|Letters to the Editor
20th June 1998
"And so Sri Lanka's cricket adoring public has been badly let down." This would probably be the most familiar phrase one would hear these days, whether it be at a five star hotel or from the man on the street.
In 1996, when Sri Lanka won the World Cup, there was a mad euphoria. On their return, members of the cricket team were presented with every imaginable item from clothes to mobile phones; from land to houses; from duty free vehicles to titles. "Our Boys" as they were referred to were virtually elevated to the status of National Heroes.
This writer, in an article published in The Sunday Times of September 15, 1996, pointed out the disgusting manner in which our so-called intellectuals threw their money on cricket fixtures.
Today the debacle of the Sri Lankan cricket team in the World Cup cricket championship has come in for much debate and severe criticism, and various reasons have been given. However, careful analysis would quite plainly reveal that those who mattered in the cricketing arena had lost their heads over Sri Lanka's victory in 1996, thus bringing about their downfall.
It has been repeatedly said that we, Sri Lankans, are people with a very short memory and this has been proved beyond doubt. Sri Lanka could be the best in cricket, so what?
Playing cricket and spending millions of rupees on the game and the players do not befit the urgent need of the hour. Can anyone in his right senses say that we could revel in the glorious victory of Sri Lanka's cricket team, ignoring the most damaging effect such mentality would have on the heroic fighters, languishing in the battlefield in the North and East?
Sri Lanka's cricketers were heroworshipped, but who are the actual heroes of Mother Lanka? They are the young men and women in the Armed Forces and Police who have fought so valiantly to defend the unity and sovereignty of the nation; those who sacrifice their lives and limbs.
Even today, many of them lie in hospitals without either a hand or leg, or are blinded or maimed for life.
Those who wield power and command, live in luxury and comfort without an iota of moral support towards the war effort which is the sole current national urgency. Yet millions were paid to those who played cricket.
It is indeed time someone called 'halt' to the stupidity of an entire nation. Let us wake up from our deep slumber and face reality, wisely and purposefully.
As the cricketers and the authorities get lampooned from all directions, I think it is only fair that some consideration is given to the following:-
It was virtually this team that won us the World Cup in 1996, a feat that we had not dreamt of before that tournament.
Remember also the various tournament victories and the tremendous tour of England last year. They put us on the map and made those snooty cricket pundits twist their tongues around their surnames. The cricketing world for once knew that we could not be ignored and granted us immeasurable amounts of publicity at a time when Sri Lanka was in dire need of a positive image.
So they played badly and perhaps without much conviction - but do we have the right to expect perfection at all times? How easily we sit in judgement as they faced teams that were obviously superior - yes, it can happen. I, having impetuously travelled to see all the matches and therefore perhaps more justified than others in complaining, feel whilst we had good reason to be disappointed, a witch-hunt of huge proportions is surely counter- productive. What we need is a quiet assessment of what the corrective measures should be.
So spare a thought for the cricketers and their families - let us try to remember the better times and work towards regaining the lost prestige. By all means remove the unsuitable but let us not make unfounded personal attacks on them or humiliate them by sending them out through VIP lounges and getting them back through the regular channels - they should always have gone and returned through the regular one.
A Sri Lankan cricket supporter must be exactly that - in good times and in bad. Show them that their achievements of the past, which stunned the world, are not forgotten.
On reading - 'The verdict is given' - by Ms. Kumudini Hettiarachchi in The Sunday Times of June 6, I was surprised that neither Ms.Savithri Wijesekera nor Ms. Sunila Abeysekera had offered a constructive solution to the problem at hand.
The three accused had not only committed rape but also robbery and murder!
It is not enough to make them realise the enormity of their crime. Actually they do not even regard their dastardly acts as a crime.
They should be made use of as a deterrent to others who have even a slight inclination to commit crimes of that type.
The accused should not be hanged but taken once a week bare-bodied in loin cloth to every village, starting with prominent places in Colombo and the suburbs. An announcement should be made in all three languages stating their crimes over a loudspeaker and they should be given a whipping, after which Iodine should be applied to any cuts caused as a result.
If this is done, any prospective miscreant - rapist, robber or murderer - will think twice, nay, five or six times, before descending to that level.
Eugene M. de Silva
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