April 22, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lankans treat cricket as a religion, but the sport has failed to heal wounds of this deeply divided nation despite its ethnically-mixed World Cup squad displaying strong unity. “Any hope that cricket will unite (all commmunities) is a fallacy.”
The success of Sri Lanka’s multi-ethnic team at the ongoing tournament is seen as an example of shedding communal differences, but not many are optimistic that it will stop the bloodshed.
“Cricket is just a diversion, the moment the tournament ends, people’s attention will focus on the daily body count. Sri Lankans have short memories,” says Sudath Perera, a banker.
Sri Lankans toasted their 1996 World Cup victory raising hopes that the bonds of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious champion team would help end the conflict that has claimed over 60,000 lives since 1972.
It never happened.
“There was a bigger sense of hope during the tsunami. All communities helped each other, sharing food, medicine and clothes. The brotherhood disappeared like the tsunami afterwards,” said Anushika Pathirana.
At least 31,000 people were killed and millions left homeless when giant waves struck Sri Lanka’s coastline in December 2004.