President Mahinda Rajapaksa took an indirect swipe at the inefficient Sports Ministry and openly exhibited his displeasure at the way the ministry has failed to arrest the sliding sports standards in the country.
President slammed the officials and admitted that he believed the time has come for him to intervene personally to prevent the situation from deteriorating further. He made these remarks during a speech he made before presenting the medal winning athletes of the recent Asian and South Asian Games with cash rewards at his residence yesterday.
"I am compelled to take over the responsibilities for myself to look after sports. I am hoping to address the problems that need immediate attention through a special Presidential task force. Then we can plan ahead for the next Olympic, Asian or South Asian Games. My attention has already been drawn to this plan, and we are going to aid sportsmen and women to go ahead towards international glory. We are going to look into their needs and supply what ever that should be given to them" said the President.
President earlier explained that he has done a research on what has gone wrong. "Apart from the few Olympic and world level medals won by a few individuals like Duncan White, Susanthika and Chintana Vidanage, our sports hasn't achieved much at the level it matters. Why many of our sportsmen and women have failed to achieve at that level is because there's no proper guidance. We didn't show many of them the correct path to take, and they got stranded midway" President said.
President also condemned sports politics which have ruined Sri Lanka's sports. "Take all the sports associations in this country and tell me which association doesn't have brawls to get into office. If the money that is being spent on these sports elections had been spent on developing the respective sports, the standard of those sports would have gone up much higher" said the president.
Calling the officials to provide support to sportsmen and women President said "Sportsmen and women should have confidence that their association would help them when they need it. They should have the confidence that they could go forward without unnecessary interference". He also recalled the unfortunate instances when the country's sports suffered due to disgusting conduct of officials.
"We have lost so many sportsmen and women due to interferences. We lost some promising flowers before they could even bloom, in some instances. There are also instances when some of them even abandoned the country and went abroad. We have to use all our strengths to protect the sportsmen and women." President said.
"It is the responsibility of the associations and officials to provide the required support and confidence to athletes when they go for international competitions" President re-iterated while admitting that no one responsible can relieve themselves from the blame for the poor sports standards of the country.
"We have fault in our hands. For instance, there's only one international-standard stadium in the country. Associations, government, officials everyone should take the blame." President said and added that he has already made a blue print for a macro sports development plan for the country. "We have identified that athletes should be developed from small days. For that, education department, provincial councils and sports ministry should join hands in our project to make the plan a success." President said.
Over 300 sportsmen and women were felicitated at the ceremony and the government has spent over Rs. 11 million on cash awards.