Friday 23rd March, 2007

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Woolmer’s murder could hurt region

There are many in the Caribbean who may now be attempting to wish away this nightmare of Bob Woolmer’s murder on our doorstep, or in our yard as the Jamaicans would say.

Apart from the sorrow of the man losing his life, his family losing a husband, friend and father, and the cricket world having such a student and teacher of the game whisked away prematurely, there must be a collective sigh from the West Indies asking, “Why on our watch, Lord.”

As readers would know, during the six years of preparation for hosting the premier world cricket tournament, there have been all kinds of doubters, including self-doubters, and uncertainties as to whether the West Indian cricketing nation could successfully bring it off.

It did not help the situation that at every turn the likes of Chris Dehring, whether to boost flagging morale or in genuine belief, would repeat the mantra: “The best ever Cricket World Cup.”

Now this, the coach of a major cricketing nation and a man respected worldwide is found unconscious in his hotel room and dies immediately after and in circumstances which the Jamaica police now regard as murder as a result of manual strangulation.

A news conference last night has confirmed reports that Woolmer was, in fact, murdered.

This editorial will not attempt to tell the Jamaican police how to do their jobs. What we could say, however, is there must be expedition in this murder investigation.

This cannot just be another file in the office of the Jamaica Commissioner of Police, awaiting some fortuitous occurrence for an arrest to be made and for the circumstances surrounding Mr Woolmer’s death to be made clear to the world.

Jamaica and all other Caricom countries, especially the tourism-dependent economies, are holding out great hope for the staging of the Cricket World Cup here in the Caribbean to return dividends.

But there is the potential downside: similar to how the opening ceremony was broadcast live and replayed to over one billion people, so too has information on Mr Woolmer’s death gone abroad” to as large an audience.

In effect, the reputation of the English-speaking Caribbean as a place where people can come for a peaceful vacation may be at stake.

All should remember the Natalie Holloway incident and how Aruba tourism has suffered and continues to be affected by the American teenager being killed while on holiday there.

If the investigation turns up information to indicate that Mr Woolmer met his death through some locally-hatched criminal occurrence, not merely Jamaica but all of the Caribbean will be branded in a negative manner.

The hope must be that it does not turn out to be the case that Mr Woolmer was killed by some perverted criminal hand of the Caribbean.

The process of the investigation is on and there is nothing that can be done about that now. It may even come to the point, and soon, that the ICC and the relatives of the late Pakistan coach will require the intervention of international police to find the killer.

What Mr Dehring and the ICC organising committee have to do from here on in is to institute an even tighter security net around the players and officials to guard against any harm coming to anyone while the tournament is in progress. The Caribbean simply cannot afford a repeat of this ugly criminal behaviour.


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