Aussie opposition seeks asylum for Olonga

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2003, 21:42 [IST]
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Sydney: Australia's main opposition party on Thursday called on the government to grant asylum to Zimbabwean cricketer Henry Olonga so he can emerge from hiding in South Africa. The pace bowler angered the Zimbabwean government when he and teammate Andy Flower wore black armbands at their country's opening World Cup cricket match to "mourn the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe." Both players were forced into exile and have retired by default from international play. Flower is playing out a contract at Essex, England, and will take up a three- year contract with South Australia's Redbacks in September. But Olonga, 26, remains in hiding in Johannesburg - fearful he is being hunted by secret police. Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said Australia should not forget Olonga's courage and he appealed for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to act. "The World Cup is now over, but it is not time for Australia to forget those who were heroes in the World Cup," Mr Rudd told Australian Associated Press. "Flower after completing his season in English county cricket will head for South Australia - this is a good thing. "But Henry Olonga, a black player, has had a different fate. He is currently in hiding in South Africa and as I understand it in radical concern for his life and the well being of his family." "I call on Downer on behalf of the Australian government to organise a sporting scholarship for Henry Olonga to Australia so that he can come here to contribute to Australian cricket and to further his own personal cricketing career. I believe that is the right thing for Australia to do." Rudd said Olonga's life was at greater risk than ever following the victory of Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in recent by- elections in Harare. Olonga's mother lives in Australia where she works as a nurse. Copyright AFP 2001

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