Sri Lanka cricket ban getting closer, says noted sports writer

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 29 January 2013, 23:58 GMT]
Commenting that “[t]he promotion of Sanath Jayasuriya is a dark day in Sri Lanka’s cricket history,” following the appointment of Jayasuriya, a Government MP and close ally of Rajapaksa, to head the 5-member selection panel of the Sri Lanka cricket team, Australia’s most respected cricket author and journalist Gideon Haigh, said in his website that Colombo's "growing authoritarianism and hubris" will likely "buttress the case for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket," the group Boycott Sri Lanka Campaign, headed by another well-known Australian journalist Trevor Grant, said in a press release.

Full text of the press release from Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket Campaign issued Wednesday follows:

RESPECTED CRICKET AUTHOR SAYS SRI LANKA BAN IS GETTING CLOSER

Melbourne, Wednesday – Australia’s most respected cricket author and journalist Gideon Haigh has condemned the Sri Lankan Government’s iron-fisted control of the nation’s cricket team, suggesting a world boycott of the team may be on the cards.

The repressive Sri Lankan Government has used the cricket team to launder its image for years. It is determined to continue doing so, despite demands 18 months ago from the International Cricket Council for president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his lackeys to remove themselves from the administration of the sport.

The Government has thumbed its nose at the ICC by appointing as chairman of selectors, Sanath Jayasuriya, former cricket team captain and, now, Government MP and close ally of Rajapaksa.

“The promotion of Sanath Jayasuriya is a dark day in Sri Lanka’s cricket history,” wrote Haigh on his blog in The Australian, the day after Sri Lanka played its final match of its 2012-2013 Australian tour.

“As Cricinfo (website) notes, Cricket Sri Lanka’s flouting of a proposal it actually supported at ICC level eighteen months ago has grave implications for the country’s cricket. “Above all, though, it savours of an act of arrogance by Sri Lanka’s United People’s Freedom Alliance, of a piece with its growing authoritarianism and hubris.

“It cannot help but buttress the case for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket, which I discussed here at the start of the tour, and for which a flag has been flown with admirable persistence throughout this tour by journalist Trevor Grant.

“It is interesting that CSL waited until the end of this tour to show its hand. Its international engagements are few this year, depriving protests of a focus. But it’s getting to a point where the rest of the cricket world should find it hard to look the other way.”

Haigh’s views are widely-read and respected in the international cricket world. He has written more than 19 books on the sport and articles for 70 publications, including The Age and The Australian in Australia and The Guardian and The Times in London.

The Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket Campaign (BSLCC) has been calling all summer for the Australian Government and Cricket Australia to halt all future matches with Sri Lanka until the Rajapaksa regime agrees to a United Nations’ demand for an independent international inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity at the end of the civil war in 2009 and until it ends its on-going persecution of Tamils.

BSLCC has said many times that the cricket team was a legitimate target because it was so closely linked to the Government, which uses the nation’s favourite sports team as international cover for its horrendous crimes.

Unlike other cricketing nations, Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister runs the team and has the final say on selection.

As seen in the case of the appointment of Jayasuriya as chief cricket selector and the recent sacking of the chief justice on trumped-up charges, a dictator such as Rajapaksa does not hestitate to use his power to keep his politics firmly entrenched in every aspect of society, whether it is sport or the judiciary.

The ICC issued the edict for all national cricket bodies to break any connections with its politicians within two years, seeing government interference as a major impediment to good governance of the sport. Sri Lanka, along with other member countries, signed an agreement, saying it would do so, and would support the suspension of any country which does not do so.

Clearly, Rajapakasa has no intention of abiding by the agreement and letting go his vice-like grip on the team. It is time for the International Cricket Council to get serious about Sri Lanka and boot it out of world cricket, not just because it flouts an ICC ruling but also because, as was the case with apartheid South Africa, international pressure needs to be brought to bear on an evil regime.

Further information contact: Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket Campaign, Trevor Grant: 0400 597 351


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