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NLCB Must Level The Playing Field
Posted: Saturday, June 28, 2003

By Stephen Kangal Caroni

In his 1962 address on the occasion of the attainment of Independence the late PM Dr. Williams gave the national community the solemn undertaking that Mother T&T would not and could not discriminate among its cosmopolitan children. Mother T&T is not only the 2000 square miles of inanimate land and its appurtenant lucrative 40,000 square miles of ocean space. She treats with us her children via the Gov't and its agencies. The late PM Williams did appreciate the imperative for establishing institutional arrangements to ensure that discrimination did not take place as Canada, UK, Sweden and Australia have done.

Those of us traditionally resident in rural T&T, who survived in spite of Dr. Williams' rampant and consistent regime of ethno-nationalism also called the policy of cultural assimilation and rural neglect, have learnt not to be overawed anymore by continuing political deception. We now look forward to institutional arrangements being established to reinforce and preside over the implementation and seriousness of nice sounding political pronouncements about equality and equity. But in the face of the non- enforcement of the Equal Opportunities Act we realise that there is no hope for equity, justice and fair play in T&T.

On top of this PM Manning in this year's Indian Day Arrival Address delivered at the Divali Nagar said that T&T was one big family. One will recall that he previously declared himself the Father of this Nation (family) and was joined earlier this year by his wife Hazel who was conferred with the accolade- Mother of the Nation. One will hope that they understand the extent to which these parental posturing raise national expectations on equity (Mr Manning is on record as saying that equity does not mean equality), justice and fair-play.

Twenty- first-century and alert rural T&T will no longer fall easy prey to vacuous high sounding ideals but expect leaders to walk the talk. The media has a pivotal role to play in this regard by not serving as and being used as willing purveyors and broadcasters of high sounding platitudes issued by politicians.

This preface serves as a backdrop against which to assess the response of the Lottery Control Board (NLCB) on accusations of discrimination voiced by Mr. Sat Maharaj (Guardian June 4) in the manner of the disbursement of some of its surplus revenues. The Board merely issues a vacuous and contemptuous Press Release denying those charges.

This is followed up by an interview in the Business Express of June 25, p.9 in which the NLCB Chairman merely talks of transparency, invokes his poor school days as a diversionary tactic and makes an artificial separation between donations and marketing as part of the deception process.

The NLCB should make the transparent, honest, credible and accountable response of accessing its enormous advertising budget to publish in the press the full list of beneficiaries of the disbursement of the largesse of the public purse. Instead it urges Mr.Maharaj to obtain the correct information. From whom may I ask?

Only then can the public who fund the lottery determine whether there is evidence of equity and/or discrimination based on geography, ethnicity, creed and /or political patronage in the allocation of the Board's assistance to beneficiary organisations.

Today is not POS-centric 1962 T&T. Trinbagonians have learnt that State equity and justice is not dispensed by an invisible, blindfolded hand but has to be prosecuted via eternal media vigilance, group activism and individual assertiveness.

The Gov't-appointed NLCB cannot be perceived to be acting in a discriminatory manner in the disbursement of the public purse in Mother T&T. Neither should its modus operandi or its criteria for allocating public finds be shrouded in secrecy, arbitrariness and favoritism.

In accordance with The Freedom of Information Act the NLCB's operations as well as the procedures for accessing information on its operations including accessing funding must be in the public domain. The Board is under an obligation to establish a level playing field where everyone knows the modalities/priorities for accessing funding. Did the Board inform the people in Cacandee, Poole, Biche, Caroni etc how to access its funding? For the Board to exclude from its largesse deserving charitable organisations operating in the above-mentioned and other areas because they do not write results from discrimination, cabalism and urban-based secrecy.

The drawing of its lottery on Wednesdays/Saturdays must also be subject to public scrutiny as is done worldwide. Who can tell me without fear of contradiction that these pseudo- live TV drawings without a public presence are not pre-recorded with its potential for graft and corruption? The named auditors cannot be termed independent as they are paid by the NLCB and are not custodian of the betting community.

The NLCB as a State agency must walk the talk in Mother T&T.

I have submitted a memorandum to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament requesting an audience to point out the clear unfairness that underlie the making of donations by the NLCB.

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