Sri Lanka National Olympic Committee (NOC) chairman Hemasiri Fernando launched a scathing attack on Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage today, alleging that the minister has destroyed the autonomy of country’s sports associations by changing the sports law to allow politics to directly control the sports, creating a reign of “terror”.
Fernando who is also a senior government official, currently being the secretary of the Ministry of Postal Services also dismissed an allegation by the sports ministry that the NOC had waited 40 years to complain to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about the Sports Law 25 of 1973.
“The sports law was amended a few times during the past 40 years, but the autonomy of sports associations was not destroyed like this time. Hence, there was no necessity for the NOC to be concerned. However, the regulations introduced in January and August 2013 are so harmful that they had made it compulsory for most national associations to kneel in front of the sports minister for their existence. No sports ministry or sports authority in the world has ever issued such subjugating regulations on sports bodies, as we can claim with responsibility,” Fernando added.
“This is the reason for members of national sports associations to remain silent at meetings called by the minister agreeing with all decisions even against their conscience and remain praise singers, as they can do nothing else in the face of the terror created by the regulations,” said Fernando.
“The reason for me to send an official letter to the IOC six months ago was to inform them that the minister had used his powers to change a few regulations in an arbitrary manner to infringe the autonomy of sports associations,” Fernando explained in a media release.
The IOC last week summoned Aluthgamage and sports ministry officials together with the local NOC officials to IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to discuss the disputed sports law following a written complaint made by Fernando.
The IOC has warned Sri Lanka to scrap the controversial provisions in its sports law to ensure autonomy and jurisdiction of national sports associations, or risk losing international status.
The warning issued by Pere Miro, the National Olympic Committees (NOC) Relations Director of the IOC came as NOC had called for its election of office bearers on December 27.
IOC reminded Aluthgamage of “very serious issues in relations to the sports legislation”, and previous warnings “informally and diplomatically” issued by the IOC in 2010 and in 2012.
“We have carefully examined Sports Law No. 25 of 1973 (in particular Articles 18 to 21 in relation to the National Olympic Committee (NOC) and Part III in relation to the sports federations) as well as the subsequent Regulations issued thereafter and it is obvious that a number of provisions are not compatible with the Olympic Charter and the basic principles of the Olympics Movement,” the letter states.
“In the event that no concrete and serious action is taken to remedy the situation promptly, appropriate measures could be taken by the international sports institutions, which could call into question the representation of Sri Lanka at international sports events,” it added.
The letter states: “In particular, the specific provisions of the sports legislation which clearly interfere with the autonomy and the jurisdiction of the national sports organizations should be removed in order for the national sports organizations to be in a position to establish their specific internal regulations and operations in accordance with the basic principles and rules of the respective international sports organizations (and, of course, the general framework of the law of the land).”
Fernando pointed out yesterday that the new regulations had invoked unlimited powers on Director General of Sports to control sports associations and also to control election of office bearers to the associations. The regulations also give an unlimited power to the minister to decide all office bearers of associations except the treasurer, as anyone contesting posts in national sports associations has to get the prior approval of the minister. Fernando said that the NOC identified 24 such new regulations which “dangerously affect the independence of national sports associations and blatantly violate all local and international traditions” and informed the IOC properly of the situation.
Fernando who has been at the helm of the country’s apex sports body for 16 long years also alleged that the Sports Minister distributed government funds among sports associations based on the strength of friendship and other relationships. He called for an independent process for distributing such funds among all national sports associations without discrimination.
“It is a well-known fact the federations close to the top are getting the lion’s share. At this stage I like to request the ministry to provide us with a record of the funds allocated for each federation since 2009. Those who have no connections with the top have virtually got nothing,” said Fernando.
Fernando mocked the Minister’s media unit for not even knowing where IOC headquarters are located.
“The media unit of the ministry is trying to portray my attempt to safeguard the independence of NOC as a conspiracy against the country and the government. That is why it alleges that we are going to “Geneva’’ against the government. It should be noted that IOC head quarters are located in the city of Lausanne in Switzerland and not in Geneva. I have not accused the government directly or indirectly in any of my letters to the IOC. I have only highlighted the negative impact on sports federations caused by some decisions of the ministry taken on the wrong advises of certain parties,” Fernando said.
Fernando claimed that the Minister softening his stance at a recent meeting with NOC officials was a positive sign of resolving the crisis.
“The IOC has summoned NOC and sports ministry officials to their headquarters in Lausanne in order to resolve the current crisis through negotiations of the involved parties. The dialogue is the best way to resolve problems and the minister seemed to have softened his stance at a discussion recently held with NOC officials. We consider this as a positive sign,” said Fernando. (Channaka de Silva)