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Lokuge opens innings on positive note

[Sports watch] MINISTER of Sports & Public Entertainment, Gamini Lokuge has started his innings on a positive note when he indicated his desire to reinstate democracy at sports controlling bodies.

After a meeting with former Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) executive committee members, Minister Lokuge has said that he prefers democratically elected bodies rather than interim councils. His frank views would be welcome by all sports loving public, including the member clubs and associations that are affected.

At the same time, Minister Lokuge has stated that he needs more time to study on cricket administration. He plans to meet all parties connected to cricket - past ex-co members, present interim council members, past and present national cricketers as well as member clubs and associations of SLC. This is a clear indication of his political maturity though some had questioned his sporting back ground after the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

As we pointed out last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made the right combination to man sports with veteran trade union leader Lokuge as the Cabinet Minister and former Sri Lanka hockey international Bandula Basnayake as the Non-Cabinet Minister.

With his previous experience as Minister of Tourism, Lokuge could well combine that with sports in an effective manner. In Minister Basnayake, Minister Lokuge has a man with first hand experience to support him.

In the next few weeks, Minister Lokuge would gather information on the cricket episode and make a careful study.

We all agree that this is not the time to have an election. It would not be easy to have an election before March 31 - the deadline stipulated in the National Sports Law for the National Sports Associations (NSAs) to conduct their AGMs and annual elections. On the other hand, it is better if we could think of an election after the forthcoming World Cup cricket tournament in the Caribbean Islands.

However, we could not go on forever with interim committees, giving World Cup tournaments as excuses. We could well remember how those previous interim committees survived under the 2003 World Cup.

Even if we run cricket under an interim administration until an election, we could still have a greater representation. That is exactly what was proposed last year, to have representatives of all fractions as well as former cricketers in one interim body. But then Sports Minister Jeewan Kumaranatunga preferred otherwise.

We are not going to say the previous Ex-co was the best or otherwise. Nor are we going to give character certificates to any of the previous Ex-co members. All what we have been stressing is the importance of member clubs and associations of a controlling body.

There are questionable deals both during the previous Ex-co as well as the present interim administration. But our point is that a democratically elected Ex-co is answerable at the end to the general membership they appoint. The member clubs and associations could always question any raw deals even at an AGM or SGM.

But will those member clubs and associations have the same right during an interim administration? The simple answer is a firm No! The interim committee are only answerable to the man who appoints them - the Sports Minister.

Of course the Sports Minister has all necessary powers to sack any Ex-co if he smells anything fishy. But there should be proper investigations after that. If any allegations are levelled against any Ex-co and those members are sacked as a result, a proper investigation should follow immediately.

We hope Minister Lokuge, through his political and trade union experience would be able to unite all sections for the betterment of the game. There are talented and capable people in different camps. We must gather that cream of administrators on to one camp and make use of their services to develop the game. Personal differences and petty club politics would only ruin the game.

Our national cricketers have been shaping well in recent times. The four-match one day series against India, to be commenced today, is going to be an acid test for Mahela Jayawardena and his boys. The experience of senior players and young talent of juniors should blend in forming a champion outfit. That would keep our World Cup dreams alive.

The expertise of our national cricketers of yesteryear should be utilized in formulating development programs. They are the people who have first hand experience. They may belong to different clubs or camps, but when it comes to development of Sri Lanka Cricket, all cricketers, young and old, along with club officials and administrators, should be under one roof.

Coach Tom Moody has done a good job with the team. He has transformed the team to be a fighting lot. But that does not mean we should overestimate him and arrive at conclusions. We need consistency.

That has been the hallmark of champion teams.

Just because there have been a few reports that England and Australia have shown an interest, we should not throw extraordinary and lucrative deals even before the World Cup. It should be purely the performance that matters, be it a cricketer, coach or an official.

We hope Minister Lokuge would keep a sharp eye on all these developments and play a steady innings for Sri Lanka.

 

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