Symbolic Tamil Incursions at Cricket Events, 1975 and 2008

Michael Roberts 1

Paper presented at Crises and Opportunities: Past, Present and Future. Proceedings of the 18th Biennial Conference of the ASAA, 5 – 8 July 2010, held at the University of Adelaide, Australia – see  Essays on the two Tamil protests and another at St. George’s Grenada in 2007 are dealt with separately in

Political rallies are girded and threaded by slogans, whether voiced or displayed on placard. Slogans and icons distil the sentiments impelling people and organisations. Massed sporting events provide arenas that attract symbolic political statements of various kinds. In a welcome move the Fédération Internationale de Football Association utilised its arenas and the World Cup in 2006 to commit itself to the struggle against racism. This was a proclamation from an institutionalized organisation at the apex.

    It is more usual for underdog elements to utilize sporting fields to advertise their cause. Such moments are often suffused by the emotions that mobilise people to demonstrate. A striking occurrence of this type occurred at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 when the American sprinters Smith and Carlos mounted the podium to the tunes of the American anthem in order to receive their medals wearing one black glove, black socks and no shoes and then proceeded to give the Black Power salute. This graphic statement “was designed to highlight the oppression of black people [in USA] over the years and was headline news throughout the world.” 2



Though intrusive, such actions are peaceful political expressions which differ from explosive assaults that have claimed the lives of athletes or bystanders. Perhaps the best known incident of this sort was at the Munich Olympics in early September 1972 when a Black September group of Palestinians held Israeli athletes hostage, resulting in the death of 11 athletes, one German policeman and 5 assailants during a series of fights.

    This attack was a sequel to several hijackings of aircraft on international flights in 1969 and 1970 by Palestinian groups seeking to further their liberation struggle. Though deemed “terrorism” within the Western world, many Arabs and their sympathizers have usually regarded these endeavours to be justifiable retaliations stemming from the imposition of Jewish rule in Palestinian territory and Western complicity in the tale of Jewish imperialism. 4 The Palestinian struggle was among the world events that inspired a few radical elements among the Sri Lankan Tamil people to prepare for armed struggle in the late 1960s and the 1970s within a context in which their parliamentary parties had sustained a vigorous drive for a federal state from the 1950s.

    In bald summary, the chief reasons for the heightening of Tamil grievances and aspirations in the period 1956-1970s were (1) the ramifying economic and political implications of a programme that made Sinhala the language of administration after the populist victory of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the 1956 general elections; (2) the structural implications of the island‘s demographic distribution working in conjunction with (3) the further structural tilt induced by the Westminster model of government, (4) a measure of discrimination inserted into state policies in administrative recruitment and educational criteria as a result of statutory acts and the growing influence of administrators with Sinhala prejudices; (5) the implications attached to the mini-pogrom in Sinhala-majority areas in 1958; (6) the fury aroused among Tamil youth — in the Jaffna Peninsula in particular — by the standardization policies for university admissions initiated circa 1971 and the further twist to this programme through a district quota system; and (7) the manner in which a new republican constitution was set up in 1972. 5

    Not all these factors carried equal weight: their influence varied according to class, caste, region and temporal moment. But, in sum, this body of grievances promoted a growing groundswell of discontent among the Tamil people, sentiments threaded with a sense of injustice, a combination that in turn produced rhetorical excess. These tendencies were the most pronounced among youth, usually male youth (Roberts 2010a). Moreover, in common with so many young men in Asia during the 1960s and 1970s, their vocabulary was informed by Marxist, Maoist and Naxalite thought. ―Power comes from the barrel of the gun‖ was among the clichés widely expressed and believed in during the 1960s and 1970s. 6

    Spurred on by awareness of the ferment among their youth, the Tamil parliamentarians moved beyond demands of federalism to a new position: they set up the Tamil United   Liberation Front and assembled at Vaddukoddai in May 1976. Here, in a momentous move, they adopted a resolution proclaiming secession as their ultimate goal. The Sri Lankan state‘s effort to contain this development through military muscle was predictably counterproductive. Tamil resentment was exacerbated by a mini-pogrom directed against Tamils residing in the southern reaches in July-August 1977 and a major pogrom in July 1983. State functionaries were involved on both occasions so that the alienation of Tamils at home and abroad became as widespread as deep. Within the international order Sri Lanka was immediately cast as a pariah state, while the central Indian government decided to arm and assist the various Tamil militant groups seeking Thāmilīlam (or “Eelam” in short).

