Sri Lanka tours to go ahead despite war alert

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The Independent Online

Cricket tours by Pakistan and South Africa to Sri Lanka will go ahead as scheduled beginning June despite the country being put on war status to fight Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The government will not object to the matches being played. These tours are a commercial venture," said Rienzie Wijetilleke, chairman of the country's cricket board.

Wijetilleke was quoted as saying in the state-run Daily News that the only concern was that the two countries would have reservations about security situation in Sri Lanka. "But I think the tour will go ahead as planned," he told the newspaper.

The government has invoked the Public Securities Act empowering police and military to take any action to save the sovereignty of the country and imposed censorship after putting the country on a war status. The military is fighting Tamil Tigers, who have said they will try to retake Jaffna, their former capital.

Sri Lanka's 17-year war is in the north and the east, although the rebels have targeted Colombo to either kill political opponents, cause economic hardship to the government or to dramatize their homeland campaign.

The matches are to be played in Colombo, the port city of Galle in southern Sri Lanka and in Kandy in central Sri Lanka.

The Pakistani team is due on June 8, while South Africa will arrive on July 3. Both countries are scheduled to play a series of three tests against Sri Lanka and also participate in a one-day triangular tournament.