Let us be gracious hosts
By Raffique Shah
March 04, 2007
With cricket World Cup fever gripping the Caribbean as of this weekend, maybe-just maybe-we'd get a respite from the politicians and the criminals, if only for a month or so. But you never can tell what these dubious breeds would come up with to steal our attention away from the galaxy of cricketing stars in our presence and the excitement of matches to come. It takes one mindless act by some gun-toting or cutlass-wielding jackass to cast the entire region in a bad light on the global stage. Or worse, some stupid statement by a publicity craving politician to stir up a storm, abusing his or her rank to paint a horrible picture of the country.
I mention one example: the row that erupted last week over police officers not being paid special allowances over the period of the World Cup has already hit the Cricket Info website. The most popular Internet meeting point for cricket fans worldwide reported that local cops may withdraw policing the matches staged in Trinidad. That story will have been read by tens of millions of people who will have concluded either our Police Service is staffed by mercenaries or the oil-rich government of the country is stingy to the point of endangering lives at an event of this magnitude.
Negative stories like this and the seemingly senseless actions that prompt them make the country look like a backward banana republic. The question as to whether or not our police officers should be paid special allowances for extra duties they will be called upon to render during the World Cup should have been resolved months ago. We know our police officers were sorely overworked during the recent Carnival festivities. We know, too, they will be made to work very hard over the next few weeks. But surely their association could have intervened early.
The ICC, which "owns" the World Cup, is a cash-rich sporting body, much like the FIFA and the IAAF. Since that body is virtually dictating everything that needs to be put in place for the event, it should be made to pay something out of its bulging coffers for services rendered. When the West Indies Cricket Board, with backing from regional governments, lobbied to stage the event, they should have ironed out these matters. It seems they did not examine the fine print, so now taxpayers are being forced to pay for expenses incurred while the WICB and ICC reap the financial benefits.
I should add that while police officers demand that they be paid special allowances for the extended hours they work, military personnel who shoulder an even heavier burden do not know what "overtime pay" means. Their salaries and allowances are fixed. Those who enjoy the benefits of a low-crime Carnival, and hopefully a no-crime World Cup, must give thanks to the men and women in uniform who make it possible.
As for politicians making irresponsible statements intended to foment strife and divisiveness, what can be done? Maybe it's better to ignore them and hope their words dissipate in the wind much the way hot air does. Jack Warner used a recent forum to question the exclusion of Daren Ganga from the West Indies team. Many nationals of this country are peeved over this, but now is not the time to gripe over the selectors' choices. If the team fails to perform and we get booted out of the tournament through poor choices, we'll deal with the selectors later on.
Now is not the time to vent such matters. Ganga, who has displayed great talent and inspired leadership, may be hurting. But he is wise enough to stay mum on the issue. When Warner stated a few years ago that "Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy will never again play for T&T", was he the selector-general of this country's football team? In fact, in many instances in football, those who know the game well have questioned team selections.
But Warner made it clear that not the fans, not the players, not even the Government could tell him "who to pick". Except for seeking political mileage, why else would he now question the omission of Ganga?
Finally, residents and business owners who live or operate on streets in the designated "red zone" are crying foul. We understand their plight. But it's for a very limited time, so the inconvenience or losses (always higher than what they declare as profits to Inland Revenue) suffered should be shouldered with grace, not griping. Do they know how many more than them suffer similarly during Carnival? In St James, the cultural and liming capital of the country, businesses lose extensively every time the streets are cordoned off for hosay, sundry festivals and events.
Let us not be "spoilt sports" at this eleventh hour. Let us instead be good hosts and most of all show the cricketing world that we can not only take licks, but we can share blows all the way to the finals.