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Boycott campaign pressed at final Sri Lanka test match

Tamil activists leafleted Saturday outside the Rose Bowl cricket ground in Hampshire where Sri Lanka is playing the third and final test match against England, to raise further awareness of war crimes in the final months of the island’s war and to build support for a cricket boycott.

Activists of the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO-UK) set up banners opposite the giant wickets at the ground’s entrance, and handed out leaflets and chatted with arriving spectators.

Amid press reports of poor ticket sales and restricted capacity for the Rose Bowl test match, the TYO staged a short and concentrated leafleting effort on Saturday (which had the highest sales) and diverted most members to final preparations for the group’s cultural show, Ilanthalir 2011, on Sunday.

“We received permission from police to set up our banners on the main entrance at the top of Marshall Drive. This is the nearest location on a public road to the stadium, about 300 meters away,” said spokesperson Thusiyan Nandakumar said.

(Marshall drive is named after late cricketing stars, Roy and Malcolm Marshall, who played for West Indies and Hampshire.)

“Our banners reminded everyone arriving at the venue and passing on the main road in cars and buses about Sri Lanka’s genocide of the Tamils. We also handed out two thousand leaflets between 10am and 1pm to those arriving on foot.”

“Our efforts have been boosted this week by Channel 4’s documentary [on Sri Lanka’s war crimes] and [Mike] Atherton’s opinion in the cricketing press,” he said.

“Many of the spectators – and the police – said they had seen the film, and read the article. A handful of people were critical, including some Sinhalese who called us terrorists.”

Last Tuesday Channel 4 broadcast a hard-hitting documentary on the mass killings in 2009 of Tamil civilians in the final months of Sri Lanka’s war. (See also this.)

The next day former England captain and sports writer of the year (2010), Mike Atherton, highlighted TYO’s cricket boycott campaign in The Times newspaper in an opinion titled “Tamils’ plight must prick English consciences.”

Also Wednesday, one of London’s most popular radio stations, LBC, conducted an hour-long discussion on Sri Lanka’s war crimes, with the overwhelming majority of callers expressing support for the Tamils’ case.

Channel 4 also conducted an online poll questioning whether England's cricketers should reconsider their winter tour of Sri Lanka in light of the reported war crimes. 87% of respondents said they should.