Former president of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Mohan de Silva charged that that conduct of the Ministry of Sport and its Director General was appalling during the SLC elections when Upali Dharmadasa was elected uncontested as the new cricket head.
|“We did not chicken out. It was a matter of principle” – Mohan de Silva. (Pic by Amila Prabodha)
“The Minister of Sports’ conduct was not satisfactory at all. The Director General of Sports came up with contradicting statements several times. It was evident that they were going to induct another interim committee. It appeared to be a camouflage, an eye wash to meet the requirements of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and to show the world that there is democracy here. It’s sad to state but we have lost confidence in the system,” a depressed de Silva told the Sunday Times.
De Silva and his team comprising former DIG Jayantha Paranathala, Michael de Zoysa, Irwin Jayawardene and Gihan Weerasinghe pulled out their nominations from the SLC elections hours before the voting was scheduled. Eventually their pullout gave a rousing win for the Dharmadasa faction which included Asanga Seneviratne, K. Mathivanan, Nishantha Ranatunga, Hirantha Perera and Ajitha Pasqual.
“Soon after handing over the nominations on December 19, we met the Minister of Sports. He gave us his blessings and ensured that the election will be free and fair. We took his word and continued with our campaign. Until December 30 we were doing well and were clear ahead of the others. Suddenly there were meetings summoned by various political figures and we got calls from clubs and associations saying that they have been pressurised to change the delegates,” de Silva revealed.
He added: “The Director General of Sports (DGS) in her first circular stated very clearly that names of delegates should be forwarded to her by 12.00 noon on December 19. We were disturbed when we knew about this. With the closing of nominations we also found out that certain candidates were not eligible to contest under the SLC constitution. Then again the DGS clearly stated that she would conduct this election in accordance to the SLC constitution and the Sports Law of the country. We lodged protests against those candidates but so far we have never received a reply. Repeatedly nothing in writing was given. We again found out that in the final list of names those names were still there. So we handed another petition but there was no reply.”
De Silva revealed the dramatic change that caused their pull out from the contest. “After the incident on December 30 we met and discussed at length and decided to once again appeal to the DGS. But she said that she would entertain delegate changes even until the morning of the elections. This is quite ridiculous. We obviously knew that the entire thing was going to be manipulated. The comparison of the two lists, the one we got first and in the one we got later there were many changes.”
While defending his team’s stance to withdraw from the race, de Silva was still confident that most members of his team could have won their nominations. Among those who were tipped to win he named himself and the second vice president, DIG Paranathala and a third person who would win, but his name was not revealed. De Silva accepted that two of his member would have lost at the voting and eventually their cause came to a standstill for at least another year or even more. But he said that his team never chickened out nor were they threatened by any individual or group.
“Our main intention was to ensure that politicisation of cricket was eradicated. That was the message we wanted to convey to the world and Sri Lankan cricket lovers. As a mark of protest and a matter of principal we decided to pull out. But at the eleventh hour Upali Dharmadasa invited me and a few others to join his team. We declined because the invitation came too late. I have nothing personal against Upali and we accept his leadership. We are confident that he is trying to do something for the sport,” added de Silva.
“In 2005 it was my committee that was suspended. I can say this. As one of the most successful presidents we did so many things to develop the sport. We brought in US $ 54 million during that period, cricket was doing well, we won the Asia Cup, and we gave South Africa a series whitewash. We lost only to Australia and Pakistan by two games. The Sri Lanka ‘A’ side was developing at that time. We were unceremoniously kicked out, and various accusations were levelled at us. We were not given a charge sheet. It was gross injustice. What happened thereafter is history,” he said.
De Silva also revealed that his rivals, the Dharmadasa faction, felt that they were on a bad wicket and were sliding towards a defeat. According to him everything changed within a matter of hours. He accused top officials for letting individuals, who were not eligible and have not played first class cricket to contest. According to de Silva the names of delegates who were nominated to cast their votes were drastically changed.
“When this matter was pointed out minutes before we pulled out, we heard some saying ‘we played kaduru ball cricket’. This was not relevant to elections at all. But I don’t think they (mostly politicians) understood what we meant. But there are ministers and politicians who had played top level cricket. We respect them and not those who come for the glory alone,” he said.
De Silva said that his team has written to the ICC about the entire process. “It is our responsibility to bring it to the notice not only the ICC but the Minister of Sports and the President of the country. It’s not an attempt to tarnish the image of our country but to help resurrect SLC.”
De Silva was confident that had his team contested and they could have won and made a better team with Dharmadasa. Categorically he said it could have been a better combination to serve cricket better. But his faction is still willing to corporate whenever Dharmadasa requires their support.
“Lot of people forget that SLC is an independent entity. Stakeholders of SLC, the member clubs and associations are the rightful owners. So their privileges and rights were high jacked in 2005 and many were subject to harassment and victimisation and members who supported us underwent severe hardship. All those who went through these hard times came to us and appealed us to fight and save SLC from the current predicament. We tried but when we knew there was manipulation we pulled out on a matter of principle. However our hearts are still with cricket,” said de Silva while wishing his rival faction the best in order to do a good job.