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Ex Rugby President responds to Ex Sports Minister’s claim

Colombo (LNW): Former President of Sri Lanka Rugby Rizly Illyas has issued a public letter claiming that it would be a misuse of the power granted to lawmakers by the citizens to unfairly make accusations against those who are outside Parliament under the guise of parliamentary privileges, recalling the recent sentiments made by ex Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe.

Former Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, who was recently removed from the position by the President, sought to clarify in his departing statement that the decision to internationally ban Rugby was not his own but had been made by his predecessor, Namal Rajapaksa.

The ex Minister also alleged that the irregularities of the former Rugby President Illyas had influenced Rajapaksa to take such decision.

Full Letter:

I vehemently denounce Roshan Ranasinghe’s claim that he did not prohibit the game of rugby in Sri Lanka. His assertion, attributing decisions to irregularities under the guise of parliamentary privileges, and exploiting the privilege bestowed upon him as a public representative to tarnish my reputation as an innocent individual devoid of such privileges, is a reprehensible act.

It is noteworthy to remember that Roshan Ranasinghe was actively pursuing a court injunction against Minister Namal Rajapaksa regarding the prohibition of Sri Lanka Rugby when he assumed the role in the Sports Ministry. I would also like to recall that the imposition of the ban was prompted by an issue related to the membership of two sports Clubs. In this context, when Minister Namal Rajapakse enforced the ban on Sri Lanka Rugby, the Secretary of the Sports Ministry presented the facts pertaining to the decisions made by the Rugby Executive Council on this matter. Sri Lanka Rugby also possesses evidence, that the Ministry has those letters.

But to the extent that it is doubtful whether it is for the purpose of fulfilling a wish of the Minister, the Ministry Secretary and the Director General of Sports continued to write letters regarding the same matter and advocated the need of Minister’s banning. However, in pursuit of justice and innocence, we sought the assistance of the honorable court and continued to work on its recommendations.

Under the tenure of Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, the court granted permission to conduct a new election for the same administration that had imposed the ban on Minister Namal Rajapaksa. Furthermore, the Minister also made a request to convene that were banned clubs during the tenure of Minister Namal Rajapakse and he instructed them accordingly and facilitated the transmission of information to the ministry with the aim of lifting the ban.

It was during the reign of Minister Roshan Ranasinghe that a restraining order was issued against the administration appointed for the second time, leading to the closure and lockdown of the administration building. Before the imposition of the ban, a new stabilization committee was appointed after providing the information as directed by the court for immediate notification and subsequent enforcement of the ban.

The decision of the Sri Lanka Rugby team, slated to participate in the Asian Games, faced delays due to a technical error in the court’s decision regarding the removal of the committee. In that instance, no official request for the tournament was reported to the court on behalf of the minister, and the stabilization committee appointed by the minister exerted pressure to postpone the decision by presenting various issues. Also, Roshan Ranasinghe, the former minister in the cricket issue, raised parliamentary privileges and blamed the same judge who identified the technology problem and delayed providing the necessary solution, but remained silent when the decision was implemented according to his wishes.

Also, another issue that needs attention is that a petition was submitted with several members of the Stabilization Committee appointed by the Minister against the way the official Rugby administration that came to power after conducting the election based on a court order was appointed. There, an investigation related to the ministry did not accept those allegations. The presence of a part of that group in the minister’s stabilization committee shows that the minister and others want to use the political power of the rugby clubs to administer rugby locally.

Some important points should be mentioned here. When Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, Minister Namal Rajapaksa, it was possible to asked from Lasitha Gunaratne, who was a member of the Minister’s National Sports Council, about the factors that led to the banning of official elections to the relevant sports clubs. Because the reasons that led to the banning of those sports clubs were formed during the time when Lasith held the position of president, Lasitha should have said where it was compatible and incompatible according to the international rugby law as well as under the Sri Lanka Rugby Constitution and the distant forms between the sports law and the common law of the country.

Lasitha plays a pivotal role in creating points of contention between the President of Asia Rugby and Sri Lanka Rugby. Lasitha, who promised to help the current Asia President during his election, Lasitha did not cast his vote in favor of the president during the election in Sri Lanka.

In response to this, the displeased Asia President communicated his objection regarding Sri Lanka to Harin Fernando, who was the sports minister at that time. Hence, I assumed the role of President with the objection from the Asia President regarding Sri Lanka.

Even so, the Asia President is trying to use Asanga Senaviratne, a former Sri Lankan President who is still with the Asia President to lead the rugby administration, based on the friendship between Minister Namal Rajapaksa and Asanga. Sri Lanka Rugby is currently facing a fine of £50,000 that remains unpaid, stemming from the employment of foreign players in the Sri Lanka Rugby team during Asanga Senaviratne’s presidency. It is proposed to Sri Lanka Rugby to appoint him, the Asia President, and the Minister of Sports together as an advisory council and accept him as its head. The Director General of Sports has also written that the committee will be formed based on the advice of the Asia President and the Minister.

