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RW’s 2024 ‘IMF’ Budget bowled over by Roshan’s battle with cricket, ugly cricket

RW’s 2024 ‘IMF’ Budget bowled over by Roshan’s battle with cricket, ugly cricket

12 Nov 2023 | By Capt. Vasabha

  • Roshan called President last weekend, noted need for an interim committee for SLC
  • RW opposes SLC interim committee, saying such move could result in ICC banning SLC
  • Minister decides to proceed with his plan, launches secret operation to issue gazette
  • Gazette drafted by pvt. lawyers, ministry officials; AG not consulted to ensure secrecy
  • Roshan avoids an angry RW until gazette is published; AG notes weaknesses in gazette
  • Calls to withdraw gazette, interim committee at Cabinet ignored despite Prez’s pressure
  • RW decides to sack Roshan; senior Govt. members warn of backlash and impact on Budget
  • Sajith and Roshan reveal conspiracy hatched at Cinnamon Grand to get SLC banned by ICC
  • Doubts remain over IGP’s legality given Constitutional Council’s failure to endorse extension
  • Sumanthiran claims President has willfully violated Constitution; SLPP says no issue over IGP

The second budget to be presented by President Ranil Wickremesinghe – the 2024 Budget – that is due tomorrow (13) has been upstaged by the controversy surrounding Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), which has resulted in SLC being suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Sri Lanka’s Cricket World Cup campaign also ended this past week after the national team lost seven of the nine matches played, but the drama surrounding cricket and SLC continued off the field. 

A day of Parliament debating the state of SLC and its members resulted in the House reaching a unanimous decision to remove the board. However, highly-placed sources have stressed that in fact, had a vote been taken, several Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides of the aisle might have voted against such a resolution due to the fear of SLC being suspended by the ICC. Of course those at odds with the parliamentary decision were proven right on Friday (10) evening when news broke that the ICC had in fact suspended SLC for what it deemed political interference.

Nevertheless, with the Budget for 2024 being presented tomorrow, it seems that the cricket saga may very well slip under the radar in the coming days. Political pundits have however indicated that while SLC may not feature in dinner table conversations for much longer, Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe certainly will.

Having previously attempted to launch a new political movement, it would appear that Ranasinghe has taken the opportunity to once again announce himself on the national political stage. Having had discussions with members of both the Government and Opposition to secure support for himself in Parliament, it was expected that he would create yet another political bloc in Parliament.

Call to the President

On Monday (6), the President was given a rude awakening when he was informed, via the media, that Sports Minister Ranasinghe had sacked the board and appointed an interim committee headed by Arjuna Ranatunga. The President had demanded that Ranasinghe report to Cabinet on the issuance of the gazette and stated that the Cabinet would not take collective responsibility for the appointment of such a committee. 

Prior to the whole SLC controversy, Minister Ranasinghe had telephoned President Wickremesinghe and informed of the need to address the issues related to SLC and get the country’s national cricket team back on track.

Ranasinghe had called the President closer to last weekend. When the Minister had informed of his plan to appoint an interim committee to SLC, Wickremesinghe had said not to proceed with such a move. “No, such a move could result in the ICC suspending SLC,” he had said.

The President was under the impression that the matter had ended there. Ranasinghe, however, had anticipated the President’s response and was determined to continue with his plan to appoint an interim committee headed by Ranatunga to SLC.

Secret operation

Ranasinghe from then on had launched a secret operation to appoint the interim committee. Realising that seeking the Attorney General’s advice on the gazette notification on the interim committee could result in the news reaching out, Ranasinghe had ensured that the Attorney General was not consulted about the matter.

The relevant gazette notification had been prepared by a separate legal team together with several ministry officials.

News of the gazette finally came out when it was sent to the Government Printer on Monday.

Avoiding RW

Soon after hearing about the gazette, an angry President had tried to contact Ranasinghe to ask him to stop it from being printed and to withdraw it. Ranasinghe however had evaded the calls made by the President’s staff to connect him with Wickremesinghe.

The President had then summoned the Secretary to the Sports Ministry and demanded an explanation about the gazette. The Secretary, it is learnt, had said that he too was not aware of the gazette until it was printed.

Wickremesinghe had then consulted the Attorney General and sought a legal interpretation on the legality of the gazette. It is learnt that the Attorney General had expressed concerns over the issuing of a gazette notification without the Attorney General’s observations. The Attorney General had also explained that the gazette notification could easily be challenged in a court of law.

