As Sri Lanka treads through the consequences of years of economic mismanagement, culminating in a political void and large-scale violence, their cricketers have been at the forefront of this war against the government. They are using their internet presence to extend solidary to the protest, financial privilege to aid the community works, and are not shying away from slamming the ex-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the governing body of the game, pledged to donate US$ 2 million to the health infrastructure, to be split equally between Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children and the National Cancer Hospital.
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Roshan Mahanama, the former Sri Lankan cricketer and ICC referee, was seen serving tea and buns to those standing in the long refueling queues. Last month, after running out of fuel reserves, the country had to suspend its sale for two weeks, making life even harder for the people.
“We served tea and buns with the team from Community Meal Share this evening for the people at the petrol queues around Ward Place and Wijerama Mawatha. The queues are getting longer by the day and there will be many health risks to people staying in queues, (sic),” Mahanama wrote on Twitter.
As the nation continues to spiral downwards, people are struggling to procure essential items, including food and medicine. Mahanama is tirelessly working with Community Meal Share to distribute food to underprivileged communities.
When the waves of violence swept over the entire nation a few days ago, Mahanama was the first to condemn it, urging the protestors to not lose sight of the bigger goal and stop destroying public property. When he got to know about the shortage of albumin 5% – an expensive drug used in the paediatric cardiac ICU – Mahanama managed to procure this with the help of overseas citizens and donated it to the hospital.
But Mahanama is not alone in this fight. Sanath Jayasuriya, a flamboyant left-handed batter in his days, has been very vocal about the ruling regime. When Rajapaksa fled the nation without resigning, Jayasuriya said, “The people from the start have been demanding for the president to resign. But he left the country without resigning and gave power to the prime minister for the time being. So the people will not trust them anymore.”
Like Mahanama, he condemned the violence in some places, and has been a regular presence in the streets. “With the current oil fiasco it is obvious that the government has lost its credibility both internationally and nationally. The people are suffering more than before. President @GotabayaR we wanted a hero not Nero to play the fiddle ! The country is burning wake up!” tweeted Jayasuriya.
Jayasuriya was quick to criticise the police machinery for disrupting the peaceful protest with violence. He said that the primary motive of the police should be to protect the innocents, rather than colluding with the power to quell legitimate protest.
Arjuna Ranatunga, the World Cup-winning cricket captain, too urged the cricketers to join the movement against the government. In his rallying cry, Ranatunga made a very pertinent point about the roles and responsibilities of sports stars in such time.
“Our fans are on the streets today because they no longer can bear the hardships. We must be with our fans when they need us most. Sports stars must physically join the protests,” said Ranatunga.
He also slammed cricketers for playing in the IPL while the country was going through a crisis of epic proportions. “These cricketers are also working for the cricket board under the ministry and they are trying to protect their jobs. But now they have to take a step as some of the young cricketers also came forward and gave statements in support of the protest,” Ranatunga told ANI.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa also offered his support while he was playing in the Indian Premier League.
After the president confirmed his resignation, Sangakkara took to Twitter to share a three-minute clip of people outside the parliament, celebrating their victory.
Featured Image Credit: Cricket Sri Lanka