As Sports Minister of Sri Lanka, Harin Fernando has shown the desire, determination and courage to bring meaningful changes for transparent and fair play in the game of bat and ball. The most awaited demise of Thilanga Sumathipala and introduction of Prevention of offenses relating to Sports Bill will surely be helpful in bringing Sri Lanka Cricket back on track.
In December last year, when Harin Fernando took over as Sri Lanka Sports Minister, Sri Lanka Cricket was on ventilator.
The national team was performing badly, players were divided in camps, coach was busy in drawing his 40,000 USD salary pay.
The Sri Lanka Cricket Board (SLC) was itself in worst condition, as CEO Ashley De Silva was running it like his private limited company. Harin predecessor Faizer Musthapha had dozens of Dubai visits with Ashley to meet ICC top brass, but the outcome of those meetings will always be remained a mystery. Not only this, as Faizer used SLC for his political campaign, Ashley hired and fired employees on his will.
However, unlike Faizer, Harin was not a stranger for cricket. An alumni of prestigious St. Joseph College, he reads the game and more importantly knows the dynamics of SLC as well.
In first few months, his task was to conduct SLC election in democratic way, as the Maitland place was without an elected administration since June 2018.
Harin got the permission of ICC, remained neutral and conducted the election in best possible way.
However, like a seasoned batsman, after spending some time on the wicket, now after the World Cup, Harin’s innings as Sports Minister is getting better and better by each passing day!
First and foremost, he knocked out former SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala with a new regulation that prevents any individual from holding a position at SLC, who is directly or indirectly involves in betting and gambling.
For that to be happened, he signed the gazette to introduce regulations to bring Sri Lanka in line with International Cricket Council (ICC) provisions that ban individuals with connections to gambling firms from Sport’s administration.
By those masterstroke, he knocked out Sumathipala in just one punch, as the former SLC President himself has admitted in parliament that his family is involved in betting and gambling. In this scenario, after new gazette, Sumathipala’s dream to rule the SLC forever is crashed officially.
Interestingly, Sumathipala himself always knew it, that’s why he withdrew from recently concluded SLC election. However, later he entered at SLC from the back door through a laughable post called immediate past President.
However, now Sri Lanka cricket can breathe freely sans Sumathipala. The credit for this courageous step goes to Harin Fernando. Sumathipala had always been unacceptable for ICC, due to his family’s involvement in betting and gambling. However, except for Navin Dissanayake, earlier Sports Minister (particularly Dayasiri Jayasekara, who destroyed Sri Lanka Sports Law in order to safeguard his closest associate Sumathipala) played only in Sumathipala’s hands.
However, Harin Fernando rewrote Sri Lanka Cricket history, by putting a full stop on Sumathipala cricket ambitions!
The proposed prevention of offenses relating to Sports Bill is another feather in Harin’s profile as Sports Minister. While Thilanga’s demise was inevitable and long due, in implementing this particular bill, Harin has shown the willingness!
The proposed bill will have the significant impact on Sri Lanka cricket, as the game was been marred by all sort of wrongdoings, financial frauds, match fixing allegations, corruption charges in last two years. The bill will be helpful in prevention of match fixing, corruption, illegal manipulation and illegal betting in Sports.
The Bill was originally drafted in 2014 itself. However even before then Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage could bring it in parliament, the government changed. On the other hand, Dayasiri Jayasekara and Faizer Mustapha were utterly useless as Sports Minister. However, Harin took keen interest and after getting approvals from Attorney General department and legal department, now the Bill will soon be tabled in parliament.
Importantly, the proposed bill is not restricted to Cricket only, but will helpful for all 66 Sports associations in Sri Lanka to make Sport clean and fair. Currently, only four countries – Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa – have implemented this bill and soon Sri Lanka will also be entered in this elite club. Also, with this bill, Sri Lanka will become the first Asian country to implement it, as even India has not applied it as yet!