THE Sri Lankan cricket team faces up to 1000 protesters at Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test today amid claims by organisers that Australia had helped sanitise Sri Lanka’s brutal repression of its Tamil minority to stop the flow of asylum-seekers before next year’s federal election. One of the organisers, cricket writer Trevor Grant, said the Tamil Refugee Council would stage a noisy but peaceful demonstration outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground to send the message that the Gillard government was supporting the genocide of Tamils for its own political ends. Sri Lanka’s willingness to use its navy to prevent asylum-seekers leaving the island nation by boat was a key factor in Australia’s support for the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Mr Grant said. “The Gillard government needs to take a tough stance on asylum-seekers to the next federal election. They need the Sri Lankan government to stop the boats so Australia is prepared to turn a blind eye to the genocide of the Tamils,” he said. Mr Grant said protesters wanted a boycott of Sri Lanka until Mr Rajapaksa agrees to UN demands for an independent inquiry into war crimes and his regime ends the persecution of Tamils. A UN report has said that during a long-running civil war, at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan army artillery while sheltering in hospitals, schools and other buildings. They had been ordered to go to these so-called “safe zones” by the army, who then targeted them. Many Tamils have been in detention centres since the end of the civil war in 2009. The Sri Lankan government recently refused a request from the UN Human Rights Council to allow the International Red Cross to visit detention centres, Mr Grant said. The Tamils in northeast Sri Lanka are under the control of the Sri Lankan army. A leading Indian newspaper reported in June that three years after the war there was one soldier for every five people in the north of the country, Mr Grant said. The Tamil Refugee Council criticised Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara for making negative comments to Sri Lankan media about the MCG protest. Sangakkara reportedly said that the tour was “about showing the world what Sri Lanka is like now”. “People from outside should really come back and visit. If you don’t see what’s happening on the ground it’s hard to change your opinion,” he told reporters. “We all respect Sangakkara as a cricketer but he would have no real idea how life is for the Tamils in the north and east of the country,” said Tamil Refugee Council spokesman, Mal Bala. (The Australian)]]>

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