Newspaper retracts 'call girl' story By Tony Cozier In COLOMBO
Stabroek News
September 27, 2002

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THE offending newspaper has carried the letter of retraction.

The dreaded personnel from the Sri Lanka Ministry of Security have been removed from the West Indies team's floor at the Taj Sumudra Hotel. Embarrassed apologies have come from "people at all levels of society".

Yet manager Ricky Skerritt remains bewildered, frustrated, angry and worried over the effects of the published, widely circulated but unsubstantiated story that local police had reported finding three prostitutes in his room and that of team scorer and analyst Garfield Smith during the ICC Champions Trophy and linking it to match-fixing.

"I'm not so much concerned with the impact in Sri Lanka," he said. "Everyone here knows what the local press is like, how vindictive it can be and how lax the libel laws are."

He explained that once the Daily Mirror published the letter of retraction from his lawyer, it could be not liable to further legal action.

"No paper in the West Indies would dare publish such malicious untruths for fear of prosecution under our libel laws," he said. "I think they might have been surprised here how swiftly and strongly I acted because I get the impression that people here usually let such things slide."

Although he was confident that those who know him "personally or by reputation" would know that such a report is "pure fantasy", he remained apprehensive about the possible repercussions in the Caribbean.

"There is the danger that some people will try to castigate me because of this," he said.

Appointed manager in February, 2000, Skerritt brought an impressive c.v. to the position.

He was a Rhodes scholar and has been president of the St.Kitts Chamber of Commerce, vice-president of the Caribbean Chamber of Industry and Commerce and chief executive of DeLisle and Walwyn, St.Kitts largest company.

Yet he has had a turbulent managerial tenure in a team that has continued to produce inconsistent performances.

He was fired a year ago by then West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Pat Rousseau and vice-president Clarvis Joseph before he was reinstated by the full board, a reversal that led to the resignation of Rousseau and Joseph.

The latest episode is understandably troubling - especially as the charges have not been authenticated by anyone. Skerritt is adamant that they can't be since they are untrue.

"I'm in no doubt whatsoever that this was a malicious act aimed at embarrassing me and the West Indies team because I had repeatedly complained to Bob Smalley (of the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit) about the arrogant and high-handed methods of the local police assigned to the team's hotel," he said.

Skerritt said as much in the lawyer's letter to the Daily Mirror, the Colombo newspaper that it carried it in full within 72 hours of its receipt.

"I'd also had run-ins with one or two members of the local media who were pressing for more information about Brian Lara's illness that I was not prepared to give," he stated. "One told me on the phone that I didn't know who I was dealing with and got very aggressive."

Chris Tetley, one of the ICC's personnel in Colombo for the tournament, also found himself the victim of several strongly worded articles in the press for refusing to hand out more than the agreed share of complimentary tickets to the Sri Lankan media and players.

Skerritt believes that the ICC, through its anti-corruption unit and through the local police, have gone too far in "trying to get into players' lives".

"We all appreciate why they have to be vigilant but there has to be a limit," he said. "Our players were being unnecessarily messed with by the security and I complained."

"I wasn't the only team manager who felt that way and I know the management of the hotel was also concerned," he added.

The team's preparation for the forthcoming tour of India had not been derailed "in any way", the manager said.

The players, as they tend to do, have even seen the lighter side of things, teasing himself and Smith about the issue.

But, for Ricky Skerritt, it is no joke.