‘Choose ‘Betting’ Shammi or me,’ Sports Minister tells President Even though the Lankan Parliament rose unanimously with both hands raised to support SJB’s motion to dissolve Sri Lanka’s Cricket Board, and even though President Ranil Wickremesinghe called for the Chitrasiri Report for a new SLC constitution to be enacted to completely revamp Sri Lanka Cricket, [...]


ICC suspends Sri Lanka as Parliament unites to end Shammi’s reign of cricket


  • ‘Choose ‘Betting’ Shammi or me,’ Sports Minister tells President

Even though the Lankan Parliament rose unanimously with both hands raised to support SJB’s motion to dissolve Sri Lanka’s Cricket Board, and even though President Ranil Wickremesinghe called for the Chitrasiri Report for a new SLC constitution to be enacted to completely revamp Sri Lanka Cricket, both Parliament resolution and Presidential intent have been rendered ineffectual by writs for stay orders granted to the Cricket Board’s President Shammi Silva by President of the Appeal Court Justice Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne.

Soon after the debate had reached its climax, the euphoric spirits on both sides of the House were deflated when Justice Minister Wijeyadasa broke the bad news.

He said that this same court of the Appeal Court had given three stay orders.

nOne, it has banned the recommendations of the Kusala Wijewardene committee report on corruption and fraud that took place during the T20 World Cup tournament from being legally executed.

WHO WILL TRIUMPH, SPORTS’ MATADOR OR CRICKET’S SACRED BULL? El President to judge the winner. Pictured above Shammi, left, Roshan, center, and the President, right.

nTwo, it has banned Hon. Judge Chitrasiri’s draft on a new constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket from being enacted. The same court had banned it about two months ago and the order is still in force.

nThree, it has banned the Minister’s gazette to dismiss the present Cricket Board and to appoint an interim committee.

Even as Lanka’s hopes to see the national team bring the World Cup home had floundered in the dust, had the Executive’s and Parliament’s combined will to lift the game to old heights again, ended without result?

For years Sri Lanka’s Cricket Board has been a masonic conclave, an unholy sea of corruption and a mountain of extravagance. The limitless income that pours today from the cornucopia of international cricket, has enabled many of its high priests to buy power and influence and to take all measures to protect their secretive domain from external Government threat.

Last year’s high jinx of these high priests and their acolytes while in Australia for the T20 world Cup Final when they allegedly had wielded the pillow behind closed doors with ease while eleven young men toiled but failed to wield the willow on the field, were almost exposed but swiftly hushed by a successful exercise in damage control. In the flurry of reports that certain film actresses had been given flight tickets free, one official had allegedly said: ‘If we can’t take actresses, are we to take prisoners to Australia?’

It was clear they’d become a law unto themselves. And their conduct, not open to reproach.

At the altar of cricket—now almost the State religion—where hosannas were sung for miracles wrought on the turf, the tabernacle of faith was enriched by the devout worship of transfixed sheep. While the national team was adulated and repeatedly beatified whenever they notched a win or castrated should they suffer defeat, from pew or aisle or from the nave there never came a whisper of dissent against the sanctified in the Sanctuary.

What powers they abused or thieved from the vestry, or of the mysterious ways they worked, not a revealing word left the confessional. As long as some foreign lamb was occasionally slaughtered on some far-flung playing field to sate the blood lust of elite yokels, the surrounding jubilance and frenzied applause served as a shield to protect Shammi and mates in the Cricket Board who, in the excess of wealth, collectively reigning held the tyranny of Lanka’s cricket.

But now that drought has laid its accursed siege on cricketing triumphs on field, those halcyon days when pastures were green and the land yielded ripened fruit may have come to an end. Cricket’s demigods now await with trembling fears the prospect of being toppled from their pedestals and brought to the ground. The local fans denied victories on the field watched this week on TV screens with intense excitement at the unfolding action beyond the ropes in Parliament. The field was set, contenders armed, and the gloves were off. The battle was poised to begin.

