House debate on Sports Offences Bill Not fair for Sumathipala to sling mud at Aravinda de Silva – Arjuna

Responding to allegations levelled by the opposition regarding betting scandals, Minister Arjuna Ranatunge said in Parliament yesterday that it was alright for them to sling mud at him as he is a politician and he is used to this. However, he said it was not fair for the opposition MPs such as Sumathipala and Gamini Lokuge to tarnish the image of respected cricketers like Aravinda de Silva.

Joining the debate on the Prevention of Offences related to the Sports Bill – Second Reading in a special sitting convened in Parliament yesterday, he noted that an inquiry had been carried out under the leadership of Desmond Fernando PC on the inquiry conducted on match fixing allegations of match fixing against Aravinda de Silva and himself and it was found that they were not guilty of these allegations as noted in the CBI report. The report said that they had not found any evidence to prove that the two cricketers had engaged in match fixing.

India’s CBI report had stated in their report that Arjuna Ranatunge and Aravinda de Silva had fixed the Lucknow test in 1994 between India and Sri Lanka.

However, The SLC tasked a committee comprising Desmond Fernando with inquiring into the allegation, but it was abandoned, purportedly due to an absence of adequate evidence.

Ranatunge said that had Gamini Lokuge taken appropriate action when he was the Sports Minister, these rogues ruining the sports in this country could have been punished. He urged the Sports Minister Harin Fernando, if possible to recommence inquiries into past incidents as well and punish those who are found guilty. “I am prepared to go through the whole investigation again if required,” he said.

He added that in 2009 he was the Chairman of the Interim Committee and he had been side-lined for the Indian tour. “Generally on an Indian tour we get around $ 14-15 million. But, in 2009 they side-lined us and appointed the Secretary of the Sports Minister as the competent authority of the Cricket Board. In that tournament the agreement stated we were to get $ 6.5 million, but what we had taken eventually was around $ 3.5 million. So see what a colossal amount has been lost to the country. In such circumstances, these corrupt persons will definitely not want to change these laws. The people of this country must know these. This clearly shows what these sports ministers and secretaries have done to obtain money. I too would like if these matters are investigated. There is no purpose in coming to Parliament and making allegations and going home. All this time this bill had not been brought to Parliament by the successive sports ministers. We all know what Thilanga Sumathipala’s family business is. Sumathipala’s company had been engaged in betting since 1999, according to the ICC report. Many players had to face the investigations of the ICC and some were implicated and charged. But, I was cleard of all charges. There were several sports ministers who tried to put a stop to corruption in the sports sector but because of these corrupt officials, they could not do so.”

He said that huge money is to be made in sports such as cricket, rugger and Olympic sports and that is why such rogues clamour to take up positions in these sports bodies in order to make money.

Ranatunge tabled in Parliament the letter that cleared Aravinda de Silva and himself and requested that a copy be sent to MP Thilanga Sumathipala and MP Gamini Lokuge, if possible translating it to Sinhala, as they are the ones slinging mud in Parliament.

Prevention of Corruption in Sports  Act passed without amendments

The Prevention of Corruption in Sports Act was passed without amendments at the special sitting in Parliament yesterday.

According to the provisions of this new Act, under which, if any person found guilty of the offenses mentioned a fine not exceeding Rs.100 million or a prison sentence not exceeding 10 years or both will be imposed. According to the provisions in Chapter I of Part II of Prevention of Offences relating to Sports Act, match-fixing, corruption, illegal manipulation, and illegal betting is defined for the first time in Sri Lanka.

“Any betting that is a financial or other benefit or disadvantage to himself or another person, act in a manner that ensures the occurrence if any improper performance, acts, omissions or an outcome, which is the subject of illegal betting relating to a sport or any sporting event. Providing with any inside information relating to a sport, any sporting event or any person, to any person including a betting operator, other than in connection with bona fide media interviews and commitments. Provides or receives any gift, payment, reward or benefits, financial or otherwise, that might reasonably be expected to bring such person any sport or sporting event into dispute,” outlined in the Act.

In addition, any umpire, match adjudicator or match referee deliberately misapplied their rules of the sports or sporting event for money or any other reward it benefits; any curator or member of venue staff, ground staff or support staff receives money or any other reward to prepare any turf, ground or playing surface of any sport or disclose information of the preparation and condition of the turf, ground or playing surface; and any person including a retired player or any person connected to a sport is utilised by any person to gain access to local or foreign players in order to influence their performance for money or any other reward are also covered.

Sports Minister Harin Fernando presenting the bill to the House said that there were several amendments proposed to the Prevention of Corruption in Sports Act, which they do not want to consider.

