The National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL) has a new constitution that has strengthened the powers of its Executive Committee and guaranteed more transparency and accountability in administration. The constitution was passed at its General Assembly held on Thursday.
The 23 member associations who attended also decided on the date of election of office bearers. It will be held on January 9, 2018, nine years after the last election in 2009.
The NOCSL elections were due in 2013 but were postponed till a fresh constitution was drawn up and amendments to the restrictive Sports Regulations introduced that year. The regulations were amended in October 2016 in line with the Olympic Charter but there was an inordinate delay in finalizing the NOC constitution.
Thursday’s meeting was expected to be a heated affair with tempers flaring and a large section of the membership openly criticising the NOC higher-ups for allegedly violating the principals of good governance, transparency and accountability. But it was cordial, with the committee unanimously supporting the proposed changes to the new constitution.
One of the major amendments to the constitution was to limit the term of President and Secretary-General to two four-year terms. This was unanimously approved by the members. There are no limits on other office bearers.
This restriction will stop people holding office from ‘cradle to grave’ and brings to end an era of centralisation of power with a select few in the country’s Olympic movement.
An IOC request to set a age limit and also to reduce the number of vice presidents from six to four was voted down. The IOC in April said “in terms of good governance, the number of members of the Executive Board should be proportionate and workable. We would therefore suggest that you retain your initial proposal of not more than four Vice-Presidents”.
Supporters say term limits will make officials accountable, usher in fresh views to shake up static power structures, mitigate an incumbent’s advantages and give membership its fundamental right to elect their choice of officials.
A total of 13 National Sports Associations (NSAs) proposed this and several other amendments to the new constitution in keeping with the constitution of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that allows a maximum of two terms. It also complies with National Sports Regulation No.1 of 2016.
In 1993, Sri Lanka’s Parliament set a term limit of two for NOCSL officials but this was changed in 2005 by then Minister of Sports Jeevan Kumaratunga through an amendment to the Sports Law [The Sports Law (Amendment) Act No. 33 of 2005].
This change allowed Hemasiri Fernando to stay on uninterrupted as President from 1998 to date. However, the new constitution will bar him from standing for re-election. At Thursday’s meeting, Fernando has vowed not to return to the seat.
Also approved was the empowering of the ExCo with decision-making authority such as the appointing of delegates to multi-sports competitions, congresses organised by the IOC, Commonwealth Games Federation, Olympic Council of Asia and any other organisation of a similar nature. This is intended to stop abuse of power.
Meanwhile, the membership has decided to ask five out of seven associations waiting to be admitted to the NOC membership to follow due procedures as prescribed in the statutes of the NOCSL. This involves presentation of details of the proposed new members–including their activity reports, financial accounts, statutes and affiliations–to their respective International Federations to the Executive Committee for scrutiny and approval, followed by presentation to the General Assembly for approval.
There are seven new associations: Sri Lanka Rugby, National Association of Fencing, Triathlon Association, Sri Lanka Karate-do Federation, Sri Lanka Amateur Baseball/Softball Association, National Roller-Skating Association and Modern Pentathlon Federation of Sri Lanka. Out of the seven, the National Association of Fencing and Triathlon Association were admitted to the membership since they had already been approved by the Executive Committee four years ago.
Even though the Winter Sports Association of Sri Lanka has produced results, having won a gold medal in snow balling at the Asian Winter Games in 2011 and also taken part in the Asian Winter Games in Sapro Japan in 2017, their name was not submitted for approval on Thursday.
Meanwhile the General Assembly has also opposed the name change from NOCSL to Sri Lanka Olympics due to legal implications. The committee has, however, principally agreed to change the name at a future date, possibly after the election of office-bearers in January.