Sri Lanka news January 10, 2012

Tillakaratne alleges political interference in SLC polls

Hashan Tillakaratne, the former Sri Lanka captain turned politician, has written to the ICC claiming there was political interference in the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) elections held on January 3, and that the elections had also violated the SLC's constitution.

Tillakaratne alleged the Sri Lanka government allowed a change of voting delegates at the last minute in order to ensure that votes were cast for a predetermined list of candidates, and that several of those who were elected were not qualified to hold office under the constitution.

However, in an email to ESPNcricinfo, the ICC said they have "no knowledge of such a letter".

Tillakaratne's comments echo those of Mohan de Silva, one of the opposing candidates for vice-president, whose group withdrew on the eve of the election in protest of what they saw as political interference.

"Most of our member clubs and associations brought to our notice that there was undue pressure put on them to change the delegates [who would vote]," de Silva said at the time.

A total of 147 votes were spread among the provincial and district cricket associations and the clubs. The election was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Sports, and supervised by the Director General of Sports, Ranjani Jayakody. In his letter, Hashan claimed that "the Director General of Sports instructed all clubs eligible to vote at the said elections to submit their list of delegates who will be attending on or before 12 noon on 19th December 2012. However, just three days before the election this list of delegates was mysteriously changed and several high ranking Government Ministers were renamed as delegates.

"This was done to ensure that all the clubs that came within the said Ministers electorates or Districts would tow the 'political line'."

In addition, Tillakaratne claimed that a number of contestants did not qualify under Article 11 (v) (f) of the SLC's constitution, which states that any candidate for office must have served on the executive committee for a period of two years within the 15-year period immediately preceding the election.

"When these objections were raised, the position taken by the Director General of Sports was that the Hon Minister of Sports could waive this requirement in the SLC Constitution," Tillakaratne said. "However, it was then pointed out to the said Director General that the only exemption that the Minister could make in terms of the Sports Law and the Regulations thereunder is to permit a candidate who has not played first class cricket to contest for a post. The Minister had no power to waive any other requirement in the Constitution of SLC.

"However, no inquiry was held and no decision taken with regard to these objections and these candidates who did not qualify in terms of the constitution of SLC were allowed to contest for appointment to these posts (and subsequently take up office)."

According to Tillakaratne, the elections clearly violated the ICC's articles, which seek to prevent governments from interfering in the administration of the sport. "Due to political interference the membership of SLC have been deprived of an opportunity to have free and fair elections."

Upali Dharmadasa was elected unopposed as president of SLC on January 3 in the board's first election in seven years. Nishantha Ranatunga was voted in uncontested as secretary and Nuski Mohamed was elected treasurer. The only election to be contested was for the post of assistant treasurer, with Ajitha Pasqual winning comfortably. All those elected will serve a one-year term.

Following the election, Jayakody denied there had been any pressure and said the delegates represented the views of clubs and therefore their individual preferences were not of any consequence. "The concerned parties can take necessary legal action," she told reporters. "I held a fair election."

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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