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
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.
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
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
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
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!
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
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.