Minority Leader asks: What is THA’s policy for funding sporting/cultural groups?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris –

MINORITY LEADER Kelvon Morris is calling on the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to state its policy on financial assistance for sporting and cultural groups, especially those participating in overseas engagements.

He made the call in response to the news that administrators of the Jaric Titans Sports Development Club have been scrambling to find accommodation for about 100 children and 50 adults in the UK. The group arrived in England earlier this week to compete in the Manchester International Easter Football Cup, which runs from March 29-31.

In a video posted on Facebook on March 27, Jaric Titans coach Brian Browne appealed to the public for help. He said the club had been planning the trip for a long time, “but at the last minute, some plans and some commitments that were made fell through.” The group had enough funds for airfare but not for accommodation. The group has since set up a GoFundMe account to raise funds.

Despite its setbacks, Browne said the club pressed on with its plan to participate in the tournament “because we didn’t want to disappoint the boys that were training and preparing.”

Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe-Lewis told Newsday the club had not applied to her ministry for funding. It did apply to the Sport and Culture Fund under the Office of the Prime Minister but was turned down.

THA’s Secretary for Community Development, Youth Development and Sport Terance Baynes, told Newsday Jaric Titans approached the THA for funding for the trip less than a week ago. He said owing to the figure that was requested, a commitment was required from the THA executive council, but he could not say if that was approved.

Morris said he had made a small personal contribution to aid the group, understanding the powerful impact of sports. He added, “This matter also calls into question what is this administration’s policy with respect to financial assistance to sporting and cultural groups since this is the second instance where commitments are made to Tobago groups and those commitments are either inadequate or unfulfilled.”

Morris was referring to the August 2022 incident in which Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke accused the then PDP-led THA and Chief Secretary (Farley Augustine) of “abandoning” 27 members of a Roxborough group who went to New York to perform. Duke’s public chastisement of the Augustine administration led to a bitter feud, which resulted in the latter and executive members severing ties with the PDP and forming their own Tobago People’s Party.

Duke also responded to the problem of the club members in the UK. He said the THA is responsible for the citizens of Tobago, “particularly when they are not at their home, when they go to represent Tobago, the Tobago House of Assembly should be responsible at all costs.”

He said the club members in the UK should not be blamed publicly for their problem. “When they come back, you can blame them, but while they are abroad, you cannot blame them. You have to bite the bullet and cover it up to save Tobago’s good name. It is better for you not to support them at all, but once you have supported them and they have gone, and you have made a promise, you must fulfil that promise.”