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OUR CARIBBEAN: Health issues and cricket on agenda

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Health issues and cricket on agenda

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Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government participated in a special one-day meeting in Port of Spain yesterday with foreign and health ministers also in attendance.

The primary purpose of the meeting – held at the invitation of host Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar – was to review the Community’s responses to the twin public health challenges posed by global concerns over the dread Ebola virus afflicting states in Africa, as well as the chikungunya disease currently “striking down communities” across this region, as acknowledged by the CARICOM Secretariat.  

The Trinidad and Tobago prime minister first proposed this special summit of CARICOM leaders in early September, and the Georgetown-based Community Secretariat was expecting a positive response by heads.

Though not officially indicated, it was expected that the heads of government  would take the opportunity to also address the current crisis facing West Indies cricket as a consequence of a money dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players’ Association WIPA), which resulted in the players unilaterally aborting their scheduled tour of India.

Indeed, given the reported outcome of a special meeting held on the initiative of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves at the Hyatt Hotel in Port of Spain last Friday involving representatives of the WICB, WIPA and Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, it would be most surprising if yesterday’s special Heads of Government Meeting failed to address the pressing challenges currently facing West Indies cricket.

And even more so now that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has given a 15-day ultimatum to the WICB to pay up US$42 million in compensation for financial losses as a direct consequence of the West Indies players’ decision to boycott the tour of India.

One initiative of significance being considered by some heads of government and leading officials of regional institutions is for a representative delegation to travel to New Delhi to engage the government of India as well as the BCCI in the quest to urgently resolve the current cricket crisis.

Such a diplomatic initiative by CARICOM leaders could also involve representation on the goodwill delegation to India of top officials of the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Development Bank and leading Caribbean private sector organizations.

First, it would be good to learn if yesterday’s special meeting of CARICOM leaders did address the crisis facing West Indies cricket, in addition to the serious health challenges posed by the Ebola threat and the crippling consequences of thousands being affected by the chikungunya disease.

The heads were also scheduled to “arrive at a consensus” on the post of new Commonwealth secretary general, a process they initially considered at their annual summit last July in Antigua.

The various regions of the 54-member Commonwealth are expected to identify the likely CARICOM nominee before next month as intense campaigning is expected to begin early next year ahead of the Commonwealth Summit scheduled for Malta in November 2015.

Currently, the lead candidate from the CARICOM bloc is Antigua and Barbuda’s former long-serving diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders, who was last month conferred with an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the UWI St Augustine Campus.

• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.