Action Alert Archive
Promote Human Rights by Stopping All Arrangements with Sri Lanka’s Cricket Team
July 30, 2011
We are writing to urge you to ensure that all bilateral arrangements with the Sri Lankan cricket team are suspended until the Government of Sri Lanka agrees to an independent, international investigation into atrocities committed against innocent Tamil civilians. In the spirit of sport as a sociopolitical force, we implore Australia to join the international community in its movement towards holding Sri Lanka accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
This August, the Australian cricket team will be participating in a Test Series Tour in Sri Lanka. We understand that sporting events have often been used to promote unity. In Sri Lanka, however, this tour will only serve to further deepen the ethnic divide. The venues planned for the Test Series Tour are only in the south of the island, neglecting all the traditionally-Tamil areas in the north. Additionally, almost all the members of Sri Lanka’s cricket team that will play Australia belong to the majority Sinhala ethnicity, further emphasizing ethnic differences and polarizing the Tamil and Sinhala communities.
The Sri Lankan government, led by President Mahinda Rajapakse, has revealed itself as an authoritarian regime that denies basic civil liberties to its citizens and functions on a policy of impunity and institutionalized discrimination. The Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission, set up by the Sri Lankan Government to superficially respond to international pressure, lacks the independence, mandate, and witness protection mechanisms necessary for a genuine confrontation with atrocities committed by government security personnel.
In March, the United Nations Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka released a report describing war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the final months of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war. Findings suggest that between 40,000 and 75,000 Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan military forces. In June, the U.K.’s Channel 4 News released a documentary titled “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” containing heartbreaking footage of atrocities committed at the end of the war. Included in the footage was evidence of government shelling of hospitals and civilian safe zones, sexual violence against women, and execution-style killings. Despite clear evidence, the Government of Sri Lanka continues to allege that no civilians were killed and that life in the North and East has returned to normalcy.
The international boycott of South African teams in the 1970’s and the Zimbabwean team in 2008 were potent acts of principle that showed solidarity with the victims of human rights abuses, and exemplified the true spirit of cricket as a sport of conscience. Indeed, Australia has often led the way on taking a principled stance on such issues. In Sri Lanka, Australia’s participation in August’s cricket tour will whitewash the atrocities committed against Tamil civilians and exacerbate the differences between Sri Lanka’s communities. Engaging with a state that is denying the most basic rights to its citizens is a direct violation of the democratic values that Australians and citizens worldwide seek to protect and uphold. Therefore, we urge you to immediately suspend all arrangements with Sri Lanka’s cricket team.
The mission of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) is to end the systemic human rights abuses against the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, and promote equality, rights and justice on the island. PEARL is 501(c)3 non-profit organization led by human rights activists concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka.