As criticism of Muttiah Muralitharan grows following the announcement that Kollywood actor Vijay Sethupathi would play the controversial Sri Lankan cricketer in a biopic, he hit back with a statement claiming that he has helped Eelam Tamils more than his own Malayaga Tamil community and that Tamils on the island should “throw away your insecurities”.
Tens of thousands of posts across social media from users around the world have chastised the cricketer for his long-standing support to Sinhala extremists, with prominent Tamil politicians, Kollywood bigwigs and Tamil audience expressed their vehement protest against the upcoming film.
In a three page-long statement the cricketer has attempted to mollify concerns over the widespread opposition.
“To this day I have overcome many controversies in my life,” claimed the cricketer. “This has now, for various reasons, been politicised and opposition is being expressed.”
“That is because some of the remarks that I made earlier have been distorted," he added. "I said in 2019 that 2009 was the happiest year in my life. It is being written that I told the day when Tamils were massacred was the happiest day in my life.”
The statement refers to remarks he made during a 2019 press conference, where he backed accused war criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa ahead of Sri Lanka’s presidential elections. “The greatest day I thought is 2009, in my life,” said Murali at the time referring to the end of the armed conflict which saw tens of thousands of Tamils massacred by the Sri Lankan army. “ I thought in this country we can go without fear.”
The cricketer’s statement went on to double down on previous statements around Tamils on the island having “insecurities”.
“People are saying that I had said Tamil students have insecurities,” said the statement. “Living amongst a Sinhalese majority as a minority is bound to cause some insecurities, this is natural. I too, possessed this way of thinking as my parents also had these thoughts. Despite this, my passion for cricket is what pushed me to participate in school. I got in because of my effort and due to my talent, I became someone inevitable. That is why I say, throw away your insecurities and have some faith in your self ability.”
Muralitharan went on to claim “as far as I’m concerned, whether Sinhalese, Malayaga Tamil or Eelam Tamil, I see them all equally”.
“Even though I’m a Malayaga Tamil, I have helped Eelam Tamils more than I provided to my own upcountry community,” he continued. “I don’t like to point out, but I’ve now been pushed to do so.”
Though Muralitharan is an ethnic Tamil, he has been a long-standing supporter of Sinhala extremists, including the Rajapaksas and prominent Sinhala Buddhist nationalist Wimal Weerawansa. Previously Murali stated he “did not have any problems as a Tamil”, and even claimed that former British prime minister David Cameron had been “misled” over reports of 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.