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The 10th South Asian Games with 20 separate disciplines was hosted from 18th to 28th August 2006 in the eight- nation games. The President of the Indian Olympic Association and Chairman, Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi, Suresh Kalmadi had commended the Sri Lanka Government and the National Olympic Committee for hosting the 10th South Asian Games despite the trouble situation in the country.

Kalmadi thanked President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the President of the Steering Committee of the South Asian Games for his untiring efforts in organizing this event on schedule. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Madam Shiranthi Rajapaksa and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Jeewan Kumaratunga were among the VIPs present at the opening ceremony, where the chief guest, President declared the 10th South Asian Games opened.

There were well over 2000 participants. The opening and closing ceremonies were described by the local and foreign media as spectacular with a rich blend of Sri Lanka culture, traditional arts possessing extra ingredients to cater to different tastes and cultures of other participating nations.

A colossal sum of money had to be obviously spent to conduct the games successfully. The co- Chairman of the steering committee Hemasiri Fernando, the Chairman of the National Olympic Committee and other sub Committees had to toil hard to make this gigantic event, the largest extravaganza in magnitude held in the annals of the history in our country a success. It is learnt that Pakistan who hosted the 9th SAG in Islamabad in the year 2004 did not earn so much of praise despite spending a sum, relatively very much more colossal.

We the host nation should be proud that we possessed the required infrastructure facilities to hold 20 separate disciplines conforming to international standards. All events were telecast live from a special main controlling station of the SLRC where the facilities were provided for local and foreign media personnel to telecast live action not only to the participating nations but also to a number of other countries worldwide.

The organisers were fortunate to use the new synthetic track for athletics laid at the Sugathadasa outdoor stadium for the August 2002 Asian championship meet. The outdoor swimming pool built for the 1991 SAF games was an ideal pool for an international swimming meet.

The other disciplines were worked off at the gymnasiums at University of Colombo, St. Joseph's College, S.Thomas' Sports Complex, Sugathadasa indoor stadium, NYSC, Welisara Navy Range, while hockey was conducted at the Nandamithra Ekanayake International hockey stadium in Matale. All 20 separate disciplines were conducted at venues conforming to international standards.

'Peace and Unity through Sports' is the most appropriate theme of the 10th edition of the South Asian Games in all its glory and splendour. It is the fervent hope of all of us that peace globally would be a reality soon. All participants should realise that games should be displayed in the best spirits, keeping in mind that winning or losing is not what matters but how one plays the game.

Unfortunately today sports being highly professional and commercialised and for the participants winning at all costs has become primary, as everyone anticipate winning. But winning must be achieved fairly and honourably. The games have helped immensely towards strengthening the bonds of friendship and solidarity of the people of the region, more particularly the youth.

The spectacular completion of the games was however marred by just one isolated but conspicuous incident by restless unsporting jeering spectators and even coaches who opposed when points were awarded to Pakistan boxers in their bouts with Sri Lankan boxers Harshakumara and Indika Kumara in the 59 kg and 69 kg category class events. The restless spectators may not know how the points are awarded. Just throwing punches do not earn points. The punches have to land on the opposite opponent.

The rule of boxing clearly stipulates that punches should land while the boxer is not moving. The most deplorable fact is that this isolated incident was unfortunately elaborated in the print and electronic media. The judge is the best competent person and is unbiased in his decisions.

Otherwise the governing body the WBA will take stern action against this individual. He has been nominated as he is competent and well versed with the rules of the game. The print media in particular has published views in almost every newspaper that injustice was meted out to our two boxers.

This incident has been reiterated in the media and a senior sports journalist who may be ignorant of the rules has reiterated in the Daily News paper of 5th Sept accusing Pakistan judges, that we were deprived of the gold medals under the caption 'Pugilists made to fight against judges.' Others had accused the judges under the captions 'Silver is as good as Gold;' 'Boxing floored by judges.'

