By Sean Devers
It’s not usual for a Government Minister to appoint someone to a position that is presently injuncted by Court to perform the same function, but that’s exactly what Sports Minister Dr George Norton did when appointed Steven Lewis as Cricket Ombudsman and set January 2020 as the date for the Guyana Cricket Board’s (GCB) Elections.
At a time when the Collation Government has suffered a no-confidence vote and elections are likely after November, Norton’s surprising appointment of Lewis as Cricket Ombudsman could be another indication as how Government (Past and Present) view Sports in Guyana.
The GCB has not held elections since 2011 and yesterday at the Malteenoes Sports Club the ‘Cricket Stakeholders’ group called for the Sports Minister’s resignation, claiming that Dr Norton was aware that Lewis, who works in Chambers of GCB’s Attorney Roysdale Forde, was injuncted from performing that duty in an ongoing Court matter filed by the Berbice Cricket Board last year.
After the resignation of Pastor and Cricket Historian Winston McGowan who was appointed by Sports Minister Dr Frank Anthony in the previous Government, the GCB, contrary to the ‘Guyana Cricket Admiration Law’ appointed Lewis as Cricket Ombudsman.
The Cricket Administration Act, which was signed into Law by former President of Guyana Donald Ramotar, states the Sports Minister shall appoint a Cricket Ombudsman to ensure fair and free elections of the GCB and the three County Boards and that shall be the only role he plays.
The gathering of representatives from the cricket fraternity of Berbice, East Coast, Linden and Georgetown included former West Indies Cricket Board Director and a founder member of the Demerara Cricket Board, which was formed in 1992, Claude Raphael, former GCB Vice-President and East Coast Cricket Board President Bissoon Singh and former West Indies Test player and President of the Georgetown Cricket Association (GCA) Roger Harper.
The group believes that Sports Minister Norton, who replaced Minster Nicolette Henry in that position, did not exercise due diligence in the appointment and feels that it extremely disappointing that Minister Norton did not engage in a consultative process with Stakeholders in order for a fair and impartial candidate to be identified in the process for the following reasons.
1: Lewis had been previously named by the GCB but was injuncted from performing the duties of Cricket Ombudsman by the BCB
2: Lewis work with the GCB and its Secretary as their Lawyer for cricket related matters over the years. Forde is also the Lawyer for the injuncted Raj Singh faction of the DCB and lawyer for the illegal Executives of the GCB
3: Forde is a business partner with Anand Sanasie in a Fuel-related Company named SBF International INC.
4: In an application to the high Court action number 2014-512 –SA Nazimul Drepaul; a life member of the Everest Cricket Club (whose President at the time was Steven Lewis) sought to have three clubs removed from the voting list at the Georgetown Cricket Association elections.
The Cricket Stakeholder said it was felt that this court action was initiated to have bona fide clubs removed from the GCA’s register in order to present an advantage to a group of persons closely associated with GCB Executives to take control of the GCA.
According to the Cricket Shareholders, Minister Norton is a defendant in Court Case number (FDA) 2018-HC-DEM-CIV-FDA-808.
“We find this particularly disturbing that this Minister could have selected Steven Lewis as Cricket Ombudsman when there is this ongoing Court case challenging the appointment by the illegal GCB of the very Steven Lewis as Ombudsman,” disclosed the group.
“Minister Norton, through his permanent Secretary had declared in a sworn affidavit to the Court that the GCB Executives were invalid and illegal and that he believed they hijacked the GCB and that the process by which Mr Lewis was appointed is illegal and the Court has the power to set it aside,” the group informed.
The group felt that because the Minister is aware of the ongoing court matter, his appointment of Lewis could well be construed as a disregard and disrespect for the Honourable High Court of Guyana and for the people of Guyana, especially the Stakeholders of Cricket.
“We note too that Minister Norton’s appointment of the Ombudsman, unexpected and improper as it is, was timed for the CWI meeting set for March 24, 2019. If the Ombudsman’s sole task is in relation to the 2020 GCB elections, why the indecent haste to appoint him now?
Given this Ombudsman’s close association with the persons in the illegal DCB and GCB and his prior appointment by the GCB there is no doubt that any ‘fair minded’ and informed observer would conclude that the functions of Ombudsman will be far from being impartial and such a state of affairs will undermine the public confidence in the administration of Cricket in Guyana,” the group pointed out.
Section 17 of the Guyana Cricket Administration Act states: The Minister, after consultation with the West Indies Cricket Board, shall be responsible for the appointment of a Cricket Ombudsman.
“The offensive, harsh and unfortunate reality is-Minister Norton has effectively appointed an associate of Ananad Sanasie and Raj Singh as the National Cricket Ombudsman.
In view of the foregoing we call on his Excellency President David Granger to have this ridiculous and unacceptable decision rescinded and have a suitable person appointed. One who can serve Cricket in a fair, impartial and transparent manner.
“As someone who spent time and energy in getting this Government elected this is what we are getting from Minister Norton. There are hundreds of young people involved in sports and once they see this Government is not interested in Sports they would remain at home on elections day,” said President of Buxton Cricket Club Esse Peters.
Harper said this will be another thing for those around the Caribbean to laugh at Guyana as a Country and he hopes that good sense prevails and the decision is reversed immediately, while former BCB President Malcom Peters described Norton as a simpleton and said he should stick to medicine.
Marvin Burns from the Upper Demerara Cricket Association said that Linden provide the Government with plenty of votes and it is sad to see Minster Norton helping the GCB to side-line Region 10.
“With this appointment Minister Norton has immersed himself in yet another controversy, one which can only add to chaos in our cricket. In this regard we call on Minister Norton to resign with immediate effect in order for our Government to be spared any embarrassment,” said the group who represented the BCB, GCA, ECCB and Upper Demerara Cricket Association.
Protests in the City and Linden are being planned in the wake of the Sports Minister’s decision.
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