties/responsibilities and the creation of a ghost roof at the stadium”. A fitting speech for what was soon to come.

A series of events followed along the trail, with plans to implement programmes in various communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago. One of which, (in conjunction with then Minister of National Security Mr. Austin Jack Warner) would be labelled as the “Hoop for Life” basketball competition  which was unveiled in July 2012, with an appearance by 4× NBA Champion, 3× NBA Finals MVP & NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal who was paid an undisclosed sum by the then PP (People’s Partnership) Government even though he “happened to be in the country” as purported by Mr. Warner. Hosting a total of 60 basketball teams in an effort to reach over 33 embattled and at risk communities, was then apart of the LifeSportt initiative which in the words of Mr. Roberts wanted to expand the programme to an additional 6r communities. The estimated span of the competition would be once every 3 years as stated by Mr. Warner.


PAYING THE BILLS

The Hoop for Life competition with an initial bill to launch the campaign with $300,000 in taxpayers money was estimated to cost a grand total of 36 Million over a 3 year period or 12 Million per year. Hoop For Life then, from October 2012 to September 2013 spent an estimated 2 Million in leasing 19 cars, 5 SUVs and hiring 24 drivers for the initiative. This was defended by then Finance Minister Larry Howai by stating that it was only 1 vehicle that was leased. The first leg of the competition saw the grand prize of 1 Million dollars being awarded to the Laventille basketball team, $500,000 for Second Place and $250,000 for Third Place. In March of 2013 Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar increased the 1 Million dollar 1st prize to 1.5 Million for that year. A spokesman said in reply o the question, Has the programme exceeded it’s 12 Million budget? they’re still paying bills from last year. “I can’t say”. 

One of the rules of the game was that any player who ran afoul of the law will be expelled from the programme “For six months, the 720 players maintained a 100% crime-free record. No one was arrested nd there was no acts of violence. This is something to be proud of.”

However after costing the Government over 70 Million in less than 2 years, the Hoop for Life programme had to be reviewed. A statement made by National Security Minister, Gary Griffith (Austin Jack Warner’s successor after leaving of his own volition due to a slew of accusations of criminal wrong doings from financial impropriety to bribery during his stand as FIFA Vice President).

ON TO THE NEXT ONE
As was previously mentioned the LIFESport programme launched in June 2012 was aimed to cater for youths between the ages 16 to 25 and is said to have been fixated in 33 communities throughout the country (later expanded to 65). at its inception a total of 60 participants were involved in the programme at each venue where they old then undergo training in three porting disciplines ( Football, Cricket & Basketball) as well as undergo Life Skills and personal development programmes. The sole function of LIFESport was an attempt to “roll back the tide against criminals and criminality in out counrty. It was specifically focused on saving the lives of young men ( between the ages of 16 and 25) who needed to be protected from criminals who routinely preyed on them, and (the programme was meant to instead) to help shape positive futures for these young people.” – KPB 2014

Let’s talk about Sex….. In Schools Part. 1

Something that has been the topic of conversation for years among our peers from the teenages (those who are excited, based on peer pressure/images purported by media houses and the latest episode of your favourite TV series) to the elderly (those from the previous generations that made  mistakes which caused a deep regret) and yet still a taboo topic to many is the subject of sexual activity, in general and more specifically, sexual activity among young persons with our school systems. 

One of the main points in combating the discussion of sexual activity in schools is “at what age are children wise/mature enough, to keep an in depth discourse about sexual activity?” Now let’s go back to the topic being one that’s taboo. With the dawn of the technological era leading to the advent of social media and by extension the introduction of High Speed Internet as a “basic need” in every home our youth are being constantly bombarded with the idea of sexual activity being a regular entity in our livelihood. But is it not? And why was it being stifled as a topic of conversation by those in a higher authority? 

One of the answers to this question was that religions, all in its own rights saw the topic of sex and sexual activity as being something wholly and solely for adults. Adjectives as “sexy” was as close as saying the word “f_ck” in your mother’s house…. Forbidden. Chastity was promoted while promiscuity was a devil’s action, additionally if a child even harboured thoughts of sexual acts they had to be bathed in holy water, repent, say a couple Hail Mary’s or else be shunned by their congregation.

Now fast forward, it’s 2017 and over the years the topic of teenage pregnancy has been, and  is still alive today, the battle between pro-life and pro-choice has become more vocal and parents, ideally, for the most part are becoming more involved in their children’s daily activities. However, most of the same trends that occurred during the times of our parents during yester-year are still happening today….. So why are we so intent on not acting on or changing our approach to an age old problem and that is addressing the elephant in the room.

Remembering Fulgencio Batista||Militarism as a tool of Control

Once President of Cuba, then Dictator

Once President of Cuba, then Dictator

Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (January 16, 1901 – August 6, 1973) was the elected President of Cuba from 1940 to 1944 and dictator from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution…. Fulgencio Batista has been able to show that militarism is a means of power, by appointing himself with the rank colonel of the armed forces he was able to maintain a puppet control of the Cuban Presidency by this example of corrupt power and as John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902) says, “Power corrupts; Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely”. Simply stating what similarities are shown in our present times.

Minister of National Security of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Minister of National Security of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

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