Hearing on a petition, filled by country’s 12 most prominent former players, administrators, first class players and corporate bigwigs, the Court of Appeal Monday issued a notice to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and Sports Ministry, asking them to appear before the Court on 15 March. Along with Muttiah Muralitharan, Sidath Wettimuny and Michael Tissera, former SLC Presidents Ana Punchihewa, Vijaya Malalasekara and Rienzie Wijetilleke had filed a petition in Appeal Court asking for restructuring of SLC and change of voting structure.
The petitioners official media statement reads:
Announcing Writ Petition at Court of Appeal (CoA) of Sri Lanka seeking new Constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC)
- Today we like-minded patriots have got together to seek legal redress to right the wrongs in the governance of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). We believe that the time has come to walk the talk. Not acting now during these dire times for our cricket would have been a dereliction of our collective duty. Having considered the matter seriously, we have filed a Writ Petition at the Court of Appeal (CoA) of Sri Lanka seeking a new Constitution for the flawed governing body administering cricket in the country. The matter is being supported by eminent President’s Counsel Sanjeeva Jayawardena and Dr Milhan Mohamed, instructed by Sudath Perera Associates.
- At this critical juncture, ad-hoc reforms short of a new Constitution for SLC would be a cosmetic exercise. The alarming decline of Sri Lankan cricket can only be arrested through a root and branch governance overhaul of SLC to make the organization “fit for purpose”.
- Generic solutions as amending the Sports Act of Sri Lanka cannot improve the Governance standards of SLC. Cricket in Sri Lanka is a million dollar business unmatched by any other sport in the country. Cricket is the most popular sport in the country that has won 2 World Cups. No other sport in Sri Lanka has come close to achieving such lofty standards through performance, public following or commercial appeal. It is therefore entirely justifiable that cricket deserves special treatment – urgently – bringing forth a higher threshold of independence, integrity, transparency and accountability to its
- We would like the Sri Lankan judiciary to order the Government of Sri Lanka to invoke provisions in the Sports Act of Sri Lanka to form an independent committee of governance experts to draft a brand new Constitution for SLC with input from the International Cricket Council (ICC). We also wish to have this new Constitution passed as an Act of Parliament to avoid any dilution or compromises at the hands of vested
- We are aware of the difference between a “Government acting of its own volition” (political intervention) and a “Government acting under the direction of the judiciary” (judicial intervention). That made the difference between the suspension of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and non-suspension of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) by ICC. We are very mindful of these legal
- This case is not about persons or personalities. This is all about our cricket. Neither of us the Petitioners have any personal agendas or vendettas against any member of SLC. This court action is about correcting the systemic flaws in
the governance of our cricket and not about penalizing anyone. Our sole concern is the best interests of Sri Lankan cricket.
- Sri Lankan cricket is seriously ill. It requires urgent surgery, lest we regret our negligence. Not taking corrective action – now – cannot be an option for any right thinking
- We love Sri Lanka. We love Sri Lankan cricket equally. Cricket is a second religion to Sri Lankan society, irrespective of race, creed, caste or economic status. To the rich man, the poor man, the city dweller, the villager – cricket is the one solace. This was amply proved during our 30 year civil war when weapons were dropped and battles stopped, just to watch Sri Lanka play a World Cup final. Yes, there is something magical and enchanting about cricket that runs deep into the psyche of Sri Lankans. If we ever excelled in any field to reach global heights – it was through
- Just consider these stats: From 1st January 2016 to 31st January 2021, Sri Lanka has lost 118 out of all 194 international matches played, for a dismal winning percentage of 30.92%
Out of 48 Tests played, we have lost 23 for a winning percentage of 35.41%. Out of 89 ODIs played, we have lost 56 for a winning percentage of 30.33%. Out of 57 T20Is played, we have lost 39 for a winning percentage of 28.07%
These are depressing figures.
- It cannot also be a coincidence that the above results were achieved during times Sports Ministers did not “meddle” in SLC with “Interim Committees” and let “democratically elected boards” to run cricket in the
Though we boast of the best schools cricket structure in the world, we have never won the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup. The best we did was to become joint World Champions – and that too during an independent Interim Committee of SLC.
It cannot be a coincidence that Sri Lankan cricket reached 5 World Cup finals when independent Interim Committees who were not conflicted between club and country, governed Sri Lankan cricket.
That itself tells a story. When there are no vested interests, when there are no divided loyalties between club and country – administrators take independent decisions. This is what we see in England, Australia and New Zealand – who display the gold standard in independent cricket governance, where all board members are independent from domestic club
/ state / provincial structures.
