Not many weeks after casting insinuations at Kuwait -- even going to the extent of claiming it had dropped a ‘bomb’ on Sri Lanka when those repatriated from that country were found infected with COVID19 -- former minister and ruling party candidate Mahindananda Aluthgamage has now opened another can of worms with his match-fixing allegations.
Nearly nine years after the event, the then sports minister has made unsubstantiated allegations that the 2011 Sri Lanka--India One-Day Cricket World Cup Final played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai was fixed, resulting in India winning the all-important match. Without a shred of evidence to make good his allegations, the issue has now become a talking point in cricketing circles in Sri Lanka and abroad.
The former sports minister in the previous United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government of Mahinda Rajapaksa; Mr Aluthgamage cannot be charged for failing to disclose information under the match-fixing laws enacted last year because they do not have retrospective effect. But many believe that under Section 13 of the ‘Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports Act’, he could be taken to Court for making false allegations—and if found guilty will be liable to a fine or jail term.
Meanwhile, the Sports Ministry has asked the Special Investigation Unit on Sports-Related Offences to launch an immediate inquiry while the International Cricket Council (ICC) is reported to have said it hoped to talk to Mr Aluthgamage to check if it is a matter worthy of an investigation.
We wonder whether these allegations are a political ploy ahead of the August 5 general election, though he could not escape the fact that it was his responsibility to convey, his suspicions and any available evidence he possessed, to the ICC investigators and punish those found guilty of the match-fixing charge. And in case the allegations are found to be false is it not then correct to say that Mr Aluthgamage is the one who should be punished.
According to media reports Sri Lanka Cricket Secretary Mohan de Silva has said the allegation is an irresponsible statement without any substance made by a politician, and if Mr Aluthgamage had any doubts, he should have complained to the ICC rather than ridiculing his own country nine years later.
Incidentally, the match-fixing allegation has not been made by an ordinary journalist, but by the then sports minister himself. Given its seriousness it needs a thorough investigation to uncover the truth because Mr Aluthgamage’s credibility is also at stake. Knowing the pastime of most politicians to be ‘economical with the truth’ whether it would bother him either way is not too difficult to guess.
That said, Kumar Sangakkara, who captained the Sri Lanka team at the finals, came out strongly, urging the former sports minister to provide evidence in support of his allegation to the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit, while Mahela Jayawardene, who scored an unbeaten 103 in this match, also urged the former sports minister to provide the evidence to back up his claim.
Meanwhile, Sports Minister Dulles Alahapperuma has called for an investigation, which we hope would begin with Mr Aluthgamage being questioned. Mr. Aluthgamage points fingers at certain groups and not at the players, but he seems to be blithely unaware that for a match to be fixed it needs the involvement of the players as well.
We began this column with the can of worms opened by Mahindananda Aluthgamage and conclude it with the hornet’s nest disturbed by his former colleague Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman, a national list MP and a deputy minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa-led UPFA government. He later joined its main constituent, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and appointed as one of its vice presidents.
Addressing a propaganda rally at Navadinveli in Ampara, Karuna Amman made headline news by claiming he was even more dangerous than COVID19, which had only killed 11 patients, while as an LTTE combatant he had in one night, killed up to 3,000 army soldiers at Elephant Pass and even more at Kilinochchi. He said he was invited by Mr Rajapaksa to enter Parliament through the national list, but had declined as he preferred to enter Parliament and support the Prime Minister with a mandate from the people in the North and East.
Given his outrageous claims, the question that begs answers is how ‘Colonel’ Karuna Amman, who functioned as LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s deputy, escape the mandatory process of rehabilitation unlike other LTTE cadres, who were arrested or had surrendered? We wonder whether such a scenario would have made any changes to his ‘stripes’?