What really should have been done that if there were any doubts was for our President of the Sri Lanka Amateur Boxing Association (SLABA) to send a recorded video cassette to the WBA for perusal and comments, instead of tarnishing our sporting image and reputation by accusing the judges'.

Another notable feature which brought disrepute to the host nation was the manner in which one of our Men's Table Tennis medal winner behaved whenever he won a point against his Indian opponent. Each time he was overjoyed and was running within the sports complex which is unusual for an international player. The spectators were very biased who never cared to cheer the opponents.

There was an incident when water was scattered in the playing area by a spectator which resulted in a nasty slipping of a player from a visiting country. Usually spectators are prohibited in taking water bottles etc. into an Indoor Sports Complex.

Contrary to our medallist the Indian gold medallist Kamal Achahata who is incidentally a commonwealth games gold medallist was very humble in victory. His behaviour has to be emulated by all our players. The manner in which he behaved while playing like a true champion was described over the media by our commentators.

Well as all of us are aware our giant neighbours, India showed their clear dominance over the closest rivals, Pakistan and host Sri Lanka, in the medals tally. The total gold medals tally of India was very much above those bagged by both Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is pertinent to mention that the Indians only participated in 17 of the 20 separate disciplines in the games.

In conclusion, the achievements of the two overseas based young Sri Lankan student swimmers, 14 year old Mayumi Raheem and 15 year old Andrew Abeysinghe will be etched in the memories of all followers of the Sri Lankan sports. The former based in Singapore bagged ten medals in all including three golds, while the latter based in USA in the Miami University bagged two golds.

Both of them swam their hearts out to make their motherland proud. A special mention must be made in the manner in which young Mayumi Raheem acted after winning the gold medal in the women's 50 meters breast stroke when she celebrated her victory with the Silver and Bronze medallists, Dali Akthar and Mahafuza Khatun both of Bangladesh by embracing them in emotion with her arms around them.

This was simply true sportsmanship and was highlighted appropriately in the print and electronic media. All our sports personnel must learn to take victory and defeat in the same spirit and emulate our heroine Mayumi Raheem, just 14 years old at the South Asian Games. This was a real example of celebrating victory in a humble and decent manner. On the overall the SAG was a sport's splendour.

NGOs and national security

No country in the World would deny the importance of it's National Security. However, in Sri Lanka there are NGOs and some local elements trying to prostitute national interests of the country for personal gain.

It is well known among the knowledgeable, how many foreigners and a few local expats arrive here on a 30-day tourist visa given to them and work for some UN subsidiary and or other NGO without state supervision and knowledge, against the State.

It is said that a bunch of local mercenary cronies who have connections to low level Officers at MOD and at the Immigration obtain the work visas for the above people without the proper documentation, for a fee. When delays arise the above go to Maldives or Bangkok and wait till the documentation is prepared or come back and get 30 days more.

It is high time that CID along with other intelligence units, check the files and nab the cronies who are working against the national interests of the country.

Since this cancer had gone for too long un-supervised, it may be time for drastic measures to be utilised for the eradication of this menace, such as was done in USA during McCarthyism; if this country is to enjoy the benefits of a Unitary State with equal rights for all.

Reclaiming lost territory

The government should be commended for reclaiming lost territory from the LTTE, without declaring war, instead by merely defending from being attacked, thereby saving many lives and property, which I must say is a unique way of achieving same.

I have no doubt that all right thinking people would agree as the right thing to do in a situation such as ours, where the state was compelled to act as above. Furthermore. the territory in question is what was forcebly taken over by the LTTE, which rightfully belongs to the state, neutralizing this position, thereby causing no violation in doing so. The forces should also be commended for making this possible by their bravery and dedication in achieving same.

However, I do not advocate it was a solution to the above conflict. Accordingly, an early settlement for a permanent solution is necessary by uniting the south prior to uniting the north and east, making a genuine negotiated settlement possible. This I believe is the only way to usher in peace and prosperity to the entire nation, which I am confident would be a reality only in the event of the above being implemented.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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