Major General Palitha Fernando has once again been appointed to helm Sri Lanka athletics and take the sport forward.
At the recently held athletics election, Major General Palitha Fernando defeated former Chairman Sugath Thilakaratne by 47 more votes. Since his last term in 2015, Major General Palitha Fernando has once against taken over the reins and come to power to do something further for athletics.
It is clear that there is a certain lagging behind in Sri Lankan athletics. Back then, the talents of Susanthika, Dharsha, Sugath and Shriyani were at the forefront in and at the international level. Yet, as of today, Sri Lankan athletes have not been able to go forward even at the Asian level. Therefore, the authorities would have to make a major change in athletics. The athletics reserves are merely for the namesake. There is no activity.
Palitha Fernando stated that he planned to discuss with athletics trainers and take urgent action and measures initially towards the growth of the sport. The first aim and goal is to field and present a good Sri Lankan team for and at the Asian Championship athletics tournament. To this end, it is intended to conduct good selection heats and meets and properly chose a team. It is also of utmost importance that in the long run, suitable long term measures and steps too are taken.
The new athletics head has stated that it is his intention to bring all the stakeholders together for the growth of the sport and to make athletics one of the country’s main sports by the end of the four year term of service.
However, the challenge before the athletics authorities is enormous. This is especially because the Sugathadasa stadium has yet to be completely renovated for athletics training. Therefore, in recent times, athletes have had to go to the Diyagama Mahinda Rajapaksa sports stadium. Therefore, the first challenge before the authorities is one of renovating the Sugathadasa stadium. All these challenges are placed before the new athletics administration. What should take place now is that the infrastructure should be afforded to athletes immediately and how their skills and talents are to be developed must be revealed and set in place and motion.
Giving priority and first place to the athletes and the officials being behind the scenes, taking a backseat and steering the process brings about good results. This is because in recent times, athletes have had to face many injustices owing to officials acting on their own narrow personal interests.
When Sugath Thilakaratne as a former athlete became the athletics head, although athletes expected much from him, nothing of the sort materialized. Even he had stated that he had not received good support from his team of officials.
Therefore what Major General Palitha Fernando needs to initially do is to gain the trust of his supporting staff of officials and for the officers to work together with him. The experienced Prema Pinnawala has once again been named as the Secretary. The presence of Pinnawala, who is well accepted in the international sphere, is a positive sign.
Lal Chandrakumara, G.L.S. Perera, H.W. Nimalsiri, Anil Weerasinghe, A.M.M. Akmal, Naayanthi Kumari Chandrasena and Irangani Rupasinghe have been appointed and elected as Vice-Chairpersons/Vice-Presidents.
It will be a boon for the Chairman to have officers knowledgeable in the athletics technical division such as G.L.S. Perera.
Therefore what needs to happen at this juncture is that instead of criticizing the weaknesses of the former officials, action must be taken forward to take what should happen in athletics afresh and anew and ahead.
Officials who love athletics must come together in order for the tomorrow of athletics to be positively taken forward. It is our hope and wish that Major General Palitha Fernando and the panel of officials will get the necessary space in order to achieve such.