    From the late 1950s Tamils had been among the Western-educated Sri Lankans who had left the island in advancement of their careers in Britain, Europe, Africa, Australia, USA and Canada. Benefiting from the quality of education in the island, many of these migrants had established themselves in their adopted countries. The tales of house-burning, looting and killing in July 1983 retailed by their kinfolk and friends had a profound impact on many of these families. Bitterness led several to jettison their Sri Lankan identity. Some moved towards active support for the cause of Eelam. Once the LTTE became the vanguard of this struggle from circa 1986/87, several of these older Tamil generations became part of the diasporic network marshalled by the LTTE and its migrant arms.

Set within this milieu this article focuses on two Sri Lankan Tamil protests at sporting arenas set thirty-three years apart, that at Kensington Oval in London on 7 June 1975 and the other at Manuka Oval, Canberra on 12 February 2008.7     

    However, the details around these events will be spiced by the striking evidence displayed by the photographs associated with Tamil demonstrations at two other cricket matches recently, (i) the lone ‘streaker’ Maiyooran at the World Cup in Grenada on 16 April 2007; (ii) agitation along the roads leading to the cricket ground at Toronto when Sri Lanka played Pakistan on 12 October 2008. 8  

    The slogans at Toronto were more virulent than those unfurled on the previous occasions. As such they mark the heightening of Tamil anxiety as the LTTE began sliding to defeat in late 2008. Thus, the Toronto demonstration heralds the frenzied and vituperative character of the political demonstrations launched in numerous cities in the West in the first half of 2009 — when traffic was blocked, sporadic violence occurred and where Tamils were inspired by an act of suicidal self-immolation in Geneva by young Murugathasan Varnakulasingham of London. 9 While these moments will not be addressed, they serve as black cumulous clouds hanging over the more sedate demonstrations studied here.


  1. I.   Tamil Protest at Kensington Oval, London, 7 June 1975

 On 7 June 1975 as the Sri Lankan cricketers, minnows in the universe of cricket, took on the mighty Australians under Ian Chappell at the Kensington Oval in London in the early rounds of the first-ever World Cup in limited-overs competition, a small band of young Sri Lankan Tamil men invaded the centre-field and displayed placards as they lay down in protest (see Roberts & James 1998: 90-94). As befitting the 1970s perhaps, the modalities of expression at the Oval were conventional and minimalist. The tactics involved bodily incursion into ‘sacred space’ with message-on-placard and a cyclostyled broadsheet distributed to members of the public. The Tamil activists of 1975 had neither the capacity to print sophisticated pamphlets nor the requisite networks to incorporate the international media into their propaganda operation as affiliates in the manner in which Channel Four, Sky and The Times of London in England and SBS in Australia have been drawn into their campaigns by ‘Tiger International’ during the years 2009 and 2010. Likewise, their use of a leaflet seems primitive in comparison with the innovativeness of those Tamil patriots who hired sky-sign pilots to outline messages in the sky during cricket matches at Northampton and Worcester during the World Cup in 1999 and subsequently in Sydney and Toronto in the 2000s. 10

    My information on the participants involved in the demonstration at the Oval is limited, but it is known that the Tamil migrants in London at that stage included many students and young men (a) who were alienated by the circumstances of their people back home for the reasons outlined above and (b) who were attracted to the currents of revolutionary thought coursing through radicals and militant Arabs among the large and diverse migrant population in London.11

    A few found the Libyan embassy welcoming and a few dedicated personnel even assembled at Balham Commons in the twilight hours of the morning for physical drill.12 As emphasised by Nalliah Suriyakumaran (who was a member of the General Union of Eelam Students in the 1970s), their knowledge of Marxism was rudimentary, but in Eliyathamby Ratnasabapathy they found a father figure who could further their interest in revolutionary Tamil thinking. 13 Ratnasabapathy was a key figure in the emergence of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) in London in the 1970s. It was EROS which used its Palestinian links to gain military training in Lebanon in the latter part of the 1970s for Tamil militants from several different Eelam groups. 14 It is against this backdrop that one must evaluate the protest broadsheet circulated at Kensington Oval (below).


Sri Lanka’s crimes against the Thamil Minority are worse than those of South Africa

l. On May 22nd, 1975, 29 Thamil youths were arrested for clearing jungle areas – an unarrestable privilege extended to SINHALA youths.