- Our abysmal playing standard is simply a façade camouflaging a deep malaise hidden within. It is easy to allocate the entire blame on the most visible target – the players – whom we see losing matches on television. They are the easy scapegoats, but they are not the cause of the
- The root cause of the decline of Sri Lankan cricket is its poor governance driven through the flawed Constitution of SLC. The said Constitution has installed a Board which is not independent from its playing Clubs. It is severely conflicted between Club and Country. This system encourages the office bearers to take decisions mostly to satisfy its voter base, causing the playing standards of Sri Lankan cricket to deteriorate.
(13) SLC is a body of the clubs, by the clubs, for the clubs. A more appropriate name for SLC under its current Constitution would have been “Cricket Clubs of Sri Lanka (CCSL)” rather than “Sri Lanka Cricket”
- The flawed Constitution of SLC encourages a closed body lacking in It has no place for 2 of the 3 key stakeholders in the game – the players and the cricket loving public (civil society) – to shape its policymaking through voting rights at the SLC Executive Committee (ExCo). Policymaking is entirely up to the voting Clubs and no one else. It is clear, under the current Constitution of SLC, only one of the 3 stakeholders of cricket makes final decisions.
- Nothing prevents SLC from publishing Minutes of its Meetings on its website by redacting commercial and security sensitive issues. This lack of transparency has led to serious allegations against SLC as highlighted in the Audit Report of SLC debated at Parliament
- Consider this fact: 52% of Sri Lankans are women. How many women are there in the SLC ExCo? Zero. There is no gender diversity in Sri Lankan cricket governance.
- The current Constitution of SLC has given birth to a system of politically motivated “Honorary office bearers” who come through a divisive election process. This system is incompatible with a million dollar corporate dealing with the international community. We wish to see SLC finally dragged into the 21stcentury from its archaic amateur practices of the 19th
- The superfluous Honorary office bearer posts have led to political party style “Team” elections where “Team” members do not contest against each other. In case there were no Honorary office bearer posts the elections would have ensured quality candidates being elected with so called “Team” members having to contest against each other with the best candidates
- The lack of division between the roles of the professional Management and Honorary Office bearers at SLC goes against the corporate rule of thumb that a Board should have their “noses in – but fingers out” of Management. When the Board is sharing the work of the Management, there cannot be any objective monitoring of the Management by the
- For a population of 22 million, Sri Lanka has a monumental 24 first class clubs. Comparatively, for a population of 25 million, Australia has just 6 first class clubs and England with a population of 56 million has just 18 first class
- Out of the 9 provinces in Sri Lanka – only 4 provinces have first class cricket grounds. It would be disingenuous to showcase players from a mere 3 provinces, namely Southern, Central and Wayamba to argue that cricket has grown out of Colombo. We are a country playing Test cricket since 1982. The rest of the 5 provinces, North, East, Sabaragamuwa, Rajarata and Uva have produced zero test players. We have not even made a dent in developing cricket in two-thirds of the land in Sri
- Elections to the BCCI covering a population of 1.3 billion has a voter base of just 38. For our tiny island nation of 22 million people, SLC has a voter base of 147.
- It is in the best interests of ICC and world cricket to see a strong and stable Sri Lanka competing pound for pound with the best cricketing nations in the world. International cricket is a small pond, and cricket gains nothing to see one of its most storied Full Members – Sri Lanka – wither into oblivion. We are therefore confident that ICC headed by its Chairman Greg Barclay and its Board of Directors including Ehsan Mani would take a sensible decision to provide the necessary time and space, guidance and expertise for Sri Lankans to oversee a new governance structure for SLC.
- Considering its national importance, we are hopeful that the Government of Sri Lanka headed by His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Hon Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa would support this Petition through a collaborative approach via the Hon. Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC, when this matter is heard in
- We are confident that the Hon. Minister of Sports Namal Rajapaksa having represented Sri Lanka at the highest level in the field of Rugby, will take cognizance of our Petition and bring in the required governance overhaul in the best interests of Sri Lankan cricket. We are equally confident that Minister Rajapaksa will be assisted in this process by the cricket loving Hon Minister of Justice Ali Sabry
- Similarly, we are kindly requesting all opposition political parties in Sri Lanka headed by Hon. Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa to support
- We also take this opportunity to warmly invite civil society and experts in the field of governance including the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and Transparency International to intervene and support our
- Kushil Gunasekera
- Muttiah Muralitharan
- Sidath Wettimuny
- Michael Tissera
- Hon Justice (Retd) Saleem Marsoof PC
- Dinal Phillips PC
- Rienzie Wijetilleke