Mahela asking President to go: How ethical is it?
By Revatha S. Silva
The tragedy that sparked Mahela’s Tweet
It should be noted that the particular Tweet on Sunday (22) by former Sri Lanka cricket Captain, prolific batsman, and world-renowned Coach Mahela Jayawardene came after one Dr. Shanaka Pathirana of the Diyatalawa hospital had revealed to the media that a two-day-old infant had passed away due to a delay in the infant being hospitalised as a result of the current fuel shortage in the country.
After the infant had reportedly shown breathing difficulties, the father had not been able to find fuel for his three-wheeler in time to take the child to the hospital. The father had spent nearly an hour searching for fuel, it was reported.
Dr. Pathirana had said the infant was gasping to breathe while being admitted to the hospital and had died at the Emergency Treatment Unit (ETU). He had also said that the infant’s life could have been saved if the father had been able to admit the child to the hospital in time.
“As a father I can only imagine what they must be going through. If @GotabayaR (Gotabaya Rajapaksa) read(s) this and has any guilt (he) should resign immediately as he was directly responsible for this situation and everyone else who was part of this administration.”
If this is the case, Mahela Jayawardene too should resign, as he too is “part of this administration”. How?
- Isn’t Jayawardene a paid employee of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the governing body of the sport in Sri Lanka, as its Consultant Coach?
- Isn’t SLC coming under the Sports Ministry and the Sports Law of this country?
- Isn’t the Sports Ministry a component of the Government?
- Isn’t the President the Head of that Government?
Then, having in mind the most unfortunate tragedy that an infant had passed away as an outcome of the ongoing fuel shortage in the country, how could a direct or indirect Sports Ministry/Government employee, who is receiving a salary for his job, criticise the country’s Executive?
Not only is Jayawardene a ministry-appointed Consultant Coach for 2022 for a lucrative annual salary, he was also Chairman of the National Sports Council (NSC), appointed directly by Namal Rajapaksa in his capacity as the Sports Minister, in August 2020.
Not so long ago, in December last year, Jayawardene was appointed as Consultant Coach of the Sri Lanka men’s senior team as well as the men’s Under-19 and Sri Lanka “A” teams for a period of one year, starting from 1 January 2022.
In announcing his appointment, SLC said that Jayawardene “will be in charge of the overall cricketing element of the national teams” and also provide “strategic support” for players and the management teams at SLC’s High Performance Centre.
“This is an exciting opportunity to work with the national cricketers and coaches in our various development squads, including the under-19 and ‘A’ teams, to help us do justice to the enormous cricketing talent and potential in Sri Lanka,” Jayawardene had said in the same statement.
Among private leagues
Since December, Jayawardene, though, was seen spending his time with the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) team Mumbai Indians (MI). He may again be with the team Southern Brave in “The Hundred” franchise league in England in August.
His contract with SLC should have given him freedom to work with those franchises yet, ethically, there too, one can observe an issue of commitment and a conflict of interest.
Similarly, a senior SLC official told The Morning Sports on Monday (23) that “it is not ethical for Mahela to criticise the President of the country”.
“He is a paid employee of the cricket board. I can’t reveal to the media his exact salary but he is receiving one for his consultation job. We (SLC) are going to discuss this matter at our Ex-Co meeting tomorrow (yesterday, 24 May),” he added.
Any substantial contribution?
After his appointment as Head of the NSC about 21 months ago, has Jayawardene – along with Kumar Sangakkara, who was also appointed as a member of the NSC – done anything seriously noteworthy to change the course of Sri Lanka’s cricket? Doubtful.
In spite of Sangakkara’s active role in a minister-appointed body through the entirety of last year, Sangakkara’s wife too had joined the ongoing anti-Government protests at Galle Face, Colombo demanding President Rajapaksa’s ouster.
‘Big boss’ of Sri Lanka cricket
One could argue that Jayawardene did not use his NSC and cricket-related powers, but abused them. In fact, it was widely believed that Mahela aka MJ was the “virtual big boss” of Sri Lanka’s cricket. He was considered to be above even Shammi Silva, the President of the elected SLC committee.
It was an open secret that both the NSC and the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), appointed by SLC in consultation with Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, ran the show in Sri Lanka’s cricket throughout the last 20 months when the Rajapaksa dispensation was in power.
Further, Namal Rajapaksa, on his part, made sure they were not mere name-sake bodies, but gave them free hand, it was widely reported.
Façade of innocence
The TAC comprised Aravinda De Silva as its Chairman, Sangakkara, Muthiah Muralidaran, and Roshan Mahanama. Mahanama resigned from the TAC in January.
Most of the key decisions ranging from hiring national coaches, appointment of officials, selectors, and captains, as well as picking up squads and even playing XIs, had allegedly been influenced, either lawfully or unlawfully, by both the NSC and TAC.
They say, as Jayawardena ran the show, the SLC was a mere onlooker. The irritating tug-o-war between these two parties – SLC and NSC/TAC – was a busy breeding point of hot, hot new items through the last whole year.
It is the same Jayawardena who wielded heavy powers under the Rajapaksas that now agitates for the same Rajapaksas’ ouster, while aligning himself with the anti-Government youth protestors, as if he had been a non-political, neutral, and innocent personality.
Is it tactfully and selfishly going with the tide, or what?
An honorary job?
Mahela’s detractors say that instead of developing the sport by using the overwhelming powers vested in him by the Rajapaksas, what he did was to receive salaries and payments for various consultation and coaching appointments.
It was alleged that despite the position being advertised as an honorary role, Jayawardene had received $ 15,000 (approximately Rs. 5 million) for his visit to the West Indies to oversee Sri Lanka’s campaign in the Under-19 World Cup early this year.
SSC, the best club
It was under his watch that his club, the Singhalese Sports Club (SSC), was made local cricket’s absolute powerhouse.
Sri Lanka Test and white-ball Captains Dimuth Karunaratne (appointed before Jayawardene’s period) and Dasun Shanaka are from SSC; National Selection Committee Chairman Pramodya Wickramasinghe is from SSC; newly-appointed SLC Vice President Samantha Dodanwela and Sri Lanka team Manager Mahinda Halangoda are too from SSC (however, the last two appointments derived no flak but very high praise).
It was a widely known fact that Mahela roped in many good players from various other clubs to strengthen his SSC. Was this an abuse of his powers?
What’s the difference?
These allegations point towards Jayawardena not serving cricket as much as he had served himself. Opportunism, cronyism, favouritism, and abuse of power – the Aragalaya boys and girls cannot find much difference, one would argue, between the Rajapaksas and the Sanga-Mahela legends.
Our ardent cricket fans would have expected more genuine effort from their legends. Instead, those legends seemed to have used that “legend” tag for their own benefit.
Genuine role models
Now they play another game: Twisting the reality and covering their sins by hammering everyone’s punching bag – the Rajapaksas.
To herald a better future, the country needs better heroes, legends, and role models. Not phoney ones who try to take the public for a ride.