- Former Sri Lanka cricketer and coach makes official statement after being cleared of corruption charges
Former Sri Lanka cricketer and ‘A’ team coach Avishka Gunawardene has come out of his silence since being unanimously cleared by an independent Anti-Corruption Tribunal of corruption charges on 10 May this year.
Gunawardene was charged with:
Article 2.1.4 – Directly or indirectly soliciting, inducing, enticing, instructing, persuading, encouraging or intentionally
facilitating any Participant to breach Code Article 2.1., and
Article 2.4.5 – Failing to disclose to the ACU (without unnecessary delay) full details of any incident, fact, or matter that comes to the attention of a Participant that may evidence Corrupt Conduct under the Anti-Corruption Code by another Participant.
Issuing a statement through his lawyer Manoj Rupasinghe of Lloyds PR Solicitors – London, Gunawardene states that a great weight has been lifted off his shoulders after two troublesome years and that he was a relieved man today.
Manoj Rupasinghe, the lawyer who led the legal team defending Gunawardene states: “When we agreed to represent Avishka, we had a long road ahead of us. We faced many challenges and obstacles, however our focus and perseverance was rewarded when we secured victory for an innocent man, a man who served his country through sport. A team of lawyers at Lloyds PR Solicitors in London headed by myself, together with highly regarded and able Queen’s Counsel, Mark Milliken-Smith QC and Ali Bajwa QC, were able to achieve the result we did. We are very pleased that Avishka trusted us in his fight for justice.”
The following is the full text of the statement of Avishka Gunawardene:
“Dear all, as I write this statement, I am not just a relieved and happy man, but I feel as if a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders: an immense weight that I have carried with me for two extremely long and troublesome years, of which I spent the better part striving to clear my name.
“I am extremely pleased that my 24-year unblemished career, remains unblemished and unscarred and today, with my name in the clear, I stand proud and grateful. The last couple of years have been extremely challenging for me and for my family. The provisional suspension against me has caused immense stress and hardship emotionally and financially, as well as socially. But I won’t go into those details.
“What was most damaging, however, was that these charges were brought at all, at a point when I was at the top of my career, a career that had been progressing swiftly in the preceding years and up to that point. I had just been appointed as the Batting Coach for the Sri Lanka National team, a position I had worked hard towards, throughout my coaching career.
“Needless to say, I missed not only two years of my professional career, but many further opportunities as well. Being unemployed and not being able to do what I love to do, as well as being unable to provide for my family for two whole years felt, in truth, like a lifetime. But I always believe that with persistence, the truth will always come out. And I had enough faith in myself and in my integrity to be patient until my name was cleared.
“I look at this experience as a test of strength and resilience, and I believe I am stronger, mentally and emotionally, having faced this and having overcome it. This was also a remarkable eye-opener about who I am able to trust, and who my true friends are. I also know that there are many out there who don’t know me personally but who believed in my integrity. I thank you all for your faith in me.
“I do not believe that I would be able to stand in this position today without my exceptional legal team, who worked tirelessly since their instruction, literally day and night. I will always be indebted to them for their faith in me.
“Manoj Rupasinghe and the team at Lloyds PR Solicitors prepared my case with attention to the finest details of the case, left no stone unturned and kept me involved at every step. Mark Milliken-Smith, Queen’s Counsel, was my barrister at the hearing – his dogged and relentless pursuit of the disclosure from the ICC of all relevant material was crucial in my case, and he presented my case with enormous skill and tenacity, making sure that my side of the story was heard clearly by the tribunal.
“I am also grateful that the tribunal gave me a fair hearing and did not accept the account of those who accused me with what I always knew were lies. I would not have been able to endure the last two years without the love and support of my wife and my family who stood by me, believed in me and gave me everything I needed to get through this.
“I am also blessed with very special friends who were with me throughout this ordeal and gave me great strength and encouragement. To them, I am enormously grateful. I’m eagerly waiting to continue what I love doing, which is passing on my knowledge and expertise to our cricketers to be the best at their game, while also guiding them to becoming better human beings. Thank you all. Budu Saranai.”