2. Five young men, including Poet Kasianandan were arrested on the same day for distributing leaflets against the Infamous, Anti-Minority Constitution of 1972. Kasianandan was kept in solitary confinement for months, the last time he was arrested.

3. The Sri Lanka Cricket Team was not picked on merit. There was discrimination against prominent Thamil players of international standard.

SOUTH AFRICA was banned from the International Cricket circuit because of its APARTHEID.

It has been proved that “Sport” and “Politics” cannot be separated, especially in racialist countries.

Remember Black Power Salutes in the Mexico Olympics! OR The Master Racist Hitler, who in 1936 Olympics refused to shake hands with the great Negro Athlete Jesse Owens, who won 4 Olympic Medals in one afternoon.

We DO NOT wish to spoil your enjoyment of the game of cricket. But can we stand by and watch the SINHALESE play while 2.8 million Thamils are being deprived of their birthright?

The British Press and TV have reported on the near starvation of the Plantation Workers in Ceylon — where Thamil children are being sold in the streets. ~

Why doesn’t the British Press also report the atrocities committed by the Ceylonese government against the Thamils?

We are forced to protest at the “Test” matches, to inform the World. We also love and play Cricket. But we do not want rank racists — whether they be brown or white – to play in the United Kingdom as representatives of a country where the rule of terror prevails. We want the world to see the injustice in Ceylon.

1. The attempted decimation of the Thamil nation’s identity – an identity which has survived from pre-historic times!

2. The denial of the use of the richest language in Asia – THAMIL – which has its very own vocabulary and can stand its ground in literature and language perfection. We want all the people who live here to know that Ceylon Tea is produced by people reduced to the position of slaves.

We want the United Nations to take note of the Denial of Basic Human Rights to the THAMILS OF CEYLON, who have lived there for over 2500 years.


Distributed by: Boycott Racist Sri Lanka Cricket Team Action Committee,

OXFORD. 7th June, 1975.

Review of Leaflet

Documents such as this display ideological sentiments directed by goals of propagation, combining manipulative design with emotional imperative. Contemporary interests in Britain clearly encouraged these Tamils to raise the spectre of ―Apartheid‖ in South Africa at their masthead so that the Sri Lankan state could be depicted as ―racist‖ and placed in the same pariah category as the Afrikaaners and Adolf Hitler. Likewise, the manner in which nationalization of the tea plantations from 1972 by the Sri Lankan government in the course of its socialist programme had deepened the victimization of plantation labourers (who were mostly Tamils) was a topic dear to British hearts attuned to their cup of tea. So these themes entered the leaflet‘s brew. 15

    The broadsheet‘s prose is hardly elegant. That matters not one jot. What counts and what does emerge is the imperative in the ‘speech.’ This broadsheet was coined by persons impelled, by persons driven by a sense of grievous wrong. The leaflet presents a tale of Tamils in Sri Lanka being “deprived of their birthright” and in the process of having their identity obliterated. The hint of genocide in the past through the word ―decimation‖ is just one wisp of bloated imagery in this document. But perhaps the worst instance of gerrymandering comes within their verbal excursions into the cricketing arena.

    Having been brought up in a cricketing environment, these Tamils were fully alive to the hallowed status of the game in Ole England. So their demonstrative intrusion is wrapped in velvet: they love cricket, they play cricket, they insist; it is because they wish to highlight racism that they intrude upon the verdant green of cricketing Englishmen. After all, not only is the Sri Lankan state racist, its cricket selectors have ignored merit and discriminated against Tamil players. So proclaimed this leaflet created by protesting Tamils. Moreover, their leaflet could not lie: it was coined in Oxford. Oxford is not consonant with lies. But lie the broadsheet did on cricket (and maybe even about its alleged place of minting).

