Female athlete’s harassment at airport NOC wants inquiry | Daily News


Female athlete’s harassment at airport NOC wants inquiry

Rumeshika  Rathnayaka
Rumeshika Rathnayaka

The National Olympic Committee (NOC) has written to Sports Minister Harin Fernando to initiate an inquiry into a female athlete who is alleged to have been harassed at the airport immigration before her departure to the USA for a one month training course targeting the Asian Athletics Championships.

The athlete a former Sri Lanka Army personnel Rumeshika Rathnayaka who had performed creditably for her country was fully funded by the NOC to the costs of Rs. million.

The following is the NOC letter submitted to the Minister of Sport:

Honourable Sir,

Harassment of athlete R.M. Rumeshika Rathnayaka by Athletics Association of Sri Lanka.

Sprinter Rathnayaka Mudiyanselage Rumeshika Kumari Rathnayaka, holder of passport number N350I996 is one of the elite athletes in Sri Lanka who has performed creditably in 2018. She was positioned sixth at the Commonwealth Games held Gold Coast, Australia with a timing of 23.07secs.

Below are her past performance history for the year 2018:

* National Sports Festival - Oct 2018- Polonnaruwa 100m - I I.08 secs (Grass Track) 200m - 24.30 secs (Grass Track)

* Asian Games 2018 - Aug 2018 -Jakarta 200m - 23.07 semi-final 6th pos

*Commonwealth Games - April 2018 - Gold Coast 200m - 23.43 secs – semi-final 6th pos

* Sydney Athletics Grand Prix - 17th March – Sydney – 100m - 11.51 secs (PB)

Considering the above facts and in recognition of her potential, the Chairman of High Performance Committee of NOC Sri Lanka, Mr. Asanga Seneviratne recommended her for a one month training course in USA targeting the Asian Athletics Championship. This matter was discussed at the Executive Committee meeting of the NOC Sri Lanka where Maj. Gen (Rtd) Palitha Fernando, President of Athletics Association of Sri Lanka (AASL), who is also one of Vice Presidents of NOC Sri Lanka was present.

Accordingly, the NOC Sri Lanka made the necessary arrangements to proceed with Rumeshika's departure to the USA for training on 19 March 2019 at 0245 hrs. She was stopped at the airport immigration stating that she planning to leave the country without the necessary approvals. Rathnayake had submitted her resignation to the Army 11/07/2018 and the discharge certificate is pending.

Later we received reliable information that she was stopped as per the directions given by Maj. Gen. Sudath Perera, Vice President of AASL and Chairman of Sri Lanka Army Athletics. As a result the young female athlete could not proceed with a departure as planned. Moreover, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Palitha Fernando, President of AASL (who is also the Vice President of NOC Sri Lanka) had ample time to notify the athlete, Rumeshika Rathnayake or NOC Sri Lanka to rectify any shortcomings which he failed in order to harass the athlete, deliberately.

This was confirmed by myself following the telephone conversation that I had with Maj. Gen. Sudath Perera around 10.30 a.m. on 19th March 2019, where he confirmed that the action was taken with Maj. Gen (Rtd) Palitha Fernando's consent to detain the athlete at the airport by Airport Police causing harassment.

By conducting such practices, we should ensure that there is no I. Discrimination and sexual harassment 2. Scar any athlete mentally.

The entire training was planned and funded by NOC Sri Lanka which cost over Rs. 2 million.

Therefore, in order to ensure athletes' right, we seek you to have proper inquiry against these two officials.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,
Suresh Subramaniam
NOC Sri Lanka

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