I have read with some interest the persuasive letter of Kobe Smith in your Saturday, June 7 edition, followed by President’s Ramotar’s outburst the next day about the WICB for moving the Test match from Guyana. I wish to take the opportunity to assure both the President and Mr Smith that the interest of all Guyanese has been served by the way the opposition and the government worked on the Cricket Administration Bill. While I hold no brieffor either the APNU or the government or the 90% of people they represent in Guyana, permit me to make a few observations about the Bill and a few significant concerns which have arisen.
The current Constitution of the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) throws up many doubts about the integrity of the electoral process whereby phantom clubs have gained access. Like the problems some countries have had, for instance Guyana, with the Official List of Electors for national elections, it is the clubs of a country which are considered the voters’ list used to determine who represents the electorate on various boards, such as association boards, county boards and national boards, like the GCB. However, what has been happening in some of the current county and association boards, is that phantom clubs have popped up, giving some association and county boards extra votes which are proportionally attributed for voting at the GCB level. So for instance in areas such as East Bank Demerara and West Coast Demerara where very little cricket is played and very few clubs are in existence, the number of clubs listed remains questionable, leading these association boards to ‘phantomize’ their numbers to gain extra votes and capture their various associations, county boards (such as the Demerara Board which has a similar dispute) and the Guyana Cricket Board. The new constitution which the WICB and the GCB are fighting tooth and nail to avoid (attributed to the Cricket Bill), definitively declares war on phantom clubs, thereby eliminating the chances of skullduggery, which could see the lugartenientes who have managed to currently capture the GCB, lose their stranglehold on Guyana’s cricket and avoid the cartel-like force to destroy the GCB.
Another misconception bandied about with regard to this Bill, is the issue of the missing assets. One would recall from the media, during the time of the IMC, one lieutenant, a senior member of the GCB along with others, constituted a private company, named DEB, to strip GCB’s assets and co-opt them in this private company to goodness knows do what. So any possible requisitioning of assets by way of the Guyana Cricket Administration Bill would be to basically carry out a search and rescue operation aimed at restoring the cricket assets of this country into a transparent and accountable body.
Much has also been tossed around about government’s role in the cricketing operations at the country level, via this Bill. In fact the WICB has touted government’s intervention in the GCB as its key pillar for rejecting the normalization and regularization of cricket in Guyana. The WICB gets by with its propaganda owing to skilful use of the media, artful deception, and the use of a now outdated, June 2011, International Cricket Council (ICC) directive, that “the ICC has given its member boards two years to become democratised and free from government and political interference in a bid to improve governance within the game.” The WICB has attempted to wave this wand to captivate anti-government sentiment across the region with the hope of gaining mileage and incremental leverage on the business of cricket in the Caribbean through its syndicated operation.
However, what the WICB has hidden from the limelight and the public domain, is even before expiration of the timeline for compliance, at its subsequent Annual Confer-ence in November 2012, the ICC publicly indicated that it was reviewing its stance against government involvement in the administration of cricket of its members. While acknowledging that “removal of government interference had been one of the Woolf report recommendations approved by the ICC,” ICC president Alan Isaac, said it had recognised the role governments played in developing cricket in several countries and is rethinking its position. Isaac is quoted as saying, “In the ICC (June 2011) annual conference, we made some changes and introduced some onerous penalties if they [issues related to government interference] are not complied with,” Isaac said in Dhaka. “In the last meeting (November 2012), we discussed the issues and the realities are we need to reflect on perhaps the draconian nature of some of those requirements. In this part of the world and lots of other countries, quite honestly, cricket and other sports depend on the government. We are having a little bit of post-change review.” The world governing council, no less than the ICC, has duly discredited the WICB/GCB/lieutenants’ fallacious arguments.
What however remains controversial is how could individuals of an association be allowed to commandeer the assets its organization, and with impunity? Given that the WICB, as a privately registered company residing in Antigua, has effectively issued shares to the GCB, making the GCB part of its syndicate-like arrangement, it now runs amok in Caricom through this asset transfer. It is unimaginable that the Caricom Competi-tion Commission (CCC), based in Suriname has sat idly by, with all of its investigative powers, without even conducting a cursory inquiry into the operational mechanisms of this anti-competitive company.
What many of the GCB and WICB lieutenants have also avoided to mention is that less international cricket has been played in Guyana ever since the current GCB executives took over the managing of cricket in Guyana a few years ago, indicative of cricket being played on the West Bank, East Bank and West Coast Demerara and Essequibo, which the large crop of current GCB administrators represent. Guyana last held a Test match in 2011, a remarkable achievement for
persons in the GCB wanting to hold power just for the sake of doing so, and who derive the economic benefit for themselves and develop the longer former of the game in Guyana. Regional matches, whenever they are played in Guyana, suffer from record worst attendances,the lowest in the history of cricket in Guyana. The last 4-day game in Guyana saw no more than 100 persons attending each day. Cricket died the day the current executives set foot in the GCB.
It is clear the vested interest of those running cricket are only in this business of running cricket to benefit a few. The Pegasus Hotel benefits from the lion’s share of accommodation each time cricket is held in Guyana, as admitted by its CEO in one of Sunday’s newspaper reports.
One can only assume what happens to some of the other services, such as the provision of transportation, manning the entrances to the stadium, security, provision of meals and arranging VIP privileges, among other logistical arrangements. With the limited staff at the cricket board’s headquarters in Regent Street, it is easy to conclude that multiple private contracts are handed out for such services, without public tendering.
I gather from the lieutenants of the GCB none seem interested in preserving cricket or developing the game. The President needs to therefore urgently sign this bill into law, and carry out the statutes stipulated therein, one of which includes the joint appointment (both the minster and the WICB) of an ombudsman to carry out the election process. Organizations and individuals who remain staunchly opposed to this process are clearly pursuing personal agendas of power and corruption.