“There were several amendments proposed to the Act. However, we don’t like to accept them. Why? Because these amendments were proposed by MP Thilanga Sumathipala,” Fernando observed.

Minister Fernando extended his gratitude to Speaker of the House and the Prime Minister on calling for a special sitting in Parliament considering the importance of Act.

Speaking further Minister Fernando said, “If someone is against our attempt to curb corruption in Sports, they are welcome to speak against this Act. We are not presenting this bill to take political advantage. We did not draft this bill. It was done by the Attorney General. I believe that all parliamentarians here will get the credit of passing this bill.”

Joining the debate a former minister of Sports UPFA MP Gamini Lokuge said that the Act on preventing corruption in sports should have been brought in 10 to 15 years ago.

“We are not against this Act. But we believe that all who deserve penalties should receive them. It cannot be partial to one party. The law in this Act is effective only for the future. It would have been better if these laws were ex-post facto. There were many instances where corruption had taken place in Sri Lanka. But those who were involved were set free due to political influence,” Lokuge said.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna MP Bimal Rathnayake joining the debate said that bringing in new laws shall not entirely curb corruption. The politicians who encourage corruption should be removed as well, Rathnayake added.

Half an hour into the debate Speaker Jayasuriya was informed that there was a lack of quorum. However, the number of MPs necessary to maintain the quorum rushed into the chamber and the debate continued.

Parliament will sit again on December 3, 2019 following the Presidential Election.

Opposition not opposed to bill - Thilanga

Opposition MP Thilanga Sumathipala joining the debate on the Bill titled ‘Prevention of offences relating to sports’ in Parliament yesterday brought up several issues that would arise in implementing this bill practically.

“He can either take this up at the Committee Stage or do whatever he wants. Firstly, the word offences has not been clearly defined. Further this bill mentions a certain Unit to be appointed by Sports Minister on the recommendations of the IG. However, under the current law, the IG does not have the power to establish an independent unit under him. Payments to this Commission would be made by the Sports Minister and we believe that this could give rise to complications,” Sumathipala noted.

He refuted allegations that the Opposition was opposed to this bill, adding that on the contrary, in fact they were very much in favour of presenting this bill.

“Currently, even when Sri Lanka loses a match there is doubt whether the match was fixed, the trust in the players has been tarnished to a certain extent. Therefore, bringing in such a bill is in fact a good thing and it will help in rebuilding that faith and trust in us.”

However, he said that the Sports Minister needs to maintain his distance with the players and certain sports bodies to prevent any issues arising when implementing this bill.

The Prevention of offences relating to sports was unanimously passed without amendments in parliament yesterday.

The Bill, which sought to prevent offences such as match-fixing, corruption, manipulation and illegal betting in sports, was presented in Parliament by Sports Minister Harin Fernando.

The Bill also sought to strengthen national and international co-operation among sports organisations, law enforcement agencies and betting operators, to exchange information relating to match-fixing, corruption, illegal manipulation and illegal betting in sports and promote best practices in sports.

Premajayantha calls for bridging trade gap between imports and exports

The hot topic these days on political platforms that the country could progress only by promoting innovation in utilising local resources and coordinating human resources as a value addition in earning foreign revenue, said Opposition-MP Susil Premajayantha.

Expressing his views in Parliament yesterday during the presentation of the National Innovation Agency Bill, he noted that this bill has six objectives. “We need to bridge the trade gap between imports and exports thus strengthening the rupee. The institution for this purpose currently is the Commission for Innovators. But, this Commission only has a limited set of responsibilities. Although this Commission was sufficient in 1979, with today’s developments in innovation, the need for a stronger body has arisen. Hence, this Bill has been presented to fulfil that requirement.”

However, he noted that the biggest drawback for new innovators is the lack of research facilities. “As far as I know the annual amount spent annually for new innovations is around 0.11 percent of our GDP. Countries which have introduced new innovations and are ahead of us have at least allocated 2 percent of their GDP for new innovations. In the case of the US and other Western countries, it is the private sector that invests in the innovation sector for research facilities. The reason being that according to the nature of their trade, unless new innovations are found it would be impossible for them to progress. Therefore, all private companies are committed to funding research and development in order to stay on top.”

Premajayantha noted that in Sri Lanka the private sector is not strong enough to follow the example of the Western countries. Hence, until the private sector is developed to that standard, the government has no choice but to fund and invest in such research facilities.

According to Premajantha, during the Rajapaksa regime, the SLIT institution was established in Pitipana for research on Nano technology.

