Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) elections are due on May 20 and there is a great chance of it ending up in court as it did in 2018. After all, trading allegations, filing objections and seeking legal intervention to stop the poll or get rid of individuals the stakeholders feel aren’t qualified for office are all [...]


Another legal battle looms after EC rejects objections


Former World Cup winning cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga shares the same table with his arch-rival Thilanga Sumathipala at the Silver Jubilee celebration of the 1996 World Cup victory held under the patronage of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Temple Trees.

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) elections are due on May 20 and there is a great chance of it ending up in court as it did in 2018. After all, trading allegations, filing objections and seeking legal intervention to stop the poll or get rid of individuals the stakeholders feel aren’t qualified for office are all par for the course.

Shocked by the Election Committee’s (EC) decision to reject all their objections, ‘The Big Three’, as they call themselves–K. Mathivanan, Nishantha Ranatunga and Bandula Warnapura–are ready to take up legal cudgels if the Appeal Board does not give them a “fair” hearing. They had opposed all candidates put forward by the current administration headed by Shammi Silva but the EC threw out their concerns, forcing them to appeal.

“We have filed objections against all of them,” said Nishantha Ranatunga, once a powerful Board Secretary, at a press conference at the Colombo Colts Cricket Club on Thursday. “We are very confident that, with the existing documentation and proof we have, apart from one candidate from their side (Samantha Dodanwela), the others are not qualified to run for office at the forthcoming elections. We will go to the Appeal Board through the Ministry of Sport and, if that too fails, we will seek court intervention.”

Both Mathivanan and Ranatunga were disappointed by the EC’s decision.

“We expected them to give us a positive response to our objections in terms of all the accusations we have made against the current office-bearers, and for all the violations they have done for which we have got documentary evidence,” Ranatunga said. “However, we are very disappointed with the response of the Elections Committee.”

Mathivanan has submitted his nomination to contest the post of President while former Sri Lanka skipper Bandula Warnapura will contest one of the two Vice-President posts. Ranatunga wants to be the Secretary, a position he enjoyed for six years from 2009-2015.

“In addition to the objections filed, we have also questioned the legality of the present SLC ExCo,” Ranatunga continued. “The maximum period of office according to SLC constitution is two years. The election was last held on February 21, 2019. We wrote to the Sports Minister, the Ministry Secretary and the Director-General Sports and we were told that the matter has been referred to the Attorney General for advice.”

The Ranatungas have been vehement critics of cricket administration. Nishantha’s brother, the World Cup-winning skipper, Arjuna, launched a scathing attack on Wednesday when the country celebrated the silver jubilee of the World Cup victory. He urged the Government to take necessary steps to establish good governance and to halt the slide of the game.

Separately, a group of former cricketers, administrators and civil society members are pleading before the Appeal Court to intervene in changing the archaic SLC constitution. The parliamentary watchdog body on public enterprises, COPE, has repeatedly grilled SLC officials over financial irregularities and procedural flaws.

The other faction, led by Shammi Silva, includes members of the current Executive Committee. They are confident of a victory if the election goes ahead as scheduled. Shammi Silva, Mohan de Silva ad Jayantha Dharmadasa have all given their nominations for the post of President while Dharmadasa, Ravin Wickremaratne, Bandula Dissanayake and Nalin Aponsu have submitted their names for Vice-President posts. Mohan de Silva, Nalin Aponsu and Bandula Dissanayake are also contesting the post of Secretary. For the Assistant Secretary post, Krishantha Kapuwatte, Bandula Dissanayake and Shammi Gunasekera have submitted nominations. Lasantha Wickremasinghe is uncontested for the post of Treasurer. Ananda Kumara and Sujeewa Godaliyadda are seeking election to the Assistant Treasurer post.

Ranatunga said he feared for the future of the game as Sri Lanka continues to struggle in the international stage. “The purpose of us trying to get into office is because cricket in this country has fallen into a very low position,” he maintained. “We have gone down in our rankings: 10th in T20, eighth in ODIs and seventh in Tests. A country that has won two World Cups and qualified for four World Cup finals and which, in 2015, was ranked number three in all three formats–this is the level to which cricket has fallen.”

“About 10 years back, there were only eight countries playing Test cricket,” he continued. “Then it became 10, now it has become 12. Although the number of countries has increased, the number of days for a year, 365, are the same. Now, the ICC is looking at reducing the number of teams, so there is a huge risk in terms of Sri Lanka going down to the second grade. That is why we thought, as a responsible club and as individuals who have played the game at international level and first-class level, we should put forward our nominations to try and change things at SLC.”

“We are very confident our cricketing talent is there, but it is how you manage them and how you groom them is the issue,” Ranatunga said. “We have not seen any ‘A’ team or Under-19 tours, we have not seen money invested on school cricket or on school tournaments, no competitive tournaments at any level of cricket. The level of cricket has gone down and it is not because of any lack of talent, but due to administrative issues.”

“The President of Cricket in 1996 Ana Punchihewa mentioned that he had only six staff members to run the Cricket Board and only Rs. 300,000 in the kitty,” he pointed out. “With six people, we have never heard of players being refused visas. Today, SLC is spending 40-50% of its revenue on staff and some of the players are even not getting their visas. It is an administrative lapse. Also, if you look at the financial part, the present members of the SLC cannot go and answer questions raised by the COPE committee. We see that cricket-wise, administration-wise and finances-wise, they have failed. That is the purpose of us coming forward to revamp cricket.”

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