Colombo - Sri Lanka will not allow its cricketers to travel to India to play in the IPL Twenty20 tournament next month unless it gets guarantees from New Delhi over their safety, the sports minister said Tuesday.
Amid anger among Indian Tamils about the Colombo government's treatment of their ethnic kinsmen, the chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu had earlier said she would bar any Sri Lankans from playing on her patch.
Organisers then said that none of the 13 Sri Lankan players would take the field in games being hosted by Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.
Speaking on state television, Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said he was now seeking assurances about the safety of all 13 Sri Lankan players signed up to play in the Indian Premier League, including star batsman Kumar Sangakkara and the record-breaking spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan.
"Our cricket board has written to the Indian board and our external affairs ministry has asked the Indian government for assurances of safety," he said.
"The situation in Tamil Nadu appears to be not good right now so no player will be allowed to go without the necessary guarantees of safety."
His comments come after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had said that she would not allow any IPL matches to be staged in the state if they featured Sri Lankan players or officials or support staff in these matches.
"In view of the popular antipathy and anger in Tamil Nadu against the actions of the government of Sri Lanka, the government of Tamil Nadu is of the view that IPL matches involving Sri Lankan players, umpires and other officials should not be played in Tamil Nadu", she said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"In such a hostile and tense environment, we apprehend that the participation of Sri Lankan players in the IPL tournament, with many games to be played in Chennai, will aggravate an already surcharged atmosphere and further offend the sentiments of the people."
Rights groups have said up to 40,000 members of the minority Tamil population were killed by security forces in the final months of Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009, a charge denied by Colombo.
The Indian government, which has traditionally been wary of upsetting its neighbour, was among 25 nations which last week backed a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council calling for a probe of alleged war crimes on the island.