I remember when I was going to school there was a beggar at the eye hospital roundabout with a bandaged leg infested with flies. Day-in, day-out it was the same – the wound never seemed to get better or never was the leg amputated. But, seemingly the poor man may have made a decent living [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

The beggar’s wound and the Sports Law


I remember when I was going to school there was a beggar at the eye hospital roundabout with a bandaged leg infested with flies. Day-in, day-out it was the same – the wound never seemed to get better or never was the leg amputated. But, seemingly the poor man may have made a decent living out of it because almost every human being who passed him parted with at least a five cent coin, which they could afford. However later on someone updated me claiming that there was never a wound on that man’s leg and it was only an act to tickle the weak-side of the human emotion. Yet, as the clock ticked by, he went missing and maybe he must be playing the same trick in the streets of heaven.

Now down Maitland Place lies the headquarters of Lankan cricket. Every time I see the building, it reminds me of that beggar on that street not so far away. It carries its own wound which has a tag attached to it. But unlike the beggar, it has a puppeteer who flaunts a licence — the licence to conquer.

It was not very long ago, C.B. Ratnayake was appointed the Sports Minister and in his first visit to Maitland Place he called Sri Lanka Cricket the second most corrupt institution in the country. He made the headlines, but, never don his pads again. Mind you the guys who ran cricket in the country at that time were appointed by the ruling party and they called it the Interim Committee.

Then a few moons later Gamini Lokuge as Sports Minister did not have any faith in the then Interim Committee which they had appointed and he and his ministry officials along with the Sri Lanka Cricket CEO Duleep Mendis settled an all-important Television rights deal, before appointing another Interim Committee to run the next lap.

All these good sports ministers had this lethal weapon to flaunt. It was and still is called the Sports Law. Under the prevailing Sports Law in Sri Lanka, the Sports Minister is all supreme, but, ironically not in the eyes of the International Sports bodies which insist that Sports should be devoid of political agendas and interference.

Not only in cricket there are disputes even in the Olympic House as well as the Rugby Union.

The other day I met a certain official who had initially got the green light to contest the Rugby elections. But, a few days later he was also made to understand that he too was put into the ineligible basket along with the rest. It had been done under the prevailing Sports Law, he claimed. The folly – along with the other guys, he too was going to challenge the ministry ruling.

Yet, this column has not taken up the cudgels of the other two — NOC and the Rugby Union. But, we still are going from where we began. It started with cricket.

It was just the other day, may be for the first time that the Minister of Sports had a meeting with the very committee that he deposed.
The outcome is quite bewildering. The minister in his press communiqué claimed that the ousted committee members agreed to row the boat along with the minister and the meeting ended up hunky dory. But, the stakeholders after the meeting stated more.

They said that they did not agree with everything that was served on the table. Like this column pointed out earlier, they said that they had their own reservations about the Provincial Cricket tournament and the curtailment of the contract holders in Sri Lanka cricket.

Yes, now we learn that the Interim Committee members did meet ICC CEO David Richardson and the General Counsel Iain Higgins. At the same time we wonder why the Interim Committee secretary Prakash Schaffter was so reluctant to tell the legitimate cricket membership about what transpired at the meeting. With that he painted a different picture; everyone was under the impression that it was only the minister who met the ICC officials.

Then what transpired later was also confusing. The communiqué on the meeting came from the minister and not the Interim Committee. This is where we disagree. The minister may have been present during the meeting, but, what we feel is there were three Interim Committee officials at this meeting. The ICC has no dealings with the political hierarchy of Sri Lanka. That cavalcade is limited to the shores of Sri Lanka. SLC may not have its vote at the ICC now, but, the world body should have discussions with the cricket fraternity and not political representatives.

Interim Committee chairman Sidath Wettimuny as the gentlemen that he is, says he believes in transparency. But, the ministry communiqué did not say what took place at the meeting other than claiming, “Some headway has been made with regard to the resolving the concerns of the ICC and the Minister and the Officials of the SLC Interim Committee are confident the concerns of the ICC vis-à-vis SLC will be fully resolved in the near future and the SLC remains an active and vibrant member”.

It is obvious that the ICC still needs Lankan cricket and recognises it as a vibrant member. That is the very reason that they released a quantum of money towards cricketers’ payments. But, what the ICC does not agree is what lies at the same shelf as the IRB and the IOC. It does not recognise political interference in sport.

In all probabilities the ICC may have urged the minister to resolve the pending issues with the stakeholders as soon as possible, and may also have told him about the ICC stance on issues of this nature. Most of what transpired from the minister’s position during his meeting with the stakeholders pointed to that, when one reads between the lines.

However the stakeholders have stated that they cannot wait until the end of the year, as the minister requested, to have the next annual general meeting. They had requested to expedite whatever mechanism that they are hoping to install and get on with the matter. They are now scheduled to meet the rest of the stakeholders on Tuesday and then consider their future action.

At this point what we are worried about is the sequence of action. Upto now the Interim Committee has taken a few decisions and the stakeholders have shown their displeasure at them. Then it is going to be a tit-for-tat till the end of the year. Then what happens next, once the next AGM is held? Good if Jayananda Warnaweera, a vibrant stakeholder from the South, and company who are already in the Interim, Committee could muster the votes and bring someone of his choice to power. If not, what this entire Interim Committee would embark upon will be nullified by the next committee. The Lankan cricket would continue to degenerate and like the beggar’s wound the Sports Minister would keep flaunting the sports law at the playing field.

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