Former Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan has come out and backed the leader of the National Freedom Front and prominent Sinhala Buddhist nationalist Wimal Weerawansa, ahead of Sri Lanka’s general elections next month.
Muralitharan - arguably Sri Lanka’s most famous cricket player - is well known for his unwavering alliance with the Rajapaksa regime, and has himself denied that war crimes had occurred.
His latest proclamation of support for Weerawansa came at a public meeting that he organised at the famous Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo.
Weerawansa, a staunch Sinhala chauvinist, has gained notoriety for his frequent outburst in the media and hard-line views, including denying the state’s role in forcible disappearances. In 2012, the former minister called for a boycott of Google and claimed that Americans were trying to kill him. In 2015, he said critics of the Rajapaksa regime should have “boiling hot water” thrown at them. That same year he walked out of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech to the Sri Lankan parliament, as a protest against the 13th Amendment. And just this year, the parliamentarian forced a signboard in Mannar to be removed and changed to display the Sinhala description above the Tamil description.
Though Muralitharan is an ethnic Tamil, he has been a long-standing supporter of Sinhala extremists, including backing Gotabaya Rajapaksa for presidency last year. Previously Murali stated “did not have any problems as a Tamil”, and even claimed that former British prime minister David Cameron had been “misled” over reports of rights abuses faced by Tamils. He has also compared Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya's older brother and former president who also stand accused of war crimes, to Nelson Mandela.