26 August, 2019

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Queering The JVP 

By Chamindra Weerawardhana –

Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

At a rally held in Nugegoda on Sunday 7th July 2019, the JVP made history in Sri Lanka’s political discourses of the mainstream. Delivering the final fiery oration, the party’s General Secretary, long-term stalwart, and one of its senior-most personalities, Comrade Tilvin Silva, stated that his party fully recognises the rights and agency of people with non-cis-heteronormative sexual orientations, gender identities/expressions and sex characteristics [SOGIESC]. This was the very first time a leading political party in national-level politics made a such a public affirmation at a political rally. No other major party or politician (including politicians who are themselves LGBTQIA+) has made a public statement of this nature in Sinhala in the past. 

In this sense, Comrade Silva’s words marked a definitive first. The party therefore deserves he fullest credits for seeking to expand its inclusivity in terms of outreach and policy formulation. 

The most significant point here is that the JVP has not always held views of this nature. In December 2015, one of its sitting MPs, a medical doctor by profession, made extremely homophobic and transphobic remarks in a newspaper interview. The JVP’s composition has historically involved a large majority of cis [and mostly heteronormative] men. In terms of achieving a level of parity that suits a dignified and modern political party of the left of the 21st century, it is only realistic to note that Sri Lanka’s JVP has a long way to go. In politically reading the JVP’s newfound interest in SOGIESC rights, this writer would advance two hypotheses.

Tilvin Silva

1. Coming of age? 

Firstly, this policy development can be considered as exemplary of the JVP ‘coming of age’ as a political party of the left in the second decade of the 21st century. Indeed, many political parties of the left, especially in the global North, have been on the forefront of advancing discourses on rights, including the rights of non-heteronormative and non-cisnormative citizens. However, it needs to be stated that affirming support for SOGIESC rights is thoroughly inadequate without an overall and overarching discourse on equality, justice and representation. Less than a handful of women occupy positions of power in the Party’s hierarchy. The JVP needs to come to terms with the fact that in order to become  a modern political party of the left, they need to be prepared to make substantive structural and policy changes. In political circles of the left, the concept of 50-50 party should no longer be a be considered as a luxury available in some countries.             

2. Strategic politicking? 

Secondly, the cynical reading would be that the JVP is engaged in a cautious political game. Since the joint-government came to being in early 2015, its performance has been extremely problematic, to say the very least. Apart from less than a handful of positive measures such as the right to information legislation, it can be very clearly established that the joint government experiment has been a failure [this does not, however, justify the October 2018 effort to overthrow the government through means that were a far cry from best practice]. The joint government’s reaction to the 2019 Easter Sunday tragedy eradicated whatever namesake credibility it may have been clinging onto. In this context, many people in the liberal lobby who originally endorsed the joint government in 2015 have found themselves somewhat lost in mid-air. Circumstances now make it harder for many of them to justify extending support to a UNP-led coalition once again. They obviously see no space whatsoever in the neo-conservative majoritarian-nationalist camp. The JVP, one could argue, is engaged in an attempt to go fishing among these disgruntled elements of the liberal lobby. 

A commendable move? 

Irrespective of what the JVP’s ‘political’ motivations are, the resolve of its high command to extend their support to SOGIESC rights at a public rally is highly commendable. In a socially conservative political context, there is a clear difference between a political party articulating such a policy position at its internal closed-door meetings, or at events held at conference halls,  and what they did here – expressing such a position at an open-air public rally, a place otherwise largely meant for sensationalist [and invariably cis-heteronormative and toxically misogynist] soundbites that amuse the gallery.

