Sports Minister can regulate, but cannot manipulate – Keerthinanda
The appointment of an ‘Independent Panel of Governance Experts’ by Sports Minister Roshan Ranasingha this week to draft a new constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has been labeled as direct political interference in the governance of the country’s richest sports body.
These appointments come pursuant to a writ application (No. 460/2020) in the Court of Appeal that sought to amend or draft a new constitution for SLC. The case came up for arguments on Friday and the judge had reserved the decision.
“Minister can and should regulate sports bodies but he should not manipulate them,” pointed out sports law expert Panduka Keerthinanda, calling the Minister’s action as ‘politically motivated’.
Keerthinanda, who had been involved with the Ministry of Sports as a legal consultant, said that amending the constitution of an independent sport governing body was solely the task of its own membership, not the Ministry.
The Minister’s failure to abide by Section 16 of the country’s sports policy, which emphasises the independence of sports organisations, and the violation of international sports laws could lead to SLC being handed a ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC) due to political interference, he warned.
If SLC receives a ban, it will be the third sports body in Sri Lanka to be sanctioned by its global or regional body, following Sri Lanka Rugby and the Football Federation of Sri Lanka under Minister Ranasingha. Interestingly the sports bodies governing cricket, football, and rugby are the three richest out of all Ministry of Sports affiliations.
“SLC and all other sports bodies have their own constitution adopted at Special General Meetings by the memberships. I don’t know how the minister is going to force them to adopt a constitution in which they have no involvement”.
“If there are issues with the constitution, the minister can issue directives to SLC or any other sports body to rectify them. In the event of corruption, there are laws to deal with it but what we see here is a blindside move,” he added.
The committee headed by Supreme Court Judge Justice KT Chitrasiri includes Dr. Duminda Hulangamuwa, Dr. Ariththa Wickramanayake, President’s Counsel Harsha Amarasekera, Major General (Retd) Renuka Rowell, Deepthika Kulasena, Gayal Kalatuwawa, Hariguptha Rohanadeera and former cricketers Charith Senanayake and Farveez Maharoof as members.
Issuing a media release on Thursday, Minister said the panel would conduct ‘necessary stakeholders inquiries and deliberations, impartially and objectively, with the assistance, guidance, and advice of the Technical Committee of the International Cricket Council (ICC)’.
The minister also said that he expected the committee to draft the proposed new constitution within two months. SLC earned its income largely through ICC funding and sale of television and team sponsorship rights. The government does not provide them with any financial assistance.
Hours before the appointment of the committee SLC said they had recorded a profit of Rs. 6.3billion last year. However, this was largely due to the exchange rate gain.
“If the sports body gets banned who is going to take the responsibility?”, Keerthinanda asked.
“FIFA has banned Sri Lanka Football and no one is taking responsibility. The entire football system is in a crisis now: no competitions, no payments to players and staff. I hope the minister will realise the gravity of his action and take necessary steps to safeguard the independence of sports associations”.