The National Assembly yesterday voted to pass the long-awaited Guyana Cricket Administration Bill 2012 which will, among other things make the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB), and its county boards corporate, legal bodies and provide them with constitutions.
Intended to heal rifts in the local cricketing establishment, the bill and the government bid to take control of the game away from the GCB created a deep rift with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) which saw first class games being withdrawn from Guyana for many months. Cricket matches have since been restored here.
In recent months there have been attempts at rapprochement between the government on the one hand and the GCB and the WICB on the other but divisions remain over the content of the bill passed yesterday.
During the debate yesterday which preceded the bill’s passing, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr Frank Anthony, in whose name it was brought, told the National Assembly that the legislation brought back before them is the product of extensive consultation with professionals, the various clubs, and other relevant stakeholders. He also pointed out that the bill was the subject of intense scrutiny by the Special Select Committee which was assigned the task.
The bill, Anthony assured the National Assembly, is aimed at improving the administrative organs of cricket in Guyana and in so doing elevate the standard at which the game is played. In addition to making the GCB and its county bodies – the Demerara Cricket Board (DCB), the Berbice Cricket Board (BCB) and the Essequibo Board (ECB) – corporate, legal bodies and giving them their own constitutions, the bill also provides for a cricket Ombudsman who will be responsible for verifying and sanitizing the membership of all these entities. This officer is to be appointed by the minister after he has consulted with stakeholders.
Anthony stated that yet another function of the bill was to minimise the minister’s influence in the administration of cricket. Once the bill’s provisions are implemented, he said, he will be responsible for calling the first elections, after which his role in the administration of cricket will dissipate. He explained that this provision in particular was crucial in light of perceptions that government was trying the micromanage the sport.
Several of the administrative organs in Guyana as well as the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) have indicated that they would not support the enactment of such legislation, although the WICB has acknowledged that the administration of cricket needs to be improved. Their disapproval has since moved to the courts.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) MP Dr Rupert Roopnaraine acknowledged yesterday the importance of limiting the minister’s role in cricket, and credited Anthony with allowing, and even facilitating the erosion of his role and influence in the administration of cricket.
Roopnaraine said that the select committee worked assiduously to create a bill that would please the stakeholders, many of whom are still against the creation of legislation to regulate the administration of the sport. As a result of these efforts, he said, the committee also opted to have the boards audited by an independent audit firm, as opposed to the Office of the Auditor General as was the initial plan. Roopnaraine told his colleagues that such a bill is needed, especially when the grim state of cricket in Guyana, and the Caribbean is considered.
There is currently no Guyanese player in the West Indies (WI) cricket team, he lamented as he recalled the days Guyanese players saturated the team’s membership, and excelled.
Praise for the bill also came from Government Advisor on Empowerment Odinga Lumumba and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall. The only dissenting voice among the lot was that of Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan.
Signalling that his party could not support the bill, Ramjattan warned that the passing of the bill would set a very bad precedent that might see government begin to stretch its arms into sporting areas presided over by other legal non-entities, as the various cricket boards were referred to by Chief Justice Ian Chang.
Ramjattan noted that government’s rationale for the bill’s proposal was mal-administration by legal non-entities, but countered that these same entities produced players such as Clive Lloyd, who government made head of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) to preside over the administration of cricket in Guyana when a full scale row erupted between the Ministry and the GCB.
What is missing, he said, is government support. Ramjattan warned that by making this move government was effectively moving into a private realm, a realm that should be left alone for the people to carry out their activities. Passing this bill, Ramjattan went on, will create a precedent which can chase away privacy.
Nandlall though, countered that cricket has become a multi-billion dollar industry, and that with so much money to be made the possibility exists that persons may be tempted to take advantage of the possibilities which will continue to exist in the absence of the bill.
Up to November last year, the WICB restated its disquiet over various provisions in the bill.
In a letter to Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs that month, WICB President Whycliffe Cameron referred to a December 4, 2012 letter to Sports Minister Dr. Anthony in which the WICB detailed their contributions to the proposed Bill. He said that the WICB is aware that a revised draft had since been tabled.
Cameron reiterated the WICB’s position in relation to the dissolution of the existing GCB. “While we note that progress has been made in attempting to curtail Government’s involvement in the administration of the game, we must point out that this lingering issue is critical and dissolution of the GCB and its membership cannot be supported by the WICB,” he said.
“The WICB notes with appreciation that the drafters have refrained from classifying the matter as dissolution, but the WICB takes the view that it is tantamount to one as the new dispensation has not, to the WICB’s knowledge, been approved by the shareholders and Members of the existing GCB. This matter, coupled with the pending legal matters leave us with little option but to reserve our position specifically in respect of the shares in the WICB which were issued to the existing GCB,” Cameron wrote.
He said that the WICB also wishes to express its concerns related to the proposed Constitution. “The WICB notes that there exists an established process for the dissolution of the GCB and the constitution, and questions why the process has not been followed. We hope nonetheless that the process you envisage is not simply a means of imposing a process on the GCB without the required support of the members of the said GCB,” Cameron emphasized.
“The WICB further observes that the Bill sets the membership of the Demerara Cricket Board (DCB) without the DCB’s consent.
The WICB does not wish to mandate the constitutional requirements of its members, so will refrain from a detailed review of each clause of the document, but we note that unlike the Bill, the Constitution has been inserted with little amendment and is at variance with that already approved by the GCB membership,” he said, adding that the WICB’s contributions in the December 4 letter are repeated.
Cameron commended the detailed work done with the process and expressed hope that the parties would come to a final resolution soon.
It was not immediately clear last night if the final version of the bill has addressed the WICB’s concerns.