I will wipe out
corruption soon - Arjuna
"I know that I am fighting a
losing battle. But my aim is to prove to the world, especially to the
Sri Lankan cricket fans that as long as corruption prevails, Sri Lanka
cricket will never surge
forward. I had an easy passage in Sri Lanka's last general
election, obtaining approximately 100,000 votes after a three week
campaign to become a MP. The Cricket Board presidential election is much
tougher, for the simple reason that money can buy any Tom, Dick and
Harry in this contest. It had happened in the past and it will repeat
over and over again unless a fair and square election is held where the
club members will refrain from selling their vote for money and other
vested interests," said the former Sri Lankan Captain and People's
Alliance Member of Parliament, Arjuna Ranatunga, the opponent of
Thilanga Sumathipala in the forthcoming election for the post of
president, Board of Control for Cricket (BCCSL) in Sri Lanka, in an
interview with The Sunday Leader.
Ranatunga also went on to say that
he does not have money like Sumathipala to buy votes and even if he had,
he will never stoop low to occupy the Cricket Board president's seat by
throwing money. Sumathipala has strongly denied Ranatunga's charges and
said it was the rantings of a poor loser.
The whole world knows me as Arjuna
Ranatunga, the Sri Lankan cricketer. I need not throw money to buy
prestige and honour. I have already gained it. But I have a debt to pay
back to Sri Lankan cricket. I am where I am now as a result of
representing my nation for over 20 years and I intend to make it my duty
to see that Lankan cricket will reach greater heights in the near
future. To achieve it, the continuing corruption in the Cricket Board
must be wiped out. Even if I am defeated at the June 6 BCCSL
presidential elections, if I can convince the misled lot to refrain from
accepting money to cast their vote to a person who will ruin Sri Lanka
cricket, I will be satisfied.
Following are excerpts of the
By Gamini Senadhira
Q: What are your chances against
Thilanga Sumathipala in the forthcoming battle for the post of
A: It's going to be a tougher task
than being elected as a MP. I gained close to 100,000 votes at the last
general election after a mere three week campaign, but on June 6, I know
that I will be in the losers camp.
Q: If you are not confident of winni ng,
why do you want to contest?
A: My sole intention is to educate
all who love cricket,
the way I do, that if the
Cricket Board is not stable, one cannot expect the standard of
Sri Lankan cricket to improve. I have brought this matter up with Sri
Lanka's President and the Prime Minister too and I am sure before long
everybody will realise the mistake of electing a Cricket Board president
who will only help those who bum him become rich, and spend the Board's
finances on projects that will not add any muscle to the improvement of
the standard of the game.
Q: The predictions are that you will
not get even 10 votes?
A: Even if I get two, I will not be
disappointed if my message is well accepted.
Q: You being the only appointed
honourary life member of the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) since the late
President, J.R. Jayewardene's appointment as a honorary life member, it
is shocking to know that your own club too is supporting Thilanga
Sumathipala. How do you feel about it?
A: Naturally I feel extremely sad
about SSC's decision to support Sumathipala. But again I cannot blame
the club nor the 7,000 members of the SSC. The decision was taken by the
SSC's Exco of 16 members. I know that four of them genuinely supported
me. The rest buckled under Sumathipala's gold mine. SSC is my second
home, and if Sumathipala can influence the SSC what's the use of talking
about other small clubs. But mark my words, I am determined to put
things right at the SSC , the way I did with the Sri Lanka cricket team.
I was handling a losing side, yet I guided them to win the prestigious
'96 World Cup. This time I may be a loser at the BCCSL's presidential
contest but I will assure one and all that before long the BCCSL
administration will function sans any corruption.
Q: At the last BCCSL presidential
election where thuggery ruled you and your brothers were in
Sumathipala's camp. What made your family fall out with him?
A: Yes, though I was not personally
involved in the election campaign, as I was representing
my nation as a cricketer we supported Sumathipala despite his
opponent being Sri Lanka's President's uncle, Clifford Ratwatte. Mind
you, my father too was a minister of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's
government. My brothers, Prasanna and Dhammika were vice president and
CEO respectively of the BCCSL during Sumathipala's regime. But when we
became aware that Sumathipala was drifting out of track and was not
ready to heed our advice to put things right, we decided to bow out.
Q: Is it true that you have predicted
that the government will crash within the next two months and then you
will take over as sports minister and dissolve the new board and
establish an interim committee?
A: I read this in your last issue.
