A laudable move if implemented | Daily News

A laudable move if implemented

The news that obtaining the green light from the Sports Minister for a national sports team to represent the country (at home or abroad) will be a thing of the past is most welcome.

Heading the campaign to have the country’s Sports Law amended to that effect is no less a person than the sporty Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who had revealed this forthcoming change to the newly elected president of the country’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) Suresh Subramaniam during a felicitation held at Temple Trees for the medal winning Gold Coast Commonwealth Games athletes.

To quote Subramaniam: “There will be no ministerial interference in the future if this new law sees the light of day. It will be then left to the experts, those involved in the sports to pick teams based on merit and form. The Minister of Sports (Faiszer Mustapha) made a suggestion to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister endorsed that the Sports Ministry should never be involved in selection and said steps would be taken to change the Sports Law.”

It has been a crying need for a long time to exempt sports team selections from obtaining Sports Minister’s permission to represent the country.

In cricket, no other cricket nation in the world other than Sri Lanka has this system of the selectors picking the team and sending it to the Sports Minister for ratification. What happens in other countries is the moment the selection committee meeting is over it is either the chairman of selectors or the convenor who meets the media and reads out (or hands out) the selected team and then answers any queries which the media wants to clear with them on the selections. That way there is no room for any media institution stealing a march over their rivals by releasing the team before the others do. The present Sports Law allows for such instances to happen because by the time the team is sent to the Sports Minister for approval and it is returned there is a lot of room for the team to be leaked to the media either through the Ministry of Sports or the national body. There have been instances when the Minister is not available (due to official commitments) to place his signature on the selected team and thereby the time wasted allows for such instances to take place.

The funniest part of this system is that it is the Sports Minister who gives his final approval to the national selection committee when the cricket body submits the names of the suitable candidates to serve in the committee. The Sports Minister with the powers vested with him under the Sports Law has the right to change the names if he wishes. It becomes a laughing matter when the very same selection committee whom the Sports Minister had approved selects the national team and it has to again go back to the Minister for approval. Does that mean that the Sports Minister does not have any faith in the committee which he had ratified? This current system certainly makes a mockery of the existing Sports Law pertaining to national selections.

There have also been instances where the sports bodies try to curry favour with the Sports Minister to get what they want done by offering him and his Ministry officials foreign tours to travel with national teams so that the Ministry turn a blind eye on the corruption and waste that takes place within the sports body and in other instances finds a way to allow candidates who are not suitable to run for election for top posts to contest and win.

Former president of the Sri Lanka Netball Federation Trixi Nanayakkara, a veteran in the field of sports administration once said that the main reason why Sri Lanka sports is unable to move forward was because of the Sports Ministry officials’ interference with the Ministry’s coaches. Another reason for this drawback she cited was that all these officials are not honest.

“I think the national sports bodies have come under pressure with this kind of interference by Ministry officials. Consequently, the Sports Ministry will find it difficult to implement the Sports Law in a proper manner. The Sports Law was active and functioned smoothly from 1973 to 1994,” Nanayakkara said. “I can remember Sports Minister Nanda Mathew issued an order prohibiting any Sports Ministry official or Department of Sports Development officials to hold office in any national sports body. With this move, the NSAs were able to act independently. This was a very good decision. But later, this rule was changed by successive Sports Ministers. After 1994, the Sports Law was implemented mainly for the benefit of the Sports Minister, not for the betterment of sport.”

The Sports Law was first implemented in 1973 and former Sports Minister KB Ratnayake has been credited for its enactment and the Sports Act in Parliament.

At the time a Sports Law was essential because of so many favouritisms that took place at national team selections that left countless parents in desperation for fair play. At the time of its implementation the Sports Law served its purpose but over time despite the changes it has undergone, corrupt officials have found ways and means to find loopholes to meet their own ends. The current Sports Law certainly needs a change and one that should leave no ambiguity for such acts to take place in the future.

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