The Cricket Sideshow

Sri Lanka was not a fully-fledged member of the International Council of Cricket. Its participation in the Prudential World Cup of 1975 was made possible by the grace of ICC and MCC, though perhaps assisted by the cricketing prowess that its players had displayed in the field against high-level competition at various levels in the years 1963-75. 16 The squad for the World Cup was captained by Anura Tennekoon of SSC and S. Thomas‘ College and was composed of the following: Dennis Chanmugan,17 Ajit de Silva, D. L. S de Silva, D. S. de Silva, Ranjit Fernando, David Heyn, Lalith Kaluperuma, Duleep Mendis, Tony Opatha, H. S. M. Pieris, Anura Ranasinghe, Michael Tissera, Bandula Warnapura and Sunil Wettimuny. The two players in the larger training squad who missed out on selection were Roy Dias (St. Peter‘s) and Sarath Fernando (Prince of Wales). 18

    Gajan Pathmanathan, a Tamil from Royal College, may have been a possible contender. 19 But his achievements on the tour of Pakistan in 1974 had been limited and he was attending Oxford University in 1974/75. With an outstanding and experienced crop of batsmen available at home and all of them in the runs,20 the selectors clearly decided to restrict themselves to this pool of players for a prestigious tour providing experience of different conditions. Any squad that omitted such a promising player as Roy Dias must be strong in batting. 21

  Pic from Roberts, Essaying cricket, Colombo, Yapa, 2006. 

During the mid-twentieth century cricket in Sri Lanka had been dominated by personnel emerging from Royal College and the Christian denominational schools in Colombo and Kandy; so that, with the exception of C. Balakrishnan, the several Tamils who played for ―Ceylon‖ were from these schools.22 By the late 1960s, however, the prominence of the Westernized set from these elite schools was challenged by the emergence of good cricketers from Prince of Wales and St. Sebastian‘s in Moratuwa and the Buddhist schools Ananda and Nalanda in Colombo, Dharmaraja in Kandy and Mahinda in Galle.    

    Significantly, the 1975 touring squad included seven from this cluster, while Ajit de Silva hailed from the relatively unknown school of Dharmasoka in Ambalangoda. As vitally, most of these seven were among the youngest players in the sixteen.

    From my personal knowledge of cricket in the decade 1966-75 from a location in the hills of Peradeniya23 and occasional matches at the fringes of club cricket, the fourteen players listed above seem imposing, that is, of star quality. So, the Thamil Action Committee‘s allegation that ―there was discrimination against prominent Thamil players of international standard‖ is simple concoction. This type of claim is not uncommon. Over the last 30 years I recall such complaints from Tamil spokespersons on odd occasions with no specifics to back the claim.24

    Such claims are either malicious lies or beliefs founded on colossal ignorance about the transformations in the domestic cricket scene in Sri Lanka since the mid-1980s. One development has been the decline in the degree to which Tamil youth in Colombo pursue sports and cricket at the top level in their schools. In the result one of the striking phenomenon of recent times has been the minute proportion of Tamil men playing cricket at the highest club level: one would be hard put to count a half-dozen Tamil club cricketers at any point in the 1990s and 2000s (Roberts 2006b, 2007 and 2009a). One can therefore surmise that those who peddle such claims are people who have heard this allegation as earnest assertion from an earnest Tamil. In the context of Tamil patriotism and their own body of prejudices, as well as concrete evidence of some discrimination suffered by Tamils in the recent past in fields of employment, such a tale is absorbed hook, line and sinker. Believer of concoction then turns into earnest retailer. That is how the lines of grievance-politics spiral. Thus do new generations take to the streets in demonstration on cricket fields.

II. Speaking for “Humanity” at Manuka Oval: 12 February 2008

 On 12 February 2008, as the Sri Lankan and Indian cricketers were preparing to engage in battle at the Manuka Oval in Canberra, a ‘swarm‘ of red-shirted Tamils descended on the grounds. These personnel all wore matching shirts with the words “Where is Humanity” and “Voice of Tamils.” These were second-generation Tamils and some 160 had travelled up from Sydney to join local Tamils from Canberra and a few who had journeyed from Melbourne to express their political sentiments while enjoying the match.25


 Pics kindly supplied by Lala Samuel

They were stopped at the gate and had to negotiate their entry; it would seem that two were denied entry26 and that they dispensed with banners and ―agreed not to fly ―Tamil flags.” 27  Once inside they assembled near the scoreboard, a vantage point that maximized the attention they would secure. There they proceeded to bajau in the Sri Lankan manner born, that is, to make merry with song and dance to the beat of drums, while spicing bodily enthusiasm with shout.

    Their explicit intent was to call attention to the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka. “We are doing this because we believe that Tamils in Sri Lanka are discriminated against and poorly treated. They are subjected to injustice in every possible walk of life and this has to change,” said one Adrian Francis in speaking to He added: “This is a peaceful way to draw attention…. We are not against the country. We are very happy to see Muttiah Muralitharan representing Sri Lanka and doing so well. We connect with him and are here to cheer for Sri Lanka apart from making our point” (as quoted in Rajakulendran 2008).

