Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) president Shammi Silva told ESPNcricinfo that “we are supporting [Gunathilaka], definitely”, but declined to elaborate further. Soon after, however, the board issued a fresh statement on Monday suspending Gunathilaka “from all forms of cricket with immediate effect… after being informed that Mr. Gunathilaka was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a woman in Australia.”
The SLC statement also said it will “will take the necessary steps to promptly carry out an inquiry into the alleged offense and, upon conclusion of the court case in Australia, steps will be taken to penalise the said player if found guilty”. SLC said further that it “adopts a “zero tolerance” policy for any such conduct by a player and will provide all the required support to the Australian law enforcement authorities to carry out an impartial inquiry into the incident”.
In Sydney, magistrate Robert Williams noted Gunathilaka had no criminal history, but the bail bid was refused.
Gunathilaka’s lawyer Anand Amaranath called the decision “disappointing” and confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that his client would be appealing to the Supreme Court. Although Gunathilaka would be released from custody – he is currently in a correctional facility – if granted bail, he will have to remain in Australia “until the case is finalised”, Amaranath said. As the charges are serious, the process could take longer than a year.
Amaranath also said SLC would be footing Gunathilaka’s legal expenses, at least for now. “I’ve been communicating with people from all levels at the board,” Amaranath said. While the board was paying for Gunathilaka’s defense for now, he expected those funds to be “recovered from him later – it’s a loan essentially”.
On Sunday, Sydney police revealed that Gunathilaka and the woman he allegedly assaulted had begun contact via a dating app, and that the 29-year-old woman had “taken all precautions” regarding her safety.
“The pair met on a dating app,” Detective Superintendent Jayne Doherty told media. “Between [their meeting on the app] and the 5th of November, they communicated via various platform, including text, voice, and video chat. On Wednesday, the pair met up in Sydney at a pre-arranged meeting. They had drinks and went for something to eat, before going back to the young lady’s home.
“Police will allege that while they were in the home, the male assaulted the female a number of times, whilst performing sexual crimes upon her. It was just unfortunate. It has nothing to do with meeting on a dating app.
“The male is being supported by the Sri Lankan Consulate, as any international person would be if they were facing police charges.”
The state of New South Wales had recently put in place fresh affirmative consent laws, which had come into operation in June this year.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf