National Olympic Chief slams Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage

Olympics Sri Lanka    Chairman of the Sri Lanka National Olympic Committee (NOC) and senior government official Hemasiri Fernando directed a scathing attack at Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, alleging that the Minister had destroyed the autonomy of the country’s sports associations by changing the sports law to allow politics to directly control the sports, creating a reign of “terror”.

Fernando, who is also the the secretary of the Ministry of Postal Services, pointed out yesterday that the new regulations had invoked unlimited powers for the Director General of Sports to control sports associations and also to control the election of office bearers to the associations. The regulations also give unlimited power to the minister to decide all office bearers of associations except the treasurer, as anyone contesting posts in national sports associations has to get the prior approval of the minister.

Fernando said that the NOC identified 24 such new regulations which “dangerously affect the independence of national sports associations and blatantly violate all local and international traditions” and informed the IOC properly of the situation. Fernando dismissed a claim by the sports minister which alleged that the NOC had waited 40 years to complain to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about the Sports Law 25 of 1973.

Fernando countered this claim by saying, “The sports law was amended a few times during the past 40 years, but the autonomy of sports associations was not destroyed like this time. Hence, there was no necessity for the NOC to be concerned. However, the regulations introduced in January and August 2013 are so harmful that they had made it compulsory for most national associations to kneel in front of the sports minister for their existence.

“No sports ministry or sports authority in the world has ever issued such subjugating regulations on sports bodies, as we can claim with responsibility, this is the reason for members of national sports associations to remain silent at meetings called by the minister agreeing with all decisions even against their conscience and remain praise singers, as they can do nothing else in the face of the terror created by the regulations, the reason for me to send an official letter to the IOC six months ago was to inform them that the minister had used his powers to change a few regulations in an arbitrary manner to infringe the autonomy of sports associations,” Fernando explained in a media release.

Last week Aluthgamage and sports ministry officials along with the local NOC officials were summoned to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to discuss the disputed sports law following a written complaint made by Fernando. Following the discussions the IOC had issued a warning under Pere Miro, the National Olympic Committees (NOC) Relations Director of the IOC that Sri Lanka had to scrap the controversial provisions in its sports law to ensure autonomy and jurisdiction of national sports associations, or risk losing international status.

The IOC reminded Aluthgamage of “very serious issues in relations to the sports legislation”, and the previous warnings “informally and diplomatically” issued by the IOC in 2010 and in 2012.

A letter submitted to the sports ministry states, “ We have carefully examined Sports Law No. 25 of 1973 (in particular Articles 18 to 21 in relation to the National Olympic Committee (NOC) and Part III in relation to the sports federations) as well as the subsequent Regulations issued thereafter and it is obvious that a number of provisions are not compatible with the Olympic Charter and the basic principles of the Olympics Movement.

“In the event that no concrete and serious action is taken to remedy the situation promptly, appropriate measures could be taken by the international sports institutions, which could call into question the representation of Sri Lanka at international sports events. In particular, the specific provisions of the sports legislation which clearly interfere with the autonomy and the jurisdiction of the national sports organizations should be removed in order for the national sports organizations to be in a position to establish their specific internal regulations and operations in accordance with the basic principles and rules of the respective international sports organizations (and, of course, the general framework of the law of the land).” (Republic Square)

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