Lo­cal match fix­ing probe; ev­i­dence of ma­nip­u­la­tion

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Champika Fer­nando

Sports Min­is­ter Dayasiri Jayasek­era last week ap­pointed At­tor­ney- at- Law Palitha Ku­marasena to re­con­sider the ban im­posed on Ka­lu­tara PCC and Panadura SC play­ers af­ter fresh ev­i­dence emerged of gross ma­nip­u­la­tion of the in­quiry process.

In a let­ter ad­dressed to Ashely de Silva, CEO Sri Lanka Cricket ( SLC), the sus­pended play­ers of the Panadura CC have said they had been kept in the dark right through the "pur­ported" in­quiry process ex­cept to bring them to Colombo on Fe­bru­ary 8, 2017. Even then, they were not al­lowed to face the in­quiry. They were turned back, say­ing "they need not take part in the in­quiry and that he [ an un­named Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee mem­ber] will take care of ev­ery­thing".

“I am also in­structed to in­form you that, on or around Fe­bru­ary 17, my clients were brought to Colombo in a bus, pur­port­edly to present their case be­fore the in­quiry," a three-page let­ter sent on be­half of the sus­pended crick­eters’ states. "I am in­formed that my clients along with the rest of the team­mates were kept in­side the bus whilst the club of­fi­cials went in to meet the in­quiry panel that had been as­sem­bled. I’m also in­structed that af­ter a few hours and Ex- Co of­fi­cials of Sri Lanka Cricket en­tered the bus and in­formed my clients that they need not take part in the in­quiry and that he will take care of ev­ery­thing."

Af­ter seven months of in­quiry, a SLC ap­pointed three- mem­ber in­quiry panel found the play­ers of both clubs guilty of mis­con­duct and not play­ing to the spirit of the game. It found no ev­i­dence against club of­fi­cials whose in­volve­ment in the process now seems in­evitable.

The sus­pended play­ers in­clude for­mer Sri Lanka crick­eter Chamara Silva, the cap­tain of the Panadura SC, who had not taken the field on the con­tro­ver­sial third day's play, and Ayana Siri­war­dene, a school­boy crick­eter play­ing his first, first­class sea­son for Ka­lu­tara PCC.

The ap­point­ment of an in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee was wel­comed by many in crick­et­ing cir­cles who be­lieve the truth will be ex­posed and the real cul­prits brought to book.

Both cap­tains were sus­pended for two years while the re­main­ing play­ers were handed a one- year sus­pen­sion from all forms of cricket. How­ever, the sus­pen­sions were lifted last week pend­ing ap­peal. The Sun­day Times learns SLC will now not pro­ceed with the ap­peals but will wait for the re­port of the Sports Min­istryap­pointed com­mit­tee.

The let­ter, writ­ten by Kalinga In­datissa, PC, states that the sus­pen­sions were "un­rea­son­able and against the rules of nat­u­ral jus­tice".

It says SLC failed to in­form the play­ers of the in­quiry in writ­ing or oth­er­wise de­priv­ing them of a chance to de­fend them­selves against the al­le­ga­tions. Ac­cord­ingly, they have been de­nied the right to an im­par­tial in­quiry as per the pro­vi­sions of Clause 3.4 of the con­tract.

In the let­ter, the play­ers have de­nied the en­gag­ing the ser­vices of lawyers to "safe­guard their in­ter­ests at this pur­ported in­de­pen­dent in­quiry":

“..…. and they fur­ther state that they never autho­rised any per­son or At­tor­neyat- Law to rep­re­sent them with re­gard to any mat­ter per­tain­ing to this pur­ported in­quiry. I’m also in­structed to in­form you that my clients never re­ceived any form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion ask­ing them to be present at the in­quiry in or­der to give ev­i­dence."

The SLC con­tests this. Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence to an­nounce the ban, SLC Vice-Pres­i­dent in charge of do­mes­tic cricket K Mathivanan was quoted as say­ing “Also, each player had been rep­re­sented by lawyers, in­clud­ing Chamara Silva. Lawyers ap­peared on be­half of all the club play­ers”.

“In view of the com­ments made by Mathivanan, I would thank you to let me know the names of the At­tor­neys-at-Law who is deemed to have ap­peared on my clients’ be­half at the pur­ported in­quiry," the let­ter added. "My clients had not re­tained the ser­vices of any At­tor­ney- at- Law and in­tends on re­port­ing this to the Hon Supreme Court in the event of its ne­ces­sity."

While re­ject­ing the bans, the play­ers have called for a fresh in­quiry to de­ter­mine the truth which has been swept un­der the car­pet.

“... My clients are fac­ing a pos­si­ble loss of liveli­hood and great hard­ship and ask you to con­sider lift­ing the sus­pen­sion...in the to­tal­ity of the afore­said cir­cum­stances, I would thank you to ini­ti­ate fresh in­quiry," the let­ter states.

Mean­while, in sep­a­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the Pres­i­dent of the Panadura SC, Jayan­tha de Silva, the play­ers have ac­cused de Silva of "ma­li­ciously" pre­vent­ing them from ap­pear­ing at the in­quiry.

“I’m also in­structed that SLC and the panel of in­quiry had re­quested from you to make play­ers avail­able for the in­quiry and you had ne­glected and/or ma­li­ciously prevented my clients from ap­pear­ing at this in­quiry by in­form­ing the Panel of In­quiry that the At­tor­neys- at- Law that you had re­tained, in fact, ap­pears for the play­ers," the play­ers have writ­ten to de Silva through their lawyer Mr In­datissa. "I am fur­ther in­structed that none of my clients had given you any au­thor­ity in writ­ing or oth­er­wise to rep­re­sent their in­ter­est at this in­quiry."

They have also re­quested Mr de Silva to fur­nish them with all the cor­re­spon­dence with re­gard to the in­quiry he had with the SLC.

Speak­ing to the Sun­day Times, Sports Min­is­ter Dayasiri Jayasek­era said he would bring the real cul­prits to the books.

“I have got af­fi­davits from play­ers which ex­plain the hid­den truth be­hind the al­leged match-fix­ing saga. A fresh in­quiry will un­earth the real truth,” Min­is­ter said.

Though there was no ev­i­dence to prove an at­tempted fix­ing of the match for fi­nan­cial gain, it ap­pears it has been purely about pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion from the top tier of Sri Lanka's first- class cricket. Hav­ing re­sumed the fi­nal day on 180 for 2, Panadura added fur­ther 223 runs in 22.3 overs at a run rate of 10.34 for their first in­nings. Ka­lu­tara were bowled out for 197 in 22.5 overs in the sec­ond in­nings, be­fore Panadura hit 167 for 7 in 13.4 to win the game.

It's all turn­ing out to be­come a drama with sus­pense and ex­cite­ment, as fresh episodes add up spice ev­ery other day - File pic

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