Saturday, March 12, 2016

Thilanga’s Payback Politics Puts SLC On A Sticky Wicket?

  • Millions spent on tamasha
  • Perks and privileges for those who supported Thilanga
  • Punishment for those who didn’t
by Nirmala Kannangara
In a stunning revelation, details of how the cash-strapped Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) spent nearly Rs. 39 million on the tamasha that took place at the Racecourse last week to send off the Sri Lanka Cricket Team for the 20/20 World Cup and to re-brand Sri Lanka Cricket, have come to light.
This staggering amount had allegedly been paid to Shift Advertising and Media Gang Event Management Company without following tender procedure, highly reliable SLC sources told The Sunday Leader on conditions of anonymity.
The tamasha had been finalised, according to the sources, within a couple of days and it is speculated that Media Gang Event Management Company is owned by the daughter of a VVIP in the incumbent government.
“Although the Cricket Board now claims that the best proposal for this event came from Shift Advertising and Media Gang Event Management Company when proposals were called to launch an event to re-brand Sri Lanka Cricket and to send off the Sri Lanka team for the current 20/20 World Cup tournament in India, there were no calls for such proposals. Instead, it had been offered to these two companies without any procurement guidelines being followed,” sources alleged.
According to the sources, Dialog Axiata had offered Rs.18 million while the rest had been spent from SLC funds. It is alleged that of the Rs.39 million, Rs.33 million had been paid to Media Gang Event Management Company and the rest to Shift Advertising.
However, this colossal spending comes in the backdrop of Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera’s claim to this newspaper a few weeks ago that SLC was facing a financial crisis and was unable to make the contract staff permanent.
During the latter part of last year, the cricket interim committee decided to make the long-standing SLC employees permanent in their jobs but once the new administration took office,that idea was scrapped and Minister Jayasekera said it was due to lack of funds.If this was true, how did the SLC afford an expensive tamasha running into millions of rupees?
Meanwhile SLC last week appointed five consultants, all close to SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala, at a monthly take-home salary of Rs.150,000 each in addition to other perks. The new consultants are Anura Weerasinghe from the Western Province Cricket Association, Priyantha Soysa of Pandura Sports Club, Crishantha de Silva of Moratuwa Sports Club, Hemal Mendis of Cambrians and Indrani Ariyaratne of Moratuwa Sports Club.
“Of these five, three were appointed as a mark of gratitude for helping Sumathipala at the January SLC election while the other two are the SLC President’s closest confidants,” sources alleged.
The SLC’s new office-bearers have meanwhile come under fire for their attempt to dissolve the School Cricket Association and hand over the development of school cricket to the district and provincial cricket associations.
“Although Sumathipala promised to allocate more funds to the School Cricket Association, he has now stopped this allocation. He wants to give powers and funds to these district and provincial associations because they voted for him at the election. Thilanga doesn’t have a strategic plan to develop school cricket but is just rewarding those who voted for him. Since it is said the School Cricket Association did not help Sumathipala at his election campaign, the Cricket Board President is taking revenge from our up and coming young cricketers,” sources claimed.
It has also been revealed how Sumathipala refused the School Cricket Association money for their annual tour to Malaysia and instead released funds from the National Development Committee (NDC) for the Minor District Team to tour Malaysia. “Since the Minor District Team office-bearers helped out Sumathipala at the election, funds were released for them to take a team to Malaysia while depriving the school cricket team their annual tour,” sources claimed.
Meanwhile, SLC’s decision not to send selectors with the team on foreign tours is hailed by the Cricket Board staff but questions are being asked whether this practice would be maintained in the future as it is alleged that this decision was taken to prevent the members of the former selection committee from travelling overseas with the team.
“If Sumathipala maintains the stance of not sending selectors with the team it is a good move as selectors are not allowed to be with the players in the dressing room as it can lead to match fixing. Although earlier a few selectors visited with the team, Sumathipala put a stop to this practice after he assumed duties in January. But with the new selectors being appointed, the SLC administration is now considering sending two selectors to India where the T20 matches are being played. There is no necessity for the selectors to go as it is the coaches that advice the players on match related affairs,” sources said.
Meanwhile allegations have been levelled against Chief Executive Officer (CEO) SLC, Ashley de Silva for not renewing the contracts of Anura Ratnayake, former Assistant Manager SLC, Romesh Kaluwitharana, former Coach of the ‘A’ team, Upul Chandana, former Field Coach of the under 19 team and seven other coaches simply because of their affiliation with the Ranatungas.
“Because  Anura Ratnayake is a good friend of Nishantha Ranatunga and Romesh and Upul Chandana have played under Arjuna Ranatunga and still maintain a good relationship, their contracts were not renewed. Since the former Head of Cricket Operations, Carlton Bernadus was a threat to the CEO as he (Bernadus) was emerging as a good administrator, Ashly de Silva removed Bernadus from his post and made him the Head of Domestic Cricket. Taking revenge from officials for petty politics would have a negative impact on cricket which is visible now,” sources said.
The sources further accused Sumathipala of fixing floodlight towers lower than the standard height at the Dambulla International Cricket Stadium during his tenure as the SLC President on an earlier occasion.
“Even though millions of rupees was spent, after foreign players complained of the glare, day night games were not played; if we want to start playing day night games once again in Dambulla, SLC will have to spend several millions again to erect floodlight towers of the correct height,” sources added.
Refuting allegations, Secretary SLC, Mohan de Silva said that under the new administration there is no room for any fraud or malpractice and added that there had been a great deal of wastage and abuse of funds before the new administration took office.
“Although there are allegations that we spent Rs.40 million to send off the Sri Lanka team for the 20/20 World Cup, we spent only Rs.19 million. There was a proposal which came from Shift Advertising and Media Gang for the re-branding programme which was suitable for our plan. They estimated Rs. 40 million but since it was a large amount, we brought it down to Rs.19 million and SLC paid Rs.3-4 million and Rs.15 million was paid by our chief sponsor-Dialog,” De Silva said.
When asked whether quotations were called to award the tender and whether this contract was given to the said party as the event management company is owned by President Maithripala Sirisena’s daughter, De Silva said that it was handled by the marketing division and was transparent.
“We were not influenced by any one and don’t know who the owners of this event management company are,” De Silva added.
Speaking on other allegations levelled against SLC, De Silva said the new management does not believe in witch hunts and claimed that it was those with vested interests that accused the new management, “because they know that we are taking Sri Lanka Cricket in the right direction unlike previously.”
In regard to the decision taken not to send selectors with the team, De Silva said that in the past, selectors never accompanied the players on foreign tours.
“When there is technology where we can communicate with the players and even discuss issues pertaining to the tournament, why spend money on sending selectors?However, we will send selectors for certain ICC events as they can contribute their expertise knowledge to the players. Whether or not selectors will be sent with the team will be decided tour by tour,” the SLC Secretary said.
According to De Silva there is a strategic plan to develop the district and provincial cricket associations and SLC is planning to give them more authority by strengthening their administrations and thereby developing the game at grassroots level. However he denied having pruned School Cricket Association budget.
“This year we have allocated Rs.35.36 million to the School Cricket Association and it was the same amount they received last year as well,” De Silva said.When asked why SLC made five consultant appointments at high salaries when SLC is facing a huge financial crisis and whether all these appointments and discontinuing of contracts are done based on how they helped Sumathipala at the cricket election, the Secretary said the new appointments were made to re-structure the SLC.
“We have never favoured any individual or party that supported us at the election. Appointments were made based on their ability and contracts of those who have not performed up to standard were discontinued.”Speaking on light towers at Dambulla, De Silva said that the towers are of the proper height and if there were issues, the ICC and the match referees would have made complaints.
When asked why the SLC Treasurer was sent to England last month instead of the CEO or the Secretary, to check the venues and the security arrangements for the Sri Lankan tour to England, De Silva said that Treasurer Shammi Silva is the most suitable person to undertake that duty.
“Although he is the Treasurer he has vast experience in cricket and he was the most suitable person the SLC could have sent,” he added.When asked whether he was implying that Shammi Silva was the best out of all those that were elected and if so why they could not nominate himfor the post of Secretary, De Silva said that Silva was able to negotiate player exchange programmes and to send some of the emerging young cricketers to play for counties.
“Silva had not only looked into security arrangements but also about the venues,” he said.
Speaking on discontinuing the contracts of certain officials, De Silva said it was done after they completed their contract periods. “We are planning to get a coach in the calibre of Dav Whatmore for the A team,” he added.
Head of SLC, Sumathipala was not available for comment.

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