By Shehan Daniel
Former Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President Thilanga Sumathipala was yesterday formally banned from holding any position at SLC following a directive issued by Sports Minister Harin Fernando, based on the findings and recommendations made by a three-member committee appointed by the Minister.
The committee, chaired by Director General – Department (of) Sports Development Mr. Dhammika Muthugala and including Legal Officer Ministry of Sports – Mrs. Shiromi Ranawaka and Retired Senior SLAS Officer, Attorney-at-law Mr. S. D. Piyadasa, listed three findings in its report, after inquiring a complaint the Minister had received from the Piliyandala Town Sports Club.
In their complaint, the club had contested that Mr. Sumathipala holding office at SLC was a violation of gazette extraordinary No. 2137/85 that bars individuals who have direct or indirect links to the gambling industry from holding office in any sports association under the Ministry of Sports.
In his letter to SLC yesterday, seen by the Daily Mirror, the Minister directed them to “prevent and/or exclude” Mr. Sumathipala from “participating, sitting, voting in any meeting of any committee, exercise discharge and performs of any powers, functions and duties as an Office Bearer or Immediate Past President of from participating as or representing Sri Lanka Cricket.”
The Minister had previously written to SLC banning Sumathipala pending inquiry, but has now confirmed it on this committee’s findings.
The committee, that had evaluated the submissions of both the parties, found that Mr. Sumathipala had violated the Sports Law Regulations and the subsequent gazette notification through his role as the Immediate Past President and his presence in the SLC Ex-Co, and recommended the Minister take adequate measures.
Also considered by the committee was a report given by the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ICC ACU) that had found, among other concerns, instances of transactions between Sporting Star, a Sri Lankan bookmaking business, and a British bookmaker which could be tantamount to corruption and fraud and a violation of Sri Lanka’s criminal laws.
The committee had outlined the contents of the report submitted by the ICC ACU, in its report.
“The report submitted by the ICC ACU General Manager, includes submissions on Glyn Palmer, a British National involved in the gambling industry, which indicate that Mr. Palmer and Mr. Thilanga Sumathipala engaged in gambling internationally and locally. Evidence also showed that a monetary commission had been obtained from WorldTel over the television rights for SLC. The report also states that Mr. Sumathipala is directly involved in gambling and betting in Sporting Star, a gambling institution in Sri Lanka. Written submissions included in the report also shows that by operating a company by the name of Eurocomlink Limited in Great Britain, transactions have been made between Sporting Star and Glyn Palmer. Accordingly prima facie there are a number of allegations of corruption and fraud mentioned in the ICCACU report,” the committee’s report read.
The first of the committee’s three findings was that Mr. Sumathipala’s participation at a SLC Special General Meeting on September 1 2019 – erroneously dated as August 1 2019 in the committee’s report – was in violation of a gazette issued by the Sports Minister.
“Sri Lanka Cricket conducted a Special General Meeting on August (sic) 1, 2019 and Mr. Thilanga Sumathipala’s participation in his capacity as Immediate Past President and Executive Committee Member was in violation of the orders stipulated in directive B,” the committee’s report stated.
Directive B referred to a letter sent out by the Sports Ministry on 27 August 2019, that directed all sports associations to ensure that the regulations spelled out in the Sports Law and gazette extraordinary No 2137/85 (issued on 23 August 2019) be enforced.
In its second finding, the committee stated that the brother of Mr. Sumathipala was engaged in the betting and gambling industry, and therefore the former SLC President had violated the sports law and the gazette notification.
“Based on the regulation set out in section 5(4)(g) of the Gazette Extraordinary no. 2137/85 issued on 23 August 2019 and the laws and regulations of the Sports Act No. 25 of 1973, we conclude that the brother of Mr. Thilanga Sumathipala, namely U. W. J. P. A. Sumathipala, who is an immediate family member is engaging in the betting and gambling industry, and therefore is a violation of the sports regulations. The committee strongly rejects the preliminary and other objections raised in the written response by Mr. Thilanga Sumathipala and the committee concludes it was a mere attempt taken to create a legal argument. Therefore Mr. Thilanga Sumathipala has violated the Sports Act and Sports Association Regulations, and we recommend he’s ineligible to hold any post in SLC, to be an Executive Committee member, and to be a representative of any Sri Lankan sports association or an organisation related to sports registered under sports act,” the report, submitted in Sinhalese also said.
The third finding was that the report from the ICC ACU had material that could tantamount to an infringement of the provisions of criminal law in Sri Lanka.
“The report from the ICC ACU finds that there is evidence that an offence coming within the ambit of Criminal Law of Sri Lanka has been committed. Therefore we recommend to forward or submit the said report and relevant documents to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and to take appropriate legal recourse accordingly” the report also read.
Mr. Sumathipala said that he was not aware of yesterday’s directive, when the Daily Mirror sought his comments, taking a political swipe at the Sports Minister instead.
“The Minister has leaked this to the media before sending it to me and notifying me. This is what happens when children run the government, which is why we need to send this government home,” the former Deputy Speaker of Parliament said.