Former chairman of selectors Courtney Browne and two other selectors have joined former assistant bowling coach Vasbert Drakes in pursuing legal action against Cricket West Indies (CWI) for wrongful dismissal.
Last night during the local radio programme Mason and Guest, Dominican lawyer Anthony revealed that he would be representing three former CWI selectors – Courtney Browne, Eldine Baptiste and Lockhart – who were all fired last week by the newly elected Ricky Skerritt administration.
Astaphan explained that his clients former West Indies players Browne and Baptiste along with former Windward Islands opener Sebastian were very troubled by their dismissals.
“My clients are very troubled by their dismissal and the manner of their dismissal, particularly the statement made about the quote “the old embedded selection policy which secretly, but actively, victimized some players and banished them from selection consideration,” said Astaphan, who described that statement as being a very serious one.
“The senior counsel also said that he intended to examine the contractual agreements signed by Browne and company thoroughly and utilize the labour laws of Antiguan and Barbuda to their fullest extent.
“As it relates to the labour code of Antigua and Barbuda, it is whether all the facts and circumstances including the terms of the agreement signed by these good gentlemen who have dedicated their lives to West Indies Cricket constitutes independent contractors or employees under the Antigua and Barbuda labour code. And it is an issue we are looking at externally, carefully, because of the sensitivity of the subject. Bearing in mind what comes as it relates to Mr Browne who was there since 2010, and you haven’t been before every renewal of the contract gone through what is called an employee job assessment? And getting extraordinary marks on matters of ethics and selection and so on.
“To be thrown out like that is a commentary of a discriminatory selection policy which he did not set. I think it is a well-known fact that there was a selection criterion either approved or requested by the board and there was a technical team set up with the jurisdictional authority to decide who was eligible or not. That technical team was chaired by the vice-president Emmanuel Nanthan, Jimmy Adams, WIPA representative Hinds [Wavell], the head coaches etc. The board are the ones who made the decision [as to] who is eligible or not, and the selectors were only required to select people who were eligible for selection. And it seems as if these gentlemen have been sent packing because they are those who believe there was an ‘old embedded selection policy which secretly, but actively, victimized some players’ of which Mr Courtney Browne, Mr Baptiste and Sebastian were a part. And that is extraordinary when you consider the findings made initially in the 2014, 2016 assessment by Richard Pybus of Courtney Browne who said Courtney had worked diligently,” said.
However, the chief executive officer of CWI, Johnny Graves, joined the Mason and Guest programme where he countered Astaphan. Graves said at the time when the regional board notified Drakes that his services were no longer needed his contract had already been null and void.
“There was a board meeting that took place, and we announced publicly all the changes the board of directors approved. The following morning, the director Jimmy Adams and I called every single person that was going to be affected by those changes because we felt it was appropriate to do that. We then followed up in writing to all of those people that were adversely affected and explained to them the situation and what was happening with their contracts.
“But in the case of Vasbert Drakes without going into specifics, Vasbert at the time we called him was not on the contract, so there was no termination of Vasbert’s contract. Vasbert’s contract expired at the end of the England tour. He knows his contract was for the England tour, and that was his engagement. But out of courtesy, we wanted to thank him for his contribution on the English tour and wish him well. We know that within West Indies Cricket or in any professional sport in the world, coaching appointments, selection of players is not something that is guaranteed,” Graves said.
Drakes lawyer, Ralph Thorne QC, said on the same programme that the sacking of his clients was immoral and unlawful and said they would be seeking reinstatement and full compensation.
“You don’t call a man of this stature, you don’t call a man who is in charge of this regional enterprise that we love so much, you don’t call him by telephone and say to him that the relationship has come to an end. There is something obscene about it.
“I have spoken to an Antiguan lawyer, quite eminent, quite erudite – Ms Ann Henry – who has agreed to manage the matter in Antigua and to act in association with me so that when my presence is required there, I would certainly have the opportunity to revisit Antigua and to pursue this matter to its fullest extent. I am not consumed with arrogance or confidence as Shakespeare said, but I have very strong feelings about the injustice that has been done to Vasbert, and I am prepared,” Thorne said.