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Australian calls to boycott Sri Lankan cricket grow

Trevor Grant, a former chief cricket writer at The Age appeared on Australian ABC New’s “The Drum” show, calling for Australia to boycott the Sri Lankan cricket team, as calls for a sporting boycott continue to spread.

Grant, who also works with the Refugee Action Collective, stated on the show,

“This cricket team is really part and parcel of maintaining the credibility a government that has already been called out on war crimes and crimes against humanity by the UN, and it continues to persecute the Tamils in the Northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka.”

See his interview here from 35 minutes 30 seconds onwards.

 When asked about why Tamil cricket players Muttiah Muralitharan and Angelo Matthews have not spoken out boycotting Sri Lankan cricket, Grant responded,

“No they haven’t said that. They prefer to stay silent. Because in our opinion, their cricket careers are more important, than this issue to them."

"They try and say that politics and sport should be separated, but we all know, anybody who has worked in sport, like I have for 40 years, knows that they are inextricably entwined."

When questioned regarding how the South African sporting boycott was based on the country’s racist selection policies, and how such a policy does not overtly exist in Sri Lanka, Grant replied,

“There is still very much an issue of war crimes and this leads into the issue of selection, though it’s not about selection at the selection table, but it is about selection of Tamils."

"There has been only something like half a dozen of Tamils play cricket for Sri Lanka over the past 20 or 30 years. What’s the reason for it?"

"Well I think if you look at an oppressed minority, like the Tamils have been for so long, they love cricket the Tamils, but they never get the chance, they never get the conditions for their children to come through to try and match the majority Sinhalese when they get to selection and that sort of thing in junior teams. The facilities and all that are much worse for Tamils."

Trevor grant also wrote for The Age earlier this week calling for a sporting boycott of Sri Lanka.  Extracts from his piece “Australia must go in to bat for Tamils”, have been reproduced below. See his full piece here.

“It is now time for Australian consciences to be pricked, as the Sri Lankan cricketers prepare for star billing against Australia in three Tests this summer, in Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney.”

“But what will be forgotten in the excitement is the dark side to this team. It's not so much the individual players but, what and who, they really represent. In other words, the rich and powerful in the Sri Lankan nation and an elected government that is alleged to be engaging in genocide against the poorest of its own people, many of whom are seeking refuge here.”

“The President and his military have been under pressure since a UN-commissioned report said there was evidence that the government, and the Tamil Tigers, committed war crimes at the end of the war in 2009 and recommended an investigation.”

“There are also credible reports that thousands of Tamils have "disappeared" after being picked up by government security forces. Many journalists have suffered similar treatment. The editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, Lasantha Wickremetunge, who was a noted government critic and had publicly forecast his death at the hands of the government, was murdered on his way to work four years ago. The crime remains unsolved.”

“The links between this regime and the cricket team are there for all to see. The recently retired captain, Sanath Jayasuriya, is now an elected representative of the Rajapaksa government. Spinner Ajantha Mendis, named on stand-by for the Tests but likely to play in the one-day series, is a second-lieutenant and gunner in the Sri Lankan Army who saw active service in the civil war. Rajapaksa was guest of honour at his wedding last year.”

“The former captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, is a politician who was in the government camp before switching further to the right in recent times. He described General Sarath Fonseka, the military commander of the Tamil massacre, as a wonderful man who can "save" Sri Lankan politics.”

“Very few Tamils have worn the nation's colours on the cricket field. Like all oppressed minorities, lack of opportunity as children denies them the chance to match the majority Sinhalese in the team.”

“Cricket Australia and the Australian government cannot keep avoiding this issue. They must seriously consider a ban on future fixtures against Sri Lanka.”

“As protests and calls for a boycott continue this summer, the message to the Sri Lankan government, via its cricket team, is the same one used against apartheid South Africa 40 years ago. There can be no normal sport in an abnormal society.”

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