By Emil van der Poorten –
Emil van der Poorten
Like all those in search of to comment on what is emerging out of the cesspool that passed for governance until this nation rid itself of the Rajapaksas, I have identified myself possessing to indulge in superlatives of the wrong sort, the mildest of which are most likely “ludicrous” or “bizarre.”
The recent, poorly written write-up/media release from Namal Rajapaksa, certainly not a G. L. Peiris production judging by its grammar and syntax, has our erstwhile (I hope) Crown Prince first directing his white charger towards these pointing to the positively outlandish conduct of members of his loved ones other than himself and the man he anticipated to/was expected to succeed, H.M. Mahinda Rajapaksa. He proclaims from the rooftops that it is fair game to be essential of the erstwhile Monarch of Sri Lanka and his Heir Apparent but that it is not cricket to criticize the rest of his family.
Provided the documented conduct of different members of the Rajapaksa family, both extended and quick, I count on that comment is hardly required in that regard.
Nonetheless, what I would like to take up nowadays is the matter of the conduct of the Rajapaksa Triumvirate on the rugby field and all that flowed from that conduct. The explanation for this is the conduct of however yet another opportunist crosser-more than who portrays himself as a defender of all that is noble in the field of services rugby.
I will come to Mr. Navin Dissanayake, Minister of some sort, in due course, but I make no apology for what might look like a lengthy lead-in to that narrative.
Let me say at the outset that there are eye-witnesses, video, and other documentary proof to help every word of what follows.
Namal Rajapaksa has proclaimed that his participation and that of his siblings in competitive rugby was driven purely and simply by adore of the game and an overweening compulsion to promote it in Sri Lanka. I uncover that especially interesting in the context of what I was witness to as a member of the Kandy Sports Club (KSC) on several occasions when its team met the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) in club competitors.
On each and every occasion that the SLN played the KSC at Nittawela what ought to have been post-game celebrations ended up as monumental brawls. On one particular occasion, I was witness to the reality that males in uniforms of some description, described as “Namal Rajapaksa’s individual security,” led by the Personal Trainer to the Rajapaksa siblings, clambered up to the second level of the major stand, assaulting people willy-nilly with plastic chairs and, as they broke, with pieces thereof, simply because, allegedly, a little plastic water bottle had been thrown at Namal when he was getting into the visitors’ dressing area at the end of the game (that the SLN had lost). Picture, if you will, the unerring marksmanship of whoever threw the missile into players, officials etc. all bunched with each other on their way into the visitors’ dressing area and locating the target, the Crown Prince! Of course the Presidential entourage which incorporated Anarkali Akarsha, the star of film and other enterprises, her mother, H.M Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Consort and a handful of political hangers-on had left the VIP row of seats to go into the post-match reception as guests of the KSC’s President and its major Patron by the time this happened. The attack by the goons went on appropriate about the wives of the President of the KSC and a single of the Vice-Presidents who were waiting to leave the “VIP row” in the stadium as soon as the human targeted traffic bottleneck cleared. I have been offered video that a lot more than adequately documents what was taking place. This does not include footage of the chief cheer-leader of the KSC who typically dances and waves a KSC flag the colours of which are painted on his face. The purpose for his absence from the video was that he was becoming hidden beneath a chair on which the wife of 1 of the VP’s of the KSC was sitting, cowering in worry of his life!
When the melee was over, 3 or 4 dozen KSC fans were hospitalized and a couple of Kandy fans were charged with becoming intoxicated! That was the sort of rugby culture that the Rajapaksa siblings were active participants in. And as they used to say in an old, old radio serial, “now for the rest of the story:”
As may well be anticipated, there was a excellent deal of anger in Kandy at what had transpired and several spectators contacted the hierarchy of the KSC with a view to possessing “something done” about all of this.
The upshot of that agitation was that a meeting was convened of those who’d expressed dissatisfaction with the status quo and wanted anything carried out to, at least, prevent a recurrence of this sort of totally unacceptable behavior by visiting goons brought in by the SLN to their rugby matches. I ought to add here that, on at least one occasion, the SLN paid the KSC directly for 5000 tickets for their personnel to attend matches at Nittawela. Element of our national “Defence Spending budget?”
I was invited to participate in the recording of written statements and I was aware of at least a single person who risked his really employment to supply a signed statement describing what had transpired.
The results of this inquiry was presented to the subsequent General Committee Meeting of the KSC and it was unanimously decided by that august assembly that a formal complaint must be produced to the International Rugby Board about the state of affairs prevailing in Sri Lankan rugby and requesting their intervention. I was delegated to prepare the letter of formal complaint, which I did.
Sri Lanka being Sri Lanka, I picked up the reality that the formal complaint to the IRB was being shelved and was, therefore, going nowhere.
When I raised the issue at the next Common Committee Meeting I was informed, not to put a fine point on the matter, that the KSC’s “movers and shakers” had got what is colloquially recognized as a case of “cold feet” and had decided to shelve the complete business. The purpose I was provided was that going direct to the IRB was “not the right procedure.” On that day, I ended up as a minority of one particular in my belief that, if it was not the “right channel,” the IRB would inform us so and, almost certainly, indicate what was the “right channel.” The fact that I was in a minority of one on that occasion is a badge of courage that I will carry proudly for the rest of my days!