The work behind

What was voiced on 7th July 2019 was the result of a long and gradual process, of several rounds of conversations between JVP representatives and several Sri Lankan LGBTQIA+ rights activists. These policy input meetings have been helpful in developing the Party’s policy on LGBTQIA+ issues, and in moving from a place of strong conservatism to a level of openness to discourses on the rights of people who face marginalisation on the basis of their SOGIESC. The activists who took the lead in conversing with the JVP must be commended for their months-long hard work. At a public event held in November 2018, party leader Comrade Anura Dissanayke clearly voiced his party’s commitment to respect SOGIESC rights. At a public rally held in Nugegoda on the 1st of November 2018, the JVP took an unprecedented step, a first in the history of post-1948 Sri Lankan politics, to provide a platform for a leading member of Sri Lanka’s LGBTQIA+ community to address the gathering. Indeed, the bilingual [Sinhala/Tamil] speech made by Comrade Thiyagaraja Waradas, a scholar-activist, co-founder of the grassroots collective Chathra and the Community Welfare Development Fund, was highly appreciated not only in JVP circles and left-leaning queer circles, but also in non-left LGBTQIA+ circles as well as among allies. At the present point of time, we can clearly establish that the JVP has: 

1. Emerged as the one and only national-level political party with parliamentary representation and capability to impact national politics to openly extend support to SOGIESC rights

2. Clearly demonstrated its preparedness to engage in dialogues and interactive exchanges with members of Sri Lanka’s LGBTQIA+ community, including people who may not necessarily position themselves on the left, or centre-left when it comes to their political discourses or affiliations. 

3. Taken steps to create space for LGBTQIA+ community leaders to take the floor, ensuring their agency, respecting their knowledge and skills, and affirming them as valuable contributors to their present-day political discourse. 

4. Taken steps to publicly affirm their preparedness to develop policies that protect the rights of non-heteronormative and non-cisnormative citizens. 

It is this writer’s fervent hope that point C) above will soon be expanded to the granting of nominations to several leading members of the LGBTQIA+ community, to stand on a JVP-led coalition ticket at the 2020 General Election. Time has come  for Sri Lankan voters – especially for the new generation of first-time voters – to well and truly change the composition of their people’s representatives. This involves replacing the serving non-het politicians who cautiously hide their truths to fit into the heteronormative mould of the prototype Lankan conservative politico, with highly-qualified, articulate, openly and proudly non-het and/or non-cis politicians. LGBTQIA+ advocacy of the centre-left can, will, and possesses the resources to, ensure that such candidates’ work for gender and social justice is locally-grounded and deeply rooted in our soil, that they speak fluent Sinhala and Tamil, and are armed with an unwavering resolve to stand for the national interest [with zero drifts along ethno-nationalist and ethnoreligious lines], and are, simultaneously, highly internationalist and cosmopolitan. 

Challenges in SOGIESC advocacy? 

Developments of this nature certainly deserve our appreciation. However, they must be understood, if not ‘read’ with tremendous caution. 

To give but one example, LGBTQIA+ activist circles, in some cases, can be somewhat intimidating spaces marked by hierarchies which, when read from an intersectional feminist perspective, are deeply disturbing. In most cases, such circles follow ‘templates’ from cis-hetero-normative society. In most lobbies that term themselves ‘LGBTQIA+ activist’ the frontline spearheading is done by cisgender gay men. They are the centrepoint, and in order to sustain their agendas, they seek to include  other people within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum along a strictly defined line of hierarchy. To follow this logic, the second priority goes to lesbian, if not non-heteronormative cisgender women. Everyone else in the SOGIESC spectrum, from non-cisnormative women and men, non-binary people, intersex people, and many others are way down the list, and are seldom seen a priority, unless they can be tokenised for the benefit of the cis men [and in rarer cases cis women] running the show. When advocacy for the rights of a highly marginalised and stigmatised minority is hierarchised in such a way, it is inevitable that the advocacy stagnates, and moving towards consolidating rights is made harder. 

The left as not immune? 

