After just two and a half years at the helm, Lanisha Rolle has stepped down as the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture amid reports that she won’t receive the renomination of the governing party for the Seabreeze constituency. Rolle is the fourth minister in the Minnis administration to resign this term.
Rolle said in a letter yesterday that “these are extraordinarily difficult times for the Bahamian people and particularly, the people of Seabreeze.” She said she will continue to represent that constituency as the elected Member of Parliament for Seabreeze for the remainder of this five-year term without fear or favor. Without mentioning the reason for the abrupt resignation, the former minister took the opportunity to thank Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, the governing Free National Movement (FNM) Party, her husband and family, and the management and staff of the ministry, among others, for support in what is her first term in parliament.
In a statement, the Cabinet Office of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas mentioned that “certain matters have been brought to the attention of the prime minister and are under investigation”, and that Iram Lewis has been appointed as the substantive Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, thereby demitting his post as Minister of State in the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, which will remain under the ministerial portfolio of the prime minister. It was stated that the prime minister thanked Rolle for her national service.
Rolle made headlines in July of 2018 when she became the first female to be appointed sports minister in The Bahamas, taking over for Michael Pintard who was moved to the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources in a Cabinet shuffle for the Minnis administration.
Despite reports of uneasiness and difficulty in working with the minister in local sports during her tenure, sports leaders had nothing untoward to say about Rolle yesterday.
“It’s most unfortunate that the sporting community will be left having to find another minister, but this is a resilient body and we will hit the ground running,” said Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) President Drumeco Archer. “We have a long history of endorsement from the ministry and we look forward to the new partnership. Track and field will remain focused, and we are prepared to engage anyone who shares the same vision as us. The government’s mandate as it relates to sports is to promote sports and provide athletes with what is required for them to experience international global success. In track and field, we will continue our contribution to the development of sports in The Bahamas.”
When being briefed that Olympian Iram Lewis, a former renowned sprinter and national record holder in athletics for The Bahamas, will take over the sports portfolio, Archer said that he welcomed the news and looks forward to working with the new minister.
“As the son of our soil, I am ecstatic to formally welcome Iram Lewis as our minister,” said Archer. “We the BAAA look forward to your (Lewis’) familiar kindred embrace, and look forward to pushing our mission forward, upward, and onward in track and field and the wider sporting disciplines at large. May God keep you (Lewis) as he has kept our community of sports.”
On behalf of the swimming community, Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) President Algernon Cargill said he wishes Rolle well in her future endeavors.
“It’s always sad to see a minister leave, particularly one who was so young and passionate about the development of sports. We wish her the best going forward. We believe that her heart was in the right place and her love for the sports was in the right place. The swimming community worked closely with her team, and that team is still in place so we are optimistic that the work will go on uninterrupted. We believe that the team will carry on the mission of what sports is all about,” said Cargill. “We believe that Minister Lewis was a great choice. He is a former Olympic athlete for The Bahamas and we feel that he will be a great fit for the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, given his role as a former athlete and also with him being relatively young himself. We welcome him and look forward to working with him.”
There have been concerns under Rolle’s leadership regarding the completion of the new Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium – a project that has stalled, is now four years overdue in terns of completion date, and over $15 million above the initial budget cost. Be that as it may, Bahamas Baseball Federation (BBF) President Sam Rodgers shied away from any negativity surrounding Rolle yesterday.
“I don’t have any particular feelings as it relates to her resignation,” Rodgers said yesterday. “I can say that anytime we would ask for assistance, we would get a favorable answer. It’s always hard when someone loses their job no matter the situation. It’s a hard pill to swallow and we certainly wish her well. We’re looking forward to working with the new minister. Anyone who can come into this position and be of a significant help to baseball in the country, we certainly welcome that. Hopefully we can work together for the development of baseball in the country. Now that the new stadium is almost completed, we look forward to sitting down with the new minister and having talks about how we can maximize the use of the stadium and make it a preferred arena in this region.”
Prior to taking over as sports minister, Rolle was the Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, serving in that capacity for just a little over a year after the FNM came into power in May of 2017. Her passion for sports was never questioned despite having very little background in that area; but her actions came into question for a number of controversial decisions, including but not limited to, a bloated travel budget, particularly as it related to the government delegates for the 2019 World Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar; the decision to place a photograph of herself on medals given to young people during National Youth Month celebrations; an inability to work with national federations in preparation of national teams for travel. Rolle couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday, and Director of Sports Timothy Munnings declined comment.
As for Lewis, he was a strong sprinter in his heyday, running personal best times of 10.20 seconds in the 100 meters (m), and 20.64 seconds in the 200m. He also has under his belt a windy sub-10 seconds 100m (9.95). Lewis participated in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics as a member of The Bahamas’ men’s 4x100m relay team, and is a former relay national record holder.
Lewis will serve as the country’s third minister of sports under the current FNM administration.