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.

We Jammin’ Still: Reflections of Trinbago Society


What most of Trinidad and Tobago citizens feel as a result of the most recent murder of another young woman

As the song begins you’re drawn in by the sound of a drum set crashing a ridiculous solo followed by a vibration of sounds all mixing together to produce what many would agree to be the song of the season. Maximus Dan going by the sobriquet of MX Prime is charted to stamp his name into the Carnival history books as a clear favourite for this year’s Road March, and quite possibly Soca Monarch as well. More recently a pore raising rendition of the “We doh business” refrain has been performed by the “Silver Stars” steel band for the Panorama Prelims at the band’s pan-yard. In front of an enthused crowd of steelpan lovers, well wishers, and all throughout Social Media for many to experience some of our culture. One particular video garnering 4000 views in 3 hours and at least 205 shares. As I, along with the rest of Trinidad and Tobago, The Caribbean and by extension the world anxiously anticipate the “Greatest Show on Earth” I think we have been missing the point and a greater message that has been encoded into the lyrics of the song. Every time it plays, it reminds us that we, as a people really ‘doh business’.

Recession doh bother we…. Promote a fete, and you will see…. The treasury could bun down…. We Jammin’ Still’…. Economy could fall down we Jammin’ Still’…. The city, could bun down…. We Jammin’Still!! The building, could fall down…. We Jammin’…

As I begin and continue to write the current murder toll for Trinidad and Tobago has moved from 50 to 60 persons in only 35 days for the year 2017. More alarming is the crimes that have been committed against women in the country, in what can only be seen as the plot of a taken movie. There has been talk that the presence of a kidnapping/organ harvesting ring has emerged here in this country and even though it is hard to take seriously, the constant disappearances of persons and no closure makes it easy to believe. Supporting this is the close proximity Trinidad has with other Latin American countries mostly known to be involved in the illegal gun and drug trade, as well as where hardship has become a daily reality Venezuela being a prime example:

“Kidneys make up 75% of the global illicit trade in organs, Noel estimates. Rising rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems are causing demand for kidneys to far outstrip supply. Data from the WHO shows that of the 106,879 solid organs known to have been transplanted in 95 member states in 2010 (legally and illegally), about 73,179 (68.5%) were kidneys. But those 106,879 operations satisfied just 10% of the global need, the WHO said.”

With porous borders and a lack of a serious approach towards the Drug-Trade/Transhipment hub that Trinidad and Tobago provides, it only leads to a drastic increase in criminal activity in the crudest of nature. What also continues however, is the blame game that each passing and current government administration plays, all in an effort to gain political points towards their next agenda, be it either positive or negative.Screenshot_20170131-094853.png

Statements such as these, made by the former prime minister of the country is tantamount to inciting a riot, violence and vigilantism especially as the population becomes more desperate and demand a solution to the problem of crime and criminality from the powers that be, and with good reason. A new study done by the IDB [Inter-American Development Bank] shines a floodlight on the financial support that the country pledged towards its crime fighting initiatives. And quite frankly it’s a waste of taxpayers money with poor detection rates and lenient sentences for extreme crimes many are disappointed, disgusted and frustrated with the state of affairs in the country. But say what….. We Jammin’ Still’

Trumped: 9/11 meets 11/9

As usual my alarm rang out at 6:15am in an effort to get myself prepared for the day’s work. While waking up my wife turned on the television and I heard her exclaim “Babe!!”…. at that moment my mouth dropped as the headline on CNN read Trump elected as 45th President of the United States……

The day before, at work during our Post Lunch banter I told our group that Trump has a higher chance than ever now to win the elections as his campaign was using more logical (and I use this term loosely) rhetoric as opposed to the message of fearing the opposition which is what Secretary Clinton and her campaign was trying to drive through. They spoke of “No black person is going to vote for Trump” where I challenged saying that there is a lesser minority of each minority group, that think differently from the greater majority. Additionally the fact that United States population are firstly a proud people and secondly a patriotic people with that being said the controversial allegations surrounding both candidates were put on a scale where it was weighed, measured and the decision was then made to see which were the lesser of the two evils. During their campaign Trump began and ended with highlighting 1. War on ISIS 2. Getting Muslims out of the U.S. 3. The great wall of Mexico 4. Hilary Clinton and e-mail gate 5. The Obama administration and its “failed” policies, it was with this lead that Secretary Clinton was made to follow by trying to debunk these accusations repeatedly during debates and public meetings and so on. His repetition was important as he gave his honest unadulterated opinion, mostly what the vast majority of American people were thinking. We touched a bit on immigration policy, where in Trinidad and Tobago most persons have family members that live abroad, I myself have a few uncles, aunts cousins that reside in US and are unsure of their status there and what may happen moving forward. On the flip side where a few army reserves were present during our discussion brought up the message of what the process is like in the event of a war outbreak.

