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Unearthing rural talent, our priority - DG Sports

*Saved Rs. 30 million even after a successful NS Festival

*We reinstated democracy in seven NSAs

*Sri Lanka Cricket elections were free and fair

*Strong national pool in every sport by 2018

Director General of Sports, Ranjani Jayakody was at the centre stage in the local sports arena as she was entrusted with the task of conducting the much-looked forward to Annual General Meeting and election of office-bearers to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).


Ranjani Jayakody

A Masters Degree holder in Sociology from the University of Peradeniya, Jayakody turned a new chapter for sports at the Department of Sports when she cut unnecessary expenditure of the National Sports Festival and conducted it in a successful manner, while saving a staggering Rs. 30 million for the Sports Ministry.

Jayakody, who has a proven track record as an energetic and efficient officer in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS), feels that even the right decisions taken in the best interest of Sports are being criticised mainly because she is woman. But she is no stranger to Sports, having represented the Central Province at the National Athletic Championship in the women’s 100m. Even her school career, she had been a versatile sportswoman being the Senior Games captain at St. Joseph’s Balika College, Gampola.

“I have no sides, no personal interest and nothing to hide. I will act in a transparent manner and will make every endeavour to take sports to greater heights. Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has a vision to promote Sports and is keen to produce medal-winning athletes. All of us are working with his blessings to make that dream a reality,” she said.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer, Director General of Sports Ranjani Jayakody spoke on a wide range of issues on the future of Sri Lanka Sports, SLC elections, Sports sponsorships for national sports associations, nutrition scholarships for sportsmen and programs implemented by the Sports Ministry to produce gold medallists of international standard before the end of this decade.

What are your views on the overall sports development in the country?

We made a lot of changes with the intention of finding rural talent. Under the directions of the Sports Minister, we have made short, medium and long-term plans to develop sport. There is plenty of rural talent and our aim is to give them a helping hand to sharpen their skills and produce results at national and international level.

We encouraged the National Sports Associations (NSAs) in their productive campaigns to promote their respective sports. At the same time, we were able to conduct the last National Sports Festival in a successful manner while cutting unnecessary expenditure. I managed to save Rs. 30 million though we had the last Festival on a greater scale. In 2009, the Ministry had spent Rs. 70 million for the National Sports Festival, but last year, we spent only Rs. 40 million for the festival.

We also reinstated democracy in seven NSAs which were run by interim committees. All those AGMs had to elect fresh officials to replace interim committees and were conducted by me on powers vested on me as Director General of Sports.

But why did the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) elections become so important and also be the talk of the town?

Undoubtedly, SLC is the most popular NSA. Hence, it is natural to have tremendous interest and enthusiasm among member clubs and general public. Being the Competent Authority to conduct such elections and AGMs to replace interim administrations under the National Sports Law, I conducted the AGM of the SLC as well. It was conducted in a free and fair manner.

There is a rule in the SLC Constitution that a person must hold office in one of the main committees for a period of two years if he is to contest key positions?

We have to consider the fact that the SLC has been under interim administrations since 1999, except for a few months in 2003 and 2004.

But even the elected executive committees of 2003 and 2004 could not complete their full one year terms as they were replaced with interim-committees. Under the circumstances, it is not fair for us to implement the two-year criteria.

The SLC Constitution clearly states that the Sports Minister has the authority to take the final decision when there is a dispute. Accordingly, he took the right decision in fairness to the majority of the people. That is democracy.

All such decisions were taken on the powers vested on the Sports Minister and every effort was made to make it a fair election to all.

Why did some people withdraw at the eleventh hour?

That would have been their wish. They may have their own reasons for such withdrawals in the last minute. They raised objections when making their withdrawals, but I turned them down and objected as all those were baseless allegations. I told them clearly as to why I rejected these objections. I have acted in a transparent manner.

We were able to reinstate democracy at the SLC after a free and fair election after many years.

That alone is a victory for member clubs and associations of the SLC. Now it is up to the newly elected executive committee to work tirelessly for the betterment of the game.

On what basis were such objections raised?

The objections were raised on the amendments that had been made to the SLC Constitution way back in 2003. Any amendment to a Constitution of the NSA should be ratified by the Sports Minister. But the amendments brought to the SLC Constitution eight years ago have not been ratified by the Sports Minister. Not even the amendments made in 2003, but even before the amendments have not been referred to the Sports Minister for approval.

We acted in the best interest of member clubs and associations of the SLC. It is not the individuals but the member clubs and associations of the SLC that have voting rights.

These clubs name their representatives in advance to vote at the AGM on the mandate given by their respective club executive committees.

There were last minute legitimate requests by certain member clubs to change their representatives. For example, a club from Galle informed me that the vehicle in which their representatives had been travelling had met with an accident. There were a few other genuine requests.

There are no individual voting rights. Hence, we had to respect the voting rights of member clubs and associations and allowed alternative representatives for clubs which had a legitimate right to do so. All we wanted was a fair election for all member clubs and associations of the SLC.

Do you think the new Ex-Co would be able get rid of SLC’s current financial crisis?

They have been elected due to the popular choice by member clubs and associations. Hence, they have the blessings and support to face all those challenges. They should have a long-term plan to get out of the present situation which has arisen due to development of infrastructure facilities.

We must not forget the fact that Sri Lanka constructed two new international stadiums in Suriyawewa and Pallekele while redeveloping the Premadasa Stadium to host World Cup matches. That was an investment for the future.

The new SLC President, Upali Dharmadasa, in his maiden press conference after the election, has stated that it is the duty of the Sports Minister to take action against mistakes of previous interim committees. Are you going to make such investigation?

The Sports Ministry keeps a close eye on all NSAs and monitor their activities. We have taken disciplinary action against malpractices and wrong doings of certain NSAs in the past and will continue to do so. The SLC is no exemption.

If there are complaints against the conduct of previous SLC interim committees, the Sports Minister will certainly make an investigation and take necessary action.

The Sports Minister has appointed a representative from the Ministry to all NSAs to monitor their activities. We are keeping a close eye on activities of all NSAs.

What are the future plans of the Sports Ministry to resurrect Sri Lanka sport and to regain its lost glory?

Since Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage took over as the Sports Minister, several meaningful steps have been taken to promote Sports and produce champion teams at all levels. He is discussing with the State and corporate sector to find sponsorships for NSAs which are finding it difficult to raise funds.

The budgetary allocation made to the Sports Ministry is insufficient to meet the large sums that are needed to promote Sports. It is the duty of the corporate sector to come forward and help budding sportsmen and women who could bring glory to our Motherland.

We have groomed a second level future pool with the aim of the 2018 Commonwealth and 2014 Asian Games. One can’t expect instant results. It is a long process but we are investing in our future athletes who are future medal prospects. There is a strong junior national athletic pool that is under training for the 2012 Asian Junior Championships to be held in Sri Lanka later this year.

Under the ‘Kreeda Shakthi’ program initiated by the Sports Ministry, we are targeting a strong national pool in every sport by 2018. Thirty talented sportsmen and women have been picked in each of the 15 sports we are concentrating. Accordingly, we have a pool of 1,080 sportsmen and women who will be groomed under the patronage of the Sports Ministry. They will be given all necessary facilities, accommodation, incentives, allowances, medical and nutrition that are needed to sharpen their skills. They will formally receive their sports scholarships from President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a ceremony to be held next month.

We are making every effort to produce top medallists before the end of this decade. There are no short cuts but hard work and dedication. The Sports Ministry is keen to help each and every talented sportsman and woman who could bring glory to our country.

Our sports development drive will continue islandwide. You will soon see the results of these efforts.

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