News of alleged sexual harassment of Sri Lanka’s national women cricketers broke to the surface almost one year ago. Reports suggested that a few officials directly involved with selections and team management had requested sexual favours from some of the players in order to be considered for the team. Subsequently, there were also some murmurs about the verbal abuse heaped on the players by one of the coaching staff.
The Minister of Sports at the time appointed a committee to delve into the matter in November, 2014. While the Minister was loud about the appointment of the committee, he was less sanguine about the scope of the committee. To those familiar with the opaque behaviour usually associated with matters of such nature, the Minister’s action seemed mainly an attempt at subterfuge. As with many of the probe and investigative committees of the country, this one too was expected to pay lip service to justice and provide the respective loin clothed individuals’ adequate fabric to cover their exposure while pretending a five course serving of justice was duly delivered to the victimised.
The committee took six months to compile the report on their findings. The new Minister expressed his expected obligatory “I will pursue the matter and the individuals to their logical judicial conclusions come hell or high water” statement and the promise to keep the public duly informed of the findings.
Approximately one week after the report was handed over, the Minister admitted that there was proof of sexual harassment and the accused would be charged under the criminal code of the country. Hail to the new ministering chief. Well, not so fast we learn now.
Barely a week into the Minister’s promise, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) released a media statement on May 25, 2015 stating the following;
1. SLC received complaints of sexual harassment in 2013 and 2014 and they were corroborated according to a report at the time
2. Both reports conclude that there were “few” instances of sexual harassment of women cricketers by two male officials
3. However, there was no evidence of physical intimacy
4. A third official indulged in “improper conduct”
5. The three officials were sacked by SLC
6. All three officials no longer function in their “previous” positions because their contracts ended in April, 2015
7. There was favouritism and bias on the part of management and,
8. Both reports highlighted the importance of having a female as the team manager
Let’s try and wade through that heap of horse manure. SLC media release is saying,
1. SLC was aware that some women cricketers may have been sexually harassed as early as in 2013
2. SLC did not consider it a pressing matter at the time
3. SLC does not name the officials involved or the positions occupied them when the accusations came to light or whether all of the accusations pointed to the same two individuals
4. Exact nature of the harassment is not mentioned but we are told that the “few”
instances of harassment were not significant because there was no physical intimacy
5. SLC media release does not say how many instances constitute “Few”.
6. Two officials were responsible for the “few” instances of sexual harassment
7. A third official was found to have acted in an “improper manner” but there is no definition of “improper manner”
8. SLC was aware that there was favouritism and bias directly related to these accusations
9. However, the public or the victims do not have the right to any more information
10. The three accused might still be on SLC payroll but we are not obligated to divulge that information
11. SLC erred by not appointing a female as the team manager.
The behaviour of SLC in this instance is pretty transparently pathetic. Considering the dismal recent track record in terms of transparency, accountability and good governance one would have expected the newly appointed Interim Committee to consider this as an opportunity to display their commitment to good governance. Instead, we now know that the new lambs are merely sugar coated versions of previous wolves.
The sheer brazenness of the media release is mind boggling. In essence SLC is tellings us that the organization was aware that sexual harassment of women players were taking place since 2013 but because there were only a “few” instances of sexual harassment and none of those instances involved physical intimacy the accusations were not considered as requiring further attention. Even more insulting are the two statements that deal with the alleged perpetrators of this harassment; the first is the declaration that the three individuals have been fired and the second is the sly acceptance that the three are merely not occupying the same positions as when the harassment took place! Talk about rubbing salt on to an open wound.
The person/s that wrote and authorized the release of same do not have the decency or the gender sensitivity required to deal with a matter of this importance. Those individuals should never be entrusted with a role with women’s cricket in Sri Lanka.