People of this country ask for two things when the chips are down. One is elections and the other is cricket matches, but the latter will be appreciated given that the island’s national cricket team wins matches. Right now, the probability of Sri Lankans seeing both is dim. Why? Because the present President doesn’t seem to want elections, and the other reason is that Sri Lanka will not be invited to any overseas international tournaments in the immediate future because Sri Lanka Cricket is serving a ban imposed on it by the ICC.
The present regime endorses what the incumbent President proposes and then carries out by giving orders. If the majority in the cabinet disapproves what the President proposes, we would have seen more protests and shouting inside Parliament. The rest of the Cabinet stays mum when the President makes proposals in order to enjoy privileges. A good example is the President ordering the takeover of the colonial-style Post Office in Nuwara Eliya and telling the postal authorities to find another place to relocate this Post Office. The people of this country are awaiting the next elections to show their disapproval of how this present regime thinks and works.
If there are disputes and squabbles among politicians, they are merely personal and have nothing to do with bringing in a system change or toppling a regime
It’s in this backdrop that an election-friendly budget has been proposed by the President, who also enjoys the portfolio of Finance Minister. So if political analysts suggest that this present President is not the most popular politician to go in front of the people and garner votes, then how can we relate the present budget to the political future of Wickremesinghe? That’s where the people of this country have to be mature enough to understand the ‘political thinking’ of this country. If there are disputes and squabbles among politicians, they are merely personal and have nothing to do with bringing in a system change or toppling a regime. Many cricket analysts believe that the present crisis at the Cricket Board is the result of a battle between the SLC President and the Sports Minister. That’s probably why President Wickremesinghe intervened in the cricket matter and showed his disapproval when Sports Minister Ranasinghe initially dissolved the Cricket Board and appointed an interim committee. Now the matter is before the court and the ousted officials of SLC have obtained a stay order blocking the minister’s gazette.
Many are of the opinion that politicians use elections and cricket to secure their political futures. When the political future was bleak for the 225 lawmakers in parliament, this golden opportunity to channel the minds of the people from life’s hardships towards cricket arose. A close analysis of the cricket debacle makes us wonder whether the cricket crisis was ‘created’ to shift the minds of the people from cost of living issues towards saving cricket. If you take what happens at SLC in Colombo one can see intermittent protests staged by various groups. The voices of the people now are about saving cricket and not about their empty stomachs that are growling and demanding food. The politicians are batting well, and they know how not to get out!
Inside parliament, the other day, the Sports Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were able to unite all 225 parliamentarians to work towards saving cricket. All of them want the Executive Committee of SLC banned and the cricket administration to be handed over to a competent authority; for example, a special committee. President Wickremesinghe has already appointed a committee to handle matters of the SLC where the suspension imposed on Sri Lanka Cricket is concerned. That committee is headed by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry.
We have to understand one thing clearly. SLC is a golden goose, a den of wealth or one of the most corrupt institutions; whichever way you want to describe it. One time sports minister C.B. Rathnayake named SLC as one of the top three corrupt institutions in this country, alongside Sri Lanka Police and the Education Ministry. That was in the year 2010. What have the lawmakers of this country done to change this dark image SLC has been associated with for over a decade after this statement was made? If this scribe’s memory serves him right, that former Sports Minister was pulled up by the then government hierarchy for making that controversial statement.
The same response is given by the present hierarchy of this government when the Sports Minister is trying to put things in order at SLC. As we have maintained earlier in this column, that’s the outward intention of the Sports Minister (according to him) has been conveyed, but the political motive behind the minister’s actions is unknown.
When the political future was bleak for the 225 lawmakers in parliament, this golden opportunity to channel the minds of the people from life’s hardships towards cricket arose
This leaves room in the minds of cricket fans to pose so many questions. Cricket critics point out that so many past sports ministers spoke about corruption allegations at SLC after being appointed to the top chair of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, but none of these sports ministers walked their talk. It’s probably because SLC is so important to these sports ministers and being on the good books of SLC officials has its rewards; for example, getting tickets for international matches hosted by Sri Lanka and obtaining visas to fly overseas and witness events like the World Cup.
This is a country where its lawmakers know the value of cricket and how directly it is linked to politics. That’s why lawmakers panic when cricket is ailing. It would serve politics, lawmakers and cricket well if the regime finds a Sports Minister who is people friendly; despite the fact that this position wields so much power. It would serve present politicians well if they visit the archives of Sirasa TV and watch one of the past episodes of ‘Circus karayo’. In one of the episodes telecast this week, a moneylender (female) is invited to take to politics. Her response is, “I know to squeeze the necks of borrowers and get my money back, but don’t know how to smile in front of people and get their votes’.
In politics, one must understand the existence of three pillars; voters, money and cricket. For a politician, if there is a weak area regarding the understanding of any one of this trio the politician would spell doom for himself.