Protests As Tyronne Fernando Stadium Closed To Public
By Dinouk Colombage
The Moratuwa Municipal Council and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) have found themselves at loggerheads over the use of the iconic Tyronne Fernando Stadium in Moratuwa, also known as the De Soysa Park.
According to the Moratuwa Citizens’ Association President, M. Sudharman, the Moratuwa MC has told residents that they can no longer use the Park, following orders given by SLC. “On Friday (June 29) members of the Moratuwa MC arrived at the park and told all the people to leave, when asked why, they said they were acting under the orders of the Cricket Board”, Sudharman said.
Samanlal Fernando, Mayor of Moratuwa, said that they had been instructed by SLC to prevent people from playing any sport apart from cricket at the stadium. “De Soysa Park is under the maintenance of Sri Lanka Cricket. They instructed us to prevent people from doing any other activity which would damage the pitch or grounds”, he said.
Fernando added that they had not prevented the public from entering the grounds, but had stopped them from playing any other sport.
Sudharman added that the association had complained to the Moratuwa MC, pointing out that this violates the conditions that accompanied the gifting of the stadium by Albert de Soysa back in 1939. “In the original gift deed, condition number five states that it must remain a recreational ground”, he said.
He further added that despite the Moratuwa MC saying the ground is maintained by SLC, no proper maintenance had been carried out in the last few years.
Fernando refused to comment on the allegations that the council was violating the conditions of the gift deed.
He did, however, explain that the maintenance of the ground was now the responsibility of SLC as it had been handed over to them. “We have entered into an agreement with Sri Lanka Cricket that sees them responsible for the maintenance of the ground. They notified us that they would be unable to fully maintain it, but assured us that they would make sure the premises could still be used”, he said. However, the Cricket Board has denied giving such an order.
A high ranking official at SLC, on condition of anonymity, denied that any such orders had been given to the Moratuwa MC. “The board is only in charge of the maintenance of the ground. We do not have the authority to prevent people from entering the premises”, the official said.
The SLC official explained that because of a shortfall in funds at the board they had decided to only maintain the playing area. “De Soysa Park is not being used for any international matches; as such we feel it would not be wise to rebuild the stadium. Instead the board decided to only maintain the playing field to allow school children to continue to use it”, he said. Ranil de Soysa, grand-nephew of Albert de Soysa, expressed his anger over the actions of the Moratuwa council. “When my grand uncle gifted the stadium to the council he did so on the condition that it would be maintained for the public. They have not only failed to maintain it but they are also preventing the public from using it”, he said.
Ranjan Gooneratne, a father of two living in Moratuwa, said that he was highly disappointed about the new arrangement. “I have been taking my children to De Soysa Park for many years so that they could play there. The Moratuwa Municipal Council has no right to come and tell people not to use this park, it has been open to the public for over 70 years”, he said. Sudharman said that unless the two parties could come to an agreement which saw the public retain the use of the ground, the association would be force to take legal action.