Why London Cricket Tamasha Was A Big Flop
Posted on June 27th, 2016

by Nirmala Kannangara Courtesy The Sunday Leader

Cash-strapped Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is once again in the midst of much controversy, not least in the matter of the exorbitant expenditure on a fund-raising event in London which is alleged to have been a total flop.

Amongst the allegations levelled against SLC is that the Cricket Board could not even cover their expenses on the fund-raising dinner in London, the cancellation of the much needed indoor nets and the swimming pool projects at the R. Premadasa, Pallekele and Dambulla stadiums and the deplorable state of affairs due to abuse and misuse of administrative

These issues are highlighted in the best interests of the game of cricket and to safeguard SLC funds from further going down the drain unnecessarily and for the notice of the good governance administrators to act immediately on the unlawful manner the present administrators are handling SLC affairs and its finances from January this year.

The much hyped London fund-raising dinner is alleged to have become a total disaster where the Cricket Board is concerned although the administrators are tight-lipped and are now attempting to portray it as a successful event. According to highly reliable SLC sources who wished to remain anonymous, although the Cricket Board spent extravagantly in organising the London tamasha in order to raise funds for President Maithripala Sirisena’s Prevention of Kidney Disease Trust, the fund-raisers failed even to earn the amount they spent on the event. The fund-raising dinner was held in the Long Room at Lords Cricket Grounds in London on June 4. Although there was much expectation that the souvenirs SLC sent from Sri Lanka would be sold at the event, neither all these items nor all the dinner tickets were sold. Although SLC estimated a high turn-out at this gala dinner to raise funds running into millions of rupees, questions are now being raised as to how they could expect such an income when more than 50 tickets of the 125-150 tickets were given out as complimentary tickets.

If SLC claims that it was a successful event, we want Sumathipala to show us the accounts of how much they spent to host the dinner, how much they spent to take souvenirs for the occasion, how much they spent for executive committee member air tickets to go to London, how much they spent on their food and lodging, how much was spent for the Long Room reservation and for the food and drinks that was served, how much was spent on the event management company and how much of money they earned from the sale of tickets and souvenirs. Once Sumathipala is back in the country we expect him to give us the break-down of the above mentioned expenses and then how much they raised towards the worthy cause,” reliable SLC inside sources said. According to the sources who wished to remain anonymous, SLP head, Sumathipala is said to be planning to show them that he was able to raise a lot of funds for the Kidney Trust although in reality they could not even earn what they spent for the occasion.

Let him try to hoodwink us for the moment but once the government auditors start their investigations, the truth will come out. The estimated cost for the London event was 45,750 Sterling Pounds and it was estimated to raise Rs.35 million,” sources added.

Be that as it may, the discontinuation of work on the indoor cricket nets and swimming pool initiated during the 2015 interim committee period has now come under fire and is being claimed as an act of revenge against the interim committee members. A former national player, who did not wish to be named, accused the present administrators of stopping the much needed indoor cricket nets and swimming pool by giving lame excuses.

A swimming pool is one of the most needed recreation facilities at the R. Premadasa Stadium. It is the same with the indoor cricket nets not only for R. Premadasa Stadium but also for Pallekele and Dambulla stadiums as well. Since these projects were started during the 2015 interim committee period the present administrators stopped them. Although this was done to take revenge from the 2015 interim committee members it is really revenge taken from our cricketers as it is they who need these facilities for proper training and not the interim committee members,” the former Sri Lankan cricketer said. According to him, credit for these two valuable projects, although now at a standstill, should go to Sidath Wettimuni and his team. He added that the reason why this was abruptly stopped was because Sumathipala knows well that he cannot get the credit for it.

The reason given for this stoppage was that R. Premadasa stadium has not taken the necessary approvals from the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) for these constructions. To date, the CMC has never given any approval for the construction of the R. Premadasa grounds nor any of its buildings therein. If Sumathipala thinks that he as a law abiding citizen who does not allow any illegal work to be carried out, let him demolish the R. Premadasa stadium as well as it does not have CMC approval. This is not SLC property but Sugathadasa Stadium property. If the CMC is not bothered why is Sumathipala so worried about it?” he added. Meanwhile when contacted, President 2015 Interim Committee, Sidath Wettimuni refuted allegations that the R. Premadasa Stadium projects had been initiated without obtaining the necessary approvals from local government bodies as claimed by the present administrators. He said R. Premadasa Stadium was the property of the Sugathadasa Stadium and the greenlight to go ahead with the project was obtained from the owner of the property.

