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Jayasuriya’s inclusion in cricket team raises awareness of SL mass killings

[TamilNet, Monday, 27 June 2011 06:57 No Comment]

UK_IMG_9456_fr Several dozen British Tamils leafleted Saturday outside the Bristol grounds where Sri Lanka’s cricketers played a Twenty20 match against England to further raise awareness of the mass killings of civilians at the end of the war in 2009. Their efforts were assisted by critical commentary in the British press of Sri Lanka’s inclusion of all rounder Sanath Jayasuriya, who is also a parliamentarian of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling party, for the remaining one day matches of their tour. Ahead of the match three of Britain’s top broadsheets – The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian – slammed the decision as a ‘scandal’ and urged spectators not to applaud Jayasuriya.

Activists of the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO-UK), which started the ‘Boycott Sri Lankan cricket’ campaign in March, were joined Saturday by other Tamil expatriates in handing out leaflets and chatting to arriving spectators.

In agreement with local police, campaigners took up position from 1pm outside the main entrance to the County Ground in Bristol. While some spread out along the approach, Nevil Road, to hand out leaflets, others chanted slogans through megaphones until the match finished at 5pm.

“Although it was a short match, we handed out three thousand leaflets today with the assistance of people who came to support us,” said TYO spokesperson Thusiyan Nandakumar.

“Our primary goal, as at previous matches of the England tour, was to further raise awareness of Sri Lanka’s war crimes,” he said, referring to TYO-UK’s campaigns at the warm-up match at Uxbridge and the three test matches at Cardiff, Lords and Rose Bowl.

Sri Lanka’s inclusion of Sanath Jayasuriya in the team for the T20 and other one-day matches in England has helped to focus English fans’ attention on the link between sport and politics in Sri Lanka and on Colombo’s war crimes, Nandakumar said.

Jayasuriya, 41, who ceased playing international cricket when he was elected to parliament in his home town Matara on the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ticket, has been controversially included in the team reportedly at the behest of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Critical Commentary

The decision has drawn critical commentary in British press reports which highlighted the accusations of war crimes in 2009 by the Colombo government, and quoted Jayasuriya’s defence of the bloody military campaign.

The Telegraph’s Nick Hoult wrote Friday: “Jayasuriya is now an MP for the ruling party in Sri Lanka and has used his political contacts to be granted two final matches for his country.”

“It is a scandal he’s here and there should be no lasting ovations from the crowd,” Hoult wrote.

Former England captain Mike Atherton, a leading cricket commentator, wrote in The Times newspaper Thursday: Jayasuriya’s call-up is “cynical, political and nothing to do with cricket.”

“It is a selfish and an overtly political act. Jayasuriya is no longer a cricketer but a politician; since February 2010 he has been an elected MP […] for the ruling party in Sri Lanka that has the final say on the selection of the national team and is accused of running the country in an increasingly anti-democratic manner and ending the civil war in a barbaric way.”

“Contempt would be a good reaction from the crowd … when Jayasuriya walks out to bat,” he urged.

Sport and Politics

“With Jayasuriya’s recall, the alignment of cricketing and political interests in Sri Lanka is laid bare.

“And there are still those who say that sport and politics do not mix,” Atherton wrote in disgust.

The Guardian’s Andy Bull wrote in a piece Tuesday: “Jayasuriya’s selection is a disgrace and the idea of playing cricket against a team that includes him is a disgrace.”

“Only a fool thinks that sport and politics do not mix,” he added.

“This Saturday [England] will be expected to play against a man who is a direct representative of a government accused of war crimes on a horrific scale by the United Nations.”

“The politics of the matter is not outside the ground or behind a metal fence any more. It is right there in the middle of the pitch and it cannot be ignored,” he wrote, referring to the TYO-UK’s protests at past matches.

And on Friday, the cricketing website cricket365.com said:

“No-one in cricket wants to say it, because we’re too polite (BBC) or utterly banal (ESPN Cricinfo), and because Jayasuriya was a genuinely great player by any measure.

“But [he] is in this squad by political decree and is using the press exposure to propagandise on behalf of a President many accuse of war crimes and the murder of awkward journalists, claims yet to be satisfactorily answered.

“It’s a bloody scandal.”

Jayasuriya was bowled out for 8 runs on Saturday, as Sri Lanka won by nine wickets.


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