Chief Secretary concerned about children ‘stranded’ on UK sport trip

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary of the THA Farley Augustine, left, and ACP Collis Hazel at Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day celebrations at Signal Hill, Tobago on March 30.


This was how THA Chief Secretary, Farley Augustine, described the decision by the administrators of a Tobago football club – Jaric Titans Sports Development Club – to travel to the UK for a tournament without adequate funding for accommodation for some 100 young players.

The group, which includes about 55 adults, was forced to scramble for accommodation when they arrived in the UK earlier this week to compete in the Manchester International Easter Football Club. The event, which began on March 29, ends today.

A GoFundMe page was set up on March 26 to raise money to provide shelter for the group while in Manchester. Jaric Titans coach, Brian Browne, told Newsday on Thursday that the group was being temporarily accommodated at the Hilton Garden Inn, connected to the city’s Old Trafford Stadium. He said the intervention came after the organisers of the tournament, EuroWorld Sports, “spoke to the hotels.”

Speaking to reporters on March 30 after delivering the feature address at Spiritual/Shouter Baptist Liberation Day celebrations, hosted by the Tobago United Spiritual Baptist Assembly, in Signal Hill, Augustine said, “This situation, I think is regrettable to be honest.”

Saying he first met with Browne and members of the team last week Wednesday, Augustine said on Friday, a few days before the group left for the UK, they again met with assistant secretary in the Division of Sport, Wane Clarke. Augustine said he joined that meeting via telephone.

“I said to them at that meeting the time frame for which we were given to work is a little too tight for us to give the assistance that you are asking for and we would not be able to give the assistance in the time frame that we have to work with.

“Of course, they opted to go. So at this point, they are there. At this point, we have young children involved.”

Sport Minister, Shamfa Cudjoe-Lewis, told Newsday on March 27 that the group, which had applied for funding through the Sport and Culture Fund of the Office of the Prime Minister, was asking for $1.6 million to cover the costs of 89 children and 55 adults.

Augustine said on March 30 although many people have been saying, “Leave things, let it be,” in relation to the group’s plight in the UK, “I like to be very pragmatic about things.

“The government must be a government for those who live here, those who leave here and go abroad and get in difficulty. Wherever Tobagonians are, we are the government for them. Whatever the plight, even if it’s one of their own doing, we are the government for them.”

To this end, Augustine said he has taken steps, “in the most responsible manner,” to treat with the situation.

He continued, “No decision has been committed to as yet. What we asked for is that we get from those organising the event, in a very formal way, what exactly is owing, and how they can be accommodated.

“So we are awaiting that sort of information. When we get that information, I will engage the executive council in a responsible conversation about the matter to see how we can ensure that we protect the children – notice I am not saying the adults – and ensure that we can return the children who are there safely to Tobago. So we are going about this in the most responsible way possible.”

Reflecting on a similar situation that occurred in August 22 when the THA was accused of abandoning a Roxborough group that had gone to New York to perform at a cultural event, Augustine said, “It fells a lot like deja vu for me. And so I am treading even more cautiously now than then.”

He said in future, groups desirous of leaving Tobago to participate in any overseas engagement must have the necessary funding to cover all of their expenses.

“I should say this to everyone. You are to leave Tobago, whether you are a cultural group, a sports group, a school group, or a church group, you are leaving Tobago, I will suggest you have all your ducks in a row before leaving or postpone the trip.”