Colombo (LNW): After carefully evaluating the arguments put forth by both parties regarding the lawsuit challenging the official declaration made by the Minister of Sports to dissolve the Sri Lanka Rugby Administration, the Court of Appeal has reached a decision. The court has granted permission to proceed with the case and issued a temporary suspension of the gazette notification. Consequently, the rugby administration, previously dissolved by the minister, has been granted permission to recommence its operations, exercising the delegated legal authority required.
In order to avoid this decision, this morning through the president of the Asian Rugby Federation, the president of the Sri Lanka Rugby Federation, who had been dissolved by the federations, was banned and the letter was brought to the court and submitted to the court. The revelation made at the beginning of LNW confirmed that Sri Lanka’s sports minister exerts influence by appointing people according to his own interests.
Sports should indeed be a right accessible to all individuals in the country. It is indeed unfortunate that the Attorney General’s Department has to represent the collective actions of the Minister of Sports and others involved. This situation raises concerns and disappointment regarding the manner in which sports affairs is being handled, potentially impacting the rights and interests of the common people. By presenting a document with the aim of influencing the decision, the lawyers representing the Rugby administration faced criticism for their actions.
Despite facing challenges and periods of non-operation under the administration of Rizly Illyas due to decisions made by ministers Namal Rajapaksa and Roshan Ranasinghe, the administration was able to successfully organize and conduct sports matches. Additionally, they managed to enhance foreign relations, attract new sponsors, and introduce new matches. Notably, the Sri Lankan rugby players achieved their best-ever performance at the Commonwealth Games, resulting in a remarkable situation and showcasing their exceptional abilities.
During Namal Rajapaksa’s time as the minister, there were instances where the sponsor of Sri Lankan rugby was approached by the Asian president to sponsor the Asian tournament through external intervention. During a private discussion with the Asian President, the President of Sri Lanka Rugby was criticized for allegedly putting pressure on the Rugby administration in agreement with the minister. Additionally, convening an advisory board and disregarding the independence of the Rugby administration in the country were points of contention, leading to sharp criticism during the discussion with the Asian President.
That decision affected the independence of the rugby administration appointed according to the rugby constitution. As well as the decision made by the Sri Lankan who was assigned the responsibilities of the Asian federation when he was the president of the rugby federation, who was closely appointed by the Asian president, Sri Lanka is still paying 50,000 pounds for the damage caused by having foreigners play in Sri Lanka. Paying a fine in installments also affected it.
The decision taken by Minister Namal Rajapaksa to dissolve the Rugby administration at that particular moment may have been viewed as the most viable course of action to prevent the aforementioned issues from being extensively discussed in Asian Conference sessions. Even though the decision to dissolve the Rugby administration was revoked by the court, it appears that the Asian chairman made a decision to leverage his authority in implementing a ban until the court case concludes. This could be seen as an attempt to prevent scrutiny or questioning of his influence in potentially impacting the independence of Sri Lankan Rugby within the Asian Council.
Subsequently, the court granted permission for a re-election to take place. However, members of the Sports Minister’s National Sports Council and certain members of the Stabilization Committee, appointed by the Minister, expressed their protests against this decision. Despite their objections, their efforts to influence the outcome were unsuccessful. To prevent the issue from reaching the Asian Council, Rizly Illyas was once again banned. However, despite facing the ban, Rizly Illyas remained resolute and did not back down from his position. As a result, there was an increased risk of potential long-term detention. Based on that situation, Roshan Ranasinghe, the current Sports Minister for the second time, also intervened to dissolve the administration of Rugby and do what the Asian President wanted. In addition to the opposition from the Rugby administration led by Illyas, the National Olympic Committee also expressed its disagreement with this decision. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the administration sought the intervention and assistance of the court to address the matter.
Today, the court made a significant ruling by canceling the dissolution and delivering the final verdict. However, during the proceedings, the Attorney General’s Department broke with tradition and revealed that the Asian Federation had imposed a ban on Rizly Illyas in order to protect the Sports Minister.(what they don’t know is that the Incidentally, the Asian President is to defense against rugby game in this country). Presenting a report issued by the Asian Federation.
It is a very wonderful surprising moment that the decision regarding the ban was issued on the same day as the judgment of the case in which the Sports Minister was asked to dissolve the administration of Sri Lanka Rugby and cancel the gazette notification issued by the Sports Minister. At that moment, Sumathi Dharmawardhane, lawyer of the Attorney General’s Department, had the opportunity to present it to the court. There was even more of a miracle.
Either way, it appears that the second phase of justice is ready. Currently, Sri Lanka Rugby has informed the International Rugby Federation about the scope of activities of the Asian Federation President. Also, the National Olympic Committee is currently working to notify the Asian and International Olympic Committees. Therefore, instead of investigating complaints, they are following the Asian tradition of unilaterally making decisions without an examination, and ignoring all other conditions. It is likely that the ministers will get the same decision as they got from the court. it is possible that the Asian Rugby President, Quais Al Dalai, may face similar consequences as Namal Rajapaksa and Roshan Ranasinghe.
It seems that the court has recognized the importance of preserving the autonomy and integrity of the game, acknowledging that political interference should not encroach upon it. The International Rugby Federation will now retract the decision taken in the same way and allow the rugby game to continue working free from the influence of the minister who was the political authority.
The judges who demonstrated the presence of independence within the country’s judicial system deserve appreciation, as their actions have garnered respect for the judiciary as a whole. The efforts of President’s counsel Dr. Faiz Mustafa and President’s counsel Faizer Mustafa, who presented strong arguments against the dissolution of rugby based on factual evidence, should be acknowledged. Additionally, the contributions of lawyers Panduka Keerthinanda and Kirthi Thilakarathne should be recognized for their efforts in the case. Their dedication and commitment to presenting a compelling case before the court have played a significant role in upholding the principles of justice.
The decision indeed carries historical significance. Rizly Illyas demonstrated tremendous resilience by withstanding the pressures and accusations surrounding his management of rugby. His dedication to the sport and his desire to rectify any tarnished aspects of his relationship with rugby played a vital role in this process. Rizly Illyas ‘s decision to rely on the law and stand up for his conscience in the face of political pressures reflects his commitment to upholding principles of lawfulness within the game of rugby. It is crucial that the focus remains on the game itself and ensuring its proper functioning. With the anticipated agreement of the international conference, Rizly and his team can resume their work, bringing an end to the inactive period of the Stabilization Committee, which had only been symbolic until now. The immediate objective is likely to be preparing for upcoming events such as the Asian Games, where efforts will be directed towards achieving success in the tournament.
The most important thing to ask the sports minister is because of your decision to remove the journey aimed at a medal for hearing by the court? Or was the World Rugby Federation stuck because of your decision to ban rugby in Sri Lanka.
Due to this delay, if the Asian President’s country comes instead of Sri Lanka, which was close to a medal, you will be left with a question to ask your conscience. Or you will be left with a question that you will feel hurt that the people who voted for you will ask you. Have planned with him knowingly or unknowingly. Are you happy with that?
*Adapted from original article “අධිකරණයේදී ක්රීඩා ඇමති ආසියානු රගර් වලිගය වැනුවත් ස්ථාවරකරණ කමිටුව රැක ගන්න බැරි වෙයි“ published on 15.07.2023