27 May, 2022


Addressing ECTA With Serophobia & Misogyny: No Way Forward

By Chaminda Weerawardhana

Dr Chaminda Weerawardhana

Dr Chaminda Weerawardhana

Addressing bilateral trade With Serophobia & Misogyny

In December 2015, a medical doctor-turned politician and serving MP, Nalinda Jayathissa, demonstrated an appalling level of homophobia and transphobia in an interview with the Daily News. Several commentators and analysts highlighted the ignorance and insensitivity of these assumptions, all the more worrying when they came from a young MP representing a party with a non-negligible support base among educated youth, especially in university student circles. Despite several op-ed columns in Sinhala and English and letters addressed to the party leadership by LGBTQI advocacy groups, the JVP is yet to clarify whether Jayathissa’s views represent the JVP’s official position on LGBTQI rights, or not.

In February 2016, yet another medical doctor-turned MP, this time a supporter of ex-President Rajapaksa, has sought to score points by publicly demonstrating an alarming level of serophobia. The advocacy website Stop Serophobia defines the term ‘serophobia’ as a manifestation of fear and aversion by certain people towards people living with HIV. Although the term is yet to enter leading English language dictionaries such as Oxford, Cambridge and Collins, serophobia is alive and well across the world. It is primarily the result of a lack of awareness about HIV and of the tremendous social stigma attached to people living with HIV. Serophobia is a form of abject discrimination, and most importantly perhaps, one that prevents open, healthy and informative dialogues about HIV and in living, working and interacting with HIV-positive people.Ramesh Pathirana

The photo

The MP in question, Ramesh Pathirana, published a social media update with a picture carying misogynist connotations, making a highly serophobic comment. A cursory glance at the picture alone suffices to gather the message the MP is trying to convey – a derogatory and pejorative message on (cis and trans) women and sex work. Pictures of this nature are invariably couched in a high doze of misogynist and patriarchal attitudes. Those who post such images on social media never question the socio-economic circumstances that prompt many (cis and trans) women, as well as men to sell sex. It is also ignored that in any society, and especially in the context of South Asian societies, omnipresent class (and caste) factors are at interplay when it comes to people, especially cis and trans women, being dragged into sex work.

The message

That Pathirana demonstrates a high level of misogyny and disrespect for women does not come as a surprise, as he is part of a highly patriarchal political establishment. Cis and trans-misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, an avoidance of a strong discourse on rights and accountability beyond politically advantageous smokescreens, are all part and parcel of that establishment, which need to be fought vigorously. In Pathirana’s case, what is particularly surprising is the level of serophobia which, coming from a qualified medical doctor, implies a record low, an appalling lack of professionalism, and an absolute insult to best practice in the medical profession.

Worst of all, this photograph and its caption are then used to campaign against the proposed Economic and Trade Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) between India and Sri Lanka, appealing, understandably, to a misogynist, xenophobic, serophobic and highly reactionary audience.

The issue

The proposed ETCA, which some analysts perceive as somewhat identical to the CEPA that India previously lobbied for Colombo to sign, is shrouded in uncertainties. This agreement, if implemented, risks being of increased benefit to India than to Sri Lanka, and irrespective of whether one is pro or anti-ETCA, there is a clear need to launch a strong and informative public debate – extending on-going discussions in the English language media to a wider domestic public – on the agreement’s pros and cons, on how it affects service sectors and job security as a whole. Most importantly, what is the perceived role of ETCA in the neoliberal agenda of austerity politics that forms the core economic policy of the Wickremesinghe-Sirisena joint government (WSJG)? How would ETCA affect the rights of employees, and the remaining skeletons of a welfarist streak in public service provision?

These are among many difficult and critical questions, which the WSJG is clearly trying to avoid. Apart from random statements by individuals holding ministerial office, WSJG is yet to come clear officially, and explain to the public what ETCA really entails, how it would affect the national economy, and what Colombo’s strategies are in managing potential risks. Given the invariably dictatorial, arrogant and, to drift to a colloquialism, ‘know-all’ attitude of Ranil Wickremesinghe, ETCA’s foremost exponent, the likelihood of such transparency is indeed next to non-existent.

