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When ‘siri’ means failure?

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Cricket and national security:

by Rex Clementine

Such was the popularity of Dayasiri Jayasekara when he was named Chief Ministerial candidate of Wayamba a few years ago, there were posters that read, ‘Wayambata siri, Dayasiri’. The popular politician has a history of shooting from the hip, and some of his supporters have changed the slogan to ‘Ammatasiri Dayasiri.’

A lawyer by profession, during his interactions with the media as Sports Minister, he appeared to be quite knowledgeable, broadminded and fair. More than anything, he has not lost the common touch so much so that some old-timers in the media thought he had a brighter future.

However, it needs to be added Dayasiri has to mend his ways in some respects. He has earned notoriety for changing sides in politics. He entered politics from the SLFP and then crossed over to the UNP. He again pole-vaulted to the SLFP.

Now, Dayasiri is taking on religious leaders. Earlier this week, he lashed out at Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith for criticizing Maithriapala Sirisena, who , as the President in 2019, failed to prevent the Easter Sunday carnage despite several early warnings of the terror strikes.

Cardinal Ranjith is one of the most respected religious figures in the Catholic Church and according to Vatican observers, he will be one of the Papabile in an upcoming conclave. The prelate has spoken for his flock. Serious lapses on the part of the ‘yahapalana’ government caused more than 250 Catholics to be killed; people are scared of going to church as a result.   

Men stay out as guards near Catholic churches while women and children are praying. That has been the case all around the country although the presence of armed forces during the Holy Week was a massive relief. This situation has come about thanks to Dayasiri’s political boss, Sirisena’s failure to safeguard national security.

As Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara started with so much promise, having identified all the right things that needed to be done.  But he gave in to political pressure, and his term turned out to be a disaster.  When Dayasiri took over, there was an Interim Committee in place running cricket.  Sidath Wettimuny was presiding over the affairs of SLC, having been put in there for one purpose—introducing a new constitution for SLC. Dayasiri called for cricket elections. Guess who benefited? His SLFP colleague, Thilanga Sumathipala, who returned as President of SLC after a lapse of more than ten years.

It is not only ‘siri’ in their names that Sirisena and Dayasiri have in common; both are known for their failure to deliver. Sirisena failed as the President and Dayasiri as the Sports Minister. Failures seem to have become the pillars of the SLFP!

Dayasiri’s interference in the game of cricket was too much. In 2017, he recalled Sri Lanka’s ODI cricketers back in the middle of the night after they had enplaned to travel to India. Sri Lanka’s legendary cricketers being asked to get off the plane and return home made international headlines. Whom did Dayasiri try to please by making such drastic actions? Was he taking any sides after SLC’s Executive Committee and National Selection Panel ended up on a collision course over some selections?

Some players did not mince their words when they took on Dayasiri. Lasith Malinga was one of them.

The performance of the national cricket team during Dayasiri’s tenure was horrendous. Sri Lanka lost a first-ever Test match to Bangladesh and were whitewashed 5-0 by India and Pakistan. Into the bargain, the national cricket team also suffered a home ODI series defeat to Zimbabwe, a defeat that has been probed by the ICC. It should be also mentioned that when Dayasiri was the Sports Minster, the cricket board gave away funds to construct a state-of-the-art cricket facility in his electorate at the expense of many deserving schools.

Dayasiri should stop trying to defend the indefensible and cutting a pathetic figure in the process. Sirisena will never be able to absolve himself of the sin of having failed to prevent the terror strikes. Dayasiri and his equally failed boss will not be able to get anywhere by taking on the upright religious leaders who are on the side of the truth and are fighting for the people’s right to life.



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Sports

Dilshi stamps her class with national record

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Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.

The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.

Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).

On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.

In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.

In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.

The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.

Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.

The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.

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COPE; a toothless tiger?

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by Rex Clementine

Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the  legislature.

Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.

In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.

There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.

Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.

However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.

At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.

The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law.  From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.

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Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title  

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Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday. 

Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final. 

In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4. 

Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.  

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