In a shameful incident in the history of the nation, top political brass on Thursday deliberately tried to sabotage the prevention of offenses relating to Sports Bill in the parliament in Sri Lanka. Being drafted in the supervision of Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister Harin Fernando and his legal advisor Panduka Keerthinanda, the Bill will make it legally possible to try match fixers and corrupted individuals in court.
More importantly, the bill will be a major breakthrough in the fight against corruption, especially in Sri Lanka where match fixing has become a cancer. So much so that last month, even a former President of Sri Lanka Cricket Board (SLC) Thilanga Sumathipala was banned from cricket for his involvement in the betting and gambling business.
However, due to some unrealistic reasons, the Sports Ministry is not able to pass this historical bill in parliament for some time now.
On November 7 (Yesterday) also, the Bill was almost certain to be passed in parliament. However, due to some unknown reasons, the said bill was not listed in the agendas, in an attempt to make sure that another bill, which was proposed by the top political brass, gets the complete attention.
“It was a classic example of jealousy, where even within the government, few people are trying their best to stop this important bill, so that ahead of the presidential election Sports Minister Harin Fernando could not get due credit and praise for his achievement for this bill” a top Sports Ministry official told Cricket Age.
Fortunately, as the Bill has the potential to make Sri Lanka Sports corruption free, somehow party leaders took a historical decision to take up this bill on 11th November 2019 by publishing a special Gazette notification before the presidential election.
The Bill on Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports has been gazetted after months of deliberation by the Sports Ministry, Attorney General’s Department and the Legal Draftsman. It now awaits passage in Parliament to make all sports-related corruption, particularly match-fixing and illegal and betting, criminal offences.
The gazette was issued on August 23, 2019. The law carries jail terms and hefty fines to deter potential criminals.
Once passed, Sri Lanka will be the first Asian country–following in the footsteps of South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand–to introduce such a law. It covers every aspect of corruption including engaging in betting, gambling, match-fixing, providing inside information for benefits, financial or otherwise, and any action that brings the sport into disrepute. It gives power to charge suspects under Sri Lanka’s judicial system.
The ICC is currently carrying out a major investigation into match-fixing in Sri Lanka, a country it believes is one of the worst offenders. They have charged several players but are yet to conclude the probe. The National Audit Office has also questioned Sri Lanka Cricket on alleged misappropriation of funds such as in the instance of a questionable deal to build the Sooriyawewa Cricket Stadium and the awarding of television rights.
The proposed law has strong sanctions for those found guilty. These include a jail term of up to 10 years, a fine not exceeding Rs 100mn, or both fine and imprisonment for the offence of match-fixing (covering spot fixing and pitch fixing), offence of corruption in sports, offence of unlawful betting and aiding, abetting and conspiring in the commission of any offence.
The proposed law makes concealing information a criminal offence which carries a penalty of up to two years in jail or a fine of Rs. 200,000 or both. Failure to cooperate in relation to any corruption-related investigation has also been made a criminal offence and those found guilty will receive up to one year in jail or a fine not exceeding Rs. 100,000 or both.
A failure to maintain confidentiality by a service provider and making false allegations against anyone are offences which entail a fine, a jail term or both.
Inquiries will be carried out by a Sports Investigation Unit (SIU) to be set up by the Minister of Sports, consisting of senior police officers above the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) who will probe and initiate legal action. The suspects will be charged before the High Court of Sri Lanka. There are also provisions relating to extradition arrangements.
After a preliminary inquiry conducted by the Director General of Sports upon receipt of any information, the SIU (appointed by the Minister of Sports in consultation with the Minister in charge of Law and Order) will investigate, before referring it to law enforcement authorities for prosecution.