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News

Sacked Sri Lankan board chief threatens Sports Minister

Sacked Sri Lankan cricket board President, Thilanga Sumathipala, has demanded a public apology from the Sports Minister and threatened legal action for defamatory comments made in the aftermatch of the cricket boards dissolution

CricInfo
27-Apr-2001
Thilanga Sumathipala, the head of the recently sacked Sri Lankan cricket board, has demanded a public apology from the Sports Minister, Lakshman Kiriella, for comments made in the aftermath of the cricket board's dissolution. He has also threatened a US $5 million defamatory suit if no apology is forthcoming within two weeks.
Speaking to the media at the Jaic Hilton last night Sumathipala said that the Minister had, "repeatedly made several knowingly false and misleading statements, which have caused grave embarrassment and defamed the integrity of myself and my Executive Committee. I expect a public apology to clear my name."
With the cricket board crisis scheduled to return to the Court of Appeal on the 4th May, a public apology is unlikely to be forthcoming. The board was dissolved on the basis of a procedural technicality and, to date, there is no evidence of serious financial wrongdoing by the Sumathipala-led board. An apology would represent a tacit admission that the board was wound up without due reason.
Sumathipala, who claimed that he would not stand in the next AGM because of the, "politicisation of the board was not going to help me or Sri Lankan cricket," was in a bullish mood last night, claiming that "no one is above the law and the cricket board belongs to the membership, not the to the Ministry. Moreover, he believes that Lakshmann Kiriella has made some legal blunders in the past few weeks.
According to Sumathipala the board was not wound up in the proper manner, making those involved liable for prosecution. More seriously, he argued that its dissolution means that it can no longer function as an organisation.
"The Honourable Minister has made a mistake that jeopardises Sri Lanka's membership of the International Cricket Council (ICC)," he explained. "The board was dissolved, not suspended, as was the case last time. This means the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka no longer exists as a legal entity."
If the legal system agrees with Sumathipala's interpretation, then the consequences are far-reaching. All contracts with the BCCSL, including the record television deal, would logically all cease to exist, bank accounts would have to be frozen, and board employees are out of a job. Moreover, Sri Lankan cricket would no longer be represented within the ICC and full membership could be revoked.
Whilst the possible consequences of the board's dissolution are grave according to Sumathipala, a common sense solution is surely likely to prevail, especially with such strong political support for the board's dissolution. Sports Ministry lawyers will be trying to work through the quagmire to identify a legally acceptable solution and the ICC could be requested to recognise the Interim Committee, as Sri Lanka's sole governing body of cricket.
Nevertheless, the way forward is complicated. What, for example, is to be done about the fact that despite the board's dissolution Sumathipala remains an Executive Director of the ICC? As David Richards, the Chief Executive of the ICC, said in a recent letter to Anura Tennekoon: "As I understand corporate law, a person once nominated as a director remains in that position until he either resigns or is formally replaced by the organisation which appointed him."
His formal replacement is impossible if the BCCSL no longer exists, but Vijaya Malalsekera, the Chairman of the Interim Committee, has been nominated as Sri Lanka's representative in the ICC's Annual General Meeting in June. It is unclear as to whether the ICC, which is corporate body now and therefore has to abide by its own Memorandum and Articles of Association, will accept Malalsekera as the official Sri Lankan representative.
The Interim Committee will meet the media tonight for the first time since their appointment and the legal status of the board will be high on the agenda of the journalists present. But they are likely to be tightlipped on this issue, as next Thursday the Sumathipala team will challenge both the dissolution and the appointment of an Interim Committee in the Court of Appeal. The lawyers, it seems, will be the greatest beneficiaries of the latest controversy to rock Sri Lankan cricket.