    While Francis and one news-item cited by the Tamil Canadian indicated that these Tamils were supporting the Sri Lankan cricket team, young Vikram Sambasivam was quite adamant: “How can I [support Sri Lanka] when they do what they do to my people?” (Rajakulendran 2008). Sambasivam‘s strong reservation is in line with my own conjecture: namely, that a considerable proportion of the Sri Lankan Tamil migrants who are attentive to the cricket scene cheer for any side that is opposing Sri Lanka. My efforts to garner information on this point drew limited response, but one Tamil friend from my Peradeniya days who moves in Tamil nationalist circles in Australia said that “seventy per cent of the older generation of Tamils” would favour whoever Sri Lanka played against. But, in significant fashion, he remarked that the “younger generation brought up abroad” would cheer for Sri Lanka, while immediately qualifying this assessment by adding that this pattern was “gradually being reversed amongst Tamils.” In brief, recent developments in the late 2000s after Eelam War IV and the agitations around the last stages of that War have reversed the loyalties of new generations of Sri Lankan Tamils. They have adopted an anti-Sri Lankan position. How far this individual reading can be sustained for Australia as a whole or for the migrant networks elsewhere in the West is anybody‘s guess.

    On this occasion at Manuka Oval however, it would seem that there was some vociferous support for the Sri Lankan side28 as they proceeded to beat India in a rain-shortened match where Dilshan played a critical role. In the result there was a modicum of fellowship between Tamil and Sinhalese supporters of the Sri Lankan side. One of those who joined the Tamil cluster was a moderate Sinhalese whom I shall refer to as SM. SM sent a short email circular about this event to friends:

“They [the Tamil cluster] all were enthusiastically cheering for the Sri Lankan cricket team waving Sri Lankan flags, and some were playing drums. I wish those Tamils could have joined with us, Sinhalese, to make a much more vibrant noise in unison to support the Sri Lankan cricket team. Such a dream is unrealistic at present, because we have brought to this country many wounds and ill-feelings emanating from the prolonged ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and have passed them to our second generation. What is lacking is a process of healing and reconciliation‖ (emphasis mine).”29

    This circular drew two hostile retorts from extremist Sinhalese,30 but also attracted a few illuminating responses from moderate Tamils whose names, appropriately, were not disclosed to me by SM. These conversations between ordinary people are of some consequence for our understanding of migrant sentiments in a situation of conflict. One from Tamil AB stressed that, like his parents, he was still “on the fence about the concept of the civil war in Sri Lanka,” before proceeding to express his thoughts thus: “I had mixed feelings towards your email, because as you, I wanted all Sri Lankan’s Cheering together in unity, however from a Tamil point of view — what better platform to get the message of the Tamils across to the international community, especially a generally naive Australia.”

    This protest more than any other has brought the plight of the Tamil people into the Australian media spotlight. People took notice and for once the “the voice of the Tamils” was heard. Much like you had wished that the Tamils had joined the Sinhalese, I wished that the Sinhalese had joined the Tamils — a subtle difference in wording maybe, but the implications for reconciliation would have been extraordinary.

    He added: “I wore my Sri Lankan flag with pride, I wore my Voice of the Tamils flag with pride and not only did I visit the Tamil group, but spent the majority of the day with my Sinhalese friends. I tried to convince my Sinhalese friends to join the Tamil group, but not one of them was willing. I find this hard to understand, mainly because at every other game I have no choice but to join in with the Sinhalese, the one time they had the opportunity to join us — they chose not to.

    I agree that such a dream is unrealistic at the moment; I agree that a lot of bitterness and hatred has been passed onto the second generation and I agree that there is a severe lack of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

    AB‘s private testimony to SM is of significance because of its empirical information and its presentation of innermost sentiments. Two other communications to SM from other moderate Tamils sustain the evidence that the support for the Sri Lankan cricket side among the Tamils was split and that the Sinhalese and Tamils at the ground were mostly apart. Tamil C was quite emphatic: “these kids were carrying the message for the voiceless Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka. None of them waved the Sri Lankan flag, because they do not have any alegians (sic) to that flag because they all know what their Fathers and Mothers experienced under that flag. That is why they created their own flag to wave and that is why they were behaving like that in Canberra.”


