By Champika Fernando
Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera last week appointed Attorney-at-Law Palitha Kumarasena to reconsider the ban imposed on Kalutara PCC and Panadura SC players after fresh evidence emerged of gross manipulation of the inquiry process.
In a letter addressed to Ashely de Silva, CEO Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the suspended players of the Panadura CC have said they had been kept in the dark right through the "purported" inquiry process except to bring them to Colombo on February 8, 2017. Even then, they were not allowed to face the inquiry. They were turned back, saying "they need not take part in the inquiry and that he [an unnamed Executive Committee member] will take care of everything".
“I am also instructed to inform you that, on or around February 17, my clients were brought to Colombo in a bus, purportedly to present their case before the inquiry," a three-page letter sent on behalf of the suspended cricketers’ states. "I am informed that my clients along with the rest of the teammates were kept inside the bus whilst the club officials went in to meet the inquiry panel that had been assembled. I’m also instructed that after a few hours and Ex-Co officials of Sri Lanka Cricket entered the bus and informed my client that they need not take part in the inquiry and that he will take care of everything."
After seven months of inquiry, a SLC appointed three-member inquiry panel found the players of both clubs guilty of misconduct and not playing to the spirit of the game. It found no evidence against club officials whose involvement in the process now seems inevitable.
The suspended players include former Sri Lanka cricketer Chamara Silva, the captain of the Panadura SC, who had not taken the field on the controversial third day's play, and Ayana Siriwardene, a schoolboy cricketer playing his first, first-class season for Kalutara PCC.
The appointment of an independent committee was welcomed by many in cricketing circles who believe the truth will be exposed and the real culprits brought to book.
Both captains were suspended for two years while the remaining players were handed a one-year suspension from all forms of cricket. However, the suspensions were lifted last week pending appeal. The Sunday Times learns SLC will now not proceed with the appeals but will wait for the report of the Sports Ministry-appointed committee.
The letter, written by Kalinga Indatissa, PC, states that the suspensions were "unreasonable and against the rules of natural justice".
It says SLC failed to inform the players of the inquiry in writing or otherwise depriving them of a chance to defend themselves against the allegations. Accordingly, they have been denied the right to an impartial inquiry as per the provisions of Clause 3.4 of the contract.
In the letter, the players have denied the engaging the services of lawyers to "safeguard their interests at this purported independent inquiry":
“..….and they further state that they never authorised any person or Attorney-at-Law to represent them with regard to any matter pertaining to this purported inquiry. I’m also instructed to inform you that my clients never received any form of communication asking them to be present at the inquiry in order to give evidence."
The SLC contests this. Speaking at a press conference to announce the ban, SLC Vice-President in charge of domestic cricket K Mathivanan was quoted as saying “Also, each player had been represented by lawyers, including Chamara Silva. Lawyers appeared on behalf of all the club players”.
“In view of the comments made by Mathivanan, I would thank you to let me know the names of the Attorneys-at-Law who is deemed to have appeared on my clients’ behalf at the purported inquiry," the letter added. "My clients had not retained the services of any Attorney-at-Law and intends on reporting this to the Hon Supreme Court in the event of its necessity."
While rejecting the bans, the players have called for a fresh inquiry to determine the truth which has been swept under the carpet.
“...My clients are facing a possible loss of livelihood and great hardship and ask you to consider lifting the suspension...in the totality of the aforesaid circumstances, I would thank you to initiate fresh inquiry," the letter states.
Meanwhile, in separate communication to the President of the Panadura SC, Jayantha de Silva, the players have accused de Silva of "maliciously" preventing them from appearing at the inquiry.
“I’m also instructed that SLC and the panel of inquiry had requested from you to make players available for the inquiry and you had neglected and/or maliciously prevented my clients from appearing at this inquiry by informing the Panel of Inquiry that the Attorneys-at-Law that you had retained, in fact, appears for the players," the players have written to de Silva through their lawyer Mr Indatissa. "I am further instructed that none of my clients had given you any authority in writing or otherwise to represent their interest at this inquiry."
They have also requested Mr de Silva to furnish them with all the correspondence with regard to the inquiry he had with the SLC.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera he would bring the real culprits to the books.
“I have got affidavits from players which explain the hidden truth behind the alleged match-fixing saga. A fresh inquiry will unearth the real truth,” Minister said.
Though there was no evidence to prove an attempted fixing of the match for financial gain, it appears it has been purely about promotion and relegation from the top tier of Sri Lanka's first-class cricket. Having resumed the final day on 180 for 2, Panadura added further 223 runs in 22.3 overs at a run rate of 10.34 for their first innings. Kalutara were bowled out for 197 in 22.5 overs in the second innings, before Panadura hit 167 for 7 in 13.4 to win the game.