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Lankan state radio stops cricket broadcast

Sri Lanka's state-owned radio station has stopped live commentaries of the ongoing third Test between England and Sri Lanka at the request by Buddhist monks mourning the death of a prominent cleric.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2003 16:54 IST

Sri Lanka's state-owned radio station has stopped live commentaries of the ongoing third cricket Test between England and Sri Lanka at the request by Buddhist monks mourning the death of a prominent cleric.

An official of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation said Sunday the commentaries were stopped to honor Gangodawila Soma, a popular preacher, scholar and writer who died while visiting in Russia last week.

However, the state-run television Rupavahini continued to air live coverage of the third day's play of the final test Saturday. Cricket-crazy Sri Lanka comes to a virtual standstill, and its people are glued to television and radio sets whenever their national cricket team plays anywhere in the world. Sri Lankan players have worn saffron-colored badges and armbands on the field since Friday as a mark of respect.

On Thursday, about 30 monks protested at Sinhalese Sports Club ground, the match venue, against playing cricket when the country is mourning.

Soma died of a heart attack while visiting St. Petersburg to receive an honorary doctorate conferred by the International University of Fundamental Studies.

The monk was popular among the country's Sinhalese Buddhist majority for his openness in espousing their cause during the island's two decade civil war, and for fervently opposing any concessions being given to minority Tamils.

He was also once the chief priest of the Buddhist temple in Victoria, Australia.

Seventy four percent of the island's 18.6 million people are Sinhalese Buddhists and the clergy command a great influence over the people.

First Published: Dec 20, 2003 16:54 IST