UAE Rugby Scandal: Sri Lanka Rugby To Return ’Bribe Money’ As World Rugby Remains ’Mum’

UAE Rugby Scandal: Sri Lanka Rugby To Return ’Bribe Money’ As World Rugby Remains ’Mum’

8 December 2019 10:56 am

Sri Lanka Rugby is all set to return the alleged bribe of US $ 10,000 that was given by United Arab Emirates Rugby Foundation in the form of a grant weeks before the Asian Rugby Football Union Annual General Meeting, which was held in Bali Indonesia on the 17th November 2019.

UAE's Rugby Federation President Qais Al Dhalai besides granting this sum of money, made every endeavor thereafter to secure Sri Lanka's vote at the now concluded ARFU AGM which was held earlier in Indonesia. 

Qais Al Dhalai is in his quest to secure the top Asian Rugby post even went on to break all World Rugby Regulations protocol by writing an official letter to Sri Lanka's former Minister of Sports Harin Fernando, threatening, demanding and soliciting him to pressurize and influence Sri Lanka Rugby to vote for him.

A Senior Official from Sri Lanka Rugby speaking on condition of anonymity to Lanka News Web said " It has been decided to bring this matter up at the next Sri Lanka Rugby Council Meeting, which is scheduled to be held later in the month of December 2019. At this meeting it will be decided if these monies should be returned to the UAE Rugby Federation, after much controversy now surrounds this entire episode."

It was reported that Qais Al Dhalai's threats and demands were given into by the former Minister Harin Fernando,who instructed his Legal Advisor Panduka Keerthinanda and Secretary Chulananda Perera to issue two letters to Sri Lanka Rugby pressurizing them to support the UAE contestant.  

"Initially we were very happy to know that SLR was getting a grant of US $ 10,000 from UAE Rugby Federation. However what we did not know was that there were back door talks and deals taking place for them to want our former President Asanga Seneviratne, who is not even a Member of the current SLR Ex Co to be Qais Al Dhalai's nominated Vice President at the ARFU elections. Asanga Seneviratne only holds a post as a Disciplinary Committee Officer, a position that the SLR Ex Co appointed him to look into matters, as and when required. But the real shocker was when out of the blues we received two letters, one from from Lawyer Panduka Keerthinanda the Legal Advisor and the other the following day from Secretary Chulananda Perera of the Ministry of Sports endorsing Asanga Seneviratne's name to be nominated for the Post of Vice President for the AGM which ARFU was to hold on the 17th of November 2019 in Bali Indonesia. I think all the concocted plans of Qais Al Dhalai's fell apart when the SLR Council met at a meeting to discuss Minister Harin Fernando's request." the Senior SLR Official said.

This scandal was exposed by default when the Daily Mirror newspaper belonging to the Wijeya Group published an article in its quest to sling mud at the current Sri Lanka Rugby President.
In its  attempt to tarnish the image of the individual and Sri Lanka Rugby, Daily Mirror's Reporter Harsha Amarasinghe published only the contents of a letter sent by Qais Al Dhalai to Minister Harin Fernando dated 11th November 2019, threatening, bribing, demanding and soliciting him to use his powers as the Minister of Sports and influence and pressurize Sri Lanka Rugby to vote for him instead of his opposing candidate from Japan. 

This letter later remained a mystery, as even Ministry of Sports officials when queried stated that they did not have a copy of this letter in their files.

Officials of the Ministry of Sports further speculated that Minister Harin Fernando perhaps may have taken the letter with him when he resigned and left the Ministry of Sports.

However the Daily Mirror newspaper on the 5th of December 2019 had no choice but to publish the letter in full, as the Sri Lanka Rugby President requested the newspaper to accord the right of correction to their published article about him. 

Meanwhile Minister Harin Fernando despite using his political powers to influence a democratically elected Sports Body and also who refrained from exposing a threat he had received from the UAE Rugby Federation, continued to remain silent for a week and then resigned from all Ministerial posts he held in the government on the 18th of November 2019.