Politics in Sri Lanka seems to play the same melody from time to time. If there is nothing else to gain publicity, lets attack the cricketers! In 2015 when Kusal Janith Perera was allegedly approached, and such approach was informed to the then captain of the team, Angelo Mathews and was reported to the ICC [...]


The ‘Cricketing’ Madness


Cricket is more than a passion in Sri Lanka, and that may be one reason it's also victimised

Politics in Sri Lanka seems to play the same melody from time to time. If there is nothing else to gain publicity, lets attack the cricketers!

In 2015 when Kusal Janith Perera was allegedly approached, and such approach was informed to the then captain of the team, Angelo Mathews and was reported to the ICC Anti-Corruption officer, for reasons unknown to the author or to anyone for that matter, the much feared ‘FCID’ and the regime at the time decided to conduct a full blown investigation. UNDER WHICH LAW – NO ONE KNEW??

The players who were asked to appear before the FCID were thereafter interrogated for hours and were required to produce all personal information including their financial information. All this transpired because a national player took it upon himself to “report” an attempted approach made on him as he is compelled to do in terms of the ICC Anti-Corruption Code to the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit.

Why the FCID wanted to inquire into this is a conundrum. The players who were summoned in the “guise” of witnesses were in fact interrogated as though they were SUSPECTS traumatizing the players. There was no doubt that the FCID was devoid of any legal power to inquire into the said complaint.

However, the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit conducted its own investigations into the matter and cleared all players in a discrete, confidential manner devoid of any media frenzy and most importantly without the intervention of Sri Lankan Politics.

Deja vu in 2020

The Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports Act, which was enacted in November 2019, is timely and essential for Sri Lanka. However, the most recent inquiry into an allegation which dates back to 2011 commenced a few days ago in complete violation of Article 13 of the Constitution, which confirms that no person could be punished for an act which was not classified as an offence at the time.

It was categorically mentioned by the Complainant former Sports Minster Aluthgamage, that he does not allege the involvement of any player, but suspects that the World Cup final held in 2011 was fixed. This too is confusing, to say the least.

How can a match be fixed without the knowledge of the players? The veracity of the complaint and the availability of evidence should have been the very first matter to have been inquired into by the Special Police team, before summoning the players and officials. After all, the Sports Ministry would have had the required documentation to confirm who approved the players for the World Cup final, and the authorities ought to have been intrigued as to why such a complaint was made after so many years.

In terms of the Anti-Corruption Code of the ICC , the Sports Minister at the time was also duty bound to bring such/ any misconduct to the notice of the Anti-Corruption Unit of the ICC and his failure to report any misconduct in respect of match fixing or the failure to co-operate in respect of an investigation is an offence as per the ICC Anti-Corruption Code. Not withstanding several deficiencies in the complaint itself, the inquiry commenced in a jiffy, which is in record time for a Sri Lankan inquiry, summoning and interrogating players and officials for considerable periods of time.

How can an inquiry which has “commenced”, end
so rapidly???

Aravinda de Silva, Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara were summoned before the SIU and questioned. Mahela Jayawardene was also summoned but was later informed that he was to be questioned later. In a sudden turn of events, the Police team concluded the inquiry on Friday afternoon, informing that the Players have been cleared and the Inquiry had to be terminated due to the lack of evidence.

The Complainant former  Minister Aluthgamage however took up the position that the Police had made a mockery of the investigation where the inquiry was in the hands of the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit. Alex Marshal the head of the ICC Anti- Corruption categorically issued a press release confirming that there was no record of any complaint lodged at the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit in respect of the 2011 World Cup final.

The inquiry, though ex facie illegal, has seemingly commenced even without ascertaining whether there was sufficient evidence. Thus, by summoning these players and officials, Sri Lanka has managed to attract global attention much to the detriment of the “Sri Lanka Cricket” brand and its iconic ambassadors.

Cricketers are always

Past and present cricketers who have made a conscious effort to keep away from Sri Lankan politics, seem to command the highest degree of public respect and are adored the most by the general public. Owing to their immense fame and popularity, their assistance is likely to be sought by various political parties for various reasons, but more specifically to garner the support of the masses.

Unfortunately, when these cricketers are publicly slandered, directly or even in innuendo, the parties orchestrating such, are likely to gain immense publicity. This is an undeniable fact, which cannot be ignored thereby making all past and present players extremely vulnerable.

Though Section 13 of the Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports Act acts as strong deterrent against any 3rd party attempting to make unsubstantiated frivolous allegations by imposing criminal liability on a party making such an allegation, with knowledge of its falsehood, to set the ball rolling in a criminal proceeding and to find a man guilty on the criminal evidentiary standard of Beyond Reasonable Doubt is seemingly far fetched.

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