Thus we have a few basic facts:

1. With aforethought a body of second-generation Tamils with some interest in cricket entered the Manuka Oval in Canberra as spectators to voice the grievances of Sri Lankan Tamils under the liberal catch cry of service to humanity.

2. Since a report on this incident was sent to the Tamil Canadian website by Victor Rajakulendran, Secretary of Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations, one can conclude that the LTTE had a hand in the protest because the AFTA was one of its arms in Australia.

3. The Tamil cluster worked as a cricket-cheer party enjoying the occasion with some shouting for Sri Lanka, while others – perhaps a majority? — supported India.

4. A few Sinhalese at the grounds were ready to join their bajau activity, but the large majority kept their distance31 – thereby underlining the ongoing political divide.

Concluding Remarks

The reluctance of most Sinhalese (and Burghers and others of Sri Lankan parentage) to join the red-shirted Tamil cluster at the scoreboard end of the Manuka Oval is not surprising. Though the Tamil protest group had carefully avoided any display of Tiger emblems or flags, and had not attired themselves in the LTTE colour code of red and gold, any Sri Lankan, even an imbecile, would have interpreted the political protest as an advocacy of LTTE goals. The Tamil-cum-LTTE venture, however, was directed at a less knowledgeable Australian cricketing audience. In other words, they were cleverly exploiting the ignorance and simplifications32 that direct Western readings of the Sri Lankan scene. Rajakulendran‘s precise description (2008) of their attire and message makes this clear:

    These youth first gathered outside the ground sporting bright red T-shirts, with an Eelam map and “Voice of Tamils” written across the map and “Where is humanity?” written at the bottom of the map waving red flags carrying the same slogans.

    The map depicting the limits of the so-called ―Tamil homelands,‖ and that segment of the island alone,33 compounded as it was by the red colour, said it all: the personnel in the cheering party were advocates of a separate state named Thāmilīlam within Sri Lanka. In responding to MS and Tamil AB‘s messages in favour of reconciliation, another gentleman, whom I shall identify

as Sinhala A, put it pithily: “Good sentiment, I agree with you but do you condone the picture of the divided Sri L on their tee shirts? I certainly don‘t, that in my opinion is going too far.” 34

    Those Tamil organizations who arranged for this political statement at Manuka Oval, of course, were not addressing Sinhalese and other Sri Lankans in possession of contextual knowledge. They were targeting the Australian public: “what better platform to get the message of the Tamils across to the international community, especially a generally naive Australia” as Tamil A noted.

    Their grievances were therefore wrapped up cannily in the abstract image of humanity trampled upon. They were, by implication, fighting for their just rights. The problem here is that they did not disclose the Tamil Tiger hand behind their activity, that is, their political allegiance. Their stance stands out all the sharper when juxtaposed against Maiyoorian‘s incursion and the explicit hoisting of LTTE flags and claims by the Tamils demonstrating in Toronto seven months later.

    The further problem lies in the fact that their stress on ―humanity‖ glossed over the rights trampled over by the LTTE. As much as the various governments of Sri Lanka, the LTTE too committed atrocities during the twenty years of warfare. Moreover, on the authority provided by Rajan Hoole and UTHR one can note that by early 2008 the LTTE had itself been responsible for the deaths of roughly 7000-7250 Tamils.35 This is major blot in the tale of the LTTE in the eyes of several passionate Sri Lankan Tamils. This viewpoint has been presented quite vocally in recent years. When D. B. S. Jeyaraj notes that “the LTTE has brought about irredeemable harm to the Sri Lankan Tamil people,”36 he is expressing the position of a substantial number of Tamils at home and abroad who are ranged against another substantial group who remain staunchly attached to the Tamil Tiger project (even now in 2010).

In overview, therefore, the cunning slogans and colours deployed by the Voice of Tamils activists at Manuka Oval amounted to an exercise in bad faith. Their demonstration involved a subterfuge, an act of duplicity.


1 This paper was presented to the 18th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia in Adelaide 5-8 July 2010. It has been peer reviewed via a double blind referee process and appears on the Conference Proceedings Website by the permission of the author who retains copyright. This paper may be downloaded for fair use under the Copyright Act (1954), its later amendments and other relevant legislation.


3 See Rosenberg n. d. and Tristam n. d. More recently, on 3 March 2009 a body of Islamic militants attacked the convoy bearing Sri Lankan cricketers and International Cricket Council officials to the stadium at Lahore. But it is a remarkable moment because no organisation has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack so that our reviews have to work through groping surmise within the cumulus clouds that permeate Pakistani politics and its journalese.