Ranasinghe had in fact told the media yesterday (11) that he would never visit the Presidential Secretariat as he could be poisoned there. “I will meet the President but I will not go to the secretariat. I could be poisoned there,” he had said.

Focus at Cabinet

A visibly-angry Wickremesinghe had on Monday evening attended the gathering of Cabinet Ministers with the intention of taking on Ranasinghe before the rest of the Cabinet.

Although many had thought that Ranasinghe might skip the Cabinet meeting, everyone was pleasantly surprised to see Ranasinghe making his way and taking his seat at the meeting.

The President had once again asked Ranasinghe to withdraw the gazette, stating that it was a weak piece of document with many flaws. Ranasinghe however had refused to budge and said he could not withdraw the gazette.

The President had further briefed the Cabinet that SLC had informed him that several ICC events, including the U19 Men’s World Cup, were scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in 2024. It was decided that a Cabinet sub-committee would be appointed to study the matter as such a move without proper consultation would result in suspension. 

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva had spoken in support of the President’s stance and noted that it was necessary to seriously consider the gazette. The rest of the ministers had remained quiet and watched what was going on. Ranasinghe had still remained steadfast that the gazette would remain and the interim committee would continue operations.

The Sports Minister had then explained that there were many allegations of irregularities and corruption being levelled against SLC officials and that the interim committee would therefore carry out the operations of SLC. “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to withdraw the interim committee. You (the President) can remove me from the portfolio and appoint someone else,” he had said.

Ranasinghe had also levelled several allegations against President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka over his alleged involvement with several SLC officials.

Committee sans Roshan

However, the Cabinet had decided to appoint a Cabinet sub-committee headed by Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry and including Ministers Kanchana Wijesekera, Manusha Nanayakkara, and Tiran Alles to determine the effects of the interim committee appointed by Ranasinghe.

Ranasinghe however was not included in the committee since the committee is to also look into the gazette notification issued by the Sports Minister announcing the appointment of an interim committee.

President’s speech

Meanwhile, President Wickremesinghe was also prepared to make a special statement in Parliament during last week’s sessions, mainly focused on the economy and the impending 2024 Budget.

While the speech was earlier scheduled for Tuesday (7), the cricket controversy resulted in the President looking at Wednesday (8) to make his statement in the House.

Interestingly, Ranasinghe announced on Tuesday that he would be making a special statement in the House the following day, Wednesday. As soon as Ranasinghe had made this comment, members of the President’s staff had tried to reach out to Ranasinghe to ask him not to make his special statement in Parliament on Wednesday since the President was scheduled to make a special statement that day as well.

Ranasinghe, however, had said that he would not change the decision to make a special statement in Parliament that day. Finally, Ranasinghe proceeded with his statement while the President decided to hold back his statement since the country was focused on the SLC controversy.

The President had nevertheless attended Parliament on Wednesday, but did not go to the House Chamber. He decided to watch proceedings from his office in the Parliamentary Complex.

Locking horns with RW

Meanwhile, Ranasinghe made a brief statement in Parliament on Tuesday (7) on the SLC controversy, before stating he would be making a special statement the following day.

On Tuesday, he had claimed in the House that President Wickremesinghe had informed him to withdraw the newly-appointed interim committee for SLC and that the President had further said he would take over the Sports Law if the interim committee was not withdrawn.

Ranasinghe had noted that he had informed the President to remove him from his ministerial portfolio and take any decision he pleased. “I told the President that at no point will I suspend the interim committee, as the level of corruption by the SLC administration is beyond belief,” he had said.

The Sports Minister had further said the proposed Lanka T10, scheduled for December, was also riddled with corruption. 

“It is two months since the Auditor General’s report has been handed over to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), but an investigation is yet to be launched. The Attorney General on the other hand wants me to appoint another interim committee to proceed with legal action,” the Minister had noted.

He had added that SLC had written cheques amounting to billions of rupees during the last few days, expecting that an interim committee would be appointed.

Ranasinghe had also claimed that SLC had 15 individuals in Parliament on its payroll. However, the Minister refrained from naming the 15 individuals despite requests by the Opposition to do so.

Attacking the Judiciary

Come Wednesday (8), Ranasinghe launched a scathing attack on the Judiciary over the judgement given on Tuesday suspending the gazette issued on the Ranatunga-led interim committee appointed for SLC.

