Michael Roberts, 28 March 2010
During the World Cup in 50-over cricket in 2007 when Sri Lanka was fielding in the match between Australia at the St. Georges ground in Grenada on April 16th a young Canadian Tamil ran across the field holding the Tiger flag over his head. This man was one Maiyooran whose parents had migrated to Canada from Sri Lanka when he was 4-5 years old
He was clearly part of a larger set of pro-LTTE supporters but the only one who seems to have been arrested and then deported to Toronto by the West Indian authorities without any further action by any governmental authority.
He related his adventure subsequently in these terms:
“The purpose I went to watch the cricket matches in West Indies was with the intention to make our problems known to everyone. It was the first time I went to watch a cricket match.
All our people know well what is happening in our country. Even the Amnesty International came up with a ‘plan of action’ during the World Cup cricket matches. However Sri Lanka Government has managed to put an end to that campaign.
Therefore, I undertook to run across the cricket grounds to support the action plan of the Amnesty International and also to bring the plight of our people to the attention of the international community.
I went to West Indies with my friends. My action plan was already pre-planned. National flags of many countries were seen flying in the cricket ground. We planned to take our LTTE flag to see the type of response we might get over there” (Asian Tribune Online, 2007).
Thus, his political statement on behalf of the Tigers had the support of a few other Tamils. It would not have called for much guile to carry a flag or enter the field of play. His subsequent attempt to incorporate Amnesty International into the justification of his action was an obvious ploy. Amnesty Internationalmay have attempted to make their point during the World Cup, but that was a separate, ill-judged and futile venture (Roberts, “Amnesty’s sticky wicket,” Himal South Asian, 2007). They had no hand in Maiyooran’s enterprise.
From the Sri Lankan Tamil point of view, in any event, advertising what they considered to be the just grievances of the SL Tamils was adequate justification for a public demonstration. In this instance the match against Australia was obviously chosen because it was a high profile game that would attract a large audience among cricketing people throughout the world.
Courtesy of TamilNet.com and Asian Tribune
Maiyooran also indicated one inspiration for this venture: “Once our National Leader said at one time that those youths who are living outside has (sic) to be ready at any given time. He said we youngsters should raise (sic) like phoenix birds. It is good that everyone should come with some novel plan in our struggle and try to win the struggle.”
Note the emphasis on “National Leader,” with capitalization. More vitally, the Tamil word for “leader” is “talaivar.” As a reference to Velupillai Pirapāharan (Prabhākaran) it had gathered profound emotional weight from the late 1980s onwards among those Tamils oriented to the liberation struggle. Till his recent demise on the battlefield Pirapāharan was revered in the homes of numerous Tamils of the diaspora and could be said to have possessed a god-like quality in their minds. Take this affirmation from Chandrakanthan, a Catholic priest who lived in the Jaffna locality till 1995 before he moved to Montreal: “Prabhākaran … requests the people to venerate those who died in the battle for Eelam as sannyasis (ascetics) who renounced their personal desires and transcended egoistic existence for a common cause of higher virtue. I have seen hundreds of shrines erected in Jaffna by the friends and relatives of those LTTE cadres who have died in various actions; and the rituals performed with offering of flowers and lighting of oil lamps are those normally reserved to Saivite deities and saints” (Chandrakanthan 2000: 164–265).
Courtesy of TamilNet.com. The float on the right was part of the Pongu thamil festival in Geneva in summer, 2003. Pongu Thamil is translated as “Resurgent Tamil.”
It is against such a backdrop that one must attend to Maiyooran’s conviction that his eye-catching streak across a sporting ground “would give encouragement not alone for us,” [namely, migrant Tamil advocates of the Tiger struggle for Eelam], but would also inspire “many youths of the Tamil Eelam,” that is, Tamil young living in Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern regions.
Dedication to cause, however, can promote fanciful notions. “After entering the field I was very much enthused and happy. I was able to see from the faces of the Sri Lanka team that they showed fear and also were ashamed,” said Maiyooran. One of the graphic images displaying his feat actually demolishes this line of wishful thinking: Nuwan Kulasekera with ball in hand is quite amused and intrigued by the figure of Maiyooran.
Cricketers are not idiots. Those on the field at St. George’s knew that they were not in danger. Maiyooran’s flag-waving was just a minor interruption in the momentous tasks at hand. As with the Sri Lankan team at Kensington Oval on 7 June 1975, it is likely that they simply “took [the interruption] in their stride” as Anura Tennekoon, captaing ing the teamat the Oval, told me (on the phone, 27 March 2010). I doubt if any of the Sri Lankan fielders even thought of following Terry Alderman’s example at Perth by tackling the intruder or of reacting aggressively like Andrew Symonds, who shoulder-charged – and pole-axed — a nude Australian streaker at Brisbane on one occasion.
PS: A correction is in order: most cricketers are not idiots – Alderman injured himself when he indulged in his tackling act and was sidelined from the game for a while.
St. George’s Ground, Picture from web via Google and Grenada Tourist Bureau
Chandrakanthan, Revd. A. J. V. 2000 “Eelam Tamil Nationalism: An Inside View.” in A. J. Wilson, Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: Its Origins and Development in the 19th and 20th Centuries, London: Hurst and Company, pp. 157–175.
Roberts, Michael 2007 “Amnesty’s sticky wicket,” Himal South Asian Vol.20, No. 5.
TamilNet 2007 “Tamileelam flag on pitch prompts paper’s ire,” http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid
Asian Tribune Online 2007 “Tamil Tiger agent invaded the cricket pitch in Grenada to support Amnesty International campaign against Sri Lanka,” http://www.asiantribune. com/index.php?q=node/5382.