July 24, 2001

Sri Lankan board assures team safety after security threat

The Sri Lankan cricket board confirmed this morning that the Coca Cola Cup would not be disrupted by the pre-dawn attack on an Air Force Base by the Tamil Tigers.

The Tiger cadres had infiltrated the security cordon around the base, which adjoins the international airport just outside Colombo, and used rocket propelled grenades and small arms to attack Air Force equipment and two civilian air craft.

No civilians were injured in the attack, but the airport has now been closed until further notice and a curfew has been placed on all the surrounding areas.

The incident led to board chairman Vijaya Malalsekera calling an emergency meeting this morning at the board headquarters with the team managers and the match referee Cammie Smith. They concluded that there was no danger to the players.

A Sri Lankan board media release states: "Officials in charge of security have given assurances that precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of players and officials, which is of the highest priority."

The New Zealand manager, Jeff Crowe, said after team training this morning that: "It is a concern, but we are professionally advised by the security people here and they have given us their assurances. I don't think that the cricketers or the cricket is a target. I am very confident that the cricket environment will not be disrupted at all."

"It is a distraction, but when you get into the middle and start the game that should go," he said. "Our guys are pretty calm about it. They understand the situation here. When you come to Sri Lanka you are half prepared for this happening."

The Indian manager A.N. Mate said that: "The board have assured us that the security at both the hotel and the ground will be increased. We are satisified with the arrangements and have decided to play on in Sri Lanka."

There were concerns raised though about the three-Test series that follows and the situation will be reviewed after the current triangular.

This is not the first time that a tour to Sri Lanka involving New Zealand has been plagued by security concerns. In 1993 five players returned home early after a military assassination outside their hotel and in 1987 a bomb exploded in a crowded bus station.

There had also been security concerns earlier in the tour when antigovernment protests took place on the streets of Colombo. Four protesters were killed in clashes with the police, who used tear gas to quell the crowds.