NEW DELHI - The Asian Athletics Championships in July looks set to be moved from its original venue as the chief minister of the Indian state that was to play host has refused to organize the meet because of the participation of Sri Lankan athletes.
Jayaram Jayalalithaa, chief minister of Tamil Nadu, said in a statement Thursday that staging the July 3-7 meet in the state capital Chennai would anger people in her province because of the alleged atrocities against the ethnic Tamil minority during the civil war in Sri Lanka.
"Since there has been no favourable response from the Asian Athletics Association, my government will at no cost accept holding the event in which Sri Lanka is also participating in Tamil Nadu," she said in the statement. "Tamils will never accept it."
Jayalalitha said the Indian government and sports officials had been kept in the loop regarding the state's objections.
"It had been requested that they (AAA) update us on the follow-up action with copies of the letter sent to secretaries of union external affairs and sports ministries, but there has been no information from the association so far," she said.
The Athletics Federation of India officials could not be reached for comment, but AAA secretary-general Maurice Nicholas was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India that he would react only after being notified.
"We are yet to receive an official communication," Nicolas said. "We will decide on the matter only after getting an official communication."
Randhir Singh, Olympic Council of Asia secretary-general, also refused to comment on the opposition to athletes from Sri Lanka, who have figured in sports events in Tamil Nadu over the years, including in cricket test matches in 1982 and 2005.
"It is an internal matter (of the AAA and AFI) as we see it," Randhir told The Associated Press. "It will not be right for us to comment on the developments."
On Wednesday, Jayalalitha slammed the Sri Lankan government for the alleged killing by its army of the 12-year-old son of former militant leader Velupillai Prabhakaran after TV images shown in Britain suggest the boy was not killed in crossfire as presumed. The images showed him in the custody of Sri Lankan soldiers before he was killed.
The Sri Lankan government and now-defeated Tamil Tiger rebels have been accused of serious human rights violations during the 25-year war, especially in its final stages. According to a U.N. report, tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the five months before fighting ended in 2009.
Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said last week that Sri Lanka has failed to investigate reports of atrocities and claimed opposition leaders are still being killed or abducted.
The U.N. rights council passed a resolution last year urging Sri Lanka to investigate human rights abuses, as the country's own war commission had recommended. The clergy has asked the council to pass a new resolution noting a lack of progress by the government.