Young Tamil activists staged a demonstration outside the Swalec Cricket Stadium, where the Sri Lankan cricket team played their first game of the International Cricket Champions Trophy, in Cardiff today. Calling for a boycott of the Sri Lankan Cricket team, the activists handed out leaflets to raise awareness about the atrocities that were committed by the Sri Lankan government, and the on-going human rights abuses of Tamils in the North-East of the island.
The activists handed out leaflets to spectators that outlined the oppressive ground realities in Sri Lanka whilst inviting them to ask further questions about why a boycott of Sri Lanka was necessary.
Speaking to the Tamil Guardian, a fan that had discussed Sri Lanka with an activist expressed shock at the on-going militarisation, dissent on free speech and lack of justice in Sri lanka 4 years after the end of the war, stating
“I was actually planning to go on holiday with my wife to Sri Lanka later this year. I had no idea that the Tamils had been given no justice or reconciliation and that the human-rights abuses of Tamils still occurred. I really don’t think I can consciously book a trip to Sri Lanka now.”
Another fan, after speaking to an activist, drawing on Zimbabwe, agreed on the need for a cricket boycott of Sri Lanka, he told Tamil Guardian,
“Yes I remember the temporary exclusion of Zimbabwe from the international cricket council. It seems that the Sri Lankan government is far worse than Zimbabwe’s, it is worrying that they are allowed to be a part of such prestigious international tournaments.”
| Police officers increase presence in response to intimidation from Sri Lankan fans
During the course of the day the activists were confronted by Sri Lankan cricket team supporters, surrounded and labelled as terrorists.
|Sri Lankan cricket fans photograph Tamil activists|
The police force decided to increase their presence at the demonstration after observing Sri Lankan cricket fans take close up photos of the activists, whilst shouting intimidatory remarks such as,
“These photos will be useful at Colombo airport.”
After witnessing the threatening approaches on Tamil activists by Sri Lankan cricket fans, a former activist for Human Rights in South Africa, drawing upon his previous experience, expressed solidarity with the Tamil activists, telling Tamil Guardian,
“I really do understand the troubles you face as Tamil activists, especially with the intimidation of young activists that I’ve seen here today. I experienced the same type of abuse from chauvinistic fans when taking part in demonstrations for a sporting boycott of South Africa.”
|Groups of Sri Lankan fans jeer and shout at Tamil activists|
When asked about the purpose of the demonstration and the responses he was getting, an activist who, after facing threatening photography, decided to withhold his name to protect family back in Sri Lanka, said,
“The Sri Lankan government have taken no steps to provide justice or accountability for the massacre of Tamil civilians 2009, whilst, under the umbrella of impunity, are ramping up the militarisation of the North-East, clamping down on Tamil freedom of expression and appropriating Tamil land in the North-East. The Tamils in the North-East are not safe under military rule, just last week a young Tamil girl was raped by a Sri Lankan soldier. What is going on in Sri Lanka is effectively the continued structural genocide of the Tamil nation.
"The Sri Lankan government uses the Sri Lankan cricket team to whitewash its on-going abuses and previous war crimes to the international community. Not many people realise this. The International Cricket Council and English Cricket Board must, like they have done with other nations, expel Sri Lanka from the council until there is accountability , justice for war crimes and an end to the on-going oppression of Tamils.
"Boycotting Sri Lanka is an effective way of applying pressure on the Sri Lankan government to allow an independent investigation into its alleged war crimes and ensure that human rights abuses of Tamils in the North-East are stopped."
Commenting on the reactions he had received, he said,
“I am shocked that, after the massacre of 70,000 Tamil civilians, so many members of the international community believe that justice, accountability and reconciliation is being achieved by the Sri Lankan government. However the continued denial of the war-crimes and on-going rights abuses by Sri Lankan cricket fans is not at all surprising.”
The activist went on to outline details of further sports boycott of Sri Lanka demonstrations that will be held on the 13th and 17th of June, outside the Oval cricket Stadium, between 11am and 8pm.
He urged people to raise awareness about the campaign using the following twitter hash-tag: #boycottlka
See our twitter feed - @TamilGuardian for live coverage of event.
|Despite police presence, Sri Lankan fans photograph Tamil activists|