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Controversial Sri Lankan cricketer gets a military promotion

A Sri Lankan international cricketer who sparked controversy over his links to the war crimes accused military, has been rewarded with an army promotion this week.

Army cricketer Maheesh Theekshana has now been promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and was photographed shaking hands with the Sri Lankan army commander as he received a cheque for Rs. 500,000.

Earlier this year, the Indian Premier League team Chennai Super Kings announced Theekshana would join the Tamil Nadu-based franchise, setting off outrage as the hashtags #Boycott_ChennaiSuperKings and #DontNormaliseTamilGenocide spread across social media platforms.

Theekshana previously praised the Sri Lankan army, which has been accused of committing mass atrocities and genocide, for its involvement in cricket on the island.

“There are about 150 cricketers in the Army,” said Theekshana last year, praising the range of facilities available to soldiers to play cricket. “This shows how much support Army has given to uplift the game of cricket,” he added.

Theekshana also credited the war crimes accused head of the Sri Lankan army Shavendra Silva for helping him in his career, thanking him in an interview with the Sunday Observer last year.

In turn, the Sri Lankan army has also praised the young cricketer even posting an update on its official military website as Theekshana won a Man of the Match award when Sri Lankan played Namibia last year. “Army’s Outstanding Bowler Saves the Day,” read the headline.

Theekshana is part of the army’s infamous Gajaba Regiment, responsible for atrocities such as the Mirusuvil massacre.

File photograph: Soldiers from Sri Lanka's Gajaba Regiment

This is not the first time that Sri Lankan cricketers have caused controversy in Tamil Nadu. In 2020, popular Kollywood actor Vijay Sethupathi faced widespread criticism after announcing that he was “honoured” to play the leading role in a film on the life of controversial Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan.

Vijay Sethupathi dropped the project after Muralitharan asked him to pull out of the film in order to “avoid any problems to his acting career”.

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