To be truthful, I am clueless about the date and the time that the
present government will crash. As a matter of fact, I am not sure
whether it will topple or not. I think Sumathipala is not sure of his
government's life span and must be having jitters about his future as
president of the Cricket Board if this actually happens. You will
definitely hear more and more made up stories from Sumathipala's camp
before the elections.
Q: The Secretary, Amparai District
Cricket Association, Sidath Liyanarachchi has stated that you phoned him
and said that the government will topple soon and then you will assume
duties as sports minister. You will then desolve the newly elected
cricket board and reappoint an interim committee. How true is
A: Yes, I spoke to him regarding
the vote. In fact, not only to him but I spoke to many about the vote
but I did not mention about a change of government or becoming the
sports minister. However, the fact remains that I also spoke to him
after reading The Sunday Leader article last week and he point blankly
denied that he had made a statement to that effect.
Q: The Secretary, Colombo District
Cricket Association and President, Lanka Cricket Club, Bandula
Dissanayake too maintains that you had also rung him up and blamed him
for pledging his support to Sumathipala and accusing him of being a
dishonest man and that he will mess things up if he is given the
opportunity to be president of the BCCSL again?
A: When I spoke to Bandula, he said
that he very well knows that I genuinely want to work for the interest
of Sri Lankan cricket but as Sumathipala has done many favours
for him he just could not go against him. Another member of a
Wayamba District Club whose name I do not want to disclose, without any
hesitation said that earlier he had only a push cycle but now he owns
land, houses, vehicles and a healthy bank balance thanks to Sumathipala,
so he just cannot dream of working against him. There were also quite a
number of club members who asked me with no hesitation whatsoever how
much I can pay for their vote. Needless to say I was totally disgusted.
Q: You haven't named nominees for other
posts as Sumathipala has done, in case it happens that you emerge the
victor at the election. Why?
A: Though a solid team of
administrators are willing to back me up, I did not push it, knowing
very well the consequences that they will have to face if Sumathipala
becomes the president. So, I decided to go alone and see what happens.
Q: Do you approve of the high profile
corporate sector administrators such as Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Asitha
Talwatte, Riyaz Mihular, Ajith Gunawardena, Ajith Devasurendra and Lal
Nanayakkara who have been picked to assist Sumathipala to handle the
affairs of the BCCSL, especially the finances, smoothly?
A: Yes, they are a capable lot. But
they will have to keep their eyes open and scrutinise every single move
that Sumathipala makes. If they are not careful, they too will
lose their credibility.
Q: Do you feel bad about Aravinda de
Silva being in Sumathipala's camp after being so close to you in and out
of the cricket arena for a long time?
A: I have great respect and regard
for Aravinda - as a cricketer and as an individual. He has the right to
do as he wishes. But before his retirement from cricket, he said he
needed more time to spend with his family. Being involved in the affairs
of the BCCSL, I very much doubt whether he will find the time to spend
with his family the way he desired. Anyway his expertise as a renowned
cricketer will definitely be a great boon to Sri Lankan cricket.
Q: As an illustrious Sri Lankan captain
who led the nation to a World Cup triumph in 1996, what advice can you
give the national team to improve their current pathetic standard in the
international cricket scene?
A: One must not just blame the
captain and the team for poor performances. Did Marvan Atapattu get the
best outfit to play in the current tri-nation tournament where the
Lankans were pushed out of a final on home soil after 18 long years? I
have not seen anyone pointing the finger at the selectors for not
selecting the deserving players to battle in this series. During our
early days, the competition to earn a national cap was rather tough. But
now those from powerful families and are stuffed with money can nudge
out the poor talented cricketers who truly deserve a place in the
national squad. With regard to a national coach, why search for foreign
ones when we have extremely competent past national cricketers who are
equally capable of doing a solid job as coach?
Q: How do you view the appointment of
two captains for one dayers and tests?
A: If a captain is not capable
enough to handle both the shorter and the longer versions of the game,
he should not be appointed to lead either side. Dulip Mendis, I,
Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya captained the 50 overs and the
five day games. My personal view is that it's silly to have two
captains, let one handle both.
Q: Sumathipala at his recent press
conference said that he will be happy to have your services to improve
the standard of Sri Lankan cricket if you are willing to work with him
once he becomes the president of the BCCSL. Will you work with him?
A: I have my principles. Even if I
am penniless I will not work with such a character. I was brought up in
that manner. Sumathipala has been accused of many a wrong doing. He must
first clear his name, before occupying the president's chair of the
Cricket Board. If he wins, the best thing he can do to Sri Lanka cricket
is to offer me the chair and bow out gracefully.