Shooters shot out in political crossfire | Sunday Observer

Shooters shot out in political crossfire

Shirantha Peiris
Shirantha Peiris

Sri Lanka’s Olympic, Commonwealth and Asian Games shooters are crying foul unable to fire a shot after they were forced out from their practice range at the Navy camp in Welisara.

The shooting range was declared out of bounds to the shooters and their foreign coaching experts by the Ministry of Defence over fears it posed a security threat and safety hazard.

But the National Shooting Sports Federation (NSSF) disputes the claim saying they and their members have become victims of a political witch-hunt involving the current Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando who was the head of the National Olympic Committee for more than 15 years.

Fernando was recently locked in an intense battle with the incumbent president of the NSSF Shirantha Peiris during an election campaign for office bearers to the sport’s governing body.

“It came to us as a big surprise when the Ministry of Defence handed us a letter that the shotgun shooting range in Sri Lanka that is used for training and competitions has been outlawed for training and competitions,” said Peiris.

“There was and there is no threat whatsoever to anyone or any organization just because we use the shooting range.”

He charged that their exclusion from the shooting range was done purely at the discretion of Hemasiri Fernando.

“Due to some personal reasons with us Hemasiri Fernando is behaving like this,” claimed Peiris at a Press conference held on Wednesday.

“The battle with the current defence secretary (Hemasiri Fernando) started way back in 2015 when the Ministry of Sports called for an election of the NSSF which was under an Interim Committee,” said Peiris.

“There were two nominees for the top post contested by me and Hemasiri. I had seven nominations in my favour and Hemasiri had just two. Hemasiri then withdrew his nomination,” added Peiris.

He said that the NSSF had organized a training session under the Olympic Solidarity Programme at the Welisara shooting range and when the participants had presented themselves for the event they found the gates closed and entry denied.