Sports Minister Harin Fernando this week claimed he was offered a bribe to include certain players to the national team sparking a fresh investigation by the International Cricket Council, the game’s global gate-keeper.
The Minister’s shocking revelation came just a day after ICC started a 15-day Amnesty for Sri Lankans, cricketers and officials, on January 16, to divulge any approaches they may have received from fixers. It shows the extent to which corruption has infected the sport in the country. The grace period, which will end on January 31, has reportedly seen new people come forward with fresh information.
“Recently someone tried to bribe me as well,” Fernando said, without naming the alleged perpetrator. “I was offered a bribe to get some players into the team. I reported the incident to the ICC.”
“You can realize how bad the situation is,” he said. “I initially thought this was an attempt to trap me. But it was not and I informed this to Alex Marshall, the ICC Anti Corruption boss.”
The Minister had, indeed, mentioned this to Alex Marshall during his recent visit to the island in the presence of several others. This prompted the ICC’s chief investigator to later record a statement from him.
In Sri Lanka, the Sports Minister wields substantial power over team selection. The Sports Law requires him to appoint selectors and also to sign off any national team representing Sri Lanka. Such power has often being misused by local politicians, spurring calls to remove them and make the selection process free from political interference.
The ICC is now investigating what they term “serious allegations of corruption” in Sri Lanka and has one of their investigators based on Colombo.
Three players have been charged, including former Chairman of Selectors and top cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya. Jayasuriya was not charged for match-fixing but for concealing information, an offence under ICC’s anti-corruption code.
Nuwan Zoysa, a former coach attached to SLC, and a former international cricketer, Dilhara Lokuhettige, were accused of “directly soliciting, inducing, enticing or encouraging a player” to fix or influence the progress of a match and failing to disclose approaches to “engage in corrupt conduct”.
STATEMENT FROM ALEX MARSHALL – ICC GENERAL MANAGER – ANTI-CORRUPTION
“We are approaching the end of the first week of our 15-day amnesty to participants who have previously failed to report any information concerning corrupt conduct in Sri Lankan cricket. I am encouraged by the number of people that have come forward and the new information we’re receiving as a result. This intelligence is assisting our ongoing and wide-ranging investigations in Sri Lanka as well us enabling us to continue to develop a comprehensive picture of the situation there.
“I would urge any more players or participants who have any information concerning corrupt conduct to come forward over the next week and share it with us in the strictest of confidence without any fear of repercussions.”