Point-blank: Keepers must play with a straight bat

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Since taking over as the Minister of Tourism and Sports of the present government three months ago Navin Dissanayake faces his greatest challenge in trying to convince the International Cricket Council (ICC) as to why he has appointed an interim committee to administer the affairs of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) for an indefinite period.

Following their Board meeting in Dubai on Thursday, the ICC issued the following media release under the headline “ICC Board takes steps to investigate apparent government interference in Sri Lanka”:
“The ICC Board today considered the implications of the appointment of an Interim Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) by the Government of Sri Lanka and whether this may be a breach of the ICC’s constitution which requires free and fair elections for office-bearers within Member boards.

“After considerable discussion, and without making a final decision on the matter, the ICC Board supported a recommendation of the ICC Governance Review Committee that it should write to the Sports Minister of Sri Lanka seeking a full and proper explanation of its intervention that prima facie puts SLC in breach of the ICC’s constitution.

“The Board further decided that, pending the satisfactory resolution of this matter, the next financial distribution due from the ICC to SLC will not be advanced to SLC and will, instead, be held in an escrow account.

“Notwithstanding the Board’s decision, Mr Nuski Mohamed – a nominee of the Interim Committee – was given the opportunity to provide information about the status of the Interim Committee, following which he was invited to attend the ICC Board meeting as an observer on behalf of the interests of cricket in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, Mr Mohamed declined to attend the meeting on these terms and as a result there was no representative from Sri Lanka at the meeting.

“The recent media comments of the Sri Lankan Sports Minister suggesting that the ICC was ‘colluding’ with former SLC officials were also noted and the ICC Board expressed its disappointment with the inaccurate nature of these comments. Moving forward the ICC hopes to progress this matter constructively with the Government of Sri Lanka for the good of all cricketing interests in Sri Lanka.”

No sooner had the Minister appointed an interim committee to run SLC at the beginning of the month a legally drafted letter signed by the SLC’s CEO Ashley de Silva explaining the reasons for such a move was sent to the ICC. But from what has transpired at the Board meeting in Dubai the submission is not good enough for the ICC who wants to write to the Sports Minister and ask for his explanation.

The Sports Minister will have to explain as to why he should install an interim committee as opposed to holding elections and until that happens the next payments due to SLC from the ICC apparently the money from the recently concluded World Cup will be withheld. The Nation learns that each full member country of the ICC is expected to receive US$16million from the World Cup profits. It is with part of this money that SLC were hoping to clear its debts it owes to the Bank of Ceylon for borrowing a loan of US$10.1 million to build and renovate three cricket stadiums for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

In appointing the interim committee the Minister stated it was done to “clean up” the country’s cricket administration and added, “We don’t think an election is going to help that process but only complicate it. Improving the cricket structure, changing the voting system for the elections, we feel this interim committee will bring those changes. Anybody who takes over after that will have to adhere to it. It’s a very transparent process.”

By having an interim committee in place the Minister was only buying time to have the Sports Law amended so that the four-year rule would come into effect, a rule that would make officials who have held any office-bearer position in a sports body for four continuous years ineligible to seek re-election.

The Minister is determined to keep out some of the officials who held positions in the previous SLC administration from contesting. He has also gone on record by calling them “traitors who would do anything to safeguard their position” and threatened to expose them alleging that they have been colluding with ICC officials to “move against” the appointment of an interim committee.

The best course of action in the circumstances to clear the air once and for all is for the Sports Minister to appoint an independent commission (similar to one that exposed the wrong doings of SriLankan Airlines) to investigate the irregular conduct and activities of the previous administration and submit a report of the findings to the ICC. When you have a report like that sent to the ICC it will open their eyes to the fact whether the moneys they send to SLC are being utilized in the proper manner.
The interim committee has already blocked a move by the previous administrators to spend Rs.130 million to upgrade the president’s box and viewing gallery at SLC headquarters at the SSC when it came up for ratification recently and instead decided the money should go to the high performance cricket centre at the R Premadasa Stadium.

Thirty-four years ago Navin’s father the late Gamini Dissanayake convinced the ICC hierarchy and got Sri Lanka the long-awaited Test status. Now it is Navin’s turn to satisfy the ICC that postponing elections and appointing an interim committee was for a valid reason and not what other interested parties make it to be.

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