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,"
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
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
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
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
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
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
China, Chinese Taipei and minnows India.
There's been no word at all from the other
Korea, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Arabian Gulf,
Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and debutantes
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
Entries are now open for the Mark Bostock Memorial Trophy
2008. For more information please e-mail
Ceylinco Fingara, Mercantile Premier cricket
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
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.