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Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith

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Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has postponed the Commissioner’s Cup due to the refusal by the Ministry of Health to allow medics, coaches, security or substitutes to participate in the event due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Griffith announced the decision in a release yesterday, adding it came after Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh insisted that only 25 people at a time would be allowed to participate in the youth football event.

Both Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram had said before that child-related sporting activities were not advised due to the pandemic. However, Deyalisngh permitted adult-related sports, including football, once the participants adhere to the limit of 25 people. After cases of local spread started last week, Parasram again reiterated his position and urged parents to take care of their children, while Deyalsingh suggested they play sports at home.

Only recently, several youth tournaments, including the Youth Pro League, National Basketball Federation of (NBFTT) Under-17 teams’ preparation for an international event and various academies were put on hold because of the CMO’s advice.

Contacted yesterday, Griffith told Guardian Media that both Deyalsingh and the CMO have been making comments in total contrast to the policies of the Government.

“We would take advice from the medical experts, that being the CMO, but the hypocrisy by the Minister of Health. When you send a letter stating that you can go ahead with a football tournament but only have 25 persons, it means that Minister Deyalsingh never had boyhood days, he maybe never played a sport in his life, to have the audacity to say that a football tournament with 25 people alone, he is saying that you can have 11-a-side alone with a referee and two linesmen, no coaches, no substitutes, no trainers, no medical staff and it shows ignorance of the highest order.”

He added, “How can you think about having a sporting tournament without these different, critical, logistic and support mechanisms, especially for young persons. I am waiting to see what is going to happen for the CPL because based on Mr Deyalsingh’s comment now, it means that when the CPL comes around, I am only going to allow 11 players on either side, the two umpires and somebody to do the scoring.”

Attempts to reach Deyalsingh were unsuccessful yesterday, as calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.

Griffith, who started the T&T Police Service-organised Commissioner’s Cup last year, said while he had to postpone his event, Deyalsingh had advised political parties on how to comply with the law while maintaining more than 25 persons in general space. He said in keeping with the TTPS’ desire to respect Government policy, he wrote to Deyalsingh seeking guidance and clarification as it relates to hosting the tournament but got a response limiting the event to 25 people at a time.

“The TTPS preferred to conduct our tournament in a manner that would not in any way contravene either the policy desire of the Government or the actual law. The answer provided by the Ministry of Health makes it clear to me that the strictly legal interpretation of the law is to be applied during the Commissioner’s Cup,” Griffith said.

“It’s clear for the sake of this tournament that players, referees, support staff and coaches all count towards 25. However, in an election walkabout, smaller groups are not, according to the Minister, violating the Public Health Ordinance act even if all these groups are in one general space. (Interestingly many of these same walkabouts have scores of children participating). It is this precise inconsistency that I, as Commissioner, have been trying to get clarified by someone…anyone, in the Ministry of Health for weeks. Instead, I’m met with – ‘we advise, we recommend or we prefer, etc.”

He added, “Varying interpretations of the law by police officers lead to some people being ‘shut down’ while others are being allowed to continue. At this time, I have no firm parameters to guide the actions of the TTPS.”

Griffith said he had been trying for weeks to get clarification on the issue with Deyalsingh and Parasram but was denied for weeks before yesterday’s correspondence. As a result of the postponement, he said some 1000-plus youths would lose the opportunity to participate in a low-risk structured tournament.