Amendments to new sports act will not be considered -Harin

Sports Minister Harin Fernando said that although there are several amendments proposed to the Prevention of Corruption in Sports Act, they do not want to consider them as they were proposed by MP Thilanga Sumathipala.

The Minister said this yesterday (11 Nov) while presenting the new bill to the parliament.

He also added “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.”

The Prevention of Corruption in Sports Act was passed without amendments at the special sitting in Parliament yesterday and according to the provisions of this new act, if any person found guilty of the offences 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,” the Act states.

In addition to this 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.

Minister Arjuna Ranatunge said that huge amounts of money are being 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.

Responding to allegations levelled by the opposition regarding betting scandals, Ranatunge said 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.

Further, he noted that an inquiry had been carried out under the leadership of Desmond Fernando PC on the inquiry conducted on match-fixing allegations 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.

He also said that if Gamini Lokuge had 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 added.

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,” he said.

 He added that there is no purpose in coming to Parliament and making allegations and going home and that in the past this bill had not been brought to Parliament by the successive sports ministers. 

And he went onto say that “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 cleared 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.”

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