The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Yet we still have a roof above our heads –Rear Admiral Shemal Fernando

AAASL is on the run

Since the day the new set of officials took office, two months ago, the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka (SLAA) has been facing many challenges. However, according to its honorary secretary Rear Admiral Shemal Fernando, there are ‘wheels within wheels’ that try to create unforeseen challenges on their recently commenced journey.

The land where the former headquarters of SLAA was at Torrington is a jogging track today. - Pic by Indika Handuwala

SLAA hit the headlines recently when the Asian Athletic Association (AAA) and International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) failed to recognise the newly appointed local officials based on a petition or a personal complaint made by certain individuals. This occurred just days after the elections of SLAA. Then it went on to the level of almost being stripped off the hosting rights of the 15th Asian Junior Athletic Championship (AJAC) of Sri Lanka.

However, after extensive vindication Sri Lanka was reinstated as the hosts of AJAC within a day. Last week SLAA hit headlines again when it was reported that they were ‘dragged out to the road’ by the owners of the premises of their headquarters which is based in Armour Street. But Fernando told the Sunday Times that it’s all part of a ‘dirty campaign’ that’s going harshly against the present set of officials.� “As reported by some, there is no issue with the existing premises. The owners contacted us to remind about our agreement on the premises which will lapse on July 31. They wanted to know if we wish to extend the tenure or if we wish to vacate the place. That’s the only thing that cropped up with regard to the headquarters. But we would like to have our office located somewhere near a practice track. Whatever that was reported was totally baseless and untrue,” Fernando stated.

Almost a year ago, SLAA and many other local sports governing bodies lost their respective headquarters premises based at the sporting hub in Torrington, to a facelift project which initiated by the government. The project includes jogging tracks, a vastly open green area, which was created after demolishing walls of properties owned by governmental and private organisations. In addition many sports governing bodies lost their offices based at the legendary Race Course grand stand and around the proximity, numbering to nearly 25.

Besides athletics, other main sports bodies that lost their houses were rugby, carrom, boxing, cycling, billiards and snooker and not the least the Ministry of Sports itself. Many governing bodies moved to temporary shelters, but with an additional expenditure of a monthly rental or a long term lease to their respective budgets. These governing bodies earlier based at Race Course, which is transforming into an international rugby stadium. As other bodies, SLAA is also seeking governmental assistance, to bail them out from the misery of losing their original home, as many other sporting bodies.

Rear Admiral  Shemal Fernando.  -Pic by Amila Prabodha“We also have brought this issue to the notice of the top officials. We took this matter up with the Honourable Minister of Sports. We are optimistic that we will get a positive response with regard to this matter. But I can assure that we are not in a grave position of being dislocated from our present premises.

Maybe there are certain elements within the fraternity who wants us to see run in circles and make us peter out. It clearly indicates, at incidents of petitions sent to AAA and IAAF, followed by false reports to local media about the AJAC and off lately our headquarters. This was more evident when some individuals campaigned against us holding a special general meeting soon after the AGM. Our motives always have been very clean and transparent. That vision will always keep us afloat despite being pulled down,” Fernando affirmed.

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