COZIER ON CRICKET – Hilaire’s other calling
ST LUCIA’S general election is tomorrow.
So what does that have to do with West Indies cricket or, more precisely, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)?
The answer is, quite a lot.
The WICB’s two foremost administrators, president Julian Hunte and chief executive Ernest Hilaire, are both in the hierarchy of the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) that is seeking to regain the government it lost to the United Workers’ Party (UWP) four years ago.
Hunte is SLP chairman, Hilaire a prominent strategist. Both, Hilaire especially, have been in the vanguard of a campaign as typically acrimonious as they are everywhere else in the Caribbean.
Hilaire took leave from his WICB post to join the fray. From all reports, he has been predictably caustic in his criticism of the UWP and, more especially, Prime Minister Stephenson King at public meetings. King was, he reportedly declared, incapable of being prime minister.
It is typical of the cut and thrust of any election campaign but, in this case, was delivered by a politician who is also chief executive of an organization that needs the cooperation of all the relevant governments.
Hunte and Hilaire were also closely involved in the last election four years ago, Hunte as candidate (losing) and Hilaire his campaign manager.
While eminently qualified, with a doctorate from the London School of Economics and degrees from the University of the West Indies, Cambridge and Notre Dame, Hilaire’s relationship with Hunte made his subsequent choice as chief executive two years ago in place of Donald Peters appear to some outside the WICB directorate as incestuous.
Even so, he jumped enthusiastically into the fire that burnt Peters and others before him.
He took West Indies Players Association chief Dinanath Ramnarine, a similarly strong character, head on, and was at the heart of the wrangling with senior players, most notably Chris Gayle who remains out of the team.
As far as the International Cricket Council (ICC) was concerned, none of this was its business.
That changed completely at its annual meeting last June when it turned its attention to political interference in the administration of the game.
It advised members that the appointment of politicians to their boards would be prohibited from its June 2012 meeting, with another year before sanctions are applied.
It was, said ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat, “to uphold the important principle of free elections and the independence of the game”.
Although specifically aimed at Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, where government control of cricket boards is comprehensive, it covered all its members.
Clearly, Hunte and Hilaire are not government appointees, as in the sub-continent. Just as clearly, they are politicians all the same and so covered by the ICC decision.
Even if Hunte, Hilaire and the WICB choose to ignore the ICC directive, the chief executive has compromised his employers’ position with his scathing criticisms of the present government and personal attacks on King.
Should King be returned, his government might be mature enough to ignore the platform digs. Then again, it might not. It might even demand that Hilaire withdraw his remarks before it again cooperates on any issue.
Hilaire, of course, expects nothing but an SLP return to power.
If that is the case, there is a belief in St Lucia that he will resign from the WICB and return to St Lucia where, before the last election defeat, he was attaché to former prime minister Kenny Anthony and a ministerial permanent secretary.
He is even regarded in some quarters as a future prime minister.
Tomorrow’s result will tell.
Tony Cozier went through both physical and mental agony following last night’s play on the final day of the third Test between India and West Indies.
He kept up to date with events with intermittent reports on the radio commentary while recovering in hospital from surgery earlier in the day. His column will appear again next Sunday.