By T.M.K. Samat
The ABA will hold its long overdue AGM next week – two months after national boxer Manju Wanniarachchi withdrew his appeal against his failed drug test at the last Commonwealth Games.
The AGM that was to be held last March will now be conducted on July 4 at ABA’s headquarters at the old Race Course. The delay was compelled upon the ABA after Sport Minister Mahinda Aluthgamage ordered the March AGM be indefinitely suspended for reasons unstated. Boxing officials, however, knew the suspension was due to the ABA’s refusal to persuade Wanniarachchi to withdraw his appeal to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). The ABA’s argument was the issue is between the boxer and the CGF, and the ABA, strictly legally, is in no position to interfere in the boxer’s decision.
It is no secret that the Sport Ministry was concerned that pursuing the appeal case might retard Sri Lanka’s bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Hambantota. And the minister’s decision to suspend the AGM is widely thought to be an arm-twisting tactic to force the ABA to somehow get Wanniarachichi to withdraw his appeal, which was to be heard before the independent Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, later this year.
“Manju thought he had a good chance of overturning the result (of his drug test) and had no intention of withdrawing his appeal. But with the AGM suspended and no official administration in place, he saw boxing in stagnation,” says an ABA official on condition his name is unmentioned, “No one was exactly certain when Lausanne would hear his appeal, and that would mean even longer stagnation of the sport. So he spoke to a few officials and decided that in the interest of boxing, he would withdraw his appeal – so that an elected ABA can come into being and boxing restarts.’’
While suspending the March-AGM, minister Aluthgamage also forbid the 2010 officials (all of whom were nominated for re-election) from holding office in 2011, citing the old committee’s failure to take preventive measures against the use of drugs by boxers.
So, the 2011 committee will see a batch of new faces in the key posts. Aubrey Peiris, 1985 Royal College boxing captain and Stubbs Shield champion in 84/85, is the solitary nomination for presidency and so is expected to take over from DIG (retd.) Rohan Abeywardena, as president. Peiris is a qualified AIBA International Referee/Judge and officiated at the 2010 SAF Games in Dacca. He is an Operations Manager at Commercial Bank.
The Secretary’s job is set to go to Mahesh Dahanayake, also a Royal College boxing captain in 1992 and Stubbs Shield champion in 1987. He takes over from the indefatigable Lt. Col. (retd) Hemantha Weerasinghe. Fortunately, both the past and present Secretaries are managers at MAS Holdings and a smooth transfer of duties is assured.
The finances of the ABA is to be placed in the hands of Husni Salieh, an accountant by profession. The two vice presidents of the last regime, however, are retained: Hebert Embuldeniya and Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya; M.T.M. Safrak, a runner up at the Nationals, will be Assistant Secretary and Ms.Dhilhara Siemon, a qualified CIMA accountant, the Assistant Treasurer.
A heavy back log of work is ahead of the new committee, thanks to the four-month delay in holding the AGM. However, it is tribute to the efficiency of the Chairman of the ABA Sponsorship Committee, Dian Gomes, that sponsors, A&E Threads, has pledged to support Sri Lanka boxing for a fourth straight year. “A&E have signed up for Rs.4 million, which is great. We’ll require about 10-12 million rupees to get through our 2011-12 programmes and I am confident we can raise the balance eight-million through other sources,’’ said Gomes, now serving in a less celebrated role after his five-year run as president.
“Four of the six main (ABA) jobs have been taken by former Royalists – and that might ensure the team work required to secure new sponsors,’’ says Gomes, who secures the most but considers his role as being not one of the six main jobs. “The Sports Minister too is a former Royalist and that might help run boxing more smoothly,’’ and prevent any more suspensions of AGMs. Hopefully.