This is where opposition politicians, economists, specialists in international trade, connoisseurs of existing ebbs and flows of Indo-Lanka bilateral trade, all need to work together to exert pressure on WSJG. It goes without saying that this needs to be done with a strong sense of tact, using concrete arguments, to which WSJG would be compelled to respond. Shallow arguments, propagandist postures and fear-mongering tactics risk preventing a serious, informative and consequently, influential public debate. This, needless to reiterate, would be to WSJG’s singular advantage.

Path forward?

Cultivating serophobia amounts to inciting hatred against a community that already suffers tremendous marginalisation and stigma. Using visual imagery carrying misogynist connotations only serves to strengthen repressive, patriarchal and discriminatory attitudes towards women. Such paranoia is no way to deal with an extremely challenging issue of bilateral trade between a small sovereign state and the highly influential regional superpower. Hopes for an engaged and critical opposition reaction appear to be bleak when politicians resort to cheap hate speech on social media. Instead, it is advisable that Pathirana and all opposition MPs work with relevant specialists and practitioners to develop a strong public discussion on ETCA, thereby forcing WSJG to backtrack on austerity politics, inclination to servility in its relationship with the Modi Sarkar, and its ‘we know what’s best’ attitude.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    [Edited out]

    • 4

      What a load of Rubbish from our Kamal Sarma.
      No connection what so ever and as always off the point. Boring and pointless arguments.

      • 5


        “No connection what so ever and as always off the point”

        When did KASmaalam ever have a point?

        • 3

          Native Vedda

          What happened to our Hero KASama Sarma? His Pointless Points have been wiped away by CT….TSUNAMI??
          Must be grovelling by now.

    • 1

      I take it you’ll feel nothing but friendship from me when I tell you that you’re a [Edited out]

    • 3

      KASmaalam K.A Sumanasekera

      “[Edited out]”

      Thanks for keeping it brief.

      This is the best ever, keep it up.


      Thanks again.

      • 2

        Dear Native,

        It was there yesterday.. But gone today.

        Must have touched a few raw nerves..

  • 7

    RE:Addressing Bilateral Trade With Serophobia & Misogyny: No Way Forward

    “In December 2015, a medical doctor-turned politician and serving MP, Nalinda Jayathissa, demonstrated an appalling level of homophobia and transphobia in an interview with the Daily News.”

    The issue

    “The proposed ETCA, which some analysts perceive as somewhat identical to the CEPA that India previously lobbied for Colombo to sign, is shrouded in uncertainties. This agreement, if implemented, risks being of increased benefit to India than to Sri Lanka, and irrespective of whether one is pro or anti-ETCA, there is a clear need to launch a strong and informative public debate – extending on-going discussions in the English language media to a wider domestic public – on the agreement’s pros and cons, on how it affects service sectors and job security as a whole.”

    Information and Transparency is key. Is the Public getting it? The whole thing looks shaky.Who benefits, by how much, and who loses, by how much?

    • 0

      Dr Chaminda Weerawardhana

      RE: Addressing ECTA With Serophobia & Misogyny: No Way Forward

      Question: Will this increase rape in Sri Lanka?

      Rape in India: Why India is so famous for rape crime?

      Published on Mar 11, 2015

      There’s so much rape cases in India, how do you solve the issues? what causes all these behaviors and why they do it.


  • 2

    I would like transparency and a full discussion of ECTA. Why are they afraid? If it is good for SL and at least benefits SL even if labourers are brought in as coolies or dockyard workers, it must be discussed and debated.

    RW is acting like a fool using phrases like “Traitor” perhaps because of his Asberger’s. But how can RW talk about traitors when he is the one who ridiculed the armed forces along with Mangala S, Laksman Kariella , and Ravi the ethically defective K?

  • 2

    Sri lankan govt as usual hide every thing from the public.

    what ever it is, once this agreement is signed, no one country in the world will be interested in opening manufacturing plants in Sri lanka. Instead, they open manufacturing plants in India where the customer population is high and uses the agreement to export manufactured items to Sri lanka.

    Only good thing will be indian cheap labour will be available to work in Sri lanka.

    So, sri lankan lose jobs.

  • 3


    In India people with HIV/Aids- 2.1 M.
    In Srilanka people with HIV/Aids-4200.

    Ramesh Pathirana has suppressed the details of Population in India and Srilanka.
    Plato is not competent to comment on the Serophobia of this young adventurist;
    The politician in him lends credence to the fact it is a case of Suppressio Veri Suggestio Falsi: Suppressing the truth and projecting the False!