Last Thursday, Sri Lanka had her nose rubbed in on the pitch of Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium when India bundled out the entire team for a measly 55 runs to win the match by a massive 302 runs. Such humiliation was too much to endure for Lanka’s Lion pride, already licking the wounds of disgrace for a string of defeats it had suffered in the run-up to the World Cup finals.

Last year the Lankan team’s disastrous T20 World Cup Australian tour coupled with the Danushka Gunetillaka incident off the field, had shown not only the depths to which discipline had fallen among the players but also revealed the cavalier attitude of Cricket Board high-ups with allegations flying that they had flown a starlet squad at public expense for their own cheer and amusement.

Though Danushka Gunetillaka was acquitted of the rape offence by a Melbourne judge acting alone without a jury of 12, Lanka’s Cricket Board officials remained condemned by a Lankan jury of 22 million. No amount of spit-and-polish could restore the sheen of Lankan Cricket, taken off by high jinx both on and off the field. It clearly became apparent that Sri Lankan cricket had gone to seed. Certainly, it was time to call for the new ball.

Last Friday, Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe turned matador to take Lanka’s cricket bull by the horns. In a media release, he called for the resignation of the entire Board.  He said: ’Sri Lanka officials have no moral, ethical right to remain in office.’ He used his ministerial powers and issued a government gazette on Sunday night sacking the lot and installing, in its stead, an interim committee headed by Arjuna Ranatunga.

But the President of the Cricket Board, Shammi de Silva did not take his gazetted dismissal on Monday morn lying down. He sprang to action and petitioned the Appeal Court for a stay order. That morn itself at 10.10 am, Justice Sri Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne, granted Shammi Silva 3 interim orders.

The first, to suspend the operation of the gazette till November 16th. The second, to prevent the interim committee from acting in their respective positions, and the third, to prevent the Sports Minister from interfering in the activities of Shammi Silva and the other officials of the Cricket Board.

Unbeknown to the Sports Minister that his gazette had been suspended—for he said he hadn’t been noticed to appear in court to raise objections—the new interim committee chairman Arjuna was holding a press conference from his new office at Sri Lanka Cricket. But his cameo appearance as a reborn Captain Fantastic was cut short that afternoon itself when the court’s stay order on the gazette forfeited him his new sceptre and throne. He left, without a wicket or run to his name, for Shammi Silva to return to Cricket’s Camelot to occupy the crease as usual.

The following day Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe told Parliament that he had met the President after Monday’s Cabinet meeting. He said: ‘President Ranil Wickremesinghe wanted me to abolish the interim committee.  The President said he will take over the subject of sports under his purview. Then, I told him to remove me from the Cabinet. Sri Lanka Cricket is run by robbers. Therefore, I will not abolish the interim committee’.

The visionary President had, however, long realised that Sri Lanka Cricket was rotten at the core and that no interim committee could entertain the slightest hope to resolve the deep seated issues. He was of the firm view that only a complete revamp including a new Act could effectively resurrect Lanka’s cricket.

The President’s Media Division issued a statement on his plans to resolve the crisis by having an 18 member director board to govern its affairs.

The press release stated: ‘A new constitution was commissioned by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who believes that a mere interim committee will not be sufficient to tackle the complex issues plaguing Sri Lankan Cricket’.

‘The “Chitrasiri Committee Report,” presented to President Wickremesinghe last month, was originally intended to be submitted to Parliament after the conclusion of the 2023 Cricket World Cup and the presentation of the 2024 budget’. The statement added that the Chitrasiri Report was formally handed over to the Chairman of the Cabinet Sub-Committee by President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayaka on Tuesday.

With the President joining in the attack with a plan to completely overhaul the present cricket set up, government MPs joined the SJB led charge to dissolve the Cricket Board.

On Wednesday, Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, in a blistering speech against the Cricket Board, told Parliament that he believed some interested persons are out to mislead the President by giving him false information on cricket. He said: ‘The President should decide whether he wants Roshan Ranasinghe or betting Shammi against such a backdrop’.

