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Trinidad PM warns West Indies cricket could “destroy” CARICOM

Published:Sunday | July 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Dr Keith Rowley

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has warned that the situation regarding the state of West Indies cricket had the potential to “destroy” CARICOM, because of the differences among the regional leaders on the issue.

Rowley said he was surprised when he did not see the matter of West Indies cricket on the agenda for the just concluded 38th meeting of Heads of Government in Grenada last week.

“I tried to ask whether it could be put back on the agenda, Rowley explained.

“To put back the Committee (CARICOM sub-Committee on Cricket) which would focus on whether we are prepared to drop the issue and interestingly after I spoke, not another sound was made at the table,” he told the I-Sports radio programme on Saturday night, indicating that the silence may have been as a result of regional leaders having non-unified position on the matter.

“The subject has become one that threatens our very unity among us on the table,” he said, repeating his statement that following his suggestion that the matter be placed on the agenda “not a single person leading our territories joined and as a result of it there was no comment on West Indies cricket.

“Isn’t that interesting,” he asked, noting that the Venezuela situation was not placed on the agenda but was put there after he raised the matter.

Rowley told radio listeners that “the current arrangement in West Indies cricket is not just destroying cricket as a game…what is happening at the level of heads at CARICOM should make it clear to the other people that the game is now and the management and the situation is threatening to destroy CARICOM itself.

“Because when one leader who is hosting, the others could walk away because of something he said about what is going on in cricket and…what is happening with a particular country that is apparently benefiting from the current arrangement, all kinds of issues arise and in that scenario CARICOM is long sight of what really should be happening,” he added.

His statements were in an apparent reference to the statement made by CARICOM chairman and a host Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell at the start of the annual summit last Tuesday night.

Mitchell told the ceremony that it was “greatly disheartening” to see regional leaders agree to a unified position in private, only to then announce opposing positions publicly.

“The legacies that have been created by our players on the field, and the voice they have given throughout generations, to expressions of West Indian identity, have been well-documented and chronicled through the years,” said Mitchell, a former chairman of CARICOM’s Prime Ministerial sub-committee on cricket.

“So, when we get together to discuss the current challenges of the regional game, it is not merely a case of politicians dabbling in some useless pastime.”

Mitchell urged the regional heads to stand in unity behind CARICOM decisions, adding that with Cricket West Indies (CWI) not discharging its role, CARICOM had a responsibility to act.

But Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne defended his government’s position insisting that it has a policy of not interfering “in the internal affairs of institutions and governments”.

Browne, in a statement to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), said that the governance of West Indies cricket “appears to be an evocative romanticism of a particular Caribbean head”.

Browne, who left the summit following the opening ceremony, in his statement sent to CMC, noted that “the board operates independently of governments (and) now there is a particular head who is of the view, and if I may add here, the flawed opinion that with my support and other heads that he could achieve his compulsive, obsessive desire to dissolve the board.”

Rowley said that the current in-fighting within CARICOM is probably providing strength to CWI because “they are not facing a united front to be challenged where their position can be subjected to the rule of law.

“What you are saying is that the Caribbean leadership is not able to deal with the issue and therefore, they are on their own and as long as they lay claim to West Indies cricket unchallenged because of the fracturing of the Caribbean leadership they can go on and do this for as long as they want. That is the message they are going to get from this,” he added.

Rowley warned that the longer the situation remains unresolved “the more of what you saw happening in Grenada this week, where one prime minister offends another prime minister and walks out of the meeting, la la la that is likely to become the future”.

Rowley said he is prepared to serve as a member of the CARICOM subcommittee on Cricket which is under the chairmanship of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

But he said he was not optimistic that a solution to the West Indies cricket crisis could be achieved in 2017.