LTTE urges sports boycott of Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 10 April 2007, 09:11 GMT]
The Tamil Tigers Tuesday backed an Amnesty International awareness campaign that has embarrassed Sri Lanka's government during the cricket World Cup and urged a full sporting boycott of the country, AFP reported. Amnesty’s campaign to build support for international human rights monitoring in Sri Lanka, using the topical theme of cricket, has drawn the fury of the Colombo government as well as the main opposition Sinhala parties.

Capitalising on the interest around the World Cup, Amnesty International last week launched a publicity campaign - using the slogan ‘Play by the Rules’ - to urge Sri Lanka’s warring parties to respect human rights and consent to an international body to monitor abuses.

Amnesty says the Colombo government, the Tamil Tigers and other armed groups must commit themselves to allowing independent human rights monitors to oversee Sri Lanka’s long-running ethnic conflict.

Ms. N. Selvy, LTTE's Spokesperson for Humanitarian and Human Rights Affairs
LTTE spokeswoman Selvy Navaruban Tuesday welcomed the Amnesty campaign, saying it would raise awareness abroad and also among the majority Sinhalese population about "the brutality of their government against the Tamil population."

"The apartheid South African regime was brought to its knees by using sports to raise political awareness among the white South Africans," Ms. Navaruban told AFP.

"I hope in a similar fashion the campaign started by Amnesty International will evolve into an international sports boycott against the Sri Lankan cricket team," she said.

Amnesty International’s efforts to promote international human rights monitoring using the topical theme of cricket has drawn the fury of the Colombo government and, in a rare moment of southern solidarity, the main opposition UNP party joined the Sinhala hardline JVP and the ruling SLFP in denouncing the group’s move.

Amnesty has said the campaign was not aimed at the Sri Lankan cricket team, though the government and Sri Lanka Cricket, the sport's governing body, have already lodged a protest with the International Cricket Council.

Interestingly, also last week, the Free Media Movement (FMM), which consists of journalists and rights activists, expressed anxiety Amnesty's campaign could anger Sinhala moderates and help the government take a more hardline stance.

"To mix sports in general, and cricket in particular, with human rights advocacy, is a gross error and strategic blunder in a Sri Lankan context," the FMM said.

"Amnesty International's actions at the Cricket World Cup, for the best of intent, may well result in the worst of outcomes for human rights activists in Sri Lanka," the FMM said.

Cricket is hugely popular in Sri Lanka and is seen to cut through political and ethnic lines.

Sinhala nationalists have begun campaigning against Amnesty, arguing Sri Lanka’s cricket team is multi-ethnic.

However, the LTTE spokesperson dismissed the argument.

"Anyone who thinks cricket can be used to gloss over their government's brutality is utterly ignorant," Navaruban told AFP.

Sri Lanka is due to host a high-profile cricket series against England later this year.


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