This choice by the poo-bahs at the KSC must also be viewed in the context of it being one of the latter straws in a sequence of events that was preceded by an Air Force player discharging an assault weapon in the course of a game, on the field of play. The President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) at the time was Roshan Goonetilleke, then the lately-retired Air Force chief and Chief of Defence Employees and it was 1 of the more-poorly-kept secrets that he had had his term as President of the SLRFU extended on orders “from above.”
(As a side-bar, I wonder what happened to the inquiry into Mr. Goonetilleke’s vacation residence in a portion of the Knuckles range that is designated as an International Heritage internet site?)
A couple of items happened subsequent to this. Or must I say one of them, at least, didn’t come about subsequent to this?
The letter of complaint to the SLRFU about the firing of the weapon, backed up by the existence of video footage, was not so much as acknowledged and I think that there was some sort of sneering, insulting comment about the complaint in the media by a man carrying the name of Baptist, who held office below Roshan Goonetilleke in the SLRFU. Not only was there video footage, I know that the empty shell casing from the assault weapon was picked up off the ground and handed to the police who did not so a lot as conduct anything resembling an inquiry into the matter. Remember the old, “My enemy’s enemy is my pal?” The KSC was the No. 1 enemy of the SLN and any of its enemies was deserving of any and all help! Obviously!
The final game of that certain season was the championship match played on the grounds of the Royal College Sports Complex. I have a distinct recollection of the events that transpired there and I will make no apology for describing them in some detail.
Contrary to the expectations of even the KSC supporters, their club dominated the SLN in the initial half of the game during which the (Sri Lankan) Presidential entourage was ensconced with the afore-mentioned President of the SLRFU which was the hosting authority. The President of the club competing against the SLN for the championship (the KSC) was not allocated a seat in this august assembly and when invited, actually, up, declined to accept the afterthought. This was an fascinating “protocol error,” offered the reality that the person responsible for it was an erstwhile Forces chief and a clue for the “oversight” may well have been that he was openly cheering on the SLN team!
Anyway, at half-time, the President (of Sri Lanka) left his seat (without having any fanfare) and I didn’t notice him returning till the second half was nicely on its way. What was beyond my knowledge in numerous years of playing and watching rugby was what followed: both teams returned to the field for the second half and then, for better than five minutes, had to await the arrival of the referee who appeared to have been “unavoidably delayed.”
When play ultimately resumed the complexion of the game changed entirely with penalty right after penalty being awarded against the KSC with the SLN narrowing the very first half gap. Then, as the game was drawing to a close, the SLN was close to the KSC purpose line. Video shows the referee about to award the ball to the KSC in a scrum or award a penalty to that group when the touch judge intervenes and speaks to the referee who then awards a penalty to the Navy, resulting in a Navy attempt.
What is relevant to this action on the component of the referee is the reality that there is video displaying a player who was on the bench at the time and was not supposed to leave that bench according to the guidelines of rugby, speaking to the touch judge near the KSC objective line, numerous yards away from mentioned bench. That worthy then speaks to the referee who tends to make the contact referred to earlier. Stick to my drift?
Do I have to name the player in question?
Regardless of all of this, the story had a happy ending since the referee appeared to be arithmetically-challenged due to which the KSC won the championship game by one particular point!
Of course, this wasn’t the finish of that specific saga simply because the KSC dressing room was invaded by “security” who proceeded to beat up some of the Kandy players and jostled (to put it mildly) Kandy supporters, a lot of of my vintage and female into the bargain, who had gone down to congratulate the victorious group. When I remonstrated with the Navy official with whom I had shared the pre-game comments for the Television broadcast, that senior navy officer intervened by acquiring Namal Rajapaksa to contact off the thugs that had invaded the KSC dressing area. The SLN officer concerned told us that the miscreants have been not “navy personnel.”
The most current icing on this specific cake is Navin Dissanayake galloping off in defence of the Rajapaksa siblings who have apparently been “dis-invited” from participating in Army and SLN rugby. How gallant of but one more parachutist of convenience! I’d really like to know where his sense of sportsmanship resided when those whose wellbeing he is so concerned with now had been visiting actually unprecedented mayhem on players unfortunate adequate to provide opposition to teams on which they condescended to play? Perhaps, he’d like to inform us what he thinks of the manner in which most likely Sri Lanka’s finest rugby player of recent times, Fazil Marija, sustained the injuries he did in a game against the Navy, resulting in his becoming carried off the field?
I know it utilised to be identified as the “Uncle-Nephew-Party” at one particular time but provided the fathers- and sons-in-law operation it has now grow to be, it may well be needed to discover a new nickname for the UNP!
In the meantime, maybe Navin Dissanayake can locate anything a small more productive to do than run around playing Sir Galahad to the Bobbsey Triplets of Sri Lankan rugby. Ah, but then, he have to be a genuine acquisition for the existing government thinking about he spent so a lot a lot more (personally beneficial) time with the Mahinda Rajapaksa crew than did his turncoat father-in-law. They have one particular point in widespread though – they came back singly, even though Karu Jayasuriya took eighteen or nineteen with him on his initial journey.
Is this government ever going to discover that you do not deal with huge corruption and violence by enlisting these whose main intent seems to be to acquire “insurance” with the really perpetrators of the unbelievable “governance” that the people of this country had to endure? These men and women had it good then, have it good now and seem to be guaranteeing that, in the occasion of a return to that dark age, they will nevertheless have it excellent.