SLC officials eat humble pie before COPE | Sunday Observer

SLC officials eat humble pie before COPE

Sri Lanka Cricket President Shammi Silva
Sri Lanka Cricket President Shammi Silva

Following a directive by the Committee On Public Enterprises (COPE), top brass of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), President Shammi Silva, Assistant Treasurer Lalith Rambukwella and Head of Administration Aruna de Silva apologized to COPE on Wednesday (18) for evading its probe into the country’s governing body of cricket. SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva and SLC Vice President Ravin Wickramaratne were also present at Wednesday’s COPE investigation. SLC’s activities have come under scrutiny by forensic audits, revealing a number of financial irregularities and massive corruption.

COPE members pointed out that the excuses tendered by the SLC officials itself were testimony enough to confirm the allegations of massive corruption and the irresponsible and arbitrary manner in which its officials conducted its iaffairs. COPE Chairman, JVP lawmaker Sunil Handunneththi said that the lame excuses of the Board officials proved that the SLC is one of the weakest institutions in the country. Handunneththi told the SLC officials, “If this is the manner in which you make excuses, we can imagine the way it would be when it comes to responding to our queries in the probe.”

SLC President Shammi Silva apologized for his absence on September 3 and pleaded that he had to attend the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting. Assistant Treasurer Lalith Rambukwella said that he was indisposed and apologized for his absence, producing a medical certificate. SLC Head of Administration Aruna de Silva said that he was attending to matters pertaining to a cricket match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand in Pallekele.

COPE Member and Non Cabinet Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe said that, in the absence of the SLC President, the SLC officials could not give responses to any query and merely looked at each other’s faces.

Lalith Rambukwella said, “I was asked to come before COPE but I alone do not know much about this investigation.” Handunneththi then asked Rambukwella whether this is the first time he appeared before COPE. Answering in the negative, Rambukwella said he appeared before the COPE on previous instances but was not aware of some issues. Handunneththi said, “If you were ill, you should have sent us a medical certificate.”

Senasinghe asked, “Have you ever done a job anywhere? Don’t you know that it is the normal procedure?” Rambukwella replied, “I am a businessman and I apologize for the mistake on my part. In fact, I was not aware of that.” Handunneththi then asked, “If you act in this manner before the COPE investigation and make irresponsible statements, what would you do before a court of law? Have you ever been to a court of law?” Rambukwella, replied “No, I never have been to courts.” Finally, SLC President Silva said he would tender his apology as the President of the SLC.

COPE Chairman Handunneththi told the SLC President that he should have given a telephone call to his Assistant Treasurer Rambukwella and asked him to appear before COPE on the due date. He told the SLC officials that they should get together before coming to COPE and discuss the issues and be ready with their explanations. When Silva said they informed the officials through an email to appear before COPE, Senasinghe asked Rambukwella whether he received that email. Rambukwella confirmed he had received it.

Handunneththi said they would continue to summon the SLC officials before COPE and the investigation would continue. He told the SLC officials to participate in the COPE investigation in a responsible manner and added that if anybody evades the probe, they would be found guilty of disrespecting Parliament.

Silva said they have to participate in the Cricket Council meetings in the future and added that it is important to attend such meetings as they will bring matches and money. Handunneththi asked that a schedule of those dates be furnished to COPE so that the dates for the SLC probe could be fixed without conflicting.

Meanwhile, the SLC officials, on Thursday (19), evaded the COPE probing on frauds regarding selling broadcasting rights of international matches owing to a technical error. The COPE probe had to be postponed since some of its members were not present to conduct the investigation. Of the 16 COPE members, only its Chairman Sunil Handunneththi and members Sujeewa Senasinghe and Dayasiri Jayasekara were present.

Thursday’s COPE meeting was scheduled to investigate the computer data pertaining to the alleged missing US$ 187,000 connected to selling of broadcasting rights of the international cricket matches and another US$ 5 million from the SLC. Handunneththi said that the missing funds should be investigated and, prior to that, COPE members should be made aware of the email and other computer assisted communication and date storing systems used by the SLC. “It is for this purpose that COPE has been summoned today although the majority of its members are not present.”

In response to a question by Silva on whether the COPE could summon any person before its Committee, Handunneththi said that he had the power to do so. Silva said that he would suggest that COPE summon former officials of the SLC. “Even those who are now retired could be summoned,” Handunneththi replied. He added that former SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala has sought an opportunity to give evidence before COPE and they would certainly summon him in due course.