Lokuge defends decision to send cricketers to Pak

SL Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge said they agreed to fill in for India who backed out not because of security fears but the "dispute" over Mumbai atta

updated: March 07, 2009 10:03 IST
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Sri Lankan Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge on Friday defended the cricket team's tour of Pakistan, saying that the Lankans agreed to fill in for India, which had backed out not because of security fears but the "dispute" over Mumbai terror attacks.

"When it was taken up by our foreign ministry, we had realised that the Indian team scrapped Pakistan tour not because of lack of security but because of Mumbai attacks," he said.

"A dispute arose between the two countries due to the Mumbai attacks. Therefore the Indian government did not approve the Indian cricket board's request.

"Hence we should try not to obtain political gain through these incidents," Lokuge said addressing a gathering at the indoor stadium in the gem-mining centre of Ratnapura in South-western Sri Lanka.

Six Lankan cricketers were injured in a terror attack in Lahore during the second Test on March 3.

Lokuge dismissed suggestions that his government ignored the security threat in the violence-hit nation.

"We cannot work to obtain political gain. On behalf of the government and as a minister I will take the responsibility for the Pakistan tour," Lokuge said.

"When (the dismissed SLC Chairman) Arjuna Ranatunga accepted the invitation to tour Pakistan, we agreed that it was a right decision. If not, we could have cancelled the tour when the interim committee was dissolved as was accepted by Ranatunga," he added.

"But no matter who does the right thing, we have to persuade. They (the Pakistan authorities) assured us in writing that the team will be provided security similar to that accorded to a state leader. Therefore as a friendly country we accepted it," Lokuge said, speaking in Sinhala language.