Tamileelam flag on pitch prompts paper’s ire

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 03:26 GMT]
The pitch invasion Monday by a man carrying the Tamileelam flag during the ICC Cricket World Cup Super Eight match between Australia and Sri Lanka at the Grenada National Stadium in St. George's, provoked a furious reaction from a Sri Lankan daily Wednesday. Condemning the action as “a dastardly act,” The Island newspaper’s editorial said: “The LTTE has once again demonstrated its capability to gain access anywhere at will.” Sri Lanka’s top cricket body “must take up the issue with the ICC and the West Indies Cricket without taking it lying down in typical Sri Lankan style,” the editorial fumed.

The text of The Island editorial titled ‘Pitch invasion: Desecration of cricket and hidden danger’ follows:

Cricket flag
The dastardly act of pitch invasion by the LTTE on Monday, while the Sri Lanka-Australia match was on in Grenada, must be condemned by the civilised world unreservedly. The LTTE has once again demonstrated its capability to gain access anywhere at will. Luckily, the protester was armed with only a flag. Even if he had been a suicide bomber or a gunman on a mission to create a ‘Munich’ type situation, there would have been very little that the security personnel on duty could do. He would have accomplished his mission with ease.

The Sri Lankan player in the picture of the incident we carry today looks amused but that was no laughing matter, given the macabre mindset of the LTTE. For an outfit that has assassinated an incumbent President of Sri Lanka, made an attempt on the life of another President, killed a foreign minister and blown a former Prime Minister of India to bits, harming a team of cricketers is only child’s play. After all, creating a backlash is its very objective. Even if the Earth were to spin out of its orbit, Prabhakaran would do anything to achieve his objective. Else, would he ever have targeted a chopper ferrying a group of envoys of some powerful nations a few weeks ago in Batticaloa?

The Amnesty International (AI) attempt to make use of the on-going World Cup cricket series to stage a protest against Sri Lanka with dummy cricket balls with the slogan, Sri Lanka play by the rules, may have inspired the LTTE to go a step further and invade the pitch. The LTTE and its sympathisers not only supported the AI campaign but went to the extent of publicly defending it.

In a media release, the AI has sought to justify its ball campaign by claiming that human rights are more important than cricket. How true! Any nitwit knows that. No one can fault the AI for protesting against the human rights violations in this country, as we pointed out the other day in these columns. However, it is not over campaigning for human rights that the AI has drawn heavy flak. It has got into hot water over the timing of its protest and its modus operandi. No one would have minded any number of balls being signed after the World Cup series.

Pitch invasions may be common but this particular incident should jolt the ICC and all the cricketing nations into calling for better security for their players. Terrorists, they should realise, don’t give a tinker’s damn about the consequences of their action as was said earlier. It is only wishful thinking that the England team is safe from Al Quaeda, which is ramming civilian targets with fuel laden jets with thousands of passengers on board and blasting tube stations full of commuters. Remember in the aftermath of the 9/11 incidents, Australia cancelled a meeting of Commonwealth Heads of States fearing terror attacks. An organisation all out to eliminate heads of state, won’t baulk at attacking cricketers. The pitch invader concerned could have been anyone and his mission could have been anything. There lies the real danger! Simply because he happened to be a supporter of Sri Lanka’s terrorism, it shouldn’t mean that the other cricketing nations should turn a blind eye to the incident and get lulled into complacency.

What would have been the reaction of a powerful nation to such an interruption by its terrorists? How would Britain have taken such an invasion by an Al Quaeda activist? And what would have been the reaction of the US to an Al Quaeda operative interrupting a baseball match at home or abroad? The protester would have been reduced to pulp or he would have got his brains blown out in the middle of the ground with no questions asked just like that Brazilian youth who was shot in the head in public following the London attacks.

It is ironical that the LTTE happened to invade the pitch, while Australia were playing Sri Lanka in the West Indies. Australia and the West Indies, it may be recalled, refused to visit Sri Lanka in 1996 on the grounds of LTTE-instigated violence. India and Pakistan pledged solidarity with Sri Lanka by sending their precious cricketers here for an exhibition match, which was played without any untoward incident. Now that the LTTE has demonstrated its potential to do anything in the West Indies, the question is whether Australia is going to run away? And what has the West Indies got to say about the incident, which has exposed a glaring security lapse on its part?

The Sri Lanka Cricket must take up the issue with the ICC and the West Indies Cricket without taking it lying down in typical Sri Lankan style. It must demand that the West Indies ensure the safety of its players by providing them with enhanced security and keeping the LTTE activists at bay.

Let no lame excuses be trotted out!



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