Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley??

In the wake of recent queries about Government’s apparent lack of assistance to draughts champion, Ronald ???Suki’ King, Sports Minister Stephen Lashley has sought to clear the air on the issue, and, as he said: "put the matter in true perspective".

Today, the Minister released the following statement:

"First, let me say, like all Barbadians, that I am happy that Mr. King is safe and in good health after his recent ordeal.

When the news of his rescue from the sea was reported in last Wednesday’s Daily Nation newspaper, my initial reaction to his claim (that the Prime Minister and I had virtually ignored his request for a meeting and contributed to his state of mind) was one of disbelief; simply because late last year I, myself, had initiated contact with Mr. King in an effort to assist him.

I immediately prepared a response that same day and requested the Government Information Service to contact the Nation reporter, who wrote the story, indicating that a reply would be forthcoming. But, on reflection, I decided not to pursue that course of action, since I did not want to appear as insensitive to Mr. King’s plight after his reported mishap. Neither did I want to put the details of certain indiscretions by Mr. King in the public domain, lest it be said that the Minister had exposed damaging information that was hitherto undisclosed.

However, since some radio talk-show callers and two social commentators in today’s Sunday-Sun (Sunday, February 12, 2012) have been critical of Government for not coming to the aid of Mr. King, I feel compelled to now shed some light on the matter.

I have to categorically refute Mr. King’s assertion that the Government has not been aiming to assist him.

The fact of the matter is that the Government through the National Sports Council (NSC) had employed Mr. King from back in 2006 as a draughts coach. For nearly four years, his job entailed visiting primary and secondary schools and tutoring students in the art of playing draughts. During that time, Mr. King had some problems when he breached certain regulations; hence the NSC was forced to terminate his employment just before I became Minister of Sports.

On assuming responsibility for Sports, and convinced that, in spite of his recent employment issues, Suki King still had a contribution to make at the national level, I initiated a meeting with Mr. King to explore the possibility of developing another draughts project for the youth. That proposal is currently engaging Government’s attention. So, to say that the Minister of Sports had ignored him is totally untrue. I initiated the contact with him.

I remain convinced that Mr. King still has much to contribute to the development of mind games in Barbados, and the Government will continue to support him in his global exploits as world draughts champion.

Indeed, in this regard, Suki King continues to enjoy the status of ‘Elite National Athlete’ with the National Sports Council, and is given assistance by the NSC, on request, to participate in local and overseas tournaments.

There are specific matters related to Mr. King’s conduct during his employment with the NSC that I will not put in the public domain. Suffice it to say, these would have caused the NSC to end the formal relationship with him and precluded his re-engagement.

Government will still assist him, whenever possible, and seek to develop the planned youth draughts project."

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