Sumathipala bats away “erroneous” media reports

Thursday, 7 September 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


By Madushka Balasuriya

Thilanga Sumathipala has hit back at media reports linking him to Sri Lanka’s gaming industry, clarifying that his admission in court to the same was merely acknowledgement of the “existence of public perception” that he and his family were involved in the gaming industry and “not that he is directly, or indirectly involved therein”.

The International Cricket Council states that any direct or indirect involvement in the gaming industry would be a violation of its sports regulations and code of ethics, thereby disqualifying Sumathipala from his post of SLC President.

Media reports earlier in the week cited a recent court ruling, which purported to show that Sumathipala under cross-examination had admitted to having ties with Sri Lankan betting firm, Sporting Star.

Sumathipala was speaking during a defamation case he had filed against Arjuna Ranatunga, accusing the World Cup-winning former national captain of making defamatory statements during a press conference in the run-up to the 2003 Cricket Board elections. 

According to the Sunday Times, the Nugegoda District Court, which on 24 August dismissed the case, in its ruling stated: “The petitioner accepted with great difficulty that a well-known race [betting] business by the name of Sporting Star was in operation all over Sri Lanka and that it was run under the name of U W Sumathipala and Sons and that ‘Sons’ pertained to himself and his brother.

“When his connection to it was questioned, the petitioner stated that his only business was that of a printing concern.” 

“In further cross-examination, he has admitted that Sporting Star carried out the business of betting and that the petitioner and his family were openly involved in the business.”

A statement issued through Sri Lanka Cricket however disputed this depicted version of events citing scanned documents of the official court proceedings, which show subsequent lines of questioning. In it Sumathipala is asked if there is a popular theory about his involvement in the gaming industry to which he confirmed that the theory exists.

The statement goes on to add: “The selected portion of the extract (and image) are deliberately and erroneously quoted out of context to create a perception that the said statement was made by Hon. Sumathipala recently, whereas the said statement was made in February 2011, long before his election as the SLC President in January 2016.

“Hon. Sumathipala was in full compliance with all applicable regulations in terms of the Sports Law and fully satisfied the eligibility criteria of the said regulations at the time of handing in his nominations for the post of President SLC in 2015.

“The International Cricket Council (ICC) Executive Committee found Hon. Sumathipala to be in strict compliance with all applicable clauses under its code of ethics subsequent to a thorough investigation conducted by its Ethics Officer, prior to accepting him as a Director of the International Cricket Council.

“Furthermore, the Anti-Corruption Unit of SLC which operates under the ICC has confirmed that the allegations being levelled at Hon. Sumathipala with regard to connections with the gaming industry have no substance.”

On the whole, the key sticking point for Sumathipala seems to be the phrasing of the question posited to him in court, which seemingly leaves room for interpretation. Nevertheless, while the court documents presented to the media by SLC supports this theory, it also seems to be at odds with reports of the official ruling of the Nugegoda District Court stating Sumathipala’s admission to links with Sporting Star.