  • 1

    The author has no idea about the Indian trade agreement. This will benefit SriLanka or otherwise this country will have to face isolation and poverty.

  • 1

    Dr Weerawardana

    Given the fact that Ranil is threatening that whoever protests that the govt will sign the agreement ,is a clear indication of the dictatorial nature of the govt and their attitude towards professionals and other stake holders.

    In such a situation people and professionals and other stake holders have very little choice as you suggest but also almost forced to take harsh measures and such similar action to give the message to Ranil and the crowd to so that they will at least give some consideration to opposition of people to this agreement
    That may be only language Ranil and the UNP understand.as can be seen from the way conducting himself he is not a man who will listen to the voice of commoners ( as presently, vast majority of professionals and allied service personnel come from non-elite background).
    and secondly, is there a single neighbour/country that has benefited from having close relationship India.
    when we were about to eliminate LTTE under JR, India invaded our country and we had to suffer for another 20 years and as a result our country still suffering. India was only tried to solve their problems.
    Is india allowing Nepal to develop.
    Can you tell a single neighbour with whom india treat well.
    Now Ranil is talking about creating one million employment by this so called agreement.
    India vast majority are living in abject poverty, and more than 40 million people are unemployed.
    then Indian labour is much cheaper than Sri Lankan labour.
    in such a situation ,if indian companies come and invest here who are they going to employ.
    do you think indians will listen to this sri lankan govt.
    for example ,what action govt of india has taken to stop indian fishing boats illegally entering our sovereign boundaries.
    Under such situation ,anybody with an iota of intelligence can see this agreement is going to benefit India at the expense of and grave adverse impact to our service sectors and other employment.
    Of course, few UNP businessmen and their stooges may benifit, people like Malik samare.
    but for commoners and future generations this agreement will give a death blow.
    instead signing agreement with a country like Germany or Japan or Canada is more advisable.
    Maithee and Ranil who keep on boasting that they have won the West, I do not understand why so called friendly countries cannot be “begged” RELOCATE THEIR PLANTS TO SRI lANKA instead of to China, india, vietnam etc. to solve the problem (because their labour is much more costly and if such countries start investing here of course they will not bring labour but would employ Sri Lankans and so we will benefit.

  • 2

    India and Srilanka’s love hate relationship will never allow to have a working relationship .
    . Srilankans would not like to work under Indians and vice versa.

    When the West orders Srilanka to work with India not knowing the two countries are like waring couples.
    In a divorce court its best for the two countries to go for Divorce as I simply put it.
    Even though the two countries are joined by the umbilical cord the two are Poles apart due to Jealousy , lack of trust , and Hate.

    With China ? No it will not work smoothly due to their work ethics and Humanrights issues.

    Like someone mentioned asking who will be benefitting from this ?? HOPE NOT THE POLITICIANS AND THE HANGERS ON AWAITING TO MAKE MONEY DRAWING UP THE CONTRACTS.

    Any better guesses ?

  • 4

    Ramesh Pathirana is right. LGBT issues degrade and down grade humanity and morality, it’s absolutely wrong, wrong, and wrong.

    Chaminda,[edited out]

  • 1

    There is a skills shortage in Sri Lanka.

    The Indians are our closest neighbour with a closely relating culture.

    Why not get their services.

    With the necessary checks and balances to safeguard Sri Lankan interests of course.

    Hope India also reciprocates with open arms to allow Sri Lankan workers.

    Most of our much loved singers and musicians have got their higher training in India and they have turned out to be much loved in Sri Lanka.

    Can our musicians tap the Indian market?

    This is all about soft diplomacy and good relations with our immediate neighbour which is the best way forward.

    • 2

      Colombo Man,

      There is no shortage of skills in Sri Lanka.
      Our professionals are equals of others anywhere.

      Ranil says he wants to create One Million jobs.
      Importing even skilled persons from abroad will not achieve this.

    • 0

      We professionals can understand the concerns of Colombo Man and his Clan: No more cheap labour from other provinces OR the domestic aides they get from provinces do not know how to cook because the poor ladies have no idea of using curry powder.

  • 2

    There may be skills shortage in the country but Indians are not the answer.
    Country need to address the issue and thats why a regime chage took place.
    ETCA must be laid bare for the masses to see and discussed what is good for us.Nobody wants to be on a disadvantageous side..
    Ranil can not state whether we like it or not it will be signed. Now RW is behaving like a moron within a democratic framework.

