Susantha quits athletics tour to India in protest


by Reemus Fernando

Reputed schools athletics coach Susantha Fernando of Ratnayake Central, Walala has withdrawn his name as an official (coach) from the Sri Lanka Junior Athletics team touring India for the forthcoming South Asian Junior Athletics Championships.

Fernando, who is also the secretary of the Sri Lanka Schools Athletics Association (SLSAA), has done so to protest against appointing Anil Weerasinghe, a committee member of the Sri Lanka Athletics Association (SLAA) as the team’s manager.

The South Asian Junior Athletics Championships will be held from November 10-12 in Ranchi and the SLAA has finalized the list of names of participating athletes and officials for Sports Ministry approval despite its affiliate the SLSAA protesting against nominating Weerasinghe as the team manager.

Fernando, who has four of his trainees (the most from a school) in the team selected for the championship, was included as one of the five coaches to accompany the 41 athletes to Ranchi. Weerasinghe and Sampath Jayasena are the manager and assistant manager respectively. The appointment was made by the Sri Lanka Athletics Association. A.D. Nandawathie, Lakshman Hapuarachchi, W.G. Wimalaratne, K.A.R. Ranasinghe and Philip Ranjith are the other school coaches appointed.

Although, the fielding of a team for the regional championship comes under the purview of the SLAA, both the SLSAA’s and the Ministry of Education has a say in selections as the officials and most of the athletes are directly affiliated to schools under its management.

According to Fernando, SLSAA had not given its consent for Weerasinghe’s appointment as he had not been a part of the SLSAA or involved in organizing any of its events during the past two years. "We requested that either a vice president of the SLAA or a senior official of the Ministry of Education be appointed as the manager. They have not given heed to that," Fernando told The Island.

When contacted on this regard a senior official of the Athletics Association said that the decision to appoint Weerasinghe was taken some months back and it was a decision taken by the committee.

Incidentally, Weerasinghe is a former secretary of the SLSAA and a former vice president of the SLAA.

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