In response to an article published in the Daily Mirror of November 19 2019 titled “SLR in shambles after stubborn President’s support to Japan”, Sri Lanka Rugby President Lasitha Gunaratne has written the following letter:
I write this letter to bring to your notice that the published article as mentioned in the subject contained falsified information tarnishing the image and reputation of me as a person, the position of the President Sri Lanka Rugby, The Council of the Sri Lanka Rugby, also the Game of rugby football in Sri Lanka.
I would appreciate it if you could make the corrections to the said publication and respectfully follow all protocols of journalism and its ethics by providing the similar space used to publish this erroneous article.
The article contained 4 opening and 2 closing paragraphs written by the Journalist Harsha Amarasinghe, whilst the rest of the article were quoted contents of an alleged letter written by Qais Al Dhalai the General Secretary of UAE Rugby Federation to the former Minister of Sports Hon. Harin Fernando.
Stated below are the six paragraphs written by Journalist Harsha Amarasinghe with clarifications to each paragraph.
Opening 4 paragraphs
A stubborn decision by Lasitha Gunaratne, President - Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) has left some senior office-bearers of SLR scratching their heads after the former Royal College Captain forcefully opted to support Japan in the battle for the Asia Rugby Presidency at a time ‘18 out of the 28 countries eligible to vote had already signed to support’ UAE’s Qais Al-Dhalai who eventually became the President during the Ex-co and Council Meeting in Bali, Indonesia yesterday (17).
This opening paragraph is completely false as the decision to support Professor Yuichi Ueno, Nominee of Japan Rugby Union for the Asia Rugby Presidency was a decision taken by the Council of the Sri Lanka Rugby at its meeting held on 8 November, 2019 which is minuted.
SLR has traditionally been a close ally of United Arab Emirates (UAE) Rugby Federation and was on course to strengthen that relationship by extending its support to Al-Dhalai in his pursuit to become the President of Asia Rugby.
Sri Lanka Rugby has maintained good relations with all rugby playing nations in Asia and at no point in time has been prejudiced to support one nation over another. On the contrary Sri Lanka as a nation maintains excellent diplomatic ties with Japan as a nation dating back many years. This paragraph is more on the lines of the journalist Harsha Amarasinghe’s opinion.
UAE were to return the favour by supporting former SLR President Asanga Seneviratne to become one of the Vice-Presidents of the Asia Rugby, only for Gunaratne to make an absolute mess.
This is totally false. It was the Sri Lanka Rugby Council who decided the nominees for the Asia Rugby elections. At the Council meetings held on 10th October, 2019, Emergency Council Meeting 18th Octobe, 2019r (sic) and Council Meeting on 8th November, 2019 it was decided that the current President Lasitha Gunaratne’s name be nominated for the post of Vice President and Ex Co Member of the Asia Rugby.
Sri Lanka Rugby has no legal right to nominate the former President Mr. Asanga Seneviratne for the Post of Vice President or any other post of the Asian Rugby as he no longer serves as an Office Bearer nor a member of the Council. However, the Council still decided to seek the Attorney Generals’ opinion through the Ministry of Sport as Mr. Asanga Seneviratne is currently only an appointed member of the Appeal Board. This decision was taken on 10th of October 2019 at the Sri Lanka Rugby Council meeting and a subsequent letter was submitted to the Ministry of Sport on the 11th October 2019.
Al-Dhalai, in a letter dated November 11, 2019 addressed to Harin Fernando - the Sports Minister [who resigned from his post yesterday] warned that the decision to support his direct rival from Japan “would bring (Sri Lanka) no benefits whatsoever.”
Till to date the Ministry of Sport has not communicated to Sri Lanka Rugby regarding this alleged letter sent by Qais Al Dhalai of UAE Rugby Federation to the former Minister of Sports, Hon. Harin Fernando. On requesting a copy of the said letter from the Ministry of Sports, it was confirmed that they do not have a letter recorded in Ministry of Sports. What is more detrimental in this published paragraph is where the journalist Harsha Amarasinghe exposes the UAE Rugby Federation for threatening the government of Sri Lanka through its Ministry of Sports in its demanding bid to seek its vote at the recently held Annual General Meeting of the Asia Rugby in Bali Indonesia.
Closing two paragraphs0110 (sic)
The Daily Mirror made a few attempts to contact SLR President Lasitha Gunaratne who is currently overseas but the former Sri Lanka prop forward opted to stay away from answering questions despite clearly having the opportunity to communicate through WhatsApp.
If the journalist wished to contact me he could have always called me on my mobile number rather than depend on contacting me on WhatsApp. Further if any clarification was required he could have contacted other officials at Sri Lanka Rugby or its Executive Director who is a full time employee of Sri Lanka Rugby and who is frequently contacted by media personnel.
While Al-Dhalai was elected as the President, Pakistan’s Fawzi Khawaja and Malaysia’s Velayuthan Tan became the Vice-Presidents, and it has been reported that Sri Lanka’s Lasitha Gunaratne got just three votes.
The said election was held as a secret ballot. The number of votes obtained by the contested Vice President Lasitha Gunaratne is falsely mentioned in this paragraph.
Except for the Chairman of the AGM Mr. Aga Hussain (President Asian Rugby) and the Polling Officer Mr. Ridzal Saat of World Rugby, no one is privy to the number of votes cast for each candidate.
In closing I urge you to make the said necessary corrections in a subsequent article. I also request you to publish proof of the letter sent to former Minister Hon. Harin Fernando by UAE Rugby Federation General Secretary, Qais Al Dhalai and also proof of the said number of votes obtained by the contested Vice President as reported by the Journalist Harsha Amarasinghe.
The Daily Mirror has always supported the Game of Rugby Football in Sri Lanka and has maintained a reputation of publishing valid and unbiased articles. However, this so called publication sans no validity or authenticity of information, could be determined as an article written and published to tarnish the image of an individual, The Council of Sri Lanka Rugby and also the Game of Rugby Football in Sri Lanka.