Sports

Former Sports Minister addresses Lockerbie’s Master Plan

Image of Former Saint Lucia Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward.
Former Saint Lucia Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward.

FORMER Saint Lucia Sports Minister and Parliamentary Representative for Dennery North Shawn Edward has high hopes for his district team and former Blackheart champions Mabouya Valley participating in the 16th edition of the Blackheart tournament which kicks off at the La Ressource playing field on Saturday 15th September 2018.

Edward spoke to the VOICE on a number of issues, including the Don Lockerbie Master Plan, as Allen Chastanet led government looks to improve on and or construct new sporting facilities in certain parts of the island.

Edward said, “In terms of the chances of the district representative team, unfortunately they did not go all the way in the Big 8, but I am very confident and with the amount of young talented players in the squad, this year we are in with a real chance”.

“We are a very rich repository of sporting talent as a district so it’s just a matter of the people in the football league and the management team having to sit down and set the minds of the players in a direction that will see us be part of the glory as far as Blackheart is concern”.

On the La Ressource playing field, he said, “When that project was conceptualized, we had plans for seats on the northern side to complement what exist, but as you know there was a change of government in 2016 and we were not able to take the project to completion.

What you see at the moment is 50% of what was envisaged; we were fortunate enough to have gotten a number of amenities put in place such as lights, seats, changing rooms, toilets and arguably the best surface on island at the moment, away from the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground. For the time being, we can make do with this, but rest assured this facility is far from complete and I am hoping in the not to distant future we will be back on track/course in terms of this facility being completed”.

Are you aware of any plans Don Lockerbie has for this facility?

Edward replied: “Interestingly, La Ressource has not come in for mention. I have studied very carefully the pronouncement of Don Lockerbie, and I think sometime last week he made reference to the FIFA Gold Project in Grande Riviere (Dennery) which was started under the Labour Party administration; he mentioned it for more purposes of reference, as it relates to artificial surfaces, than the Ministry or the government actually doing something other than what we would have done when we were in government by way of securing the land, ensuring we got a lease and whatever that was necessary on our part in relation to FIFA

In terms of the grand pronouncement made by Lockerbie, very interestingly, my constituency has not been mentioned, we should not going to be detered by that, we know who we are, we know what we stand for and I am very confident, in the not too distant future, more work will be done at the La Ressource playing field.

As former Minister of Youth Development and Sports what was some of the plans you had for the La Ressource playing field?

Edward: “This is about 50% done, we got the stands, lights, changing rooms, toilets, we have a surface that is up to FIFA standard; there is need for additional sitting and you can attest to that giving the number of persons who come out to support domestic sports as well as national programmes.

The resources are not forthcoming, and you know how it works when you are in opposition you don’t have access to government resources; you get absolutely no support whatsoever, so for the time being we just have to be bystanders in the national development process where sports is concerned, but I am very confident not too long from now we will be back in the peaking order and La Resource will get what it rightfully deserves.

Is it a case of keeping the opposition out in the wilderness in terms of infrastructure and sports development?

Edward: “It is blatant vindictiveness and sometimes you want to go beyond that and think the government does not have sports as a priority. In 2018 given the work the Labour government had done in relation to playing field maintenance in particular, it really pains me on a personal level, even before I consider my political take on it, but from a personal standpoint for someone who has represented my country in sports, there could be justification when you drive on the Bexon highway and to see what obtains on the Bexon playing field, this is totally unacceptable.

I went to Grande Ravine in my own constituency last week, there was a horse tied to a goal post, La Pell plying field where the Valley under -15 team used to train almost every day, right now there are a couple of horses and sheep grazing, it’s totally abandoned and it will take some resources to restore that particular surface. What obtains in Bexon, Grand Ravine and La Pell, is a reflection of a much bigger situation as it relates to playing fields in the country. You cannot be serious about any sports development when the playing fields in the community are abandoned.

What sense does it make to promise stadia and massive infrastructure when at the community level where everything starts; the playing fields are in a chronic state of disrepair? That is unacceptable, and this is one of the things I intend to speak on; this is one of the things I am going to encourage the young to stand up against; these are some of the things people have to demonstrate against. When you take into consideration the amount of money that is been given to so call investors and when you look at some of the areas the government spends million on; I think it’s an affront on the part of the government to try to fool young people making them believe that there are plans that I believe cannot be realized in the current economic situation.

Eleven months ago the National Lotteries Authority made a contribution to Sports Saint Lucia Inc/ Department of Youth Development and Sports towards field maintenance. Have you seen any indication of playing field being maintain anywhere? I can’t see it; if anybody else has seen it I welcome them to come forward and tell what they have seen. The playing fields of Saint Lucia are in the worse condition they have ever been. My record as Minister for Youth Development and Sports on playing field maintenance is there for all to see. Under my watch, we had scores of people leaving home and going to work and their sole responsibility at work was to maintain and upkeep the playing field of this country. What we saw happening as result was we had that programme in every community, it did not matter where in Saint Lucia, on a typical weekend people where there in their thousands supporting, be it domestic or national sports.

One needs to ask what actually the NLA money is being used for? The government attempted to take me to the cleaners under the NLA creating a big scandal, the objective which I believe, was to smear my name and my character, but I am still here standing very proud of what I did and I am given an opportunity to be in the Ministry of Sports again where I have to provide ministerial oversight for the NLA I will ensure that the monies spent in the community, by way of programmes, infrastructure upgrade, by way support to national athletes and associations and to create that buzz that cause Saint Lucia during my watch to win 15 regional/sub regional championships in that particular year (2014).

Interestingly you mentioned your support for national athletes, Your take on this government present support for our Queen of High Jump, Lavern Spencer?

Edward: “It’s not just Levern Spencer, there was to have an elite athlete programme in the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, which was supposed to take care of athletes. When we came in, I was of the view, it ought not to have been just an elite athlete programme, and we also created a new dimension to it “Elite and Emerging Athletes” which is why a lot of young Saint Lucians in Forms 2-5 who demonstrated the potential to be elite from the school games got support from us by way of paying for exams and providing education support to them.

The tendency we have in Saint Lucia is to embrace people only after they have done well, I do not believe in that, I believe once you see an athlete demonstrating the potential to become elite, we ought to reach out.

There is a situation as we speak; Dalton Poilus has been accepted to pursue a first degree at Cave Hill, but for want of resources he is not able to take up the offer. During my stint as Minister for Youth Development and Sports; Yasmine St.Ange (female cricketer) and Larry Edward (male cricketer) just two examples, were able to go to Cave Hill and did well with support of the NLA, Yasmine is back, with a first degree, she is back on the national team, and is making her contribution as a teacher to the development of students and by extension her country. I am sure Larry who is on the verge of completing his first degree will come back home; he has been representing the Windward Islands, and I believe he has a strong chance of making the West Indies team in the next year or two.

This is what I can fall back on, these are the things that give me consolation when people try and smear my character, I am not going to be dissuaded by this. I remain very much committed, I know the limitation of being an opposition parliamentarian, but that will not cause me to fear, I am still here with my people and at any level once I am required to lend support to athletes, associations or communities I will always put up my hands for the young people of Saint Lucia.

Anthony De Beauville is The VOICE Publishing Company’s multi-award winning sports journalist. He works closely with a number of sports federations including the Department of Youth Development and Sports, the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee and other organizations.

He covers and contributes articles highlighting the areas of international, regional, national, community based clubs and schools sporting activities. There is never an off day as he stays busy... Read full bio...

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