Distorting history is wrong
This newspaper is appalled at what appears to be an attempt to distort the story of the legendary West Indies batting stylist of the 1970s Mr Lawrence “Yagga” Rowe.
Mr Rowe, who was captain, and others who joined him on two ‘rebel’ cricket tours of Apartheid South Africa in the early 1980s, were banned for life back then.
That’s because Mr Rowe and company toured South Africa with the abhorrently racist, fascist system of Apartheid — a cluster of laws which placed whites at the top and abused oppressed blacks at the very bottom — still in place.
At the time, Mr Nelson Mandela and many others who actively opposed Apartheid had been languishing in prison for decades.
In 1989 that ban was lifted in tandem with the dismantling of Apartheid and the release from prison of freedom fighters, including future president of a ‘new’ South Africa Mr Mandela.
It’s because the ban was lifted that Mr Rowe played in the famous Melbourne Cricket Festival with a huge crowd watching in 1998; and was honoured in style alongside leading Jamaica and West Indies cricketers in Kingston a few years later.
Hence our consternation at the sophistry inherent in comments attributed to former cricket administrator Mr Chris Dehring that, “[I]f Yagga had chosen to rob a bank, he would long have been out of jail. It’s time to let him go. Free Yagga.”
Presumably, the view that Mr Rowe — resident in the United States for decades — has been persecuted here arises from such issues as the badly flawed decision to omit his image from a mural outside Jamaica’s headquarters of cricket, Sabina Park.
More so, we suspect, was the decision of the Jamaica Cricket Association to rescind the naming of the players’ pavilion at Sabina Park for Mr Rowe in 2011.
Furious objectors insisted that there were other great Jamaican cricketers of impeccable character, far more suitable — Mr Rowe having betrayed his people.
Prior to that naming ceremony, Mr Rowe read a comprehensive apology for the ‘rebel’ tours. Said he in part: “…Such tours… were outlawed by cricket boards all over the world, by governments, including the Government of Jamaica, by the International Cricket Council and by other international organisations including the United Nations.
“Understandably, the tour offended the people of Jamaica and throughout the cricket-playing countries of the Caribbean.
“Today, I sincerely apologise to the cricket fraternity of the Caribbean and the world.”
Within days, Mr Rowe effectively withdrew his formal apology during a radio interview. He also insulted the memory of freedom fighter, martyr, and National Hero Mr Paul Bogle.
Said he in part: “I’m not saying that I did wrong. The whole point about it is that history will prove if I’m wrong. …some of our own national heroes were crooks. Paul Bogle was vilified and then he becomes a national hero. So… probably 40, 50 years from now I might be a national hero…”
In such circumstances, there was no option but to withdraw the honour bestowed on Mr Rowe.
We are not aware that he has since expressed any regret or apology for his misdeeds of four decades ago.
We are all free to forgive, or not, as we see fit, but we believe it is extremely dangerous to ignore and/or distort history.