Sri Lankan cricket legend Muttiah Muralitharen says British Prime Minister David Cameron has been “misled” about rights issues on the Island and has called on the world to visit the country and see for themselves the progress made since the end of the Civil War in 2009.
The holder of the Test Match record for most career wickets, ‘Murali’ as he is affectionately known, met Mr Cameron during the premier’s recent visit to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo.
Mr Cameron became the first world leader since 1948 to visit the country’s former war-zone of Jaffna where he visited the offices of a newspaper whose journalists had been assassinated and was also mobbed by relatives of people who have “disappeared” over the past four years.
The visit prompted the Prime Minister to demand that the Sri Lankan government “do more” to hold an independent inquiry into rights abuses in the country, a demand that was rejected by the administration of President Mahinda Rajapakse.
Murali added to growing anger within Sri Lanka at what one minister called the “neo-colonial” attitude of western countries.
"He must have been misled by other people. People speak without going and seeing the things there. I go on and off. I see from my eyes there is improvement”, said Murali.
"My opinion is, there were problems in the last 30 years in those areas. Nobody could move there. In wartime, I went with the UN, I saw the place, how it was. Now I regularly go and I see the place and it is about a 1,000 per cent improvement in facilities.”
Murali - an ethnic Tamil and the most potent symbol of reconciliation in Sri Lanka; slain separatist leader Veluphillai Prabhakaran is said to have been a fan - runs the ‘Foundation of Goodness’, a cricket charity he set up in the late 1990’s and which now boasts Sir Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff as members.
"Cricket is the main game to narrow the bridge between the people. But facilities-wise, schools are built, roads are built. Businesses are started. So many things have happened.”
He also suggested that too much attention had been given to the plight of the Tamils.
"This country is 20-odd million people. In the north, there are only one million people. They are getting more attention than the south at the moment."
But Mr Cameron insisted that he had seen with his own eyes the trauma of Tamils and demanded that Sri Lanka open a full inquiry by March into alleged war crimes carried out by government forces at the end of the civil war in 2009 or Britain will lead demands for an international probe led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
But the Sri Lankan government immediately rejected that call.
The irrigation minister, Nimal Siripala de Silva, told a press conference: "Britain cannot do this alone. We are confident we can go before the UNHCR and make our case that Sri Lanka has done enough."BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS