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World Affairs



This is Paradise






Samantha's sacking shocking

Samantha Algama and Arjuna Ranatunga

JOURNALISTS visiting SLC's media office at Maitland Place in recent years couldn't help but come away without being duly impressed by its chief, Samantha Algama.

We journalists can make quite some extraordinary demands from those engaged in the business of catering to our professional interests. So, a strained relationship between us and them is not uncommon. Much to my delight, I found Algama a rare exception.

The ways of pleasing the media come naturally to him. He was polite, and no request was too difficult for him to fulfill - be it helping pressmen obtain accreditation to matches overseas, letters to embassies to secure visas, the lot. He was the sort of press officer media men wish for; his job-virtues were acknowledged by even some foreign pressmen he had dealings with.

He had all the makings of an ideal press officer, which, ironically, claims he, is why he was sacked, Tuesday, by interim committee chief, Arjuna Ranatunga. "The reason for my dismissal is because I am "too friendly with pressmen,"  he said.

The unspoken reason for his ditching is more likely to be one of finding some official within to blame for some adverse comments published about the administration - like the highly irregular and dictatorial appointment of a rank outsider to act for the holidaying chairman or the cancellation of suspicious tender deals. Algama, apparently, has been made the fall guy as the administration tries to try and polish up its damaged image.

His dismissal is strange for more reasons than one. His undoubted capabilities for the job apart, Algama services were rendered on an honorary basis, an admirable rarity in these "nothing for nothing; very little for six-pence" times. His three plus years on the job is the longest stint ever by any head of SLC's media unit. He brought into the job his experience in the game, as Captain of Wattala Antonians Division One team in 1995/96 and at St. Josephs in 1987/88.

The way the grapevine tells the story, he was shown the door because he refused to play the line of a top official over a controversial tender award. That, though, isn't easy to confirm. But there's been widespread dissatisfaction over the alleged witch-hunt of perceived loyalists of past regimes. Algama was a Jayantha Dharmadasa appointment - and so, it isn't difficult to believe that the witch hunt is not fiction.

What ever, more than a few media men are going to miss the polite services of Samantha Algama.

Whither our international sevens?

AS clouds of uncertainty hang achingly over the future of this year's Singer/SriLankan Airlines International Sevens, ghosts of the 2001 tournament are easily awoken. If at all the popular yearly event was ever to be struck by a cancellation it had to be six years ago - when September 11 exploded before the eyes of the world.

Death and devastation were wreaked on the Twin Towers of New York just three days before the September 14-16, 2001 tournament in Kandy. And though Sri Lanka might've been half a world away from the scene of infamy, anyone, anywhere in his right senses then viewed an airplane as some giant grenade that's unsafe to be anywhere near, let alone step into.

"The teams from overseas were telling us, 'only God can help us come:' meaning that making the trip was pretty much gambling with life. The prospects were as bad as that," said one of the organisers.

Abandoning the trip

All of the 15 overseas teams, from Europe, Middle East to Far East, were closer to abandoning the trip than making it. The organisers themselves were helpless; the visitors' fears after all were about their safety in the sky, fears that were beyond  Iswan Omar's committee to dispel.

How the 2001 event was rescued from such a darkly despairing situation borders a miracle - and is an undeniable testimony to the organisers' marvelous powers of persuasion.  Eventually all but only Denmark turned up at Nittawela - and the 2001 event had as good as come back from the dead.

So, having weathered the storm of September 11, no less, it seemed nothing else could quite jeopardise any future event from seeing the light of day. Six years on, though, the event finds itself threatened again by cancellation, as reported in The Morning Leader of last Wednesday.

Confirmation of acceptance

If I might recap our story: By February, throughout the tournament's nine-year existence, confirmation of acceptance of all of overseas countries would've come to organisers hand. It's now already May, but only three of the dozen invited have responded positively: China, Chinese Taipei and minnows India. There's been no word at all from the other nine: Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Arabian Gulf, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and debutantes Iran.

With the event yet a distant four months in the future, threats of cancellation at this point of time might sound like the proverbial crying of wolf. Let Iswan Omar, Chairman Organising Committee since  1999 - the inception - explain why the wolf is a lot more real: "There are a lot of arrangements to be done, from flight reservations, hotel accommodation to security measures, which is why we previously set a January-end deadline.

After all, we are dealing with numbers of over 200 players, team officials and international referees. Normally, by May we would've completed flight and hotel reservations of the visiting teams."