The Minister had stated that the judgement had been made only considering one view and made several serious allegations against the Judiciary, including conflict of interest.

Ranasinghe had said that a conflict of interest prevailed in the country’s judicial system, which had resulted in the deterioration of SLC and alleged that Room Number 301 of the Court of Appeal had been a stronghold of the corrupt administrators of SLC whose conduct had recently been approved by a stay order.

The Minister had further questioned the conduct of Court of Appeal President, Justice Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne, who headed the bench which issued the particular stay order, citing Karunaratne’s relationship with one of the closest aides of SLC Chairman Shammi Silva, Asela Rekawa, who is an attorney-at-law by profession. 

“When Justice Karunaratne assumed duties as the Court of Appeal President, he himself took over all the cases related to SLC even though he previously heard only criminal cases. Therefore, we have a suspicion that Justice Karunaratne acted so in order to take over the cases related to SLC,” the Minister had alleged.

He had added that Rekawa, who was working closely with SLC and Silva, was the son of Justice Karunaratne’s sister-in-law (his wife’s sister) and that therefore Karunaratne would have a conflict of interest in the administration of SLC when issuing this order.

According to the Minister, SLC has reportedly spent an amount totalling Rs. 34,600,000 as fees for lawyers alone during the past period, as per the audit reports. “According to the Auditor General’s report, they have spent Rs. 34,600,000 as fees for lawyers alone. There are children without shoes, yet they spend this amount of money just to cover up their fraudulent activities,” he had alleged.

Ranasinghe had also accused the Attorney General of not supporting the ministry and acting in a way to protect corrupt cricket officials.

However, Ranasinghe’s claims on the Judiciary resulted in a tirade against the President of the Court of Appeal, which led to many within the legal fraternity raising concerns at the Minister choosing to attack the Judiciary behind the cover of parliamentary privilege.

The Minister had also stated last week that he did not have faith in the Attorney General on issues related to SLC and would therefore retain private lawyers to appear for him.

Ranasinghe’s ultimatum

Ranasinghe had also noted that the President had not been informed regarding the appointment of the interim committee for SLC and had added that the President could take over sports if the relevant act empowered the President to make decisions regarding the matter on his own.

He had further stated that President Wickremesinghe had been misled by his close associates and issued an ultimatum on the President to choose which side he was on – whether it was Roshan Ranasinghe or SLC President Shammi Silva.

Lanza’s messages

While the President watched the proceedings in the House with Ranasinghe’s statement and Premadasa’s supporting statement, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) dissident Parliamentarian Nimal Lanza had carried messages to Government side MPs from the President.

When the Opposition Leader proposed to suspend Standing Orders to permit Ranasinghe to continue with his statement without being interrupted for the lunch break, Chief Government Whip Minister Prasanna Ranatunga opposed the request. However, given the Opposition’s insistence and the lack of support for the Chief Government Whip’s stance, Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapakse permitted the suspension of Standing Orders. Ranasinghe then continued with his revelations.

Removing Roshan

Following the Sports Minister’s clash with President Wickremesinghe and SLC, an angry President had contemplated removing Ranasinghe from the Sports portfolio to resolve the crisis. However, a majority of Wickremesinghe’s advisors had advised him not to go ahead with such a move.

After hearing Ranasinghe’s special statement to the House, the President had been further angered and had said that he could no longer allow Ranasinghe to hold the Sports portfolio.

Several senior members of the Government had made their way to the President’s office in Parliament and had advised him not to make such a decision since a majority of the country was supportive of Ranasinghe’s stance given his revelations about SLC.

These Government members had also informed the President that several other Cabinet and State ministers had spoken about resigning their posts if Ranasinghe was removed from his portfolio. The President was made to understand that such a move before the 2024 Budget could be detrimental to the Government given rumours already afloat that several disgruntled State ministers were looking at defeating the budget heads of several ministries.

Wickremesinghe had then decided against removing Ranasinghe from the Sports portfolio.

Motion on SLC

Following Ranasinghe’s statement on Wednesday, Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Premadasa proposed that the Parliament pass a motion to remove the SLC Committee. With SLPP dissident MPs Dullas Alahapperuma and Wimal Weeranwasa also speaking in favour of the motion, the Deputy Speaker announced that a party leaders’ meeting would be convened at 1.30 p.m. to make a final decision on it.