Donald J Trump defied odds coming in as a handicapped dark horse into a race with thoroughbreds and became what some would class as the joke that would never end, but somehow…… became the stallion that pulled ahead in the end. It’s my belief that history repeated itself, not American history, but Trin-bagonian history. The result of this election could be compared on similar lines to that of the Trinidad and Tobago election of May 25th, 2010 where the status-quo was changed, this sentiment was also shared post election, where a Trump supporter stated “a vote for Hilary Clinton was a vote for the status-quo”. This was initially the problem with most persons I spoke with, in saying that Hilary Clinton’s success in the election would mean another e-mail gate, more broken promises and not enough deliveries to the people which in essence was the major divide of the US population. The election and issues leading up to the election itself brought out the worst in people, where we saw a bit of White Supremacist behaviours the re-emergence of the KKK as a detriment to the development of US cultural synergy, the use of the Confederate Flag, The Black Lives Matter Movement, Anti-Muslim Sentiments, Capitalist Patriarchy, Sexual Assault, the American Anthem protests among other issues all of which in its own way played a part in the results of the Presidential Election. If this did anything, it showed what America is made of, a large population of people all living on a knife’s edge.

The feeling that most persons had both on social media and through my conversations reflected the way I felt when the People’s Partnership was elected. I felt afraid, disappointed, helpless, betrayed, lost, lonely, confused, heartbroken, angry in a nutshell I felt hate, and I hated that feeling. As a young black male in a country that fears me, I didn’t have any options open to me for those 5 years if it weren’t shrouded in some sort of controversy or re-active action, and became the usual gift recipient where they were trying to get re-elected. Today held a great sense of uncertainty as we kept our television sets glued to international news and this is normal, it is what should be expected during the transition phase. I empathise with the US and I understand what they are feeling, however they should not feel what I felt, but do what I did, and that’s pick their heads up, strap on their boots and be ready to move when the flood waters come because those who fail to be prepared will get left behind.

My main concern however is for a friend who’s heading to the United States in a few weeks, with his mom to aid her while she undergoes a surgical procedure. They are both Muslim.

So in the macro scope of things just exactly what does this mean for Trinidad and Tobago, our economy, the value of our money, trade movements, immigration/emigration ….. only time will tell for now though, we wait with fingers crossed as a Business man with questionable tactics and no parliamentary experience now holds the reigns as the leader of the free world.

Bandwagon || This ain’t for no Fvck Trini, if you a real Trini then fvck with this

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Trinidad Jame$ came on the scene by complete surprise for most people, an ATL rapper moving from Trinidad and Tobago, to New York then Atlanta. Complex magazine on a “Top ten Atlanta artists to look out for” says: If you set foot in the right spots, you’ll either hear Trinidad James music playing or run into him outside. His originality could lead to him being the first rapper in a while that can appeal to and possibly bridge the many “underground” circles in Atlanta with the listeners who enjoys mainstream radio and the Black Hollywood clubs. Always known for being “witty” when he was growing up, Jame$ was always known for his way with words, admittingly saying that he was only rapping a couple years now, and the mixtape was suppose to be a one time thing. This fashion retailer turned artiste’s mixtape “Don’t Be S.A.F.E (Sensitive As Fvck Everyday)” created a buzz off the single “All Gold Everything” which was not only catchy but had everybody in a frenzy by the style he portrayed. Some people alluded a resemblance to the ATL artiste out of the Goodie Mob “Big Gipp” and even calypsonian  “Sugar Aloes” for his gold “swag”. But what caught most people off guard, may simply be the fact that Trinidad Jame$, represents Trinidad. Following in the steps of Nicki Minaj a Brooklyn, New York based rapper also hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, many saw Jame$ as a cheap thrill, trying to cop Ambassador status for the country like The People’s Partnership government did for Nicki (but that’s beside the point). Always seen with a Red, White & Black (the national colours of Trinidad and Tobago) bandanna adorned around his neck more so from his All Gold video, locals echoed sentiments like:

“Trinis rage against James but,
So accepting of the Barbie Doll????

