Several hundred Australians gathered outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground to protest against Sri Lanka’s cricket tour of Australia, calling on cricketing authorities to boycott the country.
Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Boycott Sri Lanka” hundreds of Australians assembled outside the MCG ground while Australia took on Sri Lanka on Day one of the traditional Boxing Day Test Match. Armed with red and yellow balloons, banners and thousands of leaflets (see here), protestors fanned out across every entrance to the stadium.
In addition, a truck adorned with a sign saying "Cricket can't hide Tamil genocide" had been circling the venue and around Melbourne’s bustling central business district.
Former cricket writer for The Age and boycott advocate Trevor Grant told reporters,
“In 2007 Australia didn’t go on tour [to Zimbabwe] mainly for security reasons, but John Howard called Mugabe a grubby dictator and said that cricket would give him the oxygen that he didn’t deserve. There is very much a disparity between the treatment of Sri Lanka and of Zimbabwe.”
“What we are asking for is Cricket Australia and the Australian government to halt future matches and torus against Sri Lanka until the Rajapaksa regime agrees to an independent investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and stops the persecution of Tamils which is sending refugees to Australia.”
Speaking at the protest, Grant said,
“We gave out 7000 leaflets in two hours and had brilliant banners, covering about 10 diffferent locations. We had a truck with an A-frame displaying "Cricket can't hide Tamil genocide" signs driving around the CBD. We were able to make strong speeches --on a brilliantly-loud and clear PA -- that thousands of cricket-goers could not ignore as they queued to get in to the ground.”
“We have laid the foundation for making Tamil persecution a significant issue in the minds of Australians. We plan to come out again during January when Sri Lanka play in the one day and 20/20 matches. We also plan to keep up the pressure via global links whenever Sri Lanka play cricket around the world. It's now been done in England and Australian on successive Sri Lankan cricket tours.”
"We also have to think about CHOGM next year in Sri Lanka. Slithering snake-in-the-grass Bob Carr announced on his recent trip to Colombo that Australia would help Rajapaksa with advice on how to run CHOGM. Excuse me, while I reach for the sick bag."
A representative from the Tamil Refugee Council also spoke saying,
"Currently, there are endless accounts of sexual assaults by Sinhalese troops, these have dominated accounts of human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government. Tamils in North and East have lost their land, they have no real place to call home. Much of the areas they once called home have now been taken over by the military. Sri Lankan Army occupying Tamil Eelam has not even let the University students alone, arresting them under terrorism laws.
While these abuses are taking place in the North and East, Mahinda Rajapakse, his brothers, his family and his supporters uses cricket to launder its image.
We as cricket lovers should not allow this.
We should not allow any regime brazenly abusing human rights with impunity, a role in international sport. We as cricket lovers, should not allow Rajapakse and his supporters to use cricket to get away with war crimes and crimes against humanity."
Also see our earlier posts:
Australian calls to boycott Sri Lankan cricket grow (11 December 2012)
Boycott of cricket tour debated on Australian radio (13 December 2012)
Boycott Sri Lanka cricket campaign gains more supporters (23 December 2012)