Campaigning for the boycott of Sri Lankan cricket team

I’m honoured to be asked to be a public face of this campaign (via Tamil Guardian):

Renowned Australian author Thomas Keneally has spoken out against Australia playing cricket with Sri Lanka and called for a break of sporting ties, as calls to boycott Sri Lankan cricket continue to grow.

Writing to Keneally, the Tamil Refugee Council stated,

“For too long Australia has turned a blind eye to the mounting evidence that the Sri Lankan Government committed war crimes against the poorest of its own people, including the slaughter of more than 40,000 innocent Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war in 2009.”

“There will be a stain of injustice that won’t wash out of the cricket whites if the human rights abuses of the ruling Sri Lankan regime pass unremarked.”

Keneally, who had previously spoken out after the suicide of an asylum seeker fleeing Sri Lanka, responded,

“All the matters your letter raised are issues we can’t pretend about anymore, and if our government keeps up with their present tricks, they may be subject to bans and blacklistings, too.”

Keneally, was joined in endorsing the boycott call by Sydney Peace Foundation chair, Stuart Rees; human rights lawyer, Julian Burnside, AO, QC; former deputy Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Bruce Haigh; Norwegian film-maker Beate Arnestad; Greens MP in NSW Parliament David Shoebridge; independent journalist and author, Antony Loewenstein; Associate professor and director, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, Jake Lynch; Professor and journalist, Wendy Bacon, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, Tamil Youth Organisation (Sydney), Uniting Church Minister, Rev. Richard Wootton, and 3CR Radio in Melbourne.

Also supporting the campaign was the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA), an umbrella body of Tamil organizations in the States and territories of Australia and the two cities of Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand.

See their full statement below.

“Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA), the umbrella body of the peak Tamil organizations in the States and territories of Australia and the two cities of Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, is well aware that Australia has used sports sanctions effectively to bring oppressive regimes to change their way of ruling and bring relief to their respective oppressed citizens. Australia has used in all these cases Cricket as their tool to succeed.

“First when the black people of South Africa were oppressed under the then Apartheid regime and later when the Zimbabwean White land owners were being evicted from their farms by the Black natives under the notorious Mugabe regime, Australia joined several other countries not to play cricket with the South Africans and Zimbabweans until the respective regimes revert back to observing democracy and rule of law.

“AFTA has been raising its concern to the Australian government that Australia has been turning a blind eye to the mounting evidence that the ruling regime in Sri Lanka has committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the slaughter of more than 40,000 innocent Tamil civilians during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 as reported by the independent panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to advise him on how to proceed with the accountability process in Sri Lanka.

“AFTA is disappointed that during his recent visit, our foreign minister Hon. Bob Carr pledged unqualified support to Sri Lanka to host the next CHOGM in 2013 by a regime that is comparable to the South African Apartheid regime and Mugabe’s regime, whilst Canada and Great Britain are contemplating whether to attend this meeting. If Mugabe, who unleashed violence against the White land owners of Zimbabwe, cannot be a friend of Australia, how could we do business as usual with the Rajapaksa regime that is alleged to have committed genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes? Why is this double standard? Are the lives of Zimbabwean White land owners more valuable than the
Tamil people in Sri Lanka?

“It is high time for all Australians to implore the Gillard government and the Cricket Australia to consider suspending sporting ties with Sri Lanka until Sri Lanka:
restores rule of law and genuine democracy including independent judiciary;agrees to independent international investigations against war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; and negotiates with the Tamil people for a genuine political power sharing arrangement based on the Tamils’ right to self-determination.

“In this context AFTA welcomes the initiative taken by the refugee Action Collective in conjunction with the Tamil Refugee Council in launching their boycott of the Sri Lankan cricket team with a demonstration in front of MCG on Boxing-day and consider it as a step in the right direction.

“AFTA appeals to all the independent media to help in taking this message to the Australian public.”