Officials’ tug-o-war sinking hopes of swimmers
By Pranavesh Sivakumar
The four Sri Lankan swimmers, supposed to represent the country in this ye a r ’ s FINA Wo rld Championship, to be held in December, are yet to be cleared by the National Sports Selection Committee (NSSC). The team has received the approval of FINA, but not the local authorities. They still have a grace time until December 1. This is due to the part, according to Suresh Subramaniam, a member of the NSSC, that his body is waiting for written clarifications from Sri Lanka Aquatic Sports Union (SLASU), who were supposed to give answers by Friday (19), but are yet to do so. "There are some confusing results and information that is always given to us. So, we had sought for more clarification because there is still time. Once the proper clarification is given to us, we will give the clearance. They have given explanation and clarity only on what they think is right. We want to know everything," the National Olympic Committee President said. "December 1 is the grace time issued by FINA. Hence, there is no problem and time is on our side". Though SLASU's stance has been that they had provided answers to all questions, Subramaniam said both the parties had held a meeting last Thursday (18) and as of the following day, they were yet to be given what is due. "We are waiting for some more clarification, which they promised by day before yesterday. We need it in black and white," he asserted. However, SLASU's stance has been that they have already responded and clarified NSSC's question thrice over and the weeklong indefinite wait has now brewed into a saga. A saga of revocation, redirection and reprimand from an official from the SLASU, lambasting the NSSC for their multiple levels of bureaucracy. Nevertheless, SLASU's shortlisted participants were submitted to the NSSC, headed by Army Commander General Shavendra Silva, on Wednesday (10), after the former's selection committee had finalised. However, within matter of four hours the submission had been revoked and NSSC had redirected them to obtain the acceptance of FINA, organisers of the meet, to be held in Abu Dhabi. The proposal was revoked claiming they will get back. Then, subsequently, they had listed SLASU with various questions and they say they have answered all. "They still haven't given us a decision. They wanted explanations and we have given that for the third time. We're waiting for the word and meanwhile, time is running out," a SLASU official said. He, revealing on condition of anonymity, said the ongoing race against time also poses another problem of bringing finance constraints into the picture. His union is tied by finance with a certain budget, and due to that they may not get to buy air tickets with the ticket prices going up, insurance also needed to be bought and various other permissions to be sought. He predicted, FINA can suspend them for 'no-show' once they find out the reason that it's the local authorities behind the deadlock. He said as of Friday (11), there has been no progress and they are yet to be notified. "Ministry won't approve it without us approving it for any sport. In the swimmer's case, they haven't swum since 2019 and hence, by going for the world championship they are not going to achieve anything. Are you spending good money? We've to be justified when you're sent," Subramaniam said responding to the accusation of the SLASU member. He added, they have even ordered other sports bodies to host some events locally, first. "Since the swimmers have been inactive since 2019, if they collapse halfway through, who will answer," Subramaniam asked. "We've asked whether they have been following the right procedure and protocol," he further questioned. The official at SLASU revealed while raising questions, "What our selection committee does is get referred to the NSSC and they've to approve it. After the NSSC approves it, if we need to go to the ministry to get the final approval. Why does our committee for the sport need to select? That is for about six months we need to be sending for approvals." It is simply creating unnecessary levels of hierarchy and labeled this tedious procedure as – red tape. Consequently, he sounded disgruntled at the handling of the entire affair as a treatment of directing them to pillar to post. "Our people are officials accepted by the ministry. So then, if they are tasked with the job, why has there got to be another body to query that," he questioned. "We can go straight to the NSSC, because both (NSSC and SLASU's selection committee) are selectors." He blasted the NSSC for mishandling matters. "This country's administrative people have got their formulas wrong," he accused the NSSC and questioned repeatedly, "How are they approaching this." "One aspect is the red tape; the other, if FINA has got to approve the names and after we obtain it, and the NSSC also needs to approve it, what's the point". He said swimmers are facing a deep end drowning, since they have only a few weeks away and can't plan on their training schedules. He complained their swimmers are neither here nor there because, as the local bodies haven't confirmed whether they are in. However, in the past, the procedure had been only a matter of the selection committee filtering out the names, submitting that to the ministry, they approve and then it's good to go, said the SLASU member. "Normal procedure has been the federation fixing, finalising and proceeding," the source said of the dead and gone, but easy mechanism. "Change of procedure is that earlier, the selection committee for aquatic sports approved by the ministry endorses teams for competitions of that discipline. However, those are all also referred to the NSSC for ratification," he explained. "The NSSC had asked to submit the shortlisted names. We had submitted what our own selection committee had filtered. We're waiting for NSSC's endorsement." "We are a non-qualified state, that means, because Mat t h ew Abeysinghe is not going, we don't have qualified swimmers. In an event of non qualified swimmers, the prerogative rests with the national federation to select their best." He said FINA only has to accept the names. But unless there is a serious allegation, namely doping, there is no rejection. "They are bound to accept us, because we are all non qualified swimmers." As of today, the competition, scheduled for December 16, is only weeks away and the swimmers intended to take part, are still to be conveyed of a confirmation.