Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon was elected president of the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) by a majority of just two votes, in an election marred by allegations of vote-fixing.
Local Government Minister Tennakoon polled 56 votes against opponent Derwin Perera?s 54 votes. Perera, a seasoned athletics coach and a deputy director at the sports ministry, walked out in protest and his supporters claim that the election was a farce. Perera had the backing of the majority of national athletes and coaches. His camp handed over a petition to the interim chairman of AASL, Ranjith Weerasena, requesting fresh elections.
The presidential results were announced close to mid-day, leading to a heated argument between outgoing president Sunil Jayaweera and Pari Liyanage, a vice presidential candidate from the Derwin faction.
A group of supporters from the Derwin faction, including some national athletes subsequently stormed the premises and a verbal confrontation took place. It lasted for nearly 30 minutes.
Refusing to accept the results, the Derwin faction started hooting at the newly elected president and others involved in the election, alleging malpractices.
`Kreedakayo nathiwa umbalama duwapan!` the crowd yelled. Some questioned the minister?s decision to contest: `Amathithumani ayi mewata awe?`
Before leaving the premises, Perera said that they would take legal action to seek justice.
`We find there were some malpractices in the counting process. Three votes which should have been discarded were credited to the minister. This was wrong,` he added.
The group is set to meet Sports Minister Jeewan Kumaratunga today.
Meanwhile newly appointed Athletic president, Tennakoon said that he was disheartened by the incident.
`It was disgusting. I never wanted to gang up with a party. I always wanted to be elected uncontested but some people dragged me into it. So I had no option except to go ahead with it in order to get this position,` the minister defended himself.
Minister Tennakoon however admitted that the standard of athletics had dropped to a certain extent which prompted him to contest.
`There was no major improvement during the past few years. The reason being the lack of facilities. I wanted to put in place the infra-structure so that athletes could perform better,` he added.
Prema Pinnawela was elected secretary for the third consecutive year, while outgoing president Sunil Jayaweera topped 61 votes for the vice president post.
Meanwhile, Southern Province Sports Minister K. V. Indika who contested for a post of vice-president failed to secure his seat with 22 votes.
The office bearers
Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon (president), Prema Pinnawela (Secretary), H. W. Nimalasiri (Treasurer), Sunil Jayaweera (Vice President), P. H. D. Waidyatilake (Vice President), N.A.T. Jayasinghe (Vice President), Ashley De Abrew (Vice President), Premila Weerasinghe (Vice President), Anil Weerasinghe (Vice President), A.S. Gunaratnam (Asst. Secretary), T.M. Devaratne (Asst. Treasure)