Hitting panic stations

And he told The Morning Leader: "We are into May and all we have are three overseas confirmations - so, you could say we aren't far from hitting panic stations." So, from an organisation perspective, September is nearer than what the calendar shows.

It is a fact that invited countries can't be ignorant of and ought to have responded, as they always do, by February. Why then might they  have not this time, despite a two-month extension to the deadline, to May 10?

With nine countries yet to respond in definitive terms, any judgement on the future of the event would be premature. But this much is certain: there's reluctance on the part of the majority to undertake the trip. And there's more than one reason for the wariness, the most obvious of course being the war and the accompanying fears for their safety.

Secondly, stripping the event, after three years, of its status as an IRB Satellite event, the only in Asia, and conferring that recognition to Hong Kong this year poses a significant disincentive to partake of the local tournament.

Asian qualifiers

The Kandy event and Hong Kong Satellite tournament, designated as the Asian qualifiers for next year's IRB Sevens World Cup in Dubai, are slotted a month of each other: the first  for September 5-7 and the second, October 4-5. A preference by countries to preserve all their resources for the Hong Kong Satellite, so, can't be faulted, given that World Cup places are on the latter's prize table.

Formidable as the above odds are, they aren't insurmountable. The question of security is not a new one. More than once security concerns were raised in the days approaching the tournament - and each time all of the visitors' fears were calmed by organisers, through security guarantees from the government and private firms.

There's a case for arguing in favour of attending our event, even without IRB status. It might not be a Satellite tournament of the world bodies, but it not entirely without IRB recognition either. In fact, the ARFU, the Asian arm of the IRB, is funding the Kandy tournament to the tune of GBP 29, 000 - which means it is staged under the aegis of the IRB. And so will count for IRB's World and Asian rankings.

Difficult prospect

The point to make here: the tournament is worth being a part of. But a persuasive case has to be made out to the competing countries jointly by the SLRFU and the organisers. The bringing together of the Union and organisers, Kandy SC, however, is far more a difficult prospect than tackling the uncertainties brought on by September 11.

Put bluntly, the Union and Kandy SC, the organisers, are Weerawansa and Somawansa - they can't stand each other, so that to expect them to reach accord on anything is, well, impossible.  

Tragically, though, the Union-Kandy SC rivalry might well cost the country its solitary annually-hosted international tournament which, incidentally, earns the island hefty rewards, on and off the playing field.

It is an open secret that after the event was conferred IRB status in 2004, the world body insisted that its dealings will only be with the SLRFU, as official protocol demands.  Kandy SC, however, had nursed the event since birth and doesn't wish to let go of its control, an emotional yearning that's understandable, but without legal legitimacy.

It has to be noted, the Union, as parent body, has always given the tournament official approval - but kept its hands clear of the responsibilities of organisation. That status quo was alright until the event won IRB recognition four years ago - and the world body began insisting on SLRFU involvement.

SLRFU representatives were brought into the event's organising committee, but it soon became clear to the IRB those appointments were no more than a fa‡ade. The IRB's frequent queries from the SLRFU about the conduct of the tournament, in which it annually invested Rs.9 million, were deflected to the organisers. The Union complained they were kept out of the decision-making and relegated to merely rubber-stamping the organisers decisions. Their answer to the IRB: how can we answer your queries when we don't know the answer ourselves?  . Go ask the organisers.

Kandy SC claim the disinterest shown their international Sevens is one of many examples of the Union cold shouldering the club's initiatives. The present crisis, clearly, is a product of the bickering that has long blighted relationship between the Union and the Champion club.

So, whither the historic 10th birthday of Singer/SriLankan Airlines Sevens? It is nice to think that the problem will just go away and the nine countries would eventually confirm their participation.

But factually, it won't happen that easily - the doubting countries will have to be talked into coming, both by the Union and Kandy SC, together. Reliable sources say, the two have been doing quite the opposite, working separately to try and persuade participation, causing, dare it be said, confusion among the countries. 

Unless, the Union and Kandy SC work as one on this issue, a preparation of the obituary of the 10th Singer/SriLankan Sevens wouldn't be too soon.

Kishu: spare a thought for sponsors' woes

COMPANIES sponsor sport not out of a spirit of altruism. Rather, they do on the fundamental business principle of investments and returns (read profits). But there's pretty much nothing to profit from investments in sport, running into millions of rupees.

Their hoped-for returns are less visible, like earning public goodwill that might lift the company's profile and overall, create a reputation for itself as being one that cares for society, which is its market - and not a reputation for being a money-making machine.


That is a message that can be conveyed only through editorial exposure of events under companies' sponsorships - not through paid-for advertisements. So, it is not uncommon at press conference to hear sponsoring companies unashamedly plead for exposure of their events. After all, 'returns'on their investments have to be ensured.

Kishu Gomes, CEO of Caltex, long-standing sponsors of SLRFU's league and knockout tournaments, too made a plea on behalf of his company's whopping five-year investment of Rs.42m. for seasons, 2006 to 2010. But his plea carried some scary home truths - facts that warn sport might well be heading for fall on extremely hard times, unless things improve for business - and quickly.

Presently though, the environment for business, Gomes opined, is far from ideal - a fact so obvious that Gomes' reminder was superfluous, really. But some economic facts he threw up were frightening, and made you marvel why sponsorship is available at all.

Higher interest rates 

"There's been a five per cent reduction in consumption; higher interest rates mean companies are reluctant to borrow from banks (to keep afloat or expand business); companies are paying far more for raw materials and by way taxes - it is tough," Gomes told a press conference, Wednesday at the SLRFU headquarters, to herald the launch of the 2008 league season. "Basically, companies are left with just 30 percent to upkeep business, with 70 percent gone by way of taxes, raw material costs etc."

There's no doubt much to do with the remaining 30 percent Gomes spoke of - with salaries and rents to pay, electricity bills too, the lot. So, is the day not far off when Caltex might strike out rugby sponsorship from its books? 

"We see sponsoring rugby as a social responsibility we have to fulfill - it's one of our business principles. So there's no reason why we would pull out of rugby - we've had a meaningful working relationship with the Union and think our involvement has helped the development of the game," said Gomes "Yes our investment in rugby will be safe."

 Unhappy areas

Having paid those complements to the Union, Gomes was also to point to the unhappy areas. "Obviously, inter-club games are capable of attracting far more numbers than they presently do. You only need to look at the crowds at inter school matches to remind you that the game's exciting qualities are a sure-fire crowd-puller," said Gomes - and called on the union to be more creative in efforts to enhance spectator interest.

SLRFU President, DIG Nimal Lewke, saw his new move of staging an Opening Ceremony before each new season as one that might revive interest in the inter-club season. "All team captains will take part in the Opening Ceremony - which will at least create public awareness that a new season has arrived.

Quality rugby

That plus the promise of better quality rugby and a closer competition, I am sure, will bring more spectators," said DIG Lewke - adding the Opening Ceremony will also provide the opportunity to honour forgotten legends of yore.

The first tribute went deservedly to Mahes Rodrigo, who was Guest of Honour in the Opening Ceremony on Friday. Scrum half Rodrigo was a CR stalwart of the 1950s, whose partnership with standoff Archibald Perera remains one of the enduring memories of 1950s rugby.

Rodrigo was also an outstanding coach and was responsible for his alma mater, Royal's  golden years in the late 50s and 60s - just as the late Perera did to his alma mater, St Peters, in the 60s.


John Keells sponsors Mark Bostock Memorial
Trophy at Victoria, May 10-11

John Keells Group will be the principal sponsor for the inaugural Mark Bostock Memorial Trophy to be held at the Victoria Golf and Country Resort over the weekend - May 10-11.

     Mark Bostock, former chairman, John Keells, was the passion and driving force behind the golf course and development at Victoria and this tournament is held in his memory, to celebrate all that is good about the game of golf.

Players will play18 Hole Stableford golf competitionfor the Mark Bostock Memorial Trophy. There will be great prizes in theGentlemens and LadiesDivisions with net and gross categories. Overall Champion for the Mark Bostock Memorial Trophy will be the player returning the Best 18 Hole Net Stableford Score.

"We are delighted that the John Keells Group has come forward to sponsor the inaugural Mark Bostock Memorial Trophy. Ajith Gunwardena was instrumental in supporting the event," said Acting General Manager, Victoria Golf and Country Resort, Tony Whitham.

Mark Bostock was the third generation of Bostocks to live in Sri Lanka , following in the footsteps of his grandfather who built Colombo docks (after those of Dover ) and his father, a renowned planter and businessman, who had been decorated with the M.C. and Bar, D.S.O. and was later a World War I hero.  Mark went on to excel at Marlborough College and joined the Fleet Air Arm just after the war.