    • 2


      Say Google, facebook, youtube, American banks, London Stock exchange, ….. German Bundesbank, …… offer you 1 Billion worth of contract to write software and manage various projects.

      How will you approach the projects?

      Refuse to accept it and run away?

      Will you hand over the projects to Mervyn Silva and retire to Carribean islands?

      Will you scream mother India save us?

      Will you pass the contract to Chinese and get a cut (10%) from them?

      Who would be answerable to the those gave you the contract if anything goes wrong?

      • 3

        Why pose diffulcult questions for people like Thondamans to reply?
        If you had told him to take a ride in the Yal Devi to Jaffna and back on a third class day return ticket, he will know for himself how comfortable and smooth the ride is between Vavunia and KKS and how ithe train is uncomfortable with shakes and jolts from Colombo to Vavunia and there there back to Colombo.
        It will take a day or two of good night’s rest for him to feel normal again.
        That would convince him about the sensibility of ETCA and he hopefully would not come up with such inane comments in CT as he usually does.

  • 1

    ECTA has become another thorn for India suspecting Lankans.
    India’s relationship with Lanka is never a friendly one for many reasons.
    Sri lankans think that India is Tamil friendly and against Sinhala people – It’s not true.
    Sinhala Lankans think India is the # 1 enemy of Sinhalese & SL.-Not true.
    But India is not a friend of any nation in particular. They just use others for their prosperity. Indians are smart people and know how to exploit others and make money for them.
    They are not robbing others but they know how to manipulate, survive and prosper.

    They were poor when we were rich 30 years ago, but Look at them today !
    We just can’t go even near them in any field. Even with all the corruption etc., they worked hard and getting better every day. We have to accept that.

    They produced so many millionaires and even billionaires in the world.
    IT industry in US depends mostly on Indian skilled people. Google boss is an Indian today. Pepsi Cola boss is an Indian lady too. Another Indian became the Judge of the supreme court recently. There are a number of Indian professionals heading companies of world but Lanka couldn’t produce even one yet. (Blame SWRD for that)

    India is the only country which can help us grow. No matter what politicians do, all the Indians are our neighbors and our blood relatives.

    We just cannot severe our ties with them, we have DNA proofs and our cultural links.
    Accept the fact that they are much more advanced, progressive and becoming strong in every spectrum of the world. We should accept the fact that our leaders let us down with Swabhasha Sinhala only thing and destroyed our future and us.
    Otherwise we would have overtaken India in every field for sure.

    No one will do anything for free. India has to get something with this ECTA while we get reasonable benefit too. Give and take policy come in here.
    We should not under estimate Indian technology and expertise. They have nuclear capabilities too. They are rising rapidly and we are going in the reverse gear.
    Go and see the Indian cities..they are thriving. Bombay, Calcutta, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai etc.,
    We are just wasting time talking about 2500 year old rotten, unpractised culture and going down the drain with no real cultural benefit or prosperity.
    We are only producing too many Galaboda Aththe Gnanasaras with our so called Buddhist culture.
    Just go for the ECTA and see what happens.
    The way RW doing things in such a hurry cannot be accepted and he says they have not even drafted an agreement yet. Then what’s the mighty hurry ?
    That only makes people suspicious.
    Indians are shrewd rascals, we know that but do we have any choice ?
    Remember one thing ,We cannot fight with India and survive in this world.
    They are powerful and proved it many a time.

    Let RW sign the damn agreement…it’s not the end of the world. Hopefully it can help Lanka. Even if not, who is doing anything here good for the country ?

    All these politicians are the worst kind the democracy ever have…
    To hell with the useless democracy ! Vote for the ECTA , nothing bad will happen, hopefully. We cannot live like a frog in the well any more.

  • 0

    A suggestion by a Past President of the OPA was circulated among the members of its General Forum at its meeting held on Friday 26th February 2016. It was approved. From what I understood from the content of the paper placed before the General Forum is that the United Professional Movement (UPM) whic organized the rally on 11th February 2016 at the open air theatre of Vihara Mahadevi Park, Colombo, is not against ECTA or FTA with any other country in the world. They insist that a National Framework for “putting our house in order” should be in place before liberalization of the services sector. They are fully aware that the Sri Lanka’s ECTA draft released to them by the Ministry of Strategic Development & International Trade has many clauses with hidden motives.

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