Tuesday last, 26 November, was the one-year anniversary of the High Court’s declaration that gymnast Thema Williams was a victim of ‘entrenched biases’ when the then officials of the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation ‘made a flawed and unjustified decision’ to withdraw her from the Olympic Test event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As a result, Thema lost the opportunity to participate in the 2016 Rio Olympics and to become an Olympian.
One year later she has not been paid one cent of the damages which the Court ordered the Gymnastics Federation to pay her. With acknowledgment to ‘Chalkdust’, ‘Team Thema’ is putting on its guns again.
The parasitic Gymnastics Federation is not the only parasitic sporting organisation that deserves to be wound up. Appropriate legal remedies will be sought; but what raises this topic for discussion through this column is the confluence of the judgment anniversary and the dotishness of the 2019/2020 election season—including the apparent surprise of, by the political leaders, that nasty situations exist.
The shameful facts of Thema’s case need not be repeated. They are well known. However, in light of the recent remarks of the Prime Minister which I set out and comment on below, it is worth noting what the Judge additionally said about named members of the then management of the Federation in a second decision on costs.
The Court stated that ‘their conduct was unacceptable and should be accompanied by a sense of shame’.
The Prime Minister made some strong statements about the failure of sports management. He was speaking last month at the official opening ceremony for the Home of Football in Balmain, Couva, for which the Government provided state land, even though football management is in constant bacchanal.
I quote from a newspaper report:
“Today, ladies and gentlemen,” Rowley said, “if we are familiar with failure, it is in the area of management of our sports. We featured prominently in very many sports at the international level, led by volunteers, with far less resources than we have now.
“We do have, in our schools, as I speak to you now, we have boys and girls who are relying on the management of this sport—not the Government. The Government has played its part and the Government will continue to play its part.
“What is missing is the management we used to have, when people served for service’s sake, and produced on it the talent that was waiting for that helping hand.”
He said TT now has ‘absolutely no excuse’, adding that the Government has contributed significantly to the development of sports.
“You would have heard [Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe] speak about how many $100 million went into sport. You would have heard the minister speak about how much millions went into football.
“But you would also have heard the voices that say, ‘Government ent doing nothing for sports, Government ent doing nothing for football’.”
Was this colossal management failure really a surprise to the Prime Minister? His statements completely evade the responsibility of all our Governments for enabling poor management by unrestrained funding. Our Governments have been complicit while loads of freeness are indulged and unjust enrichment takes place.
These abuses, including bias and discrimination, are rampant because our Governments dish out the money without any requirement for accountability or even an occasional check of wrongdoing. That’s why there is so little to show for ‘the many 100 million [dollars]’, to which the Prime Minister referred.
But, at the risk of repetition, who enables the waste and discrimination?
What happened shortly after Thema received the judgment of the Court condemning what David Marquez, Ricardo and Donna Lue Shue, Akiel Wattley had done is cruelly reflective of how our Governments and the agencies through which they operate are asleep at the wheel of accountability while dishing out taxpayers’ money.
Next week I will remind readers of a specific event at which the Minister of Sport was most present and which was inconsistent with the good governance for which the Prime Minister says he wishes. As we shall see, it was demonstrative of slackness and indifference to accountability and values.