Sports Scope (Our Opinion)
Oversight is needed for sports tours
Stabroek News
November 29, 2003

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The fiasco surrounding the trip of some under-19 basketball players to St Lucia should be a wake-up call for all Guyanese, since it could have some serious repercussions, some of which might not be readily apparent. In addition, it should also have caused a stir at a governmental/ministerial level since the squad and officials went as `ambassadors' of this country to that island.

Guyanese are painfully aware of the negative perceptions which generally persist throughout the Caribbean and further about the reputation and character of Guyanese. We have been labelled scamps, crooks, thieves among other things because of the actions of a few individuals who, motivated by greed or some other cause, committed acts which have disgraced this nation. Only months ago a number of boxers absconded in transit after a boxing tournament in La Paz, Mexico.

This latest debacle in St Lucia from all appearances seems to have the makings of solidifying and perpetuating the negative perceptions. It leaves no doubt in the minds of us at Sportscope that this is bad news for all of us.

Hot on the heels of this ill-fated tour is another to Iran by four table tennis players as reported in another section of the media. The question here is did this team seek or obtain the approval of any government ministry or official? Or is it that they did not need to seek such sanction? If that is the case then something needs to be done and done urgently to address this glaring deficiency.

We at Sportscope would like to suggest that the time is opportune for either the National Sports Commission (NSC) and/or the Ministry of Culture Youth & Sport to be more pro- active in the sanctioning of tours by Guyanese athletes overseas. They can act as a sort of oversight body. When teams leave these shores to represent Guyana the government of the day ought to have a say, regardless of how minimal, in documenting and blessing such endeavors. If this is already the case, then the relevant policies dealing with such activities are not being enforced.

It is totally unacceptable that while our collective reputations are being smeared government does not see it fit to implement measures that will prevent such recurrences. A case in point: Sonia Williams of the Harbour Light Inn in St Lucia, which is in debt after the basketball tour, stated that because of that experience, from now on transactions between her organization and Guyanese will be viewed with some suspicion. Who can blame Ms Williams for this stance?

A debt of EC$4049.20 is not `small change' especially since the hotel expended its resources in order to accommodate the visit by the Guyanese.

The authorities need to act now before it is too late. The buck stops with them and cannot be passed about once Guyanese leave here purporting to be representing this country at any level and either by accident or design commit unlawful and shameful atrocities.