However, the call of Sri Lanka was too strong, and he returned in 1947, aged 20, to develop his skills in his birthplace as an agriculturalist. His early years in the field as a "Creeper" and his frequent visits to tea estates gave him an encyclopaedic knowledge of this beautiful island. That knowledge was to prove invaluable in the development of Aislaby as the premier tea estate in the land, and in his 16 1/2 year leadership of a simple brokerage company which developed under his enlightened chairmanship into the Keells conglomerate that we all know today in Sri Lanka.

Those early years were brimful of achievement on the sporting field. Mark represented Sri Lanka at rugby with great pride as well as playing hockey, cricket and squash at the highest club level. But he was accomplished at so many other sports as well - golf, tennis, shooting and fishing.

Chris Holloway, the eldest nephew of Mark Bostock, now a successful property developer in Parisand the current chairman of Victoria Golf & Country Resort recalls his early experiences of Sri Lanka and the Bostocks: "I will always remember as a prep school boy the flower room at Greenham Court, full of Mark's fishing rods, guns and many tools of his sporting achievements. When I first arrived in Ceylon, as it then was, in 1966, having travelled overland from the UK, it was a new experience to go down to the swimming club on the Galle Road, and sign the chits "Bostock." I was 19 at the time, and since Mark and Lif only had two young daughters, this raised a few eye-brows. I only discovered later why Mark had never set foot in the place, along with all other establishments that practised segregation. It was on that first trip also that I became aware of his power to change events. My plane was overbooked, but I had to get back to re-sit a first year university exam paper the following day. The next moment I was offered a seat for my journey. Mark embodied integrity, honesty, inspirational leadership and unfailing friendship to his many friends. Not for him the easy way of compromise and underhand arrangements - he was a man of steely principle who would never be found wanting. Mark was the last male in the line, and I have always treasured his bequeathing me the right to carry the Bostock family coat of arms, which I do with pride. "Frangas non flecti." Bend me, I will not break."

January 1999 saw the opening of the third golf course in Sri Lanka, at the Victoria Golf& Country Resortnear Kandy. This was the first course to be built in Sri Lanka for over 100 years and the concept was that of Mark Bostock who kindly invitedDonald Steel and Martin Ebertto carry out the course design work.

The golf course occupies the most majestic piece of ground imaginable, set beside the banks of the Victoria Reservoir at an elevation of 1,500 feet which makes the climate very pleasant.

The Victoria Golf Course was designed by the British Golf Architects - Donald Steel & Co. Donald Steel is a renowned UK based golf course architect and fellow and former chairman and president of the British Institute of Golf Architects with a career in golf architecture spanning a period of 30 years.

He is a National Winner of the Golf Course Environment Competition, UK . He is the current president of the English Golf Union.

A few of the many notable design projects undertaken by him are Birch Grove Golf Course, England, The Carnegie Links at Skibo, Scotland and De Efteling Golfpark, Holland.

Victoria offers a unique golfing challenge to players of all abilities, and is rated amongst the 100 most beautiful courses in the world by Golf Digest.

Set within the grounds of a former mixed farm the 6945 yard par 73 championship layout has taken full advantage of the existing undulating terrain, with coconut and majestic hardwood trees incorporated into the overall design.

Former European ladies champion, Katrina Douglas remarked in 1998: "This will be one of the top 10 golf courses in the world. The setting is spectacular and the course offers a test to even the most accomplished of players."

Mark Bostock's achievement therefore in developing his dream of Sri Lanka's first international golf course on a coconut plantation he had identified in the 1950s, is highly creditable.

The dream became the reality through the  Victoria Golf Course, Rajawella, when the Victoria dam flooded the surrounding land and this coconut plantation became a beautiful peninsular surrounded by the Victoria Lake . It has been described as amongst the most beautiful golf courses in the world and will be his enduring legacy to this country, bringing tourists from all over the world.

Mark Bostock's death was tragic and untimely in the year 2000, messages of fond farewell flooding in from all over the world. His friends were a legion. Mark's love of his country was only surpassed by his love and pride in his family.

Mark Bostock was a man who was happiest, of course, with the simple pleasures of life - an upturned tin can improvising as a shower, and a beer and curry for breakfast after a swim in the sea.

Burying turtles eggs at Bentota and shepherding the young down to the sea. Life was never dull. Visionary ideas flowed from his fertile brain. He was indeed a man ahead of his time.

The development of Victoria Golf Course has greatly influenced the local community.

Mark Bostock's far reaching dream of building a golf course of international standard not only brought fame to the country but also light and life to the local community.

Victoria has been nominated amongst the 100 most beautiful golf courses in the world and also voted the best course on the sub-continent by Asian Golf Monthly.

Entries are now open for the Mark Bostock Memorial Trophy 2008. For more information please e-mail marketing@victoriagolf.lk.

Ceylinco Fingara, Mercantile Premier cricket champions

Ceylinco Fingara team emerged victorious in the Mercantile Premier League Knock-out Tournament 2008, beating defending champions Sampath Bank by 2 wickets in the final at the Colts Grounds. Ceylinco Fingara team had a great combination of international cricketers of the calibre of Marvan Atapattu, Upul Chandana, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Thushara, Chanaka Welagedera and Skipper Indika de Saram; experienced and mature cricketers like Sanjeewa Weerasinghe, Anil Rideegammanagedera, Ruvin Peiris, Malintha Gajanayake and Akalanka Ganegama; and talented young cricketers such as Sachithra Senanayake, Chaminda Vidanapathirana, Chanaka Komasaru, Nisal Randika, Dushantha Ranatunge, Tharanga Lakshitha and Damith Mapa. The team performed creditably in the league round of the tournament to retain the no. 2 position.

In the knock-out round, the Ceylinco Fingara team performed to their true potential by comprehensively outplaying East West Marketing by 119 runs in the quarter-final and Janashakthi Insurance by 8 wickets in the semi-final, displaying high quality cricket. The team went on to hold their nerve in the tense final to achieve victory by 2 wickets, and become worthy champions.

The Ceylinco Fingara team set about their task in a very professional manner. The foundation was laid at the 'Think Session' and 'Team Building' programme held in Kandy, followed by the specialised training programme on 'The Art of Winning,' prior to the commencement of the tournament. Team practice sessions conducted with the use of the state-of-the-art high-tech facilities at Fingara International Cricket Academy gave the team the winning edge. The Ceylinco Fingara team also had the privilege of support services of a physio, trainer, team assistant, F&B coordinator, and was moulded and energised into a winning combination by their coach, Naveed Nawaz, Cricket Secretary, Romesh Jayasinghe and Team Manager, Gihan Silva.

Women's cricket Asia Cup

Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by 96 runs

The opening fixture of the fourth Women's Cricket Asia Cup ended at Dambulla yesterday making Sri Lanka victorious by 96 runs against  Pakistan.

Sri Lanka scored 225 runs after Pakistan won the toss and put them in to bat. Sri Lanka lost their first wicket in the 23rd over as Chamari Polgampola departed for 29 runs, ending the opening partnership of 66  runs.

Then the Lankan skipper, Shashikala Siriwardena joined opener Dedunu  Silva and maintained a very good strike rate to lift the Sri Lankan score. Dedunu Silva recorded her fourth ODI half ton before being run out in  the last bowl of the 37th over for 76 runs which included 12  boundaries. 

The Pakistani women did not get to a great start as they lost their  first wicket for just four runs. Opener Tasqeen Qadeer was caught at third  slip for just one run. Inoka Galagedera caught her off the bowling of Weerakkody. Her opening partner, Bismah Maroof also did not last long.  She was run out by Kaushalya for 8 runs when the score was on 21.    

Sri Lanka Women: 225 for 5 in 50 overs (Dedunu Silva 76, Chamari  Polgampola 29, Sashikala Siriwardene 35, Eshani Kaushalya not out 37, Shiromala Weerakkody not out 16)  Pakistan Women: 129 for 8 in 50 overs (Urooj Mumtaz 33, Sajjida Shah  not out 31, Eshani Kaushalya 2 for 28, Sewini de Alwis 2 for 30)       

Police in upset victory against CH & FC

Sri Lanka Police Sports Club scored an upset 12 points to 11 points  victory over the more fancied CH and FC team in their SLRFU Caltex inter club  'A' division league rugby tournament opening fixture worked off at the  Police Park on Thursday.

The winners collected their points from one goal and one try having led  5-3 at half time. CH and FC responded with one try and one penalty.

Isipatana beat Royal 17-12

Isipatana College retained the Major Milroy Fernando Memorial Trophy  when they defeated Royal College by 17 points to 12 points in their Singer  inter school under 20 Division One Group 'A' league rugby tournament match  played at Longden Place on Thursday.

The winners collected their points from two goals and one penalty  having led 14-12 at half time. Royal College responded with one penalty goal  and one try.

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