The Minister made the startling claim in the House that out of all the 173 court rooms from the Supreme Court to the Magistrates Courts, one court room – Room No 301 – has tipped the scales of justice in favour of Shammi’s Cricket Board. He charged that the writ to suspend his interim committee which had been obtained from this court room, involved a conflict of

He claimed in Parliament that Shammi Silva’s close aide and friend Asela Rekawe, the chairman of the Cricket Board’s Disciplinary Committee from 2016 to 2018, who had appeared for the Cricket Board in courts and who is a member of the Cricket Board’s disciplinary Committee probing Danushka Gunathilaka’s Australian incident, had given rise to this conflict of interest since his mother’s sister is the wife of Justice Karunaratne who had granted the writ to Cricket Board’s President Shammi Silva.

On Thursday immediately after both sides of the House had passed the SJB resolution to dissolve the Cricket Board, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa said the House does not cast any imputation on the impartiality of any judge in the Supreme or Appeal Courts down to the Magistrates Courts. He said what transpired the day before was an isolated incident in one particular court room and did not reflect upon the entire judiciary.

On Friday night, the Justice Minister told TV reporters, the Sports Minister will bring this to the notice of the courts and the courts will give their judgement.  He said:’ Parliament has unanimously held that this was not the correct procedure to issue court orders and the courts will give the appropriate order’.

Sports Minister Ranasinghe declared: ‘On Monday I will be going to the Appeal Court. If we do not get justice, I will appeal to the Supreme Court. But henceforth I have no trust or faith in the Attorney General and henceforth I will hire private counsel.’

But that will not be the end of the Minister’s battles. He faces the task of convincing the ICC on November 21st why it was imperative to interfere in the workings of the Cricket Board, convince the ICC Board that no Government in the world can look askance at corrupting and fraud in any field or body, however rich.

The ICC in its Friday night statement said that, ‘Sri Lanka Cricket had breached its obligations as a member, in particular the requirement to manage its affairs autonomously and without government interference. This would make Shammi and his mates’—still recognised in ICC eyes as the elected representatives of SLC—bounden duty to show that their management and conduct of SLC affairs were so above board that it did not warrant government interference.

The 10-day suspension, until the ICC Board meets to decide a future course of action, is, perhaps, a necessary price to pay for the Sport Minister’s decision to finally clean cricket’s Aegean Stables.

In this instance, public wrath at being denied their ritually celebrated cricket feasts, would be better directed against the Cricket Board for having invited SLS suspension by its squalid record than on the President and his government who otherwise would have been accused by the opposition of protecting the rich and powerful.

What of the Talban controlled Afghanistan’s Cricket Board? Is that okay for ICC?

JVP’s vanishing act just before the vote

JVP leader Anura Kumara’s lame duck excuse on Friday for his party’s sudden disappearance from Parliament on Thursday just before the vote was taken on the SJB motion to dissolve the Cricket Board, was to say that they had assumed a vote would not be called since both Government and opposition leaders had supported the resolution.

Assumed? Not when the Standing Orders entitled a party to demand the Speaker for a vote even when the House was unanimous on a motion, as Kiriella pointed to Anura soon after his explanation. Anura admitted Kiriella was correct but said they should have been informed. Kiriella replied saying he had sent three messages.

Anura’s attack on Prasanna Ranatunga who had pointed to their conspicuous absence at the crucial time on Thursday, accusing Prasanna of being a convicted extortionist who had no right to say the JVP had been bought by the Cricket Board, was no defence to the question asked as to why they had failed to vote with the rest in the House.

To plead ignorance of Parliamentary procedure and of a party leaders’ rights under Standing Orders, adversely reflects on his leadership of a party that claims to be the only party that protects the people’s rights. To say they assumed what rival parties may do and left the chamber is to be shamelessly naïve of party tactics.

Tell those excuses, Anura, to birds with bright red wings.

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