The above-mentioned hierarchies of LGBTQIA+ advocacy also exist in left-leaning LGBTQIA+ circles. This is a somewhat less-acknowledged but very palpable reality. In Sri Lanka, the left-leaning LGBTQIA+ lobby [which may also include disgruntled liberals with an occasional leftward drift], is not immune to this reality. However, compared to other segments of the [neo]liberal rainbow-flag-wrapped, urbane, English-speaking [read near-monolingually English-speaking] LGBTQIA+ lobby that would have a better chance of rights advocacy in London rather than in Colombo, left-leaning LGBTQIA+ circles have been more amenable to constructive critique, and to make space for systemically marginalised people and groups in the broad SOGIESC spectrum. LGBTQIA+ work of the left has also been the one and only platform to critically engage with pressing issues such as homonationalism, the specific challenges for LGBTQIA+ rights in the context of the current ethno-religious ferment, and to develop a constructive dialogue with a political party with a representation in Parliament. In this sense, the JVP’s public affirmation of 7th July 2019 can be considered as a significant milestone that the left-leaning LGBTQIA+ lobby achieved this year. 

Cause for concern? 

However, in every possible sense, there is more reason for concern than for contentment. There is a need for the LGBTQIA+ lobby of the left to look at itself more in the mirror, see, acknowledge and work towards dismantling its inherent cis-normativities and gendered hierarchies. As this writer has highlighted elsewhere, there is a clear need to understand the work as a constant ‘process’ and not as an end in itself. This makes it an absolute imperative to constantly delve harder into the question of what it means to develop well and truly ‘Sri Lankan’ forms of SOGIESC work. There is a constant need to explore and innovate, in terms of ‘grounding’ the work in our local context. Yet another crucial necessity is that of connecting SOGIESC advocacy with wider issues of national concern surrounding social justice, gender justice, economic inequities, ethnonational politics, ethnoreligious unrest, foreign policy, border control and more. SOGIESC should no longer be discussed as a ‘fringe’ issue. In other words, meaningful SOGIESC work cannot be developed in the absence of an adequate appraisal of the social, political and cultural conflicts and challenges we face as a country.

As far as the JVP is concerned, the Party’s SOGIESC and, broadly speaking, gender justice-related policy consistency [or lack thereof] will soon be visible, as we move towards national elections. 

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    With corruption rampant in the UNP and SLFP let’s give the JVP a chance at the next elections.I personally will be voting for the JVP not for butterfly Ranil, rogue Rajapakse and madman Sirisena

    • 6
      2

      Don’t you realise that you can list Three Preferences at a Presidential Election?
      .
      So vote like this:
      .
      1. JVP
      .
      2. Nagananda Kodituwakku
      .
      3. Well, with the chances still being that either the UNP or the SLPP candidate will win, I suggest you consider the less bad of the two.
      .
      Note that I’m not trying to tell you whom to vote for; I’m just giving you some information about the SYSTEM. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, tell me so. Not everybody has the time to do all the reading that I do.

      • 1
        0

        Sinhala Man,

        II think, you have misunderstood how the system of election for the President in Sri Lanka works.

        When the votes are counted , at the first round, only the first preferences are counted..if in the first count, none of the contestants got 50% plus one vote,then none is declared elected and gone for the second round.
        In the second round,only the first two candidates are considered and all other candidates are eliminated from the contest, but their second and third preferences are considered,
        If the second preference of a voter is for one of the two non eliminated candidates, then that vote is added to that candidate.
        .If the second preference is not for any of the first two, then the third preference is taken into account and If the third preference is for one of the first two, then the vote is added to that candidate.
        This process is continued for all the votes. and the new sum of votes of the first two candidates are added and whoever gets more votes is declared elected as president.
        At this stage, the 50% is not taken into consideration and the candidate with less than 50% of the total polled could be elected as the president.
        The votes pol;led by JVP or Nagananda will not be counted if non of them became first or second when their first preferences are counted.

    • 6
      4

      JVP has lost the plot. JVP should have held a protest outside the US embassy against SOFA, ACSA and MCC pact, but is singing LGBTQ songs to keep RW in power.

      While LGBTQ rights are a good thing, the fact that UNP and JVP are singing from the same LGBTQ Rights hymn sheet which was crafted to distract from the (neo)liberal US economic terrorism project, and that the US is behind the Easter Carnage is very interesting..
      Here UNP’s butterflies and their USAID and EU funded NGO and Human Rights friends are all on the same page with JVP!

