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Sport heading for a mess

Sri Lanka sport seems to be heading for a mess with various problems surfacing from different corners. Despite the recommendations of the National Sports Council (NSC) headed by Dr. Maiya Gunasekera, the Sports Ministry is yet to give the green light for the Annual General Meetings of several National Sports Associations (NSAs), that includes the national governing body for tennis.

Though the NSC has recommended that fresh elections could be held for the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA), the Sports Ministry has not given the green light yet. Instead, the 'expired' Ex-co continues to hold office.

If the Sports Minister finds any wrong doing by the SLTA, then he has all the right to dissolve it and appoint an interim administration. He has all the powers to do so under the National Sports Law and appoint people of his choice to any interim administration.

Instead of doing so, the Sports Minister has let the existing SLTA executive committee to continue.

Green light

We do not know how legal that is. But in our opinion, the Sports Minister should either give the green light to have the SLTA Annual General Meeting to appoint a new ex-co or he should introduce an interim administration to run the SLTA. Instead of doing either, it is unfair to keep an executive committee which in legal terms has expired on March 31, 2008, still in power.

The other Sports Ministry 'shock' was the inclusion of two national selectors as officials of the Sri Lanka junior team for the Asian Junior Championships in Jakarta. True that Kosala Sahabandu and Sriyani Dhammika Menike deserve 'some role' in recognition of their contributions to Sri Lanka athletics.

We have no argument on their credentials. Sahabandu was a member of that champion men's 4 x 400m Sri Lanka relay team which won the gold medal at the 1973 Teheran Asian Games.

Former national middle distance champion Dhammika Menike is an Asian Championship bronze medallist who went on to represent Sri Lanka at the highest level - the Olympic Games in Barcelona, 1992.

But since they are national selectors, they do not have a legal provision to serve in a team as officials. It would have been more appropriate if the Sports Ministry had included them as 'tour selectors' so that they could keep a sharp eye on the performance of our youngsters.

Then there is a big dispute over the non-inclusion of woman sprinter Menaka Wickremesinghe for the Asian Grand Prix. Wickremesinghe is under the impression that she should get an automatic selection as she has performed well at the previous meet. But the national selection committee has a different story to tell.

The AASL - the national governing body for track and field, says Wickremesinghe has not run at a meet in recent times. Wickremesinghe is undoubtedly the best women's 400m athlete that Sri Lanka has produced after three-time Asian Games gold medallist Damayanthi Darsha. Sprinter Wickremesinghe alleged that she has already gained selection on performance but the AASL is asking her to face a trial, which she has refused.

But the AASL has declared that she has not gained 'automatic' selection and that anyone could check with the Asian body.

Then we go to the most unfortunate story in swimming. Believe it or not, Sri Lanka's golden girl at the last South Asian Games - Mayumi Raheem could well be a victim of selection blunders. It is pathetic the way Sri Lanka's most promising swimmers - Andrew Abeysinghe and Mayumi Raheem are treated at home.

On merit, Abeysinghe and Raheem deserve the two wildcard entries Sri Lanka has been offered for the forthcoming Olympic Games in Beijing. There is no doubt about that. Be it on performance at the last South Asian Games, international circuit, current level of international training they get or recent performances at top grade meets, the duo are well ahead of any other swimmer in Sri Lanka.

Though there are many to 'compete' for the two wildcard swimming entries, there was only Abeysinghe and Raheem to keep Sri Lanka's glory when the last South Asian Games were held in Colombo in 2006.

Abeysinghe won gold medals in the two events he was given an opportunity to swim while Raheem completed a rich haul pf ten medals that included three 'gold', a feat no other Lankan competitor even came close to.

But now the local 'swimming experts' have called a fresh trial on Saturday, which has no doubt raised a laugh. Even the 'committee' which has been appointed to do the selections at the trial, hardly has anyone who has 'swum in a bath tub'.

As we have stressed here before, it is not a matter of giving an opportunity to a swimmer. It is not an occasion to please anyone with personal contacts. We strongly stress the point that it should be purely on merit, noting but on merit!

Administrations

Going back to the topic of National Sports Associations (NSAs), we have too many NSAs run by interim administrations for many years. Nearly ten national sports governing bodies have interim administrations. This does not augur well for sport and harms the democratic rights of member clubs and associations of those NSAs.

We feel the services of the NSC should be utilized in a more meaningful and productive manner. Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge has included several reputed sports personalities in the National Sports Council. Its chairman, Consultant Surgeon Dr. Gunasekera certainly knows his onions. Hence, why can't we make better use of the NSC in a more meaningful way?

It is better to implement recommendations of the knowledgeable NSC rather than that of some officials at the Sports Ministry, who have hardly seen a playing field. It would be better if the Sports Minister make better use of the National Sports Council and seek its advice when confronted with vital issues.

Minister Lokuge seems to be having has a genuine desire to develop our sport. But some officials seem to be obstructing him with wrong information is an attempt to suit their personal agendas. Its time to get rid of the 'official mafia' and acquire services of honest people who are genuinely interested in promoting Sri Lanka sport.

 

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