The National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOC) has a proud history of 79-years, beginning in 1937. At present it has 25 sport bodies affiliated. Since then Sri Lanka has won two Olympic medals. The first by Duncan White, winning the silver medal in the 400 metre Hurdles in 1948 London Olympics, and the second [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

‘No-go’ situation at the National Olympic Committee


The National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOC) has a proud history of 79-years, beginning in 1937. At present it has 25 sport bodies affiliated. Since then Sri Lanka has won two Olympic medals. The first by Duncan White, winning the silver medal in the 400 metre Hurdles in 1948 London Olympics, and the second another silver by Susanthika Jayasinghe in the 200metre event in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  The NOC commenced their work in rented rooms at the beginning, and shifted here and there before it found its permanent nest — the fully fledged four storied ‘Olympic House’ at Torrington.

Hemasiri Fernando, once a champion rifle shooter, is the present president of NOC, and has held this position for a period for 19 years. Even the elections was called for NOC in year 2013, it was postponed indefinitely. A disparity had been in existence in regard to certain clauses of the constitution of NOC and the Olympic Charter from the very inception. Hence the constitution of NOC has not been approved by the IOC. The NOC has not made much of an effort to rectify this situation for the last 19 years. The NOC last conducted elections on July 2009 and the fresh elections were due before July 13, 2013.

The incumbent President and Secretary General after realising that it would not be possible for them to retain their positions democratically have written to the IOC without the approval of the Executive Committee, and that the prevailing sports law and regulations will not create an environment to conduct an impartial election and therefore, to permit them to postpone the election. The President and Secretary had cited the recent regulations promulgated by the Minister of Sports as the elements which are restricting the autonomy of the Sports Federations.  This series of occurrences has made NOC one of the key talking points in the local sporting arena. The Sunday Times spoke to four personalities connected to sports with a deep knowledge on the ins and outs of the related subject. Following are the views.



Hemasiri Fernando  (President – National Olympic Committee)

I have to say that for not holding the NOC election, it was not due to our fault. The total responsibility should be taken by previous sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and his legal advisor, in the sports ministry. The present officials of sports ministry too, should take the responsibility. The previous officials of the sports ministry, amended the sports law, without considering the constitution of International Olympic Committee (IOC). During that occasion, the previous officials never discussed the amended law with us. They disregarded the constitution of IOC. The IOC issued a stay order not to hold NOC elections.

Then only the sports ministry officials realised how they have violated the IOC law. I must say the previous and present officials of the sports ministry have no knowledge of the constitution of IOC. I have no interest to hold into power as the President of NOC. I was appointed as the President of NOC in 1997 uncontested, and in the next election once nominations are called, I will leave office without contesting in a respectable way. I will not allow politicians to become the President of NOC, and tarnish the image and I too will not contest at all. I am the only person in Asia to hold the post of Presidency for the last 19 years.

I ask all the detractors to compare and see the progress being made in sports under my presidency during this period and before that. I vehemently say that NOC is not responsible at all for the downfall of sports in the country. The NOC, is not an international medal manufacturing company. To upgrade the sports in the country, the total responsibility should be taken by the ministry of sports. To develop sports, there is a separate unit called, department of sports development. They receive fundings from the government and their main target should be to develop the sport and there are sport associations who can coordinate and develop sport.

Our main responsibility as the NOC is to coordinate, the IOC sporting events, Olympics, Asian and South Asian Games. And apart from this events, the Commonwealth Games.  The other responsibilities are to coordinate the scholarships of IOC and Asian Olympic Committee (AOC) to the suitable athletes and coaches.  If many say that sports in this country is going in a downward trend, we cannot take that responsibility.

K.S. Peiris (Retired Deputy Director Sports, Department of Sport Development)

Sports in Sri Lanka, in whole has fallen to the lowest depth. For this, I say three parties are responsible. The first is the Ministry of Sports, the National Olympic Committee (NOC) and sport bodies. For the breakdown in sports, these three entities are fully responsible.  The NOC is fully responsible for the sports in our country, competing in international level competitions. We can see how the president, secretary and other officials of NOC, has violated the sports law and been in the office for the last 19 years with the political backing. The officials of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are in the office for two terms only (8 years), but it is totally the opposite in Sri Lanka.

The president and the secretary of NOC, as per their wish change the other officials like similar to musical chairs but they both hold their positions for a long time. For this grave situation at the NOC, I directly blame the sports ministers and sports ministry top officials. They never carry on the sports law against the NOC, due to the benefits they receive in return. From year 1997 to 2006, the audit report has not been finalised. This serious issue came alight when sports ministry made an inquiry, and finally came to a conclusion that NOC’s action was unlawful.
Also some time back when then MP, Arjuna Ranatunga, filed a case against NOC, a presidential investigation unit found out that NOC is responsible for large scale financial fraud, but no stern action has been taken so far.

The NOC elections was planned to held in year 2013, but these officials took a special order from the IOC, to not to proceed with the elections, which is totally unlawful. There is no NOC like this in other countries. The present set of Officials must resign immediately from NOC. If not, as per the powers vested in the hands of Sports minister, the NOC should be dissolved immediately. There were serious allegations against the present secretary of NOC. He has allegedly arranged foreign trips to officials of sports ministry and ministers to cover up the issues at NOC.
The President and the secretary of NOC, by taking refuge in International Olympic Committee (IOC) they postpone the elections day by day since 2013.  Also there are no plans to hold NOC elections for this year as well. And due to this grave issues at NOC, how can we develop the sport?


Major General Palitha Fernando  (Former President Athletic Association/Vice President NOC)

Presently the NOC is weak. It is run by selected few according to their wishes. NOC has not anything to uplift the game in Sri Lanka. The action of NOC is similar to a travel agent, only foreign tours. They associate few people who are closed to them and run the NOC. I am a vice president of NOC. But for the last two years there was no council meeting and I have not been informed. In the past due to the postponement of elections at the NOC, to discuss the reason, we submitted a letter signed by ten sports bodies calling for an emergency meeting but there was no feedback. The President, Secretary and officials close to them discuss and take decisions. Their decisions has not helped the sports in the country. The person who is trying to destroy the NOC, and giving false information to the president is none other than the secretary. The secretary of NOC, has no legitimate right to stay in the position. He has violated the rules. Also we recently filed an action against the secretary, highlighting the fact, that he has been appointed unlawfully as the secretary of NOC, without holding a position in a Sports association prior to contesting. He has submitted false documents mentioning he was an official of Tennis Association, but it was not to be. In the inquiry committee, I was there and it was proven he has submitted false set of documents, but so far no action has been taken.

K.D.S. Ruwanchandra  (Director General – Department of Sports Development)

We have taken this matter to the legal draftsman on sports law and regulation but they have rejected it. We cannot accept, amendments to the sports law and regulations recommended by the IOC. Due to this non-acceptance by the legal draftsman, we have submitted to the legal advisory committee of the sports ministry to take a look and advise back. This is not an easy task to get the confirmation from the legal draftsman.
(He further did not commented on this subject as he was reluctant to go beyond this point. With promise of calling back he kept the phone down but never did so. Neither did he respond to our calls again.)


Susanthika Jayasinghe  (Silver Medallist in Sydney Olympics 2000)

I have no right to speak about the NOC. I am presently holding no positions at any sports association. I am a South Asian, World Championship and Olympic medallist only. I have no right to speak about the administration of the NOC.

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