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DIG Nimal Lewke heads SLRFU

Michael Jayasekera withdraws candidacy



Nimal Lewke
 Pic by Kavindra Perera

RUGBY: The close contest expected for the Presidency of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) held yesterday (Saturday) at the Galadari Hotel between Michael Jayasekera (Deputy President) and Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG of the elite Special Task Force -STF) Nimal Lewke, turned out to be a farce.

Jayasekera, quoted President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had told the medal winners at the recent South Asian Games and Asian Games, that "sports politics have ruined" Sri Lanka sports, not only resigned from the post of Deputy President of the SLRFU, but also withdrew from his candidacy from the post of President in a letter to the SLRFU on Friday (January 6), which left DIG Nimal Lewke uncontested as President of the SLRFU.

At a well attended annual general meeting of the SLRFU held yesterday (Saturday) at the Galadari Hotel, Jayasekera, "regretted" his decision, but said that contests only divides the people and that he (Jayasekera) does not wish to be a party to any division in the controlling body. He (Jayasekera), however, wished the new President the best of luck.

DIG Nimal Lewke in his Presidential address said that he has his plans, vision and strategy to take the game to the "next level".

The first was to get the coaches ungraded by sending them abroad to learn the latest techniques, players to be exposed to the international arena (Sanjeewa Jayasinghe, Dushan Lewke and Sean Wanigasekera) from Kandy Sports Club due to leave next week to New Zealand, plans to get the Sri Lanka under-19 team the best in Asia, select potential players to represent the country and find them employment in Banks and top mercantile firms, decentralise the development in the provinces and for them to be monitored closely and time frame given. He also plans to play more tournaments in the outstations and develop rugby in the schools of the area.

DIG Lewke also said that he is keen on playing more international games than at present and structure the game in such a way to get this exposure.

He also has plans to have a Tri-Nation Tournament between Chinese Taipei, Singapore and Sri Lanka. He said "We have to clear this hurdle first and then play Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. We have also the potential in being No 1 in Asia in the under-19 age group, but have a pool now itself in training with a qualified coach".

Lewke further said that Sri Lanka lost a glorious opportunity of staging the Asiad in Colombo last year, and if only if they presented it properly, could have done so.

As head of the STF, they have been requested to oversee the security at the Beijing Olympic Games and Cricket World Cup in the West Indies next year, and hopes to get the assistance of the Foreign Ministry to stage the postponed Asiad in Colombo this year.

He paid glowing tributes to his coaches at Kandy Sports Club (the late Dr. K. B. Sangakkara, the late Dr. V. C. de Silva and late General Denzil Kobbekaduwa) and police personnel in the calibre of the late IGP's Stanley Senanayake and Rudra Rajasingham and also the late Kavan Rambukwella. He thanked all the provincial unions and supported him and said that he expected "all of them" to give him their fullest support, to take the game to the "next level", and hoped that he could achieve it.

An old boy of St. Sylvester's College in Kandy, DIG Lewke, represented Kandy Sports Club before joining the Police in 1971 the year of the insurgency and played for Police upto 1981. It was under his leadership that Police won the 'A' Division title in 1980. He was a top referee too as well as a coach when Kandy won the Triple Crown in 1995 and 1997.

He was also national coach from 1998 to 2001. The outgoing President of the SLRFU, Priyantha Ekanayake, thanked his Council and everyone (including sponsors Caltex and Singer) for their support and also the players who showed determination and dedication. He also thanked Y. C. Chang (himself a former President of SLRFU and ARFU) for heading the development and revealed that Rs. 13 million has been given by the International Rugby Board (IRB) this year to the SLRFU - a great achievement. He further said that the biggest disappointments were the postponement of the Asiad and losing George Simpkin, the New Zealander as national coach. He thanked Executive Director, Dilroy Fernando, too.

Asanga Seneviratne a former S. Thomas' College, CR & FC and CH & FC three-quarter and a national selector was elected as Deputy President.

Fazal Mohamed was elected as Secretary and Sunil Karunanayake the former Thurstanite as Treasurer. Those in the Council are Arjun Dharmadasa. Lt. Colonel Sunil Ranasinghe, Captain N. Nanayakkara, Christopher Jodashe, Roshan Deen, Wing Cmdr Sanjay Fernando and Rizly Illyaz.

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