      • 0
        3

        Yes JVP has definitely been bought and sold by US-UK and is are traitors like Ranil and his butterfly clan.Talking of foreign Garbage dumping in Sri Lanka Vijith H said that Sri Lanka cannot send the foreign garbage back to the place of origin – scoring a goal for UK.
        UK garbage should be dumped in the UK and US embassy in Colombo!

        Rather than saying that we need to find out from which UK territory the garbage originated and send it back there- very likely the UK’s illegally occupied Chagos Islands where the US Diego Garica military base, or the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT),
        But rather JVP is playing the same local blame game rather than pointing to the foreign culprits who are dumping garbage in Sri Lanka and causing environmental damage
        Fact is that we need to know the foreign firms and US contractors also involved in the importing of US and UK garbage to Sri Lanka to hold them accountable as well as Haleys, but JVP does not talk about this.
        JVP and FSP have been bought by US and Aussi $$$ also to destroy the Lanka universities with fake protest, too so that Australia can make money off Sri Lankan students who opt to go to study in Aussie Universities..

    • 4
      0

      Butterflies? Isn’t that contradictory?Maybe you should read the article first, Extra cover.

  • 1
    5

    Dr Ranil and his Boys should have at least passed a vote of thanks at the Cabinet meet to acknowledge the good work of Anura Kumara ,if they themselves are shy to come out in the Public.

    Instead Dr Ranil send his Ranjan boy to insult the Maha Sanga by calling them practitioners of Homosexuality with young Samanaras. on the eve of this up coming most important Election in the Mahavamsa History..

    • 1
      1

      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      “Instead Dr Ranil send his Ranjan boy to insult the Maha Sanga by calling them practitioners of Homosexuality with young Samanaras.”

      How do you know they the Mahasangha and their followers do not practice homosexuality with their young Samanaras?

      Are you a miracle man who is blessed with an ability to be everywhere at a particular point in time, , Omnipresence and watch every monk’s amude?

      If so you must be a miracle man indeed.

      • 0
        0

        Dear Native,

        Do you kids and a Missus ?..

        • 0
          0

          Dear Native,

          I meant, Do you have Kiddies and a Missus?..

  • 4
    4

    2020 – President = Sajith Premadasa

    2020 – PM =Mangala Samaweera

    government = National
    99.9 % assured

    • 4
      1

      I agree with you but will Ranil give it..

      • 3
        0

        Lankan – ” I agree with you but will Ranil give it ..” Neither Ranilpaksha or Meeharaka Rajafucksha will give it!

      • 2
        4

        Sajith is the Son of Rana “SINGHE ” Premadasa.

        The lion’s cub can never be a pussycat.

        His father had to fight with the whole world before he got what was rightfully due of. all his blood and sweat .

        So will.his Son

        Vote for Hope -Vote for Sajith

        • 1
          1

          Final Choice

          “His father had to fight with the whole world before he got what was rightfully due of. all his blood and sweat .”

          Premadasa senior had to fight every bit of the way up. Every morning he was ready by 3.45 AM to meet his officers and visitors.
          Fought three biggest obstacles of his life were, JR, Lalith S**t barrel Mudali, and the arsonist Dutta Gamani. Mudali and Dutta took it for granted the highest offices of the country naturally belong to them,— as they believed they belonged to the upper caste, born to rule.

          By being the son of an old prime minister / president do you think he has every right to become the party/state leader? He is a another political dumb kid born with silver spoon in his mouth. He is also a closet racist.

          By the way the country’s population about 21 million. Can’t you find one honest secular humanist as a leader among them other than the political brats, crooks, racists, ….murderers, …..?

  • 6
    1

    “As far as the JVP is concerned, the Party’s SOGIESC and, broadly speaking, gender justice-related policy consistency [or lack thereof] will soon be visible, as we move towards national elections.”

    The