Shame”

Or even

“ah hear he couldn’t figure out where he was from.. one min he cant remember then the next min he family living in the same place since he was small and where he grow up lol”

And

“hahahaha
Those cats are retards.That dude is part Trini or something though”

However after his music has been able to get airplay on Trinidad and Tobago’s radio stations, after soca artiste Machel Montano HD, brought him for his “Machel Monday” concert where he rocked the National stadium with a soca remix to All Gold Everything the hecklers stopped referring to him as the shame of a nation to actually being better than Nicki Minaj? Where’d all this love come from suddenly? All you could hear was that he was a one hit wonder, who had a lucky break, “Def Jam signed him? really?” most people don’t even know he has a mixtape, or more than one song out. Trini radio listener the ask for the song “side chick” to be played, the song of course is none other than “Females Welcomed” his second single (which i thought would’ve been “$outh$ide“), shooting the video, is none other than experienced and legend Jonathan Mannion, if you guys don’t know who he is then you aren’t a real fan of hip-hop/rap, the mere fact that he was the one behind the lens directing speaks wonders to just “how far” Jame$ has come. The video displays parts of our culture in Trinidad with Miss World 2013 contestant Athaliah Samuel (who was also a receiver of many displeasing comments when she was vying for the title, but only had support when she made it in the end) adorned in gold outfits and costumes jab jabs and the ever popular music trucks you can see around Carnival time. Now back to the statement at hand here, all this “Love” for Jame$ can be seen as a regular thing in Trinidad and Tobago, where we criticize everything for its face value, then only begin to realize what its true worth is when and only when we receive something. I simply have one thing to say to that, and that is Don’t be S.A.F.E

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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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Democracy/Quasi-Military State….

Plans announced recently by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and National Security Minister Jack Warner to give similar powers to the Defence Force as those of police officers are set to go a step further today.

Legislation to give members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) authority to function and perform the duties of a police officer will be laid in the Parliament today.

Concerned about the horrifying murders and the apparent spike in the murder rate, Persad-Bissessar, on February 22, summoned heads of the Police Service and Defence Force to a meeting at her Parliament office to discuss the crime situation and proposals aimed at addressing it.

After an “intense” meeting, Persad-Bissessar had announced the team had agreed to “increase the visibility” of the joint patrols and road blocks immediately.

In an Express report on February 15, Warner had promised the legislation would have been brought to Parliament within 60 days.

The murder toll now stands at 79 for the year.

A release from the Attorney General’s office last night stated Cabinet yesterday approved and confirmed a note brought by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to give effect to this.

The release stated the proposed bill will give legal protection to Defence Force personnel when they accompany police officers to assist in the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.

“They will enjoy the same rights, privileges and immunities as police officers. They will have the same powers as police officers, including power to arrest, search, seize and to carry arms,” stated the release.

Government, stated the release, will ensure Defence Force personnel would be trained in areas such as police practice and procedure, investigations, law and court process to ensure they are properly equipped to undertake their duties along side police officers.

The release stated further that. Government has ensured that while members of the TTDF are to be placed on an equal legal footing and benefit from the same powers that police officers enjoy while actually engaging in operations with the police, they will not be permitted to embark on policing exercises on their own.

“In so doing members of the TTDF would be afforded the necessary protection in carrying out functions with the TTPS (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service),” stated the release.

The release noted that at present TTDF members enjoy no powers of arrest other than those possessed by ordinary citizens.

According to the release, the use of the Defence Force in the fight against crime is not new as soldiers have been accompanying police officers on raids and joint patrols during the last decade.

“Under the previous administration, soldiers were also drafted into SAUTT to assist the police in the detection and investigation of serious crimes,” stated the release.

The legislative measure, the release added, will augment and increase the capacity of the Police Service and house such an initiative in a proper legislative footing.

“It can lead to an immediate boost and increase in the strength of the TTPS. It would also provide comfort and relief to members of the TTDF who have been involved in the fight against crime by ensuring that they are adequately protected in the performance of their duties.

“The TTDF will, no doubt, exercise these additional powers with the discipline, maturity and responsibility that has thus far characterised their involvement in the fight against crime by way of assisting and complementing the TTPS,” stated the release.

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