4 Richard Spencer, article in 7871344/Black-September-terrorist-who-masterminded-the-Munich-massacre-dead-in-Syria html. The leader, Daoud, survived one assassination attempt and died of natural causes in early July 2010. But it is believed others involved in the Munich operation was assassinated by Mossad agents (see Noam Shalev n. d.).

5 My interpretation can be found in Roberts 2006a. For other views, see Wilson 2000, Kearney 1967, K. M. de Silva 1998, L. Sabaratnam 2001, T. Sabaratnam 2003, De Votta 2004 and Wickremasinghe 2006. For critical specifics, see C. R. de Silva 1974 & 1979 and Aloysius Pieris, s.j., 2007.

6 Here drawing on my experiences in Sri Lanka while teaching at the University of Peradeniya from 1966-75.

7 See photographs courtesy of Lal Samuel.

8 See photographs that dropped into my email box from on high.

9 Roberts, ―Suicide for political cause,‖ in Roberts, Fire and storm, 2010e, chap. 23 reproduced from http://www.transcurrents. com, April 2009; Sam Jones 2009; Joyce & Bell 2009; and Desichoot, “Flames on my body will guide to liberation,” ‖ world/flames-my-body-will-guide-liberation. Again, a young journalist immolated himself in Chennai with a striking personal testimony (Muthukumar 2009).

10 Information provided by mail by Omar Nawaz, Ranjan Rodrigo and N. Jasentuliyana respectively.

11 See Ragavan 2009a and 2009b; Roberts, ―Caste threads,‖ 2010a and Sabaratnam 2009 amplified by chats with Suriaykumaran (see fn. 11 below)..

12 Skype Interview with N. Suriyakumaran, 19 July 209. Suriyakumaran was in London from 1971-81 and was active in Tamil and Left circles in the late 1970s. He was among those who organised a cultural festival with the aid of funds given by the Libyan Embassy.

13 Information on Ratnasabapathy was gathered from Varadakumar and Visahan of the Tamil Information Centre in London during conversations in March 2007; and from conversations with Dayan Jayatilleke. Also Narayan Swamy 1994: 30, 91, 97-98, 100-02.

14 The training was provided by PLO and PFLP. Among those who received such training were Ratnasabāpathy, Suresh Prēmachandran, Pathmanabhā, Douglas Dēvananda, Arular, Shankar Rajee, Shānthan, Uma Māheswaran and Viswēswaran. Prēmachandran, Pathmanabhā, Shānthan and Dēvananda helped found EPRLF subsequently. Māheswaran and Viswēswaran were members of LTTE and went as to Lebanon as part of a deal between EROS and the Tigers which broke down mid-way (email memoranda from Dayan Jayatilleka and Ragavan, 4 July 2009). Also see Narayan Swamy 1994: 60, 100-05.

15 They did not tell the English public that the plantation workers mostly resided in the hill-country districts and were relatively recent migrants who had separate political parties. Nor did they mark the status gap between most SL Tamil and these ―Indian Tamils‖ (to use an archaic census category) which was the foundation for this broad differentiation—albeit differentiation that was partially modified by language affinities and their respective status as “minorities.”

16 See Roberts, “Forces and strands,” 2006b and “Landmarks,” 2007a.

17 Chanmugam is, in fact, a venerable Tamil name. This branch of Colombo-bred Tamils had intermarried with Burghers, while their Westernized life-style and schooling at S. Thomas College could, arguably, be said to have transformed them into de-Tamilicized Tamils. Whether for this reason or because of physical appearance, the Tamil activists do not seem to have treated Dennis as Tamil.

18 I have been assisted by email communications from Ranjit Fernando and telephone chats with Anura Tennekoon and D. S. de Silva (March 2010) as well as two photographs in my possession (see Essaying Cricket, 2006, plates 33-36). Note that the SL cricketers took the protest in their stride and suffered no stress at all. Their batting performance, in fact, surprised observers.

19 Pathmanathan played for Oxford and subsequently played for Cambridge when he was pursuing his postgraduate studies, so he is one of the few cricketers to receive a Double Blue.

20 ―Most of the batsmen in contention for World Cup were in the runs against visiting teams …such as India, West Indies etc. As Gajan was away he did not play in any of these tours … [and I] don’t think he was in contention‖ (email from Ranjit Fernando, 29 March 2010).