“Now the second stage has also commenced. At that time Nano technology was not widespread. There we did many research projects such as how to use cinnamon for the control of blood sugar and also Nano fertiliser production. Today there are 28 young people who have qualified in this field at that facility. The Rajapaksa regime recognised the importance of this institution at the time,” he said.

He pointed out that Stem Education is being pursued globally, but Sri Lanka has not even thought about it.

“Sri Lanka’s population is around 22 million and rightfully there should be at least 22,000 researchers if we are to keep up with world innovation advancements. However, there are only around 5,200 researchers in the country and of them, around 2,000 are engaged in applied research and all the others are engaged in fundamental research. But in our country the researchers do not have the resources to carry out advanced research.” Therefore, he said the government needs to invest in such research projects in order to encourage and promote local innovators.


JVP criticizes decision to grant a pardon  to Royal Park murder convict

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) criticized President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to grant a Presidential Pardon to the Royal Park murder convict Jude Shramantha Anthony Jayamaha, who was sentenced to death over the Royal Park murder case in 2005.

Making a statement during the debate on the Sports Bill in Parliament yesterday, JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake pointed out that the President’s move is a bad precedent for future Presidents and it tarnishes the reputation of the country.

“We should be ashamed as a country. All the main international media organizations have reported this incident where the President granted pardon to the murderer of a Swedish teen. This is humiliation to the entire country.”

Rathnayake noted that the President should clarify the reasons behind his decision to pardon this specific convict.

“Why did he decide to pardon this specific convict when there are so many others who are more deserving of his pardon? Who told him to do that? Was there any hidden agenda behind that? People are suspicious if there were monetary transactions behind this. The country needs to know the truth and the President should address these concerns immediately,” he noted.

He also said that the President has insulted all the women in this country as well.

Subsequently, Non Cabinet Minister Ajith P. Perera said that there is a specific procedure in the Constitution of Sri Lanka regarding the Presidential Pardon procedure.

“Before granting the Presidential Pardon, the President must consult the Attorney General, the Judge who gave the verdict and the Justice Minister and call for reports from them. But it is uncertain if the President had followed these procedures. I agree with MP Rathnayake’s point. The Parliament should consider this case.”

A clearly irate Ratnayake then demanded to know why not a single Minister from the government had spoken up against the President’s decision to grant a pardon to this convict. “You people are within this government and as a government what have you done about it? This government has so many media spokesmen, so why has none of them made a statement in this regard? Has any one of them condemned this act by the president?”

He also tabled the statement made by JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake to be included in the Hansard in this regard.

Shramantha Jayamaha was convicted of murdering 19-year-old Swedish national, Yvonne Jonsson on July 1, 2005, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Colombo High Court.

But, the Court of Appeal dismissed that sentence and gave death sentence and the Supreme Court also confirmed that in 2013.

Yvonne Jonsson was residing at her apartment on the 23rd floor of the Royal Park complex in Rajagiriya. Her body was found on the 19th floor.

President Sirisena last month said that he was considering to grant Presidential Pardon to Sharmantha as he had served his prison term on good behaviour and had completed his doctorate.

House unanimously passes  National Innovation Agency Bill

The House unanimously passed the National Innovation Agency Bill at the special Parliament sitting held yesterday.

Joining the debate, JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti said that a National Innovation Agency is crucial for Sri Lanka to become a developed country, as scientific and cyber innovations will become the next most important asset in the world economy.

He said that the agency will hopefully be able to create a solid data base including all the citizens who are currently involved in innovation.

Handunnetti also said that the government had added two amendments proposed by the JVP to the bill on the composition of the agency’s board members and the qualifications of the head of this agency.

“We are glad that a couple of amendments that we as the JVP proposed were added to this bill. There is a Commission on National Innovation. However, the Panel Board of the National Innovation Agency did not include a member representing the National Innovation Commission. So we proposed the government to add the Chairman or a Deputy Chairman of the Commission as a member of the agency’s panel. The government has accepted this amendment.”

MP Handunnetti also said that innovations are crucial for a country like Sri Lanka as it cannot rely on its land to carry out large scale economic activities.

“We are a small island. We always have a limitation in the land. Say we encourage agriculture, there will always be a restriction in relation to the land. Social, business, scientific innovations are crucial for this country. We can go forward as a country based on digital technology and knowledge. We are country that has a generation which could conquer the cyber space. In the future, the power of a country will be decided not by the capital or the number of weapons it has, but by the fresh water resources and a knowledge based society. In a future world where there is knowledge and water there is power. Our children have already shown the capacity to become key players in this cyber techno revolution. We are glad that this bill which should have been brought some decades back, was presented at least now,” he said.





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