By Susil Premalal
Colombo, Dec. 8 (Daily Mirror) - Former Minister of Sports Roshan Ranasinghe had called on the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to intervene in the areas of anti-corruption and human trafficking in regards to the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL), in a letter written during his tenure as Sports Minister.
In a letter dated December 23, 2022, addressed to the Director General of the OCA Husain Al Musallam, the former Sports Minister alleged that incumbent officials had failed to finance the participation of the country’s athletes at several major sporting events, despite being required to do so by the Sports Law.
"...please note, a) That the majority of international tournaments, championships and other events are sponsored by the Ministry (public funds, averagely 80%), b) That a number of 200 high performers are completely maintained by the ‘public funds’ aiming to uplift the national sports in the international arena owing to the incapability of National Olympic Committee," the Minister wrote in the letter.
An example, the Minister pointed out in his letter, was Italy-based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon.
“...NOC agreed that they would provide financial support to the sports career practices of Mr. Yupun Abeykoon who won the Men's 100 meters setting a new national record of 10.06 seconds, but the NOC later ignored him. However, the Ministry had to intervene and to take responsibility to provide such support and assistance with public funds to Mr. Yupun Abeykoon in best of our capacity to develop him to achieve the best for our national interest," the Minister also stated.
"However, it was evident that National Olympic Committee expenditure reports are more focussed on favouring federations on predetermining where they can easily get the votes during their elections," it added.
The Minister also alleged that the NOC had not properly used funds provided for the welfare of Olympians.
"Out of 106 Olympians in Sri Lanka, 72 are still living and they have made complaints to the Ministry that they are not getting any support from the NOC despite the receipt of US $10,000 annually for the welfare of the Olympians to the NOC by the IOC. However, the Sports Ministry has arranged to give them all the support it can at the ministerial level again with the public funds to improve their sports career and in gratitude for their service to the nation," he wrote.
He also alleged that of 116 athletes and 54 officials who participated at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year, nine athletes and an official had decamped.
"During this tour there were 10 officials who participated for the administration of the athletes from the National Olympic Committee, whereas they have completely neglected their responsibility by allowing said players to vacate the team. Hence, this incident is interpreted by many local media and local parties as human smuggling due to the prevailing high tendency of the migration rate," the letter also read.
He urged the OCA Director General to take action, stating: "Therein it is my obligation to request your opinion and your intervention mainly in areas of anti-corruption and human trafficking to rectify all the above mishaps so we can bring out the best results out of our federation to produce more athletes with medal prospect."