The National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL) is looking to decorate the streets. Its Annual General Meeting (AGM) is just around the corner and arrangements are underway to refurbish the office. Last week we sought the views of the faction that is seeking to establish good governance and accountability, with NOCSL executive committee member [...]


NOCSL conundrum – Sec.Gen. Maxwell de Silva speaks out


Maxwell speaking at a NOCSL Conference

The National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL) is looking to decorate the streets. Its Annual General Meeting (AGM) is just around the corner and arrangements are underway to refurbish the office.

Last week we sought the views of the faction that is seeking to establish good governance and accountability, with NOCSL executive committee member Prithi Perera airing his views.

This time we have the flip-side of the coin. Sitting on the podium this time is the incumbent NOCSL Secretary General, Maxwell de Silva; one of the main actors in the post-2013 NOCSL conundrum; he took time with Musings to give his side of the story.

Initially, we asked about the accusations of holding on to the seats for a lengthy period and especially, the NOCSL being dormant, and the only two active members were President Hemasiri Fernando and Maxwell de Silva, since 2013.

De Silva explains, “Firstly, it is incorrect to describe the NOCSL as being dormant. The reason is, there was a team of officials working in this office, along with Hemasiri Fernando and me, from 2013 to date. Rohan Fernando was appointed to the finance committee, where he was the chairman during that period. From that point there were so many others who were appointed to the ProcurementCommittee and Education Committee, to name a few.

“The members who are now talking about transparency and good governance were there with us even during that time. We conducted workshops such as the Olympic Sports Academy, Advance Sports Management programme at Bandarawela, the Olympic Fun Run, the Olympic Day Run and many other activities. Besides that, we have been attending meetings overseas connected with IOC matters. Prithi Perera was there for a few meetings and, in short, when there were Olympic related activities such as various games, they all were a part of it. If someone says they were not involved, it is incorrect.

“Deva Henry is a frequent visitor to this office, almost five days a week, and has assisted us in numerous ways, while Nishanthe Piyasena has been in and out of this office and is a frequent visitor. So are Joseph Kenny, Chandana Perera and Gamini Jayasingha.”

De Silva admits that he is at the NOCSL almost on a permanent basis, engaged as the Secretary General but, he has his own Freight Forwarding and Shipping Company to earn his keep. Prior to that, President Hemasiri Fernando was there full time, he says. But, he adds, “We are all volunteers and all these positions have to be in that capacity.”

Besides that, de Silva says the NOCSL office functions in full capacity and it is incorrect to say that the office is inactive.  “If there were shortcomings, they also should have been a part to rectify any shortcomings.”

At that point the Musings inquired what happened in 2013? What really occurred between the NOCSL and the Ministry of Sports during the time of Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage?

De Silva replies: “That was a very difficult time for the NOCSL. People have forgotten what really transpired within the walls of the NOCSL office at that time. At that time, to resolve the issue, myself, Rohan Fernando, Prithi Perera and a few others went to Lausanne and worked towards the autonomy of the organisation, fighting the case and sports law. At that time, with a very strong government in power, there were certain risks involved. Our main concern was that we negotiated with the Ministry of Sports and got the intrusive clauses out of the way. There, we put a lot of pressure on the IOC and basically, we were successful in our endeavour.”

We point out to de Silva that it was at that point that the division within the NOCSL community began to surface.

De Silva said, “I don’t call it a division; I would prefer it to be called as a difference of opinion. However, right through that period, we had to negotiate with the different Sports Ministers and, even at present, the workload is the same. However, there are some changes that have to be effected in the Sports Law, and I hope we would be able to achieve them without delay. But, a team will always have difference of opinion and this came upon especially with the elections coming around the corner. Obviously, now there are two factions. But, just because they are in two camps, you cannot absolve yourself from your responsibilities; they all should be responsible for what happened in this organisation from 2013. Nobody can say ‘I did not know’.  They were all part of the process.”

Then the Musings dwelt upon the subject of incomplete audited accounts and the frequent overseas travel that de Silva has been involved with.

The NOCSL Secretary General said, “Yes, I have travelled on many occasions – sometimes when President Hemasiri Fernando is unable to attend certain meetings, I have attended those meetings. Being a part of the IOC movement, I have also attended games – which is a part of the process. At the same time, very frequently I have travelled with someone in the committee. However, whatever the travel I have done, I have briefed my superiors before and after the travel. At the same time, we have also managed to bring in positive vibes within the IOC movement, which has stood in good stead for us.”

Then we asked about the transparency and accountability? He replied, “Transparency and accountability – the words have been flaunted in many ways in this country. I wonder if they know the meaning of what they are talking about. Transparency is not telling everything but we have nothing to hide. Talking about accountability – we have accounted for everything in the proper manner. There even was a question from the IOC about a certain document and we provided them with the answers. Some people are asking about the audits, but the IOC is well satisfied with the way the NOCSL is being conducted, and we are being looked upon as a model entity.”

The Musings then moved the question, “There is an accusation that even the recently passed constitution was changed, when they forwarded it to the IOC – on that face how can you call it transparency?”

De Silva replied, “Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. You have to look at the evidence. I have the document. I have the tape anybody who is challenging me can come and listen to the tape. What happened is the pen-drive that was given to me after the meeting stating that all the amendments have been made – I say they have done the amendments prior to the meeting, not knowing whether it would be accepted or not. But, I accepted that. When you look at it, what was not discussed we cannot accept. There were two issues. Clause 16:10 – ‘in order of seniority’, I was told that I have deleted, but when I went through it, it was not in the original document. Therefore, it is a wrong interpretation. With regard to the term limit for the President and the secretary general – the question was raised by Suresh Subramanium asking from the chair – When would this be effected? Those are the two items in question. The way it was put to the house, there were no objections and then it was carried forward. It is taken as accepted. There was no vote taken because we did not want a division in the house.”

Finally, the incumbent NOCSL Secretary General added, “I received the outcome of the IOC deliberations on Wednesday. Right along I knew that I was right. The IOC now says that as there is no proper direction in the deliberations in the papers that were presented, neither the executive committee meeting they were clamouring for on 24th November nor the AGM scheduled for January 9, could be held.”

Yet, there is still some hope left for the opposition. According to de Silva, there would be an SGM on either December 28 or 29 to deliberate the next date for the AGM. In all probability the next date would be end January or early February. However, according to de Silva, all would depend upon the date they can come up with the audited accounts. He said, “At the last meeting, Fernando and the others made it an issue. Then why have any misgivings, we can hold a proper Annual General Meeting when all these criteria are fulfilled”.

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