The most contentious election of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL) in recent times has reached its homestretch.
On Friday, the membership will gather at the NOCSL headquarters in Colombo to vote on who will lead the organisation for the next four years.
Only certainty is that it won’t be current President Hemasiri Fernando who is stepping down after a 20-year-long reign.
Hoping to succeed him are two candidates, Rohan Fernando--once Mr Fernando's preferred candidate--and Suresh Subramaniam, a seasoned administrator who is now enjoying his backing.
Both are former players: Rohan, a rower with extensive experience in sports administration and business; Suresh, a former Sri Lanka Davis Cup player with a strong background in sports administration and business.
Who will succeed Hemasiri Fernando remains a close call with both parties claiming they have the required numbers to take control of the country’s Olympic Movement.
NOCSL has a membership of 33, including the two votes owned by the members of the newly formed Athletes’ Commission, and the candidate with a simple majority will be declared winner after members cast their votes through a secret ballots.
There was rigorous campaigning, with both parties trading allegations, but these will have little impact on the final outcome as the Ministry of Sports, the so-called "guardian angel" of Sri Lankan sports, has failed to investigate any claims for reasons best known to them.
Rohan, who has forwarded a strong list of candidates to fill up the Executive Committee (including Prithi Perera as Secretary General) has vowed to clean up the stable and respect principles of good governance, transparency and accountability.
While these are honourary positions, they come with great financial and other benefits.
This is why members show an unprecedented levels of ambition to get in, even throwing money to win the race.
The NOC was allegedly run to the whims and fancies of a select few in the past with little respect to good governance.
Accounts were not submitted for auditing since 2010 and monthly Executive Committee meetings were not held since 2013 as required under Article 1 3.3 of the NOCSL Constitution.
Rohan was, in fact, a part of the existing administration.
He was Finance Committee Chairman until it was disbanded in late 2013 when the International Olympic Committee intervened to defuse tensions between the NOCSL and the Ministry of Sports, asking that affairs be run with existing office bearers until fresh elections are called.
In reality, however, it was the three at the top--President, Secretary General and Treasurer--who called the shots.
On the other hand, Suresh has not been a part of NOCSL administration but was invited to contest by Hemasiri Fernando in a challenge to Rohan who was critical of existing the administrators.
Suresh is a former President of the Sri Lanka Tennis Association, an institution which has been run as a professional body, and also a Vice President of the Asian Tennis Federation.
In interview with the Sunday Times last week, Suresh highlighted the importance of helping each and every member association to stand on its own, adding that he would make the setup more professional and transparent.
His biggest disadvantage is Maxwell de Silva, man who is eager to complete another term as Secretary General despite being at the centre of most allegations levelled at the NOCSL.
He was the Secretary General for since 2009.
For years, NOCSL’s contribution towards sports development remains below expectation, acting as a mere travel agent to send athletes abroad for IOC-sanctioned events.
Come Friday (23), it is anticipated that men with integrity will take charge to help boost sports in the country.
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