By Muheed Jeeran –
It was shocking to hear a public statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena last week in light of an incident which occurred at the Enrique Iglesias concert in Colombo. In his speech President Sirisena suggested that the organizers of the Enrique Iglesias concert in Colombo should be whipped with the tails of toxic stingrays. This is a punishment reserved for hardened criminals (in medieval Sri Lanka) which was a well-known expression of severe castigation.
Never in this civilized world would we expect a statesman to spend his time making serious and at the same time ridiculous statements onsuch silly matters!
Early last year, we backed Sirisena’s campaign during the presidential election as he clearly promised to promote democracy and personal freedom. However, this controversial ideology puts a question mark on his genuine intention of protecting the liberty.
Our local women running on stage to kiss the singer, and throwing their bras, was a matter that in the beginning received little attention except in the social media. It was not widely known in the mainstream media, not at all. But, after the public statement from our President, it is now widely circulated throughout the international media. What was a one-time, low-visibility local incident, has unfortunately been turned into an international incident. This is not good news for the international community, though I assume the President was trying to impress his local media following. Still, I strongly believe this statement should not have been made by the President in the first place.
I was lobbying against the Saudi Government to stop their sentence to stone to death our domestic maid in Saudi Arabia for the crime of adultery. Our government diplomacy was to get the Saudis to reconsider their decision on sympathetic grounds, which was the core reasoning of the appeal. However, we strongly lobbied that the medieval punishment of stoning is not an option in our civilized world. When the punishment for stoning was announced against our domestic maideven our High Commissioner to Saudi Arabia was in agreement with it. This has disappointed many rights activists and our local media. Our domestic maid who was almost in the verge of losing her life is very fortunate because our President’s recent controversial statement has come after the Saudi authorities themselves suspended the barbaric sentence against her.
We expect to hear responsible statements from the Head of State who challenged the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa mainly because of the lack of democracy and personal freedom. He should refrain from making statements that hint at taking usback to a medieval era. Talking about inflicting inhumane punishment which the civilized world is turning away fromis not going to help us promote the image of Sri Lanka among the international community. This will make it more difficult for lobbyists who are always keen on trying to promote the good image of our country.
No one was standing naked in the middle of the stage to further stir up this matter as an overly serious one. According to my understanding, the bra incident at the concert may have been a publicity stunt. 2007 was the first time a female fan threw a bra to him during a concert in Manchester; it appears this might happen at every concert in which he performs. Making a big dealout of a small incidentwill push Sri Lanka one step backwards. I think our President received poor advice, from a group of people who still believe that the pigeon post is faster than technology.
With a President stating that kissing in public is ‘uncivilized’ how can modern day movies be allowed to be screened in the cinemas and televisions at home? Let me recollect an incident of the same singer’s tour to India in 2012. According to news from Hindustan Times, there was so much love in that one and a half hour performance. So much, so that the rock star invited a twelve-year-old fan on stage and chatted with him for about fifteen minutes; he hugged a young girl and even sang Hero to her. India is a country wherea majority of the peoples are from a conservative society and we never heard any serious statements from the Indian Leaders regarding this.
Let us say our President is really serious on barring the so called ‘uncivilized’ activities in Sri Lanka. Then he must issue orders to close down businesses such as casinos and nightclubs rather than being keen on increasing their tax rates in order to fill the treasury. Can you really do that, Mr. President? I bet you cannot as you know at the end of the day that more money in the treasury will keep you in power. Therefore, I hope our President will make responsible statements that will not affect our image internationally.
I think our President is well aware of who the organizers of this concert are. I don’t think anyone can say that our President has no clue about the organizers of this event. The owners of the event company are Mahela Jaywardena and Kumar Sangakkara who are well known cricketing legends of Sri Lanka. Just a few months ago I was at the P Sara Cricket Ground watching the farewell ceremony of our Cricketing Legend Kumar Sangakkara. Our President made a surprise offer to Kumar, the President publicly offered Kumar to become the next High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in London. This announcement raised eyebrows at that time, some observers thought it was not a wise decision. London is the most important diplomatic station in Europe and it requires a person with good diplomatic experience to takeover such a role. However,the President was commended for making such a nice offer to a personality who put a very positive image of Sri Lanka onto the world map. However, Kumar politely refused that offer. And just a few months later, the same President announced that the organizers of the above mentioned pop concert should be publicly whipped. It is bizarre hearing that from a President who promised to promote good governance.
Mr. President, our country must be a part of the global village. After technology has become easily accessible to any corner of the world, competing with other countries over winning the economy is not an easy task. We need an innovative and creative society and these types of events will become core to promoting tourism, and keeping our young, smart citizens working in and for Sri Lanka. It will gradually help to pull more and more foreign investment to our country.