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'The news of the attack shook Colombo'

By Sheela Bhatt
March 04, 2009 01:25 IST
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"When news of the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers arrived, it shook Colombo. People of Sri Lanka are aware of these kinds of attacks. War is going on in Sri Lanka and who knows more about suicide attacks than Sri Lankans? The shock receded when we came to know that the cricketers were safe. If anything had gone terribly wrong, then the government would have been compelled to face the consequences. But people were glad that the cricketers were saved," says Muralidhar Reddy, a Colombo-based journalist working for The Hindu.

"When the Sri Lankan team was leaving for Pakistan, nobody had anticipated such an event. The decision was taken by President Mahinda Rajapakse himself," he added.

He said that the Lankan team had traveled to Pakistan after the Indian team backed out, as Pakistan had helped supply military equipment to Lanka and also offered diplomatic assistance in its ongoing war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam..

Reddy, a senior journalist, had been posted in Islamabad before shifting to Sri Lanka.

 "The Sri Lankan team's visit was kind of a symbolic act. The message that was sent out was 'we won't cow down to terrorism and any kind of vested interest should not be allowed to prevail'", he told

The decision to send the cricket team to Pakistan had not generated any big debates, in spite of the turbulent situation in that country, said Reddy, adding that it was an apolitical decision.

Recalls Reddy, "The question on people's mind was, now that India is refusing to go to Pakistan, what will Sri Lanka do? The debate was whether it will follow India's sentiments or take its own decision?"

After the Sri Lankan team's tour of Pakistan was announced, former captain Arjuna Ranatunga was forced to resign due to internal rivalry. 

Reddy, who has lived in Islamabad during the eventful years of the Pervez Musharraf regime, says, "Lahore is the heart of Punjab. It is one of the biggest, most populated provinces. Fifty percent of Pakistan army personnel belong to this area. Elites of Pakistan, who have power, belong to Punjab. The Lahore attack is significant because it's the place where Pakistan economy is prospering."

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Sheela Bhatt