These are times when madmen filled with hate set off explosives blowing themselves up and taking the lives of many innocent persons. The issuance of this circular is yet another act of hate-filled madness, even mad jingoist expansion imposing this crazy view of culture on the rest of us. Indeed the heading with the word security is hardly addressed in the body of the circular.
This insane circular prohibits the decent skirt and blouse that many women of good backgrounds wear to office, exposing perhaps their neck, bare arms and lower-legs. It scoffs at the sensibilities of many decent women – importantly Islamic women following their scriptural advice – who do not want their body shape to be shown to voyeurs. Our society is so degraded that my wife and daughters do not like to ride a bus, and indeed even trishaws after the driver in separate incidents exhibited his private parts. Only rich women with chauffeur driven cars are safe – such as the wife and daughters of Permanent Secretaries. Many of the common folk get their husbands to take them to work on motorbike pillions. How in a sari now? Perhaps the men at Public Administration want more opportunities to pinch buttocks and touch the bodies of women in buses by forcing them off their husbands’ pillions? Or they want to see women’s midriff and navel in sexily draped saris? Is it to prevent hiding a bomb under a skirt-blouse dress? Now that he has prohibited decent clothing for women, will Mr. Rathnasiri in his sartorial vanity and fantasy even specify the length of the blouse and how low it may be cut at the top?
For men, the circular calls for a trouser but not the pair in which trousers are worn. Does it mean that we have to cut off one leg of our trousers to fit the new uniform? The uniform allows a shirt but not a business suit. I would truly like to see Mr. Rathnasiri in trousers with one leg cut off and no coat or tie at cabinet meetings.
These are times when in a decent democracy the call is to uphold the rights of everyone so that extremism will be blunted. Instead the Sri Lankan state seems determined to expand its stale mono-cultural view of itself, destroying anything that fails to fit their view of Sri Lankan culture, wanting to walk over every deviation from its mono-cultural worldview, the juggernaut of Public Administration crushing to death all different expressions of culture that do not fit their view of Sri Lanka should be. The new discussions on whether ours is a Sinhalese-Budhiist country are a part of this sickness.
I reliably know from sources in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat that this insane circular did not come from the Prime Minister or the cabinet. That leaves only one other authority with the clout to order the Secretary for Public Administration and Disaster Management to issue this vicious circular which surely he would have known (that is if he had any sense) exposes him to ridicule as a pompous fuddy duddy, a man with no sense of the balm of kindness required now to heal the nation, especially our relationship with innocent Muslims who are being hounded at every turn using the Easter Day calamity. It is the same authority that pardoned and released the mad monk, as if to say “Go beat up some more Muslims.” And that monk says he is ready to go!
I write this as an individual citizen although I am a member of the Election Commission. As an individual I do not think our beautiful Hindu receptionist who greets visitors to the Commission with her characteristically friendly smile in a decent flowery frock reaching well below her knees would relish switching overnight to exposing her breasts and midriff the way Mr. Rathnasiri seems to want. We have a lady Muslim Assistant Commissioner who is very decently dressed without showing a single contour of her body. Indeed even Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya will be out of line because the handsome and colorful tunics he wears are North Indian and not count as a part of our national dress.
I know that Mr. Deshapriya is sympathetic to the views I express here. He has already told some ladies who expressed discomfiture over the new dress code not to change anything until we can decide as a Commission which will be on 4 June, 2019. In any case, as an independent Commission we are not bound by Mr. Rathnasiri’s fantasizing circular about clothing.
In the meantime, Madam Chairman, Dr. Deepika Udagama, it would help if you gave us a ruling so that the independent Election Commission can confidently assert its role as the upholder of the people’s rights. In fact I expect your full support because I have seen you in many a forum in Salwar Kameez, the choice dress today of many decent professional women but unfortunately not a part of Mr. Rathnasiri’s vision of a decently and securely dressed Sri Lanka.