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Point-blank: Pros and cons of an SLC election

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The country’s political structure is such that there is no space where a controlling body like Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) can be left alone to conduct their own day to day affairs and run elections on their own without any political interference.For years we had to deal with government appointed interim committees which, thanks to the world governing body for the sport the International Cricket Council (ICC) finally putting its foot down in June 2011 and took a decision that its member associations should be free from government interference in elections and other administrative affairs.

At that time Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said, “We will abide by ICC rules” and to make certain he meant what he said dissolved the interim committee headed by Upali Dharmadasa and called for elections.The funniest part was that at the elections, the very same officials who held the top posts in the interim committee were elected uncontested. There were a lot of allegations of political interference and intimidation to voters which eventually resulted in a one-way traffic with hardly any opposition being put up.

If this is what Sri Lanka meant by holding of an election then it was only trying to eyewash the international cricket community and the ICC to say that they ‘held’ an election to fall in line with the ICC requirements.The only thing positive about it was that there was an election and that Sri Lanka had moved away from appointing interim committees. But beneath the surface there was always the political control which the government wants to maintain.

Being the richest sports body in the country also has its ramifications with everyone from the top attracted to it like a fly to food. Now that the stage has been set by previous governments the trend will continue to follow God knows for how long or maybe forever with SLC having to live with it.A media release from SLC on February 19 stated that: “The Annual General Meeting of Sri Lanka Cricket is scheduled to take place on the 30th of March 2013. The notice carrying the information was sent to the members this afternoon. This is in line with the Gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Sports related to the new regulations of the Sports Law. The final date for nominations will be the 28th of February.”

This notice will once again start the usual lobbying for votes and according to media reports two former presidents Thilanga Sumathipala and Jayantha Dharmadasa are running for the top post. Sumathipala was a leading candidate for the post last year when Upali Dharmadasa, younger brother of Jayantha contested. But political pressure from the top forced Sumathipala to withdraw at the last stages of the run up to the election much to the disappointment of several who supported him.

So, although the names of Thilanga and Jayantha have surfaced as the leading candidates at this initial stage one cannot be certain at the final bend who will be given the green light to contest from the top. Everyone expected a keen contest last year between Upali and Sumathipala but it simply fizzled out like a damp squib. One hopes there won’t be a repetition of it this time also.

Like in a game of cricket where everyone likes a fair contest between bat and ball, SLC has not had a clean election for nearly a decade. Both Thilanga and Jayantha are good choices for the presidency each having their own style of running things - the former being dynamic and dominant and the latter very matured and rather laid back but firm in his decision-making.

Now that the date for the elections has been announced one hopes that the SLC is allowed to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner without any political interference which will appease the cricketing public at large and make them accept the elected members as those worthy of their positions and not just mere political stooges.

According to media reports the incumbent president Upali Dharmadasa is not running for another term in office. It was during Upali’s tenure that he invited former ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat to study, investigate and submit a report on how best SLC could improve as a professional sports body. Lorgat submitted his report inside three months which was the time frame given to him and the SLC subsequently appointed three committees – governance (headed by Palitha Kumarasinghe PC), administration (Upali Dharmadasa) and finance (Nuski Mohamed) to study the report and take what’s best for SLC from it. The reports are due to be ready by the end of the month and handed over to the Sports Minister who will take the final decision on it. The next president of SLC will be bound by whatever decision the Minister takes with regard to the Lorgat report.

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