Tampering is how the media described the saga of an unsigned letter dated March 20, purportedly sent by Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) to the Minister of Sports (MoS). Rugby circles buzzed with news about a letter supposed to be sent by SLR to the MoS about the appointment of a new Selection Committee comprising Rohan [...]


Sri Lanka Rugby, stop wheeling your scrum


Tampering is how the media described the saga of an unsigned letter dated March 20, purportedly sent by Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) to the Minister of Sports (MoS). Rugby circles buzzed with news about a letter supposed to be sent by SLR to the MoS about the appointment of a new Selection Committee comprising Rohan Abayakoon (Chairman), Kapila Knowlton, L.V. Ekanayake and the High Performance Director (HPD). A source from the Council confirmed there were issues raised and loud arguments ensued.

The argument was that the Council has not approved nor were they aware, until a copy of the letter was directed to the hands of some Council members. Tampered does not seem to be the word that describes the scenario. It now appears to be a tampon to cover up. Or, is it a borderline between a jumper and a business suit. Fraud or maneuvering is words used to describe the same things, but gives a different punch when used.

I sent a mail to SLR Secretary Nazeem Mohamed to get more information, and followed it with a reminder, but received no response. The copy of the letter in my possession has no signature, but has an endorsement by the MoS to do the needful. I asked SLR Vice President Lasitha Gunaratne about the Selectors and the HPD not seeing eye to eye.

His answer was more in line with statements attributed to the Executive President, “I too came to know about this through the media.” To me the words seemed to have more meaning. Is he in or out of the loop? I wondered why he was not in Parliament taking part in the ‘No-Confidence’ Motion, and repeat that we are “not for”, but still we will continue.

This is not the only secretion that splashes on the walls, but reading our sister paper the Daily Mirror, there seemed more reasons than that meets the eye to suspect tampering. The signs of reason leading to submission of such a letter or, a quasi letter, is more apparent, reading the comments in the Daily Mirror of last Saturday.

The paper quotes SLR HPD Inthi Marikar having said, “The National Rugby Selectors did not attend any of the practice sessions carried out prior to the Commonwealth Games. The National Selectors have selected the squad, but they did not come for any single practice session.”

Meanwhile, National Selection Committee Chairman Michael Jayasekara conceded they did miss a few practice sessions.

“I have been to the ground most of the times, but yes, I did miss a few practice sessions, because I am working full time, which makes it difficult for me to attend practice sessions conducted at 10 am and 1 pm. Anyway, I don’t believe that Selectors attending training sessions could have a huge impact on the selections, because it’s during games you have to judge players. The fitness of the players is tested before we select the squad anyway. It’s very unfortunate that no selector is allowed to go on tours because, as a selector, you need to watch them play, not practice.”

These comments and contradictions are important on the eve of the proposed amendments to the SLR constitution, to keep in line with the Sports Law. One of the changes envisaged is the Selection Committee being appointed at the SLR AGM, as against the present requirement where, from the names recommended, the MoS selects and appoints.

The expectation is more in line with the needs arising from Rugby being a Olympic Sport. Among other inclusions is a Technical Committee and progressive steps for the betterment of the game. With the appointment of the Selection Committee by the Sports Association, is to keep them independent from politics.

On the eve of the proposed amendments when, not so constitutionally and politically incorrect action precedes, the expected independence is jeopardized by action that does not follow due process. The HPD has a point, when he has to deliver and the team may not be by what fits to the plan of high performance, as well as the coach. What is important is for the Selectors and Coaches to discuss plans and fit the players to that plan.

However, the public statements and the counter statements will do little to develop relationships for a better future for the game. Similarly, when there are questions raised about the authenticity of a letter which, allegedly, had no signature, will only serve to dent the reputation of the game. It is the same as the Secretary who shall have a greater degree of responsibility, has no time to answer, as the issue is irregular and borders on being fraudulent.

With emphasis on governance and the likes of officials being hauled before the judiciary for having carried out instructions, there is a responsibility of all in the Council to be aware and to be responsible for governance.

A Council member who does not want to be named, as he may be hauled for talking to the media, said there was a committee appointed to find out what happened. It never saw the light of day, as it was to comprise of 3, but the third has not been named. However, he said the admin. committee is on a mission to find out how that letter got into the hands of some Council members. The importance is not to find out who leaked, but to follow a due process. It is necessary to go forward and, if there is a need to remove a barrier (Selectors) in the name of progress, then do so by all means.

But, what is important is the process that will keep the intention away from being criticised. After all, HPD Marikkar, with his exposure to the New Zealand Rugby scene, as claimed, is sweating out for better performance. Michael Jayasekera, a former great, has to find time in between work, life which he gives to Rugby I believe is gratis too, has to be appreciated for the commitment he has given. All for Rugby, where some are paid for their efforts, while others are not. Therefore, what is important is to sit and work towards the betterment of the game, because Rugby in Sri Lanka needs all.

Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, Coach and an Accredited Referees’ Evaluator IRB


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