The government should ask the Caricom Competition Commission to look at the WICB

Dear Editor,

It may have come as a big surprise to fans of West Indies cricket in Guyana, to read of the West Indies Cricket Board’s (WICB) decision to terminate the 3rd Test slated for 26 to 30 June 2014 at the National Stadium in Guyana. This match would likely be Chris Gayle’s final Test match and Shiv Shanderpaul’s unprecedented 156th Test match. What an occasion, and location, a country where Gayle has found his second home in the Caribbean and where Chanderpaul, one of Caribbean’s greatest sons, emerged. But now all of this grandeur has dissipated owing to an organization which shows all the signs of a cartel in operation, the WICB, moving the match on the grounds of its apparent disagreement with Guyana’s Cricket Administration Bill.

It must be noted that 90% of Guyanese, served by their parliamentarians in the form of APNU and the PPP, voted in favour of this long awaited bill. The will of the Guyanese people has spoken and must be respected. To extrapolate, even in the current Ukrainian crisis, the annexation of Crimea by Russia has placed Western nations in a quandary, since the will of the people has spoken. The attitude shown to a sitting Caribbean head of state by the Whycliffe Cameron WICB administration in the past few days is so contemptuous and disrespectful that it also insults all Guyanese and all Caribbean people by extension. Two of six board members of the WICB have adopted legislation similar to that of Guyana’s Cricket Administration Bill, but these countries have not suffered any penalties over the years when their bills were enacted. Thus this punitive approach by the management of WICB towards Guyana raises tremendous suspicions, because it becomes very apparent that WICB fears new directors emanating from Guyana who may or not support the WICB’s current approach. This situation therefore begs the question, what is the WICB seeking to protect from new entrants to this elite group? Is it the contentious deal struck among the Australian, Indian and English cricket boards which saw WICB duly supporting?

Despite the West Indies team performing so badly, all that happens is the changing of players, not the changing of the old guard, coaches or selectors. This saga has raised too many eyebrows, especially when corroborated by other related past problems.

A well-publicised match-fixing allegation in November 2011 in CARIB/PEPSI T/20 Tournament used to select the then National T/20 side playing in the regional tournament, under the aegis of the GCB administration, went without an investigation, in spite of overwhelming evidence to warrant an investigation and likely overturn the decision. In this instance the East Coast Jaguars team despite qualifying for the next round of the tournament was displaced by the GCB in favour of the East Bank team. One individual involved in this scandal has since left the GCB and now works with the Americans to manage their baseball venture here in Guyana. You see, Editor, this is the problem: without an investigation, individuals go unnoticed and unpunished to the wider public.

This match-fixing allegation mentioned above jeopardized the chances of talented members of that team from being selected to the Guyana T/20 Team. Simultaneously, the very WICB Executive Committee when contacted to launch an investigation bluntly refused to do so. The big question was why, what was there to hide?

Under Article 169 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas the region has in place a competition policy to ensure that the benefits expected from the establishment of the CSME are not frustrated by anti-competitive business conduct. These benefits are expected to be shared by all stakeholders including the private sector, government and the consumers. They should not go to a select group of persons or businesses. This policy is being enforced by the CCC whose mandate is, among others (a) to apply the rules of competition, in respect of anti-competitive cross-border business conduct; and (b) to promote and protect competition in the Community and co-ordinate the implementation of the Community Competition Policy within the CSME and (c) to provide support to member states in promoting and protecting consumer welfare.

Given the examples listed above, and the other allegations too many to go into detail here, but seen in the media recently and over the past year or so, I urge the Government of Guyana to seek an intervention by the CCC to launch an investigation into the unfair business practice of the cartel-like operation of WICB which is now a corporate body subject to laws of Caricom. Further, that a forensic audit be undertaken of the WICB.

In this way, there is the possibility of the CCC orderintg the termination or nullification of agreements such as the incorporation of the WICB, its conduct, activities or decisions. It can also issue Cease and Desist orders in respect of anti-competitive business conduct, order payment of compensation to persons affected by anti-competitive business conduct, among a range of other possibilities.

I suggest this approach as it seems all other interventions pursued in the past, such as the designation of a Carciom head of state to mediate on issues of conflicts involving the WICB, other inter-governmental discussions, and medium and high level discussions with the WICB, have failed. If the CCC approach somehow churns out a different outcome, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the final court of appeal for persons or companies against whom the CCC has issued a determination of a breach of Community competition law. The CCJ has the authority under the Revised Treaty to review the administrative and quasi-judicial functions of the CCC.

 

Yours faithfully,
Jewan Persaud

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