Promoting sport in East
The Government’s plan to
build an international cricket stadium in Batticaloa as the
piece de resistance to mark the culmination of its mega
development plan for the East is a most welcome move.
It would signal the end of the sporting isolation of that
part of the country brought about by the conflict and signal the
integration of the nation as one cohesive unit participating in
all field of endeavour be it sports, development or the arts.
It would certainly be a crowing landmark in the Government’s
Eastern Resurgence programme to elevate the Easterners on par
with the rest of their brethren in the South. One hopes that
very soon this scenario would be a reality in the North as well.
According to a newspaper report yesterday the International
Cricket Stadium will be the grand finale in the development
projects proceeding at a frenetic pace.
Not only that, the Sri Lanka Cricket Board is exploring the
possibility of holding the first international match in the East
by 2010. SLC chief Arjuna Ranatunga had in fact visited the East
to draw up a blueprint for the development of the sport there.
Who knows if the next Muralitharan or Maharoof or for that
matter an Ajantha Mendis would emerge from the East ? Sri
Lanka’s cricketing stocks can only be enriched by the move. Who
would have thought that the East would be the venue for an
International Cricket Stadium five years ago ? Not even an
incurable optimist would have given a chance for sports to
thrive in the atmosphere that prevailed.
That was a time when large swathes of territory were in the
hands of the LTTE and the only sport visible was the
marksmanship of both the Security Forces and the LTTE waging
battle against each other.
Instead of bats and balls the youth were carrying guns and
bombs. Nay they could not afford the luxury of any form of
recreation for that matter when their only instinct was
survival. Let alone international stadiums they hardly had space
for any outdoor pursuits the guns and bombs laying waste all
land and pieces of real estate which could otherwise have been
converted to sports fields at a different time.
That this time has arrived is due to the singular sacrifice
of our valiant Security Forces backed by steadfast political
leadership to liberate the East from the clutches of the LTTE.
They could now compete on par and win equal accolades for
their skills and talents as their Southern brethren in the field
of sports. All infrastructure and wherewithal should be provided
to these youth to give full vent to their talents.
One should also not lose sight of the long term implications
of this development for national unity. This is an ideal
opportunity for bridge building and coalescing for a common
cause - that of bringing honour to the Motherland.
It would also open the doors for equal opportunities, the
denial of which formed the main grievance for the alienation of
the minority communities from the national mainstream.
This deliverance from isolation is what formed the basis even
in the agitations of the South as exemplified by the Colombata
kiri apita kekiri cry. Sports they say is a great leveller and
the Government has pulled off a great coup by hitting upon this
idea of “Unity through Sports”.
As universally accepted sports has a better chance to promote
racial amity. It would go a long way towards healing the wounds
among the different communities who have been torn asunder for
decades due to distrust and suspicion.
It would also act as an healing balm on the Tamil psyche
which had been labouring under the grievance of discrimination.
As a source of character formation sports more than any other
means would help wean away youth from the rebellion and revenge
Thus the idea of promoting sports in all liberated areas
should be pursued with vigour. This would transform these youth
to being partners in the country’s victories and share in joys
of its triumphs and achievements bringing about a sea change in
our ethnic relations.
The Sports Ministry should get activated and set up sports
clubs and other centres of youth activity without losing time
cashing in on the current goodwill. It is hoped that Sri Lanka’s
cricket will be served even better in the future with the
availability of new talents emerging from a hitherto untried and
As the International cricket stadium takes shape no doubt all
Sri Lankan sporting fans would be waiting for the day when they
can travel to Batticaloa and cheer as one with their Eastern
brethren the exploits of our cricketers, waving Lion flags and
dancing to the beats of papara bands and all.