The party leaders decided to hold a full-day debate on SLC on Thursday (9) and put the motion to a vote that evening. The resolution was presented by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and was seconded on behalf of the Government by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, after which it was taken up for debate.

The resolution, titled ‘Removal of the corrupt officials including Chairman from Sri Lanka Cricket Board,’ was passed with both Government and Opposition MPs supporting it.

As both Government and Opposition MPs supported it, no vote was held on the resolution. The motion was finally passed unanimously in the House amidst calls by the Opposition Leader for a vote by name.

Blaming Mahinda

However, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena was blamed by Opposition Leader Premadasa and the SJB on Friday (10) for blocking a vote on the debate to remove Sri Lanka Cricket officials.

“Another blow to democracy in Sri Lanka. The Speaker of @ParliamentLK refused repeated requests for a division (vote by name) on debate to remove Board of Sri Lanka Cricket on charges of gross corruption. Instead passed motion without a vote to hide major divisions in Government,” SJB MP Harsha de Silva commented on X.

Despite the Opposition requesting a vote by name, the Speaker had passed the resolution saying both the Government and Opposition MPs had agreed to it.

SLC statement

Meanwhile, issuing a statement, SLC stated that it was committed to upholding the principles of integrity, transparency, and accountability in the administration of cricket in Sri Lanka. In line with this commitment, SLC stated that it had taken a proactive step to invite respected individuals appointed by the Minister of Sports through a recent gazette notification to form an independent committee.

The committee will consist of the following distinguished members:

1. S.I. Imam, retired Supreme Court Judge

2. Rohini Marasinghe, retired Supreme Court Judge

3. Irangani Perera, retired High Court Judge

The mandate of this committee, as outlined in the said gazette notification, includes the following key responsibilities:

a) Inquiring into and recommending appropriate action in relation to the references contained in the Audit Report dated 11 September 2023, issued by the Auditor General.

b) Making recommendations and formulating strategic actions to ensure the prevention of corruption, malpractices, irregularities, misconduct, and failures as referred to in the aforementioned Audit Report.

SLC believes that this initiative reflects SLC’s determination to address any shortcomings or irregularities within its operations and to take necessary actions to improve transparency and integrity. As nominated by the Minister by his gazette, the involvement of esteemed members who served in the Judiciary further emphasises the commitment to a fair and impartial process while safeguarding the autonomy of the institution.

RW’s stance

The President’s Office meanwhile had delivered the Chitrasiri Committee Report on SLC to the ministerial committee probing SLC and the gazette issued by Ranasinghe. 

The report by a committee headed by Justice K.T. Chitrasiri to introduce a new constitution to Sri Lanka Cricket through a parliamentary act was reportedly drafted back in August this year, with the President having received his copy last month. However, with Sri Lanka playing in the men’s World Cup, it was decided that this would be presented to the public following the conclusion of the tournament. The report highlights a new draft law for SLC, which will see the complete removal of political involvement in the administration of the game. 

The report was handed over to Sabry by President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake on Wednesday (8).

President Wickremesinghe’s stance is that the current crisis in Sri Lanka’s most popular sport, cricket, is intricate and profound. He reportedly maintains that merely appointing an interim committee will not suffice to address the issue adequately. In his view, to advance the sport and find a lasting solution, a permanent and substantive approach is necessary.

However, in light of the current circumstances, President Wickremesinghe has decided to expedite the process by submitting the proposed new draft constitution to the Cabinet sub-committee and subsequently bringing it to the attention of Parliament.


Be that as it may, the SLC controversy took a new twist on Friday (10) morning, with Opposition Leader Premadasa claiming in Parliament that there was a conspiracy at play to get SLC banned by the ICC and that the play had been set in motion at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo.

Sports Minister Ranasinghe also confirmed that he too had been informed of such a conspiracy.

Meanwhile, popular sporting channel ESPNcricinfo had also alluded to this conspiracy. “It is understood that SLC asked the ICC Board to take this extreme step. The ICC also continues to recognise SLC President Shammi Silva, who is currently in India and attended Friday’s meeting, as the elected representative,” ESPNcricinfo had reported.

The ICC suspension will not have any immediate serious impact on Sri Lankan cricket as no cricket is happening in the country until December and no ICC funds are due to go to SLC until January, according to ESPNcricinfo.

