Chief Secretary to clamp down on worrying trend — ‘In future we’ll leave people stranded’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The young footballers from the Jaric Titans Sports Development Club and their chaperones at Heathrow Airport in England on March 27. – Photo courtesy the Jaric Titans Sports Development Club’s Facebook page.

CHIEF SECRETARY Farley Augustine said he is concerned by the trend of Tobago groups leaving these shores on private trips without the required funding and then going online to beg for assistance.

He said the THA will be forced to make tough decisions in the future to put an end to this practice. Augustine was speaking to Newsday on March 31, four days after the Scarborough-based Jaric Titans football club left for England to compete in the Manchester International Easter Cup.

Not long after landing, Jaric Titans coach Brian Browne posted a video on social media appealing for donations to help the group – which includes over 100 children.

“We are struggling for the cost of accommodation, so we are appealing to the public for assistance – any kind of assistance. However large or small you can give, we will appreciate,” Browne said.

Two years ago, the Roxborough Folk Performers left Tobago on a cultural tour to New York and ended up in a similar dilemma. Then Deputy Chief Secretary, Watson Duke, called on Augustine to help the group as he said they were “hungry” and left to sleep in basements and on the streets of New York.

Asked if he is worried about a trend developing, Augustine said, “Yes, I am concerned, and I am concerned because it involves children and young people….We have to ensure the children are safe where they are. Some of them are there without their parents or guardians.”

The Parlatuvier/L’anse Fourmi/Speyside representative said several parents have reached out to him asking for his intervention. Despite reports that the THA has agreed to foot the bill for the trip, Augustine said no such commitment has been made. However, he acknowledged the THA is liaising with tournament organisers, EuroWorld Sports Ltd, about the costs associated with the group’s stay in Manchester.

“We are awaiting info before the THA can make a commitment, E-mails are going back and forth with EuroWorld Sports – how many rooms, who are the individuals there, the cost of meals. We can’t just grant money based on a figure. We need details before the Executive Council could commit to save the day. But we need to find a way to secure the children – the adults could see about themselves.”

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. – File photo

Asked how the THA intends to clamp down on this trend, Augustine said, “The THA in future will have to take a hard decision and leave people stranded wherever they are.”

Augustine said he was highly surprised to see the situation Jaric Titans found themselves in as the THA had previously told the group – barely a week before they intended to leave – that they asked for funding too late.

“The timeline was too short,” Augustine said.

He said a meeting was held and he told the group that he did not want a situation where they left Trinidad and Tobago and were unable to meet their financial commitments. “Exactly what I said I did not want to happen is what happened.”

He said if he was in charge of the group, the trip would have been postponed.

“I understand that airline tickets were already booked, but I would have done a cancellation and reroute the tickets to next year.”

He said the THA intends to host a sensitization session to inform people about what they need to do to apply for funding and why they need to apply within a certain time period.

“After this issue is settled, we will have a public conversation with Tobago.”

Augustine said he was informed that other adults and players left Tobago on March 29 to join the group, but said, as far as he was aware, the THA was not involved.

He appealed for calm in the matter, especially online, and urged people not to castigate those in charge.

“I don’t know Mr. Browne to be a bad person. I don’t know Mr. Browne to be untrustworthy. That is not the Mr. Browne I know. This might be the result of poor planning or poor logistics. Not everybody is good with these things.”