There are several reasons why Sri Lankan Rugby may not be wanted this. Sri Lanka Rugby knows that they are weak in management due to the fact that Sri Lanka Rugby was fined and subjected to a debt of nearly 60 million during the tenure of both him and Lasitha Gunaratne, who was then a member of the Minister’s National Sports Council.

I assume the position as President with such a huge amount of debt. The executive council, inclusive of myself decided to sell the broadcast of the sponsored matches separately (in a way that earns Sri Lanka Cricket income). During the discussions, the sponsors were wasting their time without giving a correct answer, Minister Namal Rajapakse assigned the head of his sponsorship committee to a head of that company and used that company with Asanga Senaviratne to sponsor the Asia Rugby. None of these things should have been done by the Asia President internationally. As a member of the Asia Executive Committee, I personally blame him for the damage done to the personality and independence of Sri Lanka Rugby in these matters. To be honest, I scolded.

This did not happen in the presence of any official of Asia Rugby. In person. In that situation, I articulated certain expressions commonly used within rugby culture. However, he, being a non-player unfamiliar with the nuances of rugby culture, interpreted them as inappropriate words. This is due to his lack of practical knowledge in rugby. Similarly, Roshan Ranasinghe, who assumed the ministerial post after Namal Rajapaksa, lacks knowledge in any sport, and as a result, he places great emphasis on this matter.

When the minister met me personally, he requested me to step aside, because the Asia President’s dislike. When the world rugby was investigating the Asia President’s decision to ban me, a move that jeopardized the independent existence of a sport in the country, Minister Roshan Ranasinghe aligned himself with the Asia President, labeling me a traitor on behalf of the Asia President.

Not only did the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka, but also the Olympic Council of Asia, under the influence of the Asia President and apprised of the sport’s qualities, exert pressure on Sri Lanka to participate in the Asian Games under the flag of the Olympic Council of Asia and when informing the Asia Rugby of their limits when they come to exceed the limits of the tournament that the Olympic Committee has the authority to, the Stabilization Committee which was established was running around in the court reducing the time for the Sri Lanka team to receive training.

In the end, the country of the Asia Rugby President witnessed a promotion from the 12th place in the previous Asian Games to the 5th place in the tournament. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka, which aspired to secure a medal after climbing one rank from the 4th place, experienced a setback, concluding the competition in the 10th place. Amidst all these events, I requested the minister to initiate an investigation into the reasons behind the conflict between the Asia President and myself. But the minister did not do that.

Instead of the minister’s opting to conduct the investigation, he chose to seek advice from appointees within the administration who were involved in the sport but had experienced a decline in popularity. They attempted to conceal their incapacity to secure power through sports elections and instead utilized political influence to attain authority.

It is problematic that the minister who took advice from the person who created the opposition to Sri Lanka of the Asia President, the International Olympic Committee, not only the Olympic Council of Asia, but is not as flexible as the World Rugby, and behaves like a pet of the Asia President. He did not strive to uphold the lion flag, he carried a camel flag. Even though I am a person who believes in Islam, when the ministers were pulling my leg t to bring the country’s sports to the top, along with the work done by reducing the association’s debt and finding new sponsors, the short-sighted rugby supporters who were close to the sports minister, deprived me of the opportunity to go to an Asian medal.

The minister consistently prioritized giving a place in politics to the power projects of people who could not get power from the love of people in sports. Hence, the minister’s opposition to the ICC appears must be a similar personal project.

In a situation where the International Olympic Organizations and the Rugby Federation above it do not agree with the Asia President, due to the decisions taken in agreement with the Asia President, even when the World Rugby was going to ban Sri Lankan Rugby due to political pressure, the Sports Minister who did not have the strength to stand up for Sri Lanka Rugby in front of the Asia President, honestly It is difficult to imagine that the country’s cricket will clash with the ICC.

Making mistakes is a valuable aspect of learning. But in order to learn that one should not be a person who is ignorant and handles that ignorance in an arrogant way. The Sports Minister should realize this. Using his parliamentary privileges, he claimed that Minister Namal Rajapaksa banned rugby due to my irregularities.

I would like to challenge the Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe to point me the irregularity I have done for the independence and pride of Sri Lanka Rugby, apart from standing up to the pressure of the Asia President. (I am currently seeking legal advice to determine the feasibility of pursuing legal action against the defamation of my personal character without just cause, citing parliamentary privilege in relation to that statement)

To the former Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, I want you to comprehend that you aligned yourself with the Asia President by fell into his lap, causing harm to Sri Lanka Rugby. Your actions inadvertently or knowingly assisted in elevating his country to the top in the Asian Games and bring down Sri Lanka Rugby.

Allow me to remind you of this. You have persistently associated with individuals who lack popularity within the sports administration, exerting influence over sports clubs and federations that have legitimately come into power, thereby undermining the integrity of their respective sports. The individuals you kept close elevated you to the empty sky for their own purposes. It reflected your own intelligence and the arrogant demeanor you exhibited in relation to power.

*Adapted from original article “හිටපු ඇමති රොෂාන්ට එරෙහිව හිටපු රගර් සභාපතිගෙන් දරුණු විවේචනයක්!” by Nishman Ranasinghe published on 03.12.2023.

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