SLC initiates defamation lawsuit against Sri Lanka’s sports minister

Sri Lanka Cricket has initiated a defamation lawsuit against the country’s sports minister, as the row over the administration of cricket in the country deepens.

SLC is currently suspended by the ICC, at the request of SLC’s own officials, in an attempt to impress on the Sri Lankan government that the ICC will not tolerate political interference in the board.

Meanwhile, at home, SLC and the sports minister are at war on various fronts – this defamation lawsuit being the latest of them. Separate from this legal action, the sports minister has also vowed to fight the stay order delivered by the Sri Lankan courts last Tuesday, which removed the “interim committee” that the minister had appointed, and essentially reinstated the board officials who had been sacked the previous day.

“In response to the persistent and damaging defamatory statements made by the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Roshan Ranasinghe, Sri Lanka Cricket has taken a decisive step to protect its reputation and integrity,” a board release said. “Therefore, on the 13th November 2023, [SLC officials] jointly filed a defamation lawsuit in the District Court of Colombo, seeking damages amounting to 2.4 billion rupees on behalf of the Sri Lanka Cricket.”

The release did not mention which particular statements SLC alleges are defamatory, but the comments that have been taken exception to, likely came on Saturday, during a long press conference the sports minister held, in which he accused the board of corruption and mismanagement, among other things. The minister has been accusing the board of corruption for around a year, but has often done so in parliament where his speech is protected from defamation suits due to parliamentary privilege.

SLC had also held a press conference on the same day which featured personal insults directed at the sports minister.

Under Sri Lanka’s sports law, which has been in place since 1973, the sports minister does have a range of powers over SLC as well as other sporting bodies in the country.

SLC is seeking assurances from the top level of Sri Lanka government, that there will be no further political interventions, which in turn is likely to see the ICC suspension on the board lifted.

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