ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32

Lewke steps in uncontested as Jayasekera pulls out

‘To the next level’ – Lewke

By Harry Jayachandra

“Western Province clubs will have to reach a consensus and then submit its proposals to the Union. I do agree that Western Province should have more votes at the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union Annual General Meeting as they have more ‘A’ Division Clubs,” said the new president of the Union Nimal Lewke after he was elected the new SLRFU boss at its AGM, yesterday.


Nimal Lewke
Nimal Lewke - Pic by Berty Mendis

Lewke stressed that his focus will be to take Sri Lankan Rugby to what he calls “the next level.” This he intends doing by sending players overseas. He mentioned that three players from Kandy would be leaving for New Zealand next week. He added that Lankans Sevens skipper Sanjeewa Jayasinghe would be turning out for Taranaki Sports Club

The new president went onto to say that he would also be looking at sending coaches and referees overseas for training as Rugby has become more scientific and tactical. He added that development of the under 19 squad would also be a priority as he did not see any reason why the Lankan juniors could be the best in Asia.

The annual AGM started in controversial fashion with Central Province in general and Isfan Omar in particular being at the centre of what if it was not tragic would have been comic. Omar brought forward a letter signed by himself and Viper Guneratne citing the former as the official representative. Omar did have in his possession an email from President of Central Province Mohan Samarakoon stating that meeting to select nominees could be held on the 29th of December. However Samarakoon had requested a postponement as he could not get a flight back. However the meeting had gone ahead with Guneratne acting as the acting president. Chaos reigned Guneratne was not present and the nomination required the president’s signature. Samarakoon then stepped in. He said: “Rugby must be the winner. Thus though I have not seen the letter I will sign it.” Then the meeting got under way. Both Samarakoon and Micheal Jayasekera withdrew from the race. This paved the way for Lewke to be elected as president and Asanga Seneviratne as vice president. Fazal Mohommad was elected as secretary while Sunil Karunanayake holds on to his post as treasurer.

The council will comprise of Arjun Dharmadasa, Roshan Deen, Christopher Jordache Wing Commander Sanjay Fernando, Rizvi Illiyas, Captain N. Nanayakkara and Lieutenant Sunil Ranasinghe. One member namely Y.C. Chang was added to the appeal board which al;ready comprises of Dr. Maiya Gunewsekera, Anton Benedict, Lionel Almeida and Gamini Fernando.

The new President also addressed two crucial issues. The feeder system to national team has been hampered by outstanding school boy players giving up the game due to financial and employment reasons. Lewke said that he has already made arrangements with banks and private organizations to provide employment and also enable good players to continue in the game. With regard to the Asiad he said: Since I am Commander of the STF we are involved in this years cricket World Cup. Thus we will have more of a say when the security issue arises with regard to the Asiad. Meanwhile out going President Priyantha Ekanayake said that the International Rugby Board will give Rs. 13 million for the development of game. He added that it was unique in that Sri Lanka was only one of two countries to whom the IRB has increased its grant.

Meanwhile the biggest surprise at the meeting was sprung by Micheal Jayasekera who withdrew from the election at the eleventh hour. Below The Sunday Times exclusively publishes excerpts of the letter he tabled to the Council.

Dear Priyantha,

It is with a feeling of great remorse and regret that I write to tender my resignation from the post of Honorary Vice President of the SLRFU, and consequently my candidature for President of the SLRFU. But it is with greater interest for the game of rugby in Sri Lanka at heart that I have arrived at this decision.

I have drawn inspiration from the statement of His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, as reported in the newspapers of Friday morning in which he condemns sports politics which have ruined Sri Lankan sports. To quote: “Take all the sports associations in this country and tell me which association doesn’t have brawls to get in to office. If the money that is being used on these sports elections, had been spent on developing the respective sports, the standard of those respective sports would have gone up much higher.”

It is my firm belief that contests for honorary posts in sports bodies are detrimental to the development of the sport, given that development requires teamwork and contests only serve to divide people in to separate factions. Until now, rugby has been free of this ‘factiionlization’ and I do not wish to be party to dividing the rugby fraternity of this country.

In addition an honorary post gives no reward or benefit other than for personal satisfaction for a job well done and hence, contesting for such a post remains questionable in motive, especially if I resorted to the usual practice of using political influence, state machinations, intimidation etc. to achieve this end.

Having represented my country in rugby at the highest level, with the rare distinction of being one of two players from this country in the history of the game to have represented a World XV, I would rather the rugby fraternity of this country remember me for my contributions to the game, than for the dubious distinction of being one of the first people to contest for the post of President.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude and thanks to the Provinces and individuals who supported steadfastly my nomination to the Presidency as ‘doing the right thing’, and not being undone by outside influence.
I take this opportunity to wish the new President and his team good luck in their new roles and hope that they will continue with developing the game and take it to the next level.

May rugby be the winner, always!

Yours Sincerely
Micheal Jayasekera


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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.