We started this much needed project in mid-2015 and at the time the work was stopped, we had spent nearly Rs. 9 million for piling and the foundations laid and columns come up. The estimated cost for the entire project was around Rs.40 million and the budget was kept aside. We followed the procurement guidelines,” Wettimuni added.

Speaking further, Wettimuni said how earnestly they had started the project and that it was a crime to stop such a project which was a long-standing requirement.

When compared with other test playing countries, we are far behind in regard to facilities provided to players. Indoor cricket nets are required for our players to practise. During the recent rainy spells there were under 19 foreign teams in the country but they could not practise as there were no indoor nets. If the reason this work was suspended is because it was started during our interim committee period, then I consider it as a crime committed by the present administrators. We are doing these for our players and for the country and not for any personal gain,” Wettimuni said. According to Wettimuni, water training is an integral part in physical training and he added that had the swimming pool construction work not been stopped, the R. Premadasa swimming pool would have been completed by now.

We even started off the gymnasium and the physiotherapy unit but the present administrators could not stop these as it was too late for them to stall it because all the necessary machines and equipment had been bought by then,” he added.

Meanwhile accusations have been levelled at President SLC for suspending the services of individuals he considers to be not in support of the present administration.

Former Chief Engineer SLC Prasanna Jinaratne was allegedly suspended in an unlawful manner from his service by a letter dated May 31, 2016 although he had already tendered his resignation on May 16, 2016. According to Jinaratne although his letter of resignation had neither been accepted nor rejected by SLC, he has proof that he submitted his resignation.

It is my fundamental right to leave employment of my own accord or to serve the company. I was observing what was going on at SLC and tendered my resignation as I got a good offer from another organisation. Having handed over my resignation, I was called to CEO Ashley de Silva’s office on Tuesday, May 31 and was given a suspension letter to my utter surprise. The letter was signed by the CEO and stated that on a decision taken by the Executive Committee on May 28, my service had been suspended with immediate effect. Since I had already tendered my resignation more than two weeks prior, I asked why such a letter was being served to me to which the CEO did not have any answer. Hence accepting this letter I made a note in it stating that this letter had been accepted under protest as SLC cannot suspend my service as I have already tendered my resignation,” Jinaratne told The Sunday Leader.

Meanwhile Jinaratne has gone to Labour Courts against SLC administrators for not accepting his letter of resignation and for serving him a letter of suspension after two weeks.

As a result of this I am unable to start work at my new office and in wanting to get my name cleared I went to Labour Courts to get this address. Since Sumathipala cannot engage in any fraudulent work with me, he was not on good terms with me from the time he took over office in January. Sumathipala knows that I know what was going on at SLC and if justice is denied I am ready to spill the beans about all the frauds that are taking place at SLC,” Jinaratne alleged. Refuting allegations levelled against SLC, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera said that to his knowledge the London fund raiser was a success.

In front of me cricket bats worth 10,000 Sterling Pounds were sold and the entire Long Room was packed to capacity. Hence I cannot say that it was a failure. But get all the figures from Shammi Silva as he has to furnish the figures because he is SLC Treasurer,” the Minister said.

In regard to the allegations regarding the discontinuation of the indoor net and swimming pool projects and the unlawful service suspension of SLC Chief Engineer, Minister Jayasekera said that the decision to stop the swimming pool and indoor net projects was due to the lack of funds at SLC.

There is a Rs. 4.2 billion liability; how can SLC spend money on these projects which are not very important. Sidath Wettimuni had given these contracts to a person who had done a swimming pool and indoor nets for his son’s residence. He has not selected this person following procurement guidelines.

The service suspension of the former chief engineer was done under my instructions as he wanted to leave SLC and join another place when there was an on-going investigation against him. He had given many contracts without following tender procedure and SLC was conducting an investigation on him. Despite this he tendered his resignation which was not accepted. Hence we decided to suspend his services immediately,” Minister Jayasekera said.

All attempts to contact Secretary SLC Mohan de Silva failed as he did not answer our calls. When a text message was sent asking for a comment, De Silva responded to this reporter, ‘Sorry I have no time for you’.

http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2016/06/26/why-london-cricket-tamasha-was-a-big-flop/

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