21 I reached this series of conclusions on a priori grounds, but it has since been confirmed by detailed email notes from Ranjit Fernando and a telephone chat with Anura Tennekoon. Tennekoon (who captained the side) stressed that in those days a tour of England was a rarity and it was felt that Pathmanathan was already gaining experience on the English circuit, so that players battling it out within Lanka deserved this opportunity.

22 See Roberts, “Landmarks,” 2007 and “Wunderkidz,” 2009a.

23 As a spectator I have vivid images of Duleep Mendis taking on Venkatraghavan at the St. Anthony‘s Ground in Kandy and of the technical skill displayed by Tennekoon, Wettimnuy and others in matches in Colombo.

24 I have not kept notes. NB: the complainants do not seem to have been aware that Russel Arnold is a Tamil from a family of Methodist persuasion albeit educated at St. Peter‘s College, Colombo. Significantly, Arnold and Angelo Mathews feature in the catholic claims of those who composed the Wikpedia entry on Tamils in Sri Lanka ( List_of_Tamils_of_Sri_ Lanka).

25 Rajakulendran 2008.

26 As reported by Peter Lalor in the Australian and referenced in Rajakulendran 2008.

27 Rajakulendran 2008. However, in photograph a red flag can be seen prominently. This is not a LTTE flag and has clearly been fashioned to suit the tactics of the moment – like the shirts.

28 As indicated by Rajakulendran 2008.

29 Email circular to me from SM dated mid-February 2008. This contains messages from a number of his friends, mostly Tamil [to judge from the contents] but including on whom I presumed to be Sinhalese (see fn. 8).

30 Emphasised by SM in his email.

31 Note that at cricket matches in Australia all the Sri Lankan fans do not cluster in one mass. There may be one substantial body in one area or several large clusters, but some Lankan supporters prefer to watch on their own or with a few friends.

32 For illustrations of deliberate media simplifications in Australia, see Roberts,”Boat people as blanket categories,” southasiamasala, 19 April 2010.

33 Re the fallacious constitution of the boundaries of Northern and Eastern Provinces units, which were arbitrarily drawn up in British times, as the natural habitat of age-old Tamil settlements, see Peiris 1991 and 1999; KM de Silva 1985 and Roberts 2005: 16-17. Despite the documentation in such studies, the concept has taken firm hold in Tamil thinking by dint of constant repetition.

34 Email message sent to SM.

35 “[In] my book of 2001, I estimated Tamil civilians killed by the LTTE until then as 7000. I suppose one could add another 1000 to cover the subsequent period” (Email Note from Rajan Hoole, 6 Nov. 2009). His reference is to UTHR 2001.

36 Jeyaraj, “Ex-Tiger Chief  KP who changes his stripes,”, 9 July 2010. The comments and ripostes attracted by this article are a goldmine.


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Pieris, Fr. Aloysius s.j. 2007 “50 years of Sinhala Only & over 175 years of English only: a Christian perspective on linguistic domination,” Dialogue, new series, 34: 19-64.

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Ragavan 2009b “Prabhakaran‘s timekeeping. Memories of a much-mythologised rebel leader by a former LTTE Fighter,” Sunday Leader, 24 May 2009.

Rajakulendran, Victor 2008 “Australian Tamil Youth raise their voice for the suffering Tamils of Sri Lanka,”, 14 February 2008.

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Roberts, Michael 2006b Forces & Strands in Sri Lanka’s Cricket History, Colombo: Social Scientists‘ Association.

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Roberts, Michael 2009a “Wunderkidz in a blunderland: tensions & tales from Sri Lankan cricket,” in Dominic Malcolm, Jon Gemmell and Nalin Mehta (eds.) Sport and Society, vol. 12, nos. 4/5, special issue on Cricket; International and Interdisciplinary Approaches, 2009, pp. 566-78.

Roberts, Michael 2010a “Ideological and caste threads in the early LTTE,” unpubd. Mss, awaiting adjudication.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer n. d. “Munich massacre,” famouscrimesscandals/p/munichmassacre.htm

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Sabaratnam, T. 2009 ―Beginnings of Violence,‖ draft chapter from his book in press — kindly sent to me.

Shalev, Noam n. d. ―Munich operation bayonet,‖ Documentary [The real story of the Israeli payback following the Munich Olympics massacre].

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