17 December 2012
The Sri Lankan cricket team is currently ranked sixth among Test playing nations and first in the T20 form of the game, and is an exciting team to watch in action. However it represents the rich and powerful in the Sri Lankan nation and an elected government that is alleged to be engaging in genocide against the poorest of its own people, many of whom are seeking refuge in Australia. The Sri Lankan President is part of this elite and a man who loves to align himself with sport, especially cricket.
A UN-commissioned report has recommended an investigation of the evidence that the government, and the Tamil Tigers, committed war crimes at the end of the war in 2009. Since then there are also credible reports that thousands of Tamils have "disappeared" after being picked up by government security forces. Many journalists have suffered similar treatment.
Meanwhile an open letter from Bishop Rayyapu Joseph of Sri Lanka regarding deportations of Sri Lankan people from Australia, records the terrible plight of deported asylum seekers who have found their way back in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
“It is common knowledge that those deported back after seeking political asylum abroad are left to live in fear and fright due to being considered as traitors by the Government and its armed Forces,” he pointed out.
“It is highly dangerous for the asylum seekers from the North and East of Sri Lanka in Australia to be sent back to Sri Lanka in the prevailing political situation in our regions.”
Bishop Joseph has had his life threatened by the Rajapaksa Government but continues to speak out.
Test Cricket at Bellerive is wonderful! But should Australia be playing against Sri Lanka at all? One lesson from the apartheid era boycotts of South Africa is that there can be no normal sport in a society which is not normal. Recently at the United Nations Human Rights review process, Australia called on the Sri Lankan government to reduce and eliminate instances of torture, abduction and disappearances. Groups as diverse as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Jaffna Catholic Diocese, all point to ongoing abuses of Human Rights in Sri Lanka. Trevor Grant, former cricket writer points out how the Sri Lankan government uses the national cricket team to “launder” the image of the Government. Former cricket players are in the government and a serving soldier from Civil War days is in the touring party. Should Australian cricket supporters be providing a smokescreen for Human Rights abuses in Sri Lanka? We should also incidentally, be asking questions about our own government’s treatment of Sri Lankan Asylum seekers.