In a startling revelation the United Arab Emirates Rugby Federation has now been exposed issuing an official letter to the former Minister of Sports Harin Fernando threatening, bribing and demanding that he intervenes and influences Sri Lanka Rugby to vote for him in return for favours, at the now concluded Asian Rugby Football Union Annual General Meeting which was held in Bali Indonesia on the 17th of November 2019.
The scandalous threat and subsequent bribe was made by UAE Rugby Federation President Qais Al Dhalai to the former Minister of sports Harin Fernando in an official letter dated 11th November 2019, where he seeks the intervention of the Minister Fernando to influence the Sri Lanka Rugby to vote for him.
This letter remained a mystery after a reporter of the Daily Mirror named Harsha Amarasinghe exposed its contents in a mudslinging article titled “SLR in shambles after stubborn President’s support to Japan” mainly aimed at the current President of Sri Lanka Rugby.
However when Lanka News Web made queries and tried to obtain a copy of the letter from the Ministry of Sports, its officials stated that no such letter existed in their recorded files.
However, strangely yesterday the Daily Mirror which belongs to the Wijeya Group, had no choice but to publish this so called mysterious letter in full, after the President of Sri Lanka Rugby requested that corrections be made and published in his requested ‘right of correction’.
Qais Al Dhalai's Letter
Qais Al Dhalai
The letter written on a UAE Rugby Federation letter head and signed by its President Qais Al Dhalai and addressed to the Minister of Sports Harin Fernando, has now set the cat among the pigeons and more so World Rugby, who usually does not tolerate any government interfering with one of its members.
Earlier Minister Harin Fernando had instructed his Legal Advisor Panduka Keerthinanda and Secretary Chulananda Perera to issue two letters to Sri Lanka Rugby, recommending the name of Asanga Seneviratne to be nominated as the Vice President ARFU and be part of Qais Al Dhalai’s team.
Legal Advisor Panduka Keerthinanda's Letter
These two letters issued under the Minister of Sports Harin Fernando’s instructions is a direct violation of World Rugby Regulations and also the International Olympic Charter, where political interference in pressurizing an independently and democratically elected National Federation is not tolerated.
Meanwhile Qais Al Dhalai in a desperate bid to win the Presidency at the ARFU AGM, sent this letter to Minister Harin Fernando barely six days before the event.
His threat, bribe and demand written in his letter warned Minister Harin Fernando that the decision taken by the current Sri Lanka Rugby Football Council to vote for his rival and Japanese candidate ‘would bring Sri Lanka no benefits whatsoever.’
However it was barely weeks before the now concluded ARFU AGM, that The UAE Rugby Federation made a donation of US $ 10,000 to Sri Lanka Rugby, as a development grant.
What’s further alarming is as to why Minister Harin Fernando kept ‘mum’ about this threatening letter that the Ministry of Sports had received from a sports body of another nation.
He neither informed Parliament that the government of Sri Lanka had been threatened through his Ministry by a mere sport body of another nation, nor did he even intimate receiving such a letter to Sri Lanka Rugby.
It must also be noted that the letter was dated the very same day the 11th of November 2019, when the former Minister of Sports Harin Fernando was in Parliament himself, ensuring that the Anti-Corruption and Match Fixing Laws of Sri Lanka were been endorsed at a specially called Cabinet Meeting.
World Rugby ought to stand up and take note that if the UAE Rugby Federation could threaten, bribe, demand and solicit votes from a founder member of the ARFU such as Sri Lanka, it could have also easily pressurized other lesser known rugby playing nations to vote for them at the now concluded ARFU AGM too.
Qais Al Dhalai confirms in his letter to Minister Harin Fernando that he has already secured 18 out of the 28 votes from other member nations.
How exactly did he secure these votes? What methods did he use?
A closer look at the now elected members of Qais Al Dhalai’s team sees nations such as Nepal and Indonesia, who do not even play 15 a side rugby and also Pakistan a nation that has always been found guilty of match fixing, bribery and corruption in sports.
Prominent rugby playing nations such as Japan, China and Korea were out voted at the recently held ARFU AGM, where the process of the election held by secret ballot was further exposed by Daily Mirror, when it published that the Sri Lanka Rugby President had obtained a mere three votes in his attempt to be voted for the post of Vice President at the ARFU AGM elections.
However in its bid to justify its published story earlier on the 19th of November 2019, the Daily Mirror however failed to clarify as to how it obtained the secret ballot vote count.
World Rugby ought to be mindful that threats, bribery and corruption of this nature could easily spread to other global sporting regions and eventually end up in a further scandalous situation, where officials from the Soccer World such as FIFA, have ended up been banned for life and or ending up in jail.