The crucifixion of Kumara Sangakkara


By S. L. Gunasekara

Suppose, just suppose Kumar Sangakkara had said in his lecture at Lords that Mahindananda Aluthgamage was a most handsome/beautiful, wise, cultured, civilized, erudite and competent Minister whose knowledge of cricket exceeded that of Donald Bradman, Garfield Sobers and Neville Cardus combined; that the Sports Law of Sri Lanka which empowers even a Minister of Sports who does not know the difference between a cricket bat and a cricket stump to over-rule a decision of the Selection Committee was a wise and sagacious law; and that cricket administration since 1996 has been the best possible administration we could ever have hoped to have had, there can be little or no doubt whatsoever that unless Sangakkara was suddenly struck down by a bolt of lightning (a fate which is reputed rightly or wrongly to befall barefaced liars), no retribution would have come his way in respect of his speech at Lords. The occasion for calling for an inquiry/report into Sangakkara’s speech appears to have been that he has spoken the truth or what he sincerely believed to be the truth.

Is speaking the truth or what one believes to be the truth an offence? If so, is the punishment for speaking the truth or what one believes to be the truth the same for all or are different scales of punishment designed for different individuals depending on their political affiliations ?

The former Minister of Sports, C. B. Ratnayake categorized the Cricket Board as being the most corrupt institution in the country [i.e. more corrupt than even the Cabinet !!]. Apart from being stripped off the Sports Portfolio and being given another Cabinet Portfolio, no report was called for and no inquiry was held into Ratnayake’s speech. Why then the difference in respect of Sangakkara? All that is common between the two episodes is that the logical and necessary step of at least taking a firm decision and solemnly, sincerely and truly resolving to remedy the ills highlighted by them within an identified time span was not even dreamt of !!

Minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage is alleged to have told BBC that Sangakkara was under a contract and had no right to talk about cricket during his speech. However, both Aluthgamage and the Board knew well before hand that Sangakkara was scheduled to make a speech at Lords at the Cowdrey ceremony. No injunction was issued on him by the Minister or the Board prohibiting him from talking about cricket or about cricket administration. When Sangakkara was invited to speak at Lords at that ceremony what could any person of reasonable intelligence (one hopes that this includes the Minister and the Cricket Board) expect Sangakkara to speak about? Did they perchance think that he would, at that ceremony, talk about Netball, Carrom, Hopscotch or Marbles? Or that he would treat the crowd to a discourse about the situation in Libya or Venezuela? Even the Minister and the Cricket Board could not have been so downright stupid. They must necessarily have expected him to talk about Cricket which includes Cricket Administration.

The disease that appears to have afflicted the Minister and perhaps the Board is the chronic allergy to criticism which has, in the last few decades, afflicted all those occupying or hoping to occupy seats of power of whatever political colouration including the JVP and its equally ugly twin, the LTTE. Having been accustomed to flattery from all around them, functionaries like Ministers and political appointees to various positions of authority have developed the pernicious belief that criticism means enmity, and rather than looking into the merits of the criticism and taking corrective action, they seek to pillory and punish the critic. This is regrettably not something new in Sri Lanka, it has been there in ever invreasing measure since this country came under a dictatorship in 1970 and that dictatorship was aggravated from and after 1977.

It is time those in positions of authority in both the Government and the Opposition realized and realized full well that it is not the critic but the sycophant who is the enemy; and that serious note must be taken of criticism and constructive criticism used for the benefit and welfare of all.

In conclusion may I say that Sangakkara, a would be lawyer, and the son of a very Senior Practitioner at the Kandy Bar whom I have known for over four decades has acquitted himself with the greatest of honour by making that speech. His father must surely be justifiably swelling with pride, Whether or not one agrees with the speech made by Sangakkara it did take courage to make it, and some of the things said in that speech are so obviously true that we are under a massive debt of gratitude to him for having articulated them in a place that matters.

I conclude by saying well done Sangakkara; may the evil machinations against you of the incompetents and mediocrities intoxicated with power and their nonsensical perceptions of their own non-existent importance come to naught.

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