A former Sports Minister has called out the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell for not adequately addressing the sporting needs within the big parish of St. Andrew having been in office for most of the last 30 years.
Patrick Simmons, who served as Minister for Youth Empowerment, and Sports in the Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration from 2008 to 2013, advanced the argument on Sunday during the party’s ‘big 4 rally’ at the Progress Park playing field in St. Andrew, which is situated in the South-east constituency, which has been a stronghold for NNP’s Emmalin Pierre, throughout the last two (2) election cycles.
In what can be described as his first major appearance on the political platform in several years, Simmons contended that “there is a lack of vision for sports in the parish” while publicly endorsing, and encouraging support for the NDC candidates, who will contest the four (4) seats in the big parish at the June 23 election.
Simmons, who was elected as the Member of Parliament for the NDC in the St. Andrew South-east constituency at the 2008 poll, unsuccessfully contested the seat in the 2013 elections losing to Pierre, who went on to become the island’s first female Minister of Sport.
The St. Andrew South-east constituency is home to his alma mater, the St. Andrew’s Anglican Secondary School (SAASS), where he has also worked as a Games Master, Science Teacher, and Principal.
Simmons took pride in noting that SAASS, which is also the alma mater of the current MP, is the only secondary school to capture the most wins in both the girl’s and boy’s divisions of the Intercol Games, which is the premier sporting event held among secondary schools annually.
Lamenting the achievements of SAASS, Simmons took issue that not much has been done over the years on the part of Pierre, and her NNP colleagues to upgrade sporting grounds in the parish for the further development of the athletes there, who have shown promising signs over the years.
He also used the opportunity to highlight the recent relocation of the “St. Andrew Primary Anglican School from the Town of Grenville, to Progress Park,” as a move that “will affect the development of sports in this part of the country.”
Simmons, also brought awareness to the fact that the NNP has abandoned what was once NDC’s plans to “construct a 400-meter synthetic track, and football field for the parish of St Andrew” on a plot of land that was already “identified and reserved,” for that purpose at Progress Park to construct a pre-school instead, highlighting this among the actions on the part of the ruling regime that “has contributed to the demise of the development of sports in the big parish because there is no planning and no continuity.”
Former Chief Education Officer and NDC’s Candidate for the St. Andrew South-east, David Andrew, who is hoping to unseat the 2-times female MP at the upcoming poll, noted that because “sports is a multi-billion dollar industry,“ more should have been done to improve the sporting facilities across the island over the years.
“We need to put the right resources into it, and encourage our young people into it because there are huge opportunities…” the first-time politician said as he addressed the issue during a recent community meeting, where he used the opportunity to remind supporters that “this (NNP) administration has (been in office for) 23 out of the last 30 years.
“Why haven’t we, over the last 10 years, or the better part of the last two (2) decades improved our sporting facilities so that our young people could find meaningful engagement in sports?” Andrew contended.
“And, I am saying, if they (the NNP regime) didn’t get it right then, when will they get it right?” he added.
His colleague Dennis Cornwall, who is contesting the rural St. Patrick East constituency currently held by Pamela Moses, had at a previous rally, pledged the NDCs commitment to “survey the needs in every village,” towards the “upgrade of our sporting facilities, within the first year of forming the next government.”