Lifting the ban

On Friday, with the suspension of SLC, highly-placed sources stated that the President was adamant that the new proposed laws governing SLC be implemented so as to ensure the ban was lifted. It is also learnt that the ICC had been briefed on the proposals, to which it had indicated that were these to be implemented, then the question of political interference would not be an issue. 

It has been widely accepted that the SLC Board warranted investigation. However, the Minister’s errant behaviour has now resulted in the immediate future of the game in Sri Lanka facing uncertainty.

Several Opposition MPs had reportedly spoken to the President on Friday to ascertain whether or not the ban could be lifted. Government MPs who were in favour of the parliamentary resolution had also reportedly told colleagues that Ranasinghe had misled them by insisting that the legal advice sought by his team prior to the gazette being issued had stated that no such ban would occur.

Arjuna leaves SLC

Nevertheless, Ranasinghe’s interim committee managed to function only for 24 hours. Committee Chair Arjuna Ranatunga was compelled to leave the SLC 24 hours after his appointment following the Court of Appeal decision.

The court had issued a 14-day stay order preventing the operation of the seven-member interim committee appointed to SLC. This includes the suspension of the relevant gazette notification issued by Minister Ranasinghe.

The order was issued by the Court of Appeal after considering a petition filed by SLC Chairman Silva, who was suspended by Ranasinghe.

Arjuna slams Sagala

Ranatunga was also seen alleging that the SLC hierarchy had become close to President Wickremesinghe via his Advisor and Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka.

Ranatunga had made this statement in an interview on Sunday (5) with a YouTube channel.

He had blamed SLC authorities for the sorry state of Sri Lanka’s cricket, while alleging that the SLC had worked to the tune of an Indian deal-maker.

The former Sri Lanka Captain had also blamed former Captains Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene for the downfall of Sri Lanka cricket. Ranatunga had noted that he would show results within six months if given the relevant powers and the team he asked for.

He had further alleged that SLC had been a den of corrupt thieves where bigwigs who had come in Maruti cars were now travelling in Benz cars.

IGP’s legality

However, amidst the whole SLC saga, there has been another key issue that was taken up in the House last week until it was bowled out by cricket. It is the issue of legality of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) C.D. Wickramaratne, who has been granted a fourth service extension by President Wickremesinghe.

Opposition parliamentarians however held a different view. SLPP dissident Weerawansa claimed that the country was without an IGP since the Constitutional Council (CC) had not approved the fourth service extension being given to Wickramaratne by the President.

Weerawansa had told Parliament that it was a serious issue since there were doubts over the official work undertaken by the IGP and his signature. Weerawansa had claimed that there was no legally-appointed IGP in the country and that it was a serious matter. He had then asked Public Security Minister Alles if the Deputy Inspectors General (DIGs) of Police today saluted an illegal IGP.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena however had responded saying the President was empowered by the Constitution to nominate an IGP and that it was legal and added that the Constitutional Council was in the process of approving it.

Opposition Leader Premadasa had noted that the Constitutional Council had approved the IGP’s service extension twice and that his third extension had not been approved and that the council had observed that it was appropriate to appoint a new IGP.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran said there was no IGP in the country according to the Constitution and that it was a serious issue. He had added that it was an intentional violation of the Constitution by the President, which was an impeachable offence.

RW writes to CC

President Wickremesinghe had meanwhile informed the Constitutional Council in writing that he recommended only Wickramaratne to the post of IGP, it is learnt. He had reportedly written to Speaker Abeywardena, after the Defence Secretary had been asked for a list of four nominees for the post of IGP.

In his letter, the President had quoted the relevant constitutional clauses and questioned the legal basis for the council’s request. The President had also noted that there were several court rulings that highlighted Presidential powers with regard to matters of national security.

It is also learnt that the Speaker had then informed the Presidential Secretariat that with the council having twice recommended Wickramaratne, it would not object if the President named him to be the IGP.

Sources at the Presidential Secretariat have been quoted in the media stating that the President intends to keep him in the position until the Presidential Election is held.

No issue over IGP

The ruling SLPP meanwhile had stated that it did not expect to have a conflict with President Wickremesinghe over the continuous service extensions granted to Wickramaratne.

SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam has said that there are more important matters for the SLPP to discuss with the President and that they will not get into a conflict with Wickremesinghe over the IGP matter.


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