Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Muralitharan Should Speak Up for Human Rights

by Thileepan, August 6, 2011

We hope that the greatest off-spin bowler the world has ever seen will uphold these vital ideals and stand on the right side of history.

It  is very unfortunate that the world’s highest wicket taker in test cricket and a former cricketer from Sri Lanka, Muttiah Muralitharan, now playing for the English county Gloucestershire, has misguidedly characterized the British and Australian Tamil youngsters who have been agitating that their national cricket teams boycott the Sri Lankan cricket team as representing a minority who are speaking out for their own advantage. The reality is that the boycott is a demand put forward by a majority of the Tamil Diaspora. The demand is fully backed by the Tamil Nadu chief minister, Ms. Jeyalalitha Jeyaram, who recently proposed a resolution in the Tamil Nadu legislature calling for an economic boycott of Sri Lanka that passed on June 8th 2011. In effect, the Boycott Sri Lanka movement is supported by the 65 million strong Tamils around the world.

The nearly 1 million Eelam Tamil Diaspora is made up of hard working Tamil refugees who have fled persecution by successive Sri Lankan regimes due to pogroms engineered by Sinhalese nationalistic  regimes ever since independence from the British in 1948. UN agencies like UNHCR have acknowledged that the Sri Lankan Tamils face threats to their lives, and Tamils are frequently granted asylum by countries like Canada, Britain, Australia and many other European nations. The fact is that in the west the Tamils have the freedom to lead a more peaceful life, unlike in the oppressive climate  in Sri Lanka.

As recently pointed out by the well-known English cricket writer and former captain of the England cricket team, Mike Atherton, the conscience of any English person who watched the Channel 4 documentary “Sri Lanka's Killing Fields”  would have been pricked.

The question cricket fans and peace-loving people around the world should ask of our record-breaking off-spinner is, "Hasn’t Murali’s conscience been pricked to speak up for the victims of the brutal Mullivaikkal massacre, a massacre whose victims could go as high as 146, 679 Tamils according to Sri Lankan Bishop Rev. Rayappu Joseph based on government records?"

It is regrettable for the great game of cricket, which has seen such greats as Sir Don Bradman who spoke up against the apartheid policy of the South African government, that Muralitharan has chosen to remain silent on the Tamil massacre in the Vanni in 2009.  It is still not too late for Muralitharan to take a moral stand on this issue and speak up for the innocent children, fathers and mothers who were mercilessly bombarded by the artillery fire of the all-Sinhalese Sri Lankan armed forces and whose blood flowed like a river  into the Indian Ocean.

What the international community and human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are asking is for the creation of a international mechanism to look into the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity against both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels. Failing to do so will give a blank check to forces around the world that seek to find solutions to political conflicts through military means that are genocidal and are detrimental to the progress toward a much more peaceful and civilized world, where conflicts are resolved through dialogue. Muralitharan’s statements to defend a morally bankrupt Rajapkase regime look very much like the ill fated rebel tour led by Mike Gatting in 1990 to play cricket with the South African team, ignoring the momentous changes that were happening in South Africa at the time which culminated in the release of Nelson Mandela.

It is time people like Muralitharan with international stature from Sri Lanka to  denounce the policies of the Rajapakse regime and support the UN Panel of Experts’ call for an independent international investigation to look into the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Tamil civilians. Only by acknowledging the past can we move forward in history to work towards genuine peace in the homelands of the Sinhalese and Tamils. Freedom and justice are the cherished ideals of great sportsmen of this century. We hope that the greatest off-spin bowler the world has ever seen will uphold these vital ideals and stand on the right side of history.