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Will Rugby be lost to Sri Lanka forever?

Colombo (LNW): By dissolving the constitutionally appointed rugby administration in Sri Lanka and installing a stabilization committee, the word rugby administration undertook actions that banned rugby within the country. It was interpreted as having political influence on the independence of rugby. Prior to this, the National Olympic Committee had made the officially decision to the international community its refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Stabilization Committee.

The Stabilization Committee appointed on this situation was removed and the Sri Lanka Rugby Administration went to court to confirm the permission and necessary authority for further administrative operations.

As a result, the Court of Appeal ruled to the Minister of Sports as well as Ministers and Development Department officials were censured for interfering at the Rugby administration. Since the Stabilization Committee, established under the authority of Ministerial Order No. 2327/07 on April 11, 2023, was perceived as a manifestation of political influence, it was included as a defendant in the Court of Appeal proceedings by Sri Lanka Rugby. Consequently, following the Court of Appeal’s ruling to prohibit the Minister’s intervention, it would have been anticipated that the Stabilization Committee’s actions would be invalidated. However, the Committee has chosen to escalate the matter by appealing to the Supreme Court.

Taking into account World Rugby’s decision to impose a ban on rugby in Sri Lanka due to perceived political interference, and as a direct consequence of this, the Court of Appeal issued an injunction against the Minister’s involvement in rugby-related matters. Given the Minister’s role in this context, the question arises as to whether the Stabilization Committee possesses the authority to pursue such a case.

Furthermore, on a previous occasion, they presented information to the court indicating that the Ministry had conveyed its agreement to allocate 22 million for the purposes of rugby-related activities.

The next question that arises is that if the Minister’s interfering prevented, the interim committee appointed by the Minister should be given money from the Ministry or whether the said committee has the ability to get money administratively.

The heart of the issue revolves around establishing whether the stabilization committee, appointed by a political figure, is capable of functioning effectively within the context of the National Olympic Committee’s global declaration of non-acceptance. This complexity is further underscored by the decision to permit the National Olympic Committee to field a Sri Lankan team under its own flag, despite the ongoing international ban.

Despite the international decision to ignore Sri Lankan rugby based on the definition of using political power, the international federation chose Hasan Sinhawansa, the Executive Director of Sri Lankan Rugby, who was ignored by the minister, to notify the work of changing the ban.

It is our belief that the Stabilization Committee will keep this issue in the Supreme Court and adjourn the case until September 6 to prevent the success of the program carried out by Sri Lanka Rugby aiming for an Asian tournament. Hence, the genuine intentions of those individuals who project a façade of civility in the realms of both politics and sports within this nation, wherein rivalry seems to outweigh the pursuit of medals, are now laid bare.

Following the court’s ruling, the National Olympic Committee has taken steps, even with the endorsement of the International Federation to support rugby, which have necessitated the personal involvement of Sri Lankan Rugby officials and incurred certain expenses. They have intervened to fulfill those matters up to the selection of squads, selection matches and the selection of the team and have directed the team to the National Olympic Committee and all the relevant authorities.

After the intervention is prohibited by the court, the minister retains the authority to issue a fresh gazette notification with the intent of rescinding any residual forms of intervention. While the minister’s political authority encompasses responsibilities such as appointing the Stabilization Committee, the details presented by the Stabilization Committee to the court raise concerns. If the Minister and the Ministry are reported to offer financial support to the committee for rugby-related activities, it is not could potentially be interpreted as a significant misappropriation of public funds?

Indeed, such actions could be seen as a form of noncompliance with both court orders and the directives of World Rugby, Is it not a behavior that disapproves of the orders?

Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s intentions appear to revolve around keeping Sri Lankan Rugby under his personal influence rather than allowing it to function as an autonomous administrative entity capable of making independent decisions.

This is why, despite facing rejection from Sri Lanka Rugby, Minister Namal Rajapaksa seemed to take a blow to his pride due to the failure of his attempts to exert control over Sri Lanka Rugby through the utilization of Asanga Senaviratne, who maintains a close relationship with his preferred Asia chairman.

Roshan Ranasinghe also represents individuals who share that particular mindset. Due to these circumstances, it’s not only rugby that has suffered a loss of independence, but other sports have also been affected in a similar manner. Indeed, that is reality. We now have a clear understanding of the most unfavorable outcome. It appears that the Stabilization Committee’s strategy   revolves around prolonging the court proceedings to hinder the team’s training, under the guise of traditional pretenses. This tactic seeks to prevent the team’s involvement in the Asian Games, thus jeopardizing the historical reputation of the Sri Lankan Rugby administration by potentially missing out on the chance to secure a medal.

The work done by finding sponsors for three years without being a political puppet to bring a rhythm with a identity that was by Rugby for Rugby is great. Among these achievements, Sri Lanka’s exceptional performance in the Commonwealth Games stands out prominently. As the players who have significantly contributed to these talents approach the realization of their dream of winning an Asia medal, a pivotal milestone in their lives, they are unfortunately burdened by the weight of these disparaging remarks.

This situation has also raised concerns that they might contemplate bidding farewell to rugby as a consequence. In this context, if a group of experienced players were to depart under these circumstances, the Sri Lankan rugby arena would undoubtedly encounter a significant void in talent. It is increasingly evident that none of this aligns with the principles of fair play in the political arena.

The Rugby issue underscores the fact that there are individuals who engage with the sport not out of genuine passion for the game, but rather due to vested interests, thereby overshadowing the sincere desire for national triumph.

Given the timeline required for justice to be served through the court, there might not be sufficient time remaining to adequately prepare for the Asia tournament. In the final analysis, the situation appears to revolve around safeguarding a president who displayed the courage to criticism the actions of the Asia president, who made decisions in collaboration with the minister outside the framework of Sri Lankan Rugby. Instead of the ministers of this country stepping forward, it seems that the entire Sri Lankan Rugby landscape is at risk of being dismantled based on the dictates of the Asia President.

Ultimately, if the prospects for Sri Lanka’s participation in the Asian tournament or via the Olympic Committee are hindered by political pressures stemming from these uncertainties, there is a possibility that the international ban could be enforced with even greater force. Perhaps if Roshan Ranasinghe recognizes that esteemed citizens of this country carry a sense of honor and responsibility that may be lacking in certain politicians, he could potentially contribute to resolving this issue at a more desired level.

As an illustration, consider Namal Rajapaksa, who maintains that he wasn’t responsible for the electricity bill issue. However, he asserts that if the electricity bills for temples are not waived, he is prepared to personally cover the costs, exemplifying his belief in the entitlement to privileges and his willingness to contribute on behalf of temples as an expression of his Buddhist principles.

There are some people who do not think that the lack of shame in a society that supports them is an ornament of the politician. At least with that intelligence, the minister does not try to tell the Stabilization Committee appointed by his own interest that he won a rugger medal during his ministerial tenure, because he does not feel that way.

In some way or another, someday in the future, this history will be written in black letters and recorded in indelible. It is in a tarnished backdrop. In that unsightly, tainted, and dark context, it will become evident how an individual from a nation with a mere 13 year history was employed to undermine Sri Lanka’s Rugby, which boasts a legacy of 115 years, for personal politics and power-driven agendas. This destructive act took place precisely at a pivotal and triumphant juncture in Sri Lanka Rugby. In the history of nearly one hundred years, behind that destruction, it would have been written how the individual and the political leaders were in the same line, bringing disgrace to the country before that, bringing foreign players to play, subjecting the country to an international penalties. Usually, for whatever reason, there was a different thinker in that group, and he won’t get fame because he doesn’t look for a good lentil to bury in a pile of excrement.

*Adapted from original article, “රගර් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට නැත්තටම නැති වෙයිද…?” published on 13.08.2023

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