Mon | Aug 10, 2020

Tony Deyal | Howzat, umpire?

Published:Saturday | August 1, 2020 | 12:11 AM

Cricket and politics, especially in these days of COVID-19 and elections, have a lot in common with a thief who, before any burglary, puts his clothes on inside out and upside down so when he is going into their homes, the owners will think he is coming out.

Cricket, as we again found out last Tuesday, like politics, is not just a game of ups and downs but also of ins and outs. The West Indies were up after the first of three Tests and then plummeted in the next two. Political parties win one election and are in power for five years and then lose the next one and are out for another five. A centuries-old explanation of cricket is that in every game of cricket, you have two sides: one out in the field and one in. Each man who is in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out, he comes in, and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in, and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get out those coming in.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out. There are also men called umpires, who stay out all the time, and they decide when the men who are in are out. Depending on the weather and the light, the umpires can also send everybody in, no matter whether they’re in or out. When both sides have been in and all the men are out (including those who are not out), then the game is finished and the winner is declared – if there is one!

In 1978, Dr Winston Mahabir, a Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) minister of health who had angrily quit the party of Trinidad’s first prime minister, Dr Eric Williams, named his autobiography In and Out of Politics. Around the same time, Williams also made the link between politics and bandits by applying a biblical verse, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2), to politics. He spoke about “elections” in the same guise, and this was quoted in 2010 by head of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) of T&T, Dr Norbert Masson.

Now, in Guyana, a president and his party who were voted out of office are still adamantly and illegally in and have refused to heed the decision of the on-field umpires and the foreign-based match referees. It is so much like the ‘bush’ or ‘country’ cricket of my early days, when the rich boy who owned the bat and ball took his property and walked away unless we begged him to continue batting or bowling until he had enough.

CRICKET AND POLITICS

COVID-19 has also made the ins and outs even more confusing in both cricket and politics. In the recent Test series between England and the West Indies, there were no spectators. Players who went to England for the series were in confinement for a long period before and during the entire tour. The English team members were also isolated, and one who broke the rules, fast-bowler Jofra Archer, had to sit out the second Test. In politics, even though the country was under a state of emergency, St Kitts and Nevis (SKN) was the first Caribbean country to have elections during the COVID period. Normally, during their elections, because the country allows those living abroad to vote, the competing parties fly them in by the planeloads. This year, the borders were supposedly closed, but it is rumoured that while this happened in St Kitts, in Nevis, it was ‘plane’ sailing, and Kittitians supporting the Government were arriving there and then taking the ferry to St Kitts, where they voted. The opposition party even won a demand for the police to treat their members fairly and that, while penalising them for curfew violations, they should also do the same to the government candidates, who they allowed to hold meetings and campaign when the curfew was on.

Incredibly, the prime minister, Timothy Harris, revoked a request to the Organisation of American States (OAS) to send an election observer mission, claiming that by the time the OAS team cleared quarantine, the elections would be over. However, he let in a CARICOM team as observers and waived the restrictions. Now, the entire election matter is in court as the opposition filed six petitions alleging and providing proof of widespread bribery and corrupt practices by the Government in six of the eight St Kitts constituencies. Those persons found guilty would not be able to contest any election for the next seven years, and there will be a fresh and new election in 90 days.

NO ELECTION OBSERVERS

In T&T, the prime minister (PM) is claiming that there is no need for any election observers’ mission since the country was able to hold free and fair elections in the past and it would be the same this year. While there have been concerns that the head of the EBC is related to a former government minister, the opposition leader, citing Guyana as an example, thinks that the PM “probably has a plan to take the election illegally, undemocratically”.

In addition, while Barbados, Jamaica, and St Lucia are not denying entry to their own people and are quite clear on their rules for the entry of foreigners into their countries, T&T has not opened its borders, and the government refused to make public the rules for entry.

While many T&T citizens have been denied re-entry into their home country, and one group was helped by the Barbados government and not their own, a Venezuelan team led by that country’s vice-president was allowed in. Eventually, two citizens who have been denied re-entry into their country and were suffering severe hardships in the US, as well as a political activist, filed cases against the government. They told the court that the “constant refusal” by Minister of National Security Stuart Young to disclose the criteria was a breach of their constitutional rights to equality and fairness. Young eventually and reluctantly released what he alleges are the rules (although hedging by claiming they are “a work in progress”). However, some people contend that the government’s actions were not cricket since those who should have been allowed in were left out and those who should have remained out came in. “It is out-and-out discrimination,” one person claimed. Another, calling for umpires and a match referee, said cynically, “In Williams’ time, election was like a thief in the night. Now, it looks like it will be a thief in the day.”

Tony Deyal was last seen asking, “What’s the difference between thieves and politicians?” Thieves take your money and then run. Politicians run and then take your money. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.