In yet another bizarre twist to the ongoing saga plaguing the National Olympic Committee (NOC), Vice President of the organisation and President of the Antigua and Barbuda Volleyball Association (ABVA), Wilbur Harrigan, has been “suspended” from the Executive Committee of the NOC “pending an investigation into you [Harrigan] actions and the repayment of the monies in full to the NOC.”
In a letter hand delivered to the volleyball president on Tuesday, Harrigan was informed of his “suspension” after he reportedly failed to return monies given to the association in anticipation of the country’s hosting of the Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association (EVCA) Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in September of last year.
Reports are that the volleyball association received a total of US$15,000.00 towards the hosting of the tournament which was eventually cancelled following the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria through the Eastern Caribbean.
According to the letter, several requests asking that the funds be returned by the volleyball association were ignored. The legitimacy of the suspension is however being questioned on the premise that the monies were not given to Harrigan, but rather the association, and that it is, in fact, the association that should face sanctions.
One such individual questioning the suspension is Vice President of the NOC and a presidential candidate for the pending elections, Dr. Philmore Benjamin, who added that he has called for an investigation into a number of emails regarding the president.
“In my view, the suspension is without basis because if the funds are given to a particular event and it is suspended, then I don’t see how the return of funds become a big problem because that means they are going to have it at a different date so I really don’t see the basis of the suspension,” he said.
“We are also asking for an investigation into [a matter] with the president and that is what we are more concerned about. I have seen an email that is a bit troubling and I would really like us to do some investigations on that,” he added.
Unconfirmed reports are that Harrigan delivered a cheque to the NOC on the day he received the “suspension” letter, but later returned for the cheque. The volleyball head has opted to not speak on the development at this time, but reports are that he has since penned a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the issue.
This latest saga follows the ongoing dispute between NOC President, EP Chet Greene, and President of the Antigua and Barbuda Fencing Federation (ABFF) Kelesha Antoine, who has been accused of “fraudulently” seconding the nomination of one NOC presidential candidate, Neil Cochrane.
The IOC has since written to Greene informing him to stop any pending disciplinary actions against Antoine and submit a report on the matter.
Cochrane has also condemned the move.
“I do not believe the suspension to be a legal one and as a person who sits as a general secretary in football we can’t suspend individuals really, we have to suspend associations so that’s the first thing that’s wrong. If we were going to suspend a member association, we would quote the article which has been infringed or which gives us the power to suspend the individuals,” he said.
“If you note, in the letter that was given to Mr. Harrigan suspending him, there was no reference to the article being used from the constitution to suspend him because there really is none,” he added.
According to Cochrane, the move is an act of desperation.
“There is a big trend and a trend that anyone who is calling out the president for any wrongdoing or challenging him for election position, they automatically become ridiculed or maligned and then automatically faces suspension,” he said.
Last month, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NOC was adjourned as the body sought to rectify the dispute regarding Cochrane’s nomination. A date is yet to be set for the meeting’s resumption.
Greene, who is also the country’s Minister of Sports, has come under recent pressure to relinquish his position as president of the NOC. The minister, who had initially said he would not seek re-election when his tenure ended last year, announced early December that he had been asked to reconsider that position.