In this country world class sportspersons usually get under the thick skin of third class political cretins by condemning corruption and maladministration plaguing sports institutions.
Some remarks classy cricketer Kumar Sangakkara made in the MCC`s annual Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture the other day has prompted Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage to call for a report on that address, which doubtlessly struck a responsive chord with one and all save some political lamebrains.
Of Sanga, Aluthgamage has said, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper (UK): `He is a contract player he has signed an agreement with Sri Lanka Cricket and he can`t make a statement like that. He has to get permission. He can`t talk about the cricket administration or cricket. I have written to the chairman of the cricket board to get a report into this immediately.`
This is a country where even contract killers get away with their crimes thanks to their political connections. Much dreaded underworld figures (now dead) responsible for murder, arson, rape and armed robbery, such as Beddegana Sanjeewa (SLFP), Gonawala Sunil (UNP), Chandi Malli (SLFP), Soththi Upali (UNP), Kaduwela Wasantha (SLFP) and Indare (SLFP), acted with impunity because governments shielded them. No less a person than Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne told Parliament on Wednesday that some politicians were involved in drug trafficking. So, while notorious criminals are going places, why should the incumbent government try to persecute a brilliant cricketer of international repute who passionately feels for his country and has done her proud, for calling a spade a spade, on the flimsy grounds that he is a `contract player`. Aluthgamage was, according to his own party seniors, responsible for election malpractices that caused the polling in his electorate, Nawalapitiya, to be annulled at the last parliamentary election, but he went scot free, didn`t he?
If Sanga had dropped out of school at a tender age, cut his teeth on crime, taken to dirty politics and become a minister instead of pursuing his studies, playing brilliant cricket and bringing glory to his country, he, too, would have been able to commit murder, plunder public funds, tie public officials to trees, deal in narcotics, extort money and unleash brutal violence against his critics with impunity. Sanga`s crime appears to be that he has signed a contract with that rotten outfit called Sri Lanka Cricket!
Before targeting Sanga, Aluthgamage and his political masters should carefully listen to or read his address at issue which earned him a standing ovation from a distinguished audience and plaudits from the international media. Sanga undoubtedly helped repair Sri Lanka`s image internationally to some extent something even the multinational PR firms the government has contracted at an enormous cost have pathetically failed to achieve. Ninety nine per cent of Sanga`s address was devoted to promoting Sri Lanka. There is no need for the SLC chairman to prepare any report everything is there in the text of Sanga`s speech.
Instead of trying to subject Sanga to an inquisition, Aluthgamage must launch an investigation into SLC corruption and maladministration. Before Sanga, last year the then Sports Minister C. B. Ratnayake called SLC the third most corrupt institution in Sri Lanka. His criticism cost him dear. He was stripped of the sports portfolio. The crooks he took on were shown the door much later only after they had bankrupted SLC. The government could have saved SLC easily if it had removed the racketeers at its helm.
Aluthgamage should also order a report on the shoddy treatment SLC meted out to Sanga when he was Sri Lanka`s skipper. He was callously overridden by pompous SLC nitwits, at whose hands he suffered many an indignity. Ask Sanga whether he even got enough tickets to take his near and dear ones to the ICC World Cup matches Sri Lanka played under his captaincy here a few months ago. Politicians and their kith and kin were never short of tickets. SLC crooks rode rough shod over Sanga at every turn because he did not give in to the corrupt.
It is those who have ruined SLC, and not certainly Sanga, who should be probed. Sanga`s contract is an adornment for the stinking SLC and the government must desist from using it as an instrument to deny him his right to freedom of expression.