Sri Lankan cricketing star Muttiah Muralitharan on Friday said he had never justified the killings of innocent Tamils in the island nation, the New Indian Express reported.
In a detailed statement in Tamil, issued in the wake of the political row over his biopic titled “800”, Muralitharan explained his experience of living through the civil war in Sri Lanka as a Tamil.
The movie, which stars Vijay Sethupathi, has faced condemnation from political parties and fringe Tamil outfits, with even some from the film fraternity urging the actor to drop out of the film.
The criticism is based on a view of Muralitharan as an “apologist” for “genocide” based on some comments he has made and his support for Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has been accused of war crimes, in the Sri Lankan presidential polls.
Muralitharan said that when approached about the biopic, he was initially reluctant. However, he later conceded as he believed the movie would recognise the contributions of the many people who helped him become an achiever, including his parents and coaches.
Noting that his family started out as tea plantations labourers, he said that it was plantation Tamils who were first affected by the violence against Tamils and the civil war that lasted three decades.
“Throughout the attacks on Tamils in the early 1970s, riots caused by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna insurrection and several bomb blasts, my family has been severely affected,” said Muralitharan.
“My father was hacked when I was seven years old. My relatives have been killed and we have lost our livelihood and been left without anything on several occasions during the war. I’m aware of the loss and pain caused by the war and I lived through this. The movie ‘800’ is about how I survived the war and got selected for the Sri Lanka Cricket team,” he explained.
In this context, the cricketer said that his 2019 interview, in which he said 2009 — the year war ended — was the happiest year in his life, had been misinterpreted. He urged people to consider his comments from the perspective of an ordinary citizen in a war situation, recalling that he had lived through much uncertainty during the war.
“School friends who played with me could be dead the next day. People who left the house, would not return… As an ordinary human being, the end of the civil war has given me a sense of security. There have been no killings on either side for a decade. It was with that in mind that I said 2009 was the happiest in my life,” he said.
“I have never supported the killing of innocent people and will never support it,” he stressed Muralitharan.
He further rubbished the allegation that he did not know Tamil. “I studied in Tamil medium school and can converse very well in Tamil,” he said.
He further mentioned that he was accused of saying Tamils had an inferiority complex compared to Sinhalese in Sri Lanka.
“Since Tamils are a minority, they may feel inferior to the Sinhalese. Even I had an inferiority complex as my parents also felt so. I fought against my inferiority complex and got placed in the Sri Lankan cricket team out of my passion and hard work. Similarly, I asked Tamil children not to feel inferior to the Sinhalese and to have faith in their talents,” Muralitharan clarified.
“Eelam Tamils are aware of my contributions, as an ambassador for the United Nations World Food Program, for school children in LTTE-controlled areas since 2002 and during the 2004 Tsunami,” he said.