A letter sent to the Minister of Sports by the Negombo Football League has put the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) in the news once again.
According to letter, dated May 7, 2019 and signed by the President of Negombo FL, Ranjith Rodrigo, the term of office of the current FFSL office bearers has exeeded its two year tenure, but the officials remain to operate, "shielding behind a clause of the Sports Regulation".
The letter requests the Minister of Sports to conduct an investigation if the current FFSL administration has misled its membership on the term of office and conduct an election, which is due on July 1, if the local governing body has not amended its constitution according to the Sports Regulation of Sri Lanka.
"This is to bring to your notice that the FFSL election was held on July 1, 2017 and the term of two years has ended, while the FFSL administration continues to operate misleading the Ministry of Sports and its membership," the letter states in its opening sentence.
According to the Sports Regulation, which regulates national sports bodies, office bearers elected could serve a period of one to four years.
The amendments were made in 2016 to the Sports Regulation and only a handful of national sports associations adopted the change into their respective constitutions.
"Sports bodies should amend the clause with regard to the tenure at an Annual General Meeting, after notifying the Ministry of Sports. The constitution should clearly state the period of time in office and the time period when the Annual General Meetings are held during each year. Elections could be held according to what the respective sports adopt to their constitution. The Sports Regulation states the maximum and not the specific time period office bearers can stay in office, it does not mean that they can stay in for four straight years, unless a clear tenure is adopted into the constitution with the consent of its membership," Legal expert Panduka Keerthinanda explained.
The letter outlines that the clause which states that an elected office bearer can stay up to four years, has been misinterpreted by the FFSL, whereas the clause 5(2) II of the gazette notice issued on October 27, 2016 states that "the term of an elected official should not exceed a period of four years, and the elected official should be an individual who fulfills requirements to be reelected.
But Section III of the same gazette states that the respective governing body should adopt the agreed period of term in office into its constitutions.
"The reason is stated according to the regulation of having access to conduct a free and fair election with a clear notice of when the elections are to be held. The FFSL has not amended its constitution according to the Sports Regulation, and it does not state anywhere that the elected office bearers can stay for four years from the day elected. According to the FFSL constitution the tenure is for two years, and that has been the practice over the years," the letter further explains.
However, Anura de Silva, the President of FFSL explaining matters, stated that they had been 'acting with transparency and with genuine interest'.
De Silva revealed that prior to the FFSL elections on July 1, 2017, its membership, the Ministry of Sports, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the global body, FIFA, were duly informed that the election would be held for a 'tenure of four years'.
"The entire FFSL membership and the relevant authorities clearly knew that the elections in 2017 was conducted to chose office bearers for a term of four years. The elections were conducted by the Election Committee, with the physical attendance of representatives from the Ministry of Sports, AFC and FIFA. If matters need to be clarified further, we will obtain clarifications from the AFC and FIFA," de Silva stated.
The incumbent FFSL boss admitted that its constitution had not been amended in accordance with the valid Sports Regulation of Sri Lanka, as advised by its regional governing body, the AFC.
"The FFSL constitution does not say that too. But the AFC and FIFA term of office is four years, both the regional and global bodies have been pressing FFSL to change the term in office accordingly. When we were planning to amend the constitution of FFSL, the AFC advised us to hold it back for some time until the AFC constitution was amended," de Silva revealed.
Though de Silva claims of notifying the membership and top officials that the tenure of the officials elected in 2017 would serve for the next four years, the FFSL has failed to produce at least a copy of the official notice sent to its membership, calling for nominations.
However legal expert Keerthinanda further explained that if what de Silva states is accurate, the current FFSL office bearers could continue in office until July 2021.
"The Sports Regulation states a term in office can go up to four years. To serve a specific period sports bodies have to amend their constitutions accordingly. Even if the constitution is not amended, the time period must be declared by the sports body at the time of calling for nominations for elections. If they have done it duly, the term stays as mentioned, or else the period will be according to what the constitution mentions," Keerthinanda explained.
The FFSL Executive Committee will sit together for a meeting where the subject of the letter sent by the Negombo Football League to the Ministry of Sports, too, would be taken up for discussion.
But the FFSL administration has failed to justify their claim by producing valid documentation which mentions of a four-year tenure.
In a letter sent by the FFSL dated April 27, 2017, under the subject of FFSL Election Congress - 2017, to its membership, nothing is mentioned regarding a time period which elected officials will serve up to.
The letter is addressed to the Honorary General Secretaries of Leagues/Associations affiliated to FFSL.
"In connection with our Election Congress to be held on 1st July 2017, we forward herewith the forms of 'B' and 'C' being application for continuation of your membership with the Football Federation of Sri Lanka as well nominating representatives for Council and Election Congress. Please forward all duly filled forms to reach our Secretariat on or before by 15th May 2017," the letter signed by the then General Secretary of FFSL, E. Balendra Anthony states.
If this comes in as a dead end for the present administration of FFSL, de Silva stated that he and the remaining 11 elected office bearers are willing to bow their heads to the country's law and make way for democracy by holding an election.
But to proceed, de Silva said that there is a pipeline to cover.
"There is a process to follow, we must look at the content of this letter and the FFSL Executive Committee has to sit and discuss this before giving our explanation to the Ministry of Sports, which is the highest authority for sports in Sri Lanka. If we are told by the Ministry of Sports to hold an election and if our membership is of the same opinion, we will go for an election, there's no problem in that. I'm a genuine football player, I know how to take victory and defeat in good spirit, but win or lose we are here to serve football. We will do what is best for the game," de Silva stressed.
The FFSL, according to de Silva, has already submitted all necessary documents to the Auditor Generals Department and are waiting for the Audit Report to prepare for its Annual Congress or the Annual General Meeting.
De Silva revealed that the FFSL has written to the Ministry of Sports and the Auditor General's Department to provide them the Audit Reports as soon as possible, in order to call for an Annual Congress.
But it is still uncertain if the gathering would be an Annual Congress or an Election Congress.
"If there is an election, the procedure will be a bit lengthy. Firstly we will have to inform the AFC and FIFA, wait for their guidance, and then the Ministry of Sports. We must obtain the report from the Auditor General's Office. Then we will have to call for nominations, and appoint an Election Committee, before finalising a date. It will take at least three months to fulfill all these requirements," de Silva explained.
The letter sent to the Minister of Sports by the Negombo Football League, is copied to Chulananda Perera - the Secretary of Ministry of Sports, Dhammika Muthugala - the Director General of Sports Development Department, R.B. Wickramasinghe - the Deputy Director General of Sports Development Department and U.L. Jaswar - the General Secretary of FFSL.
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