Trevor Grant, former chief cricket writer for The Age, has appeared on Radio Australia calling on both Cricket Australia and the Australian government to ban future matches against Sri Lanka, until there is an investigations into the killing of up to 40,000 Tamils in “safe zones” during the latter stages of the armed conflict.
He appeared on the show alongside Sri Lanka's high commissioner to Australia Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe. The Admiral was the Sri Lankan Navy's Northern commander during 2009 and himself stands accused of participating in the shelling of civilians.
Grant, who has been leading calls for Australia to boycott the Sri Lankan cricket team, said,
"This cricket team is part and parcel of maintaining credibility for a government that has been called out on war crimes and crimes against humanity by the UN and continues to persecute Tamils in the Northern and Eastern regions, and what’s more has refused point blank to many requests for independent reviews of things going on in that country”.
“We are taking a lesson from the anti-apartheid boycotts back in the 1970s. it has been proven that those boycotts in fact were probably the deciding factor in alienating South Africa so much that apartheid was killed.”
“We are trying to create an awareness. We know that this tour cannot be stopped now, but we would like to ask fans to think twice now about going to the game and also we want to government and Cricket Australia to ban future matches against Sri Lanka until things change.”
Listen to the full interview here.
Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe meanwhile responded,
"I categorically, totally deny baseless, unsubstantiated allegations of 40,000 deaths, crimes against humanity, various other allegations… This is a way of bringing discredit to the country, to people with vested interests… The rest of the world should hail Sri Lanka.”
He went on to accuse the groups involved of "playing into the hands of terrorists", saying,
“The terrorists organisations operating around the world, in different names and different forms, are trying to still, propagate and advocate separatism in our country in Sri Lanka, when everybody is living happily under one flag, under the leadership of his Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa who eradicated terrorism out of Sri Lanka, who rescued Tamils, 300,000 Tamils.”
“This 40,000 figure I totally reject and genocide, crimes against humanity, all that situation is baseless.”
In one final exchange at the end of the show, Admiral Samarsinghe said,
“By doing this, the host country (Australia) has to take responsibility. I have taken up the matter with relevant authorities to ensure that these allegations… and these planned events… distributing leaflets… having demonstrations, these are all part of a long time and a game plan…”
“We will be having peaceful protests and I hope that isn’t a threat Admiral that you are going to take this up with the authorities, about us leafleting, this is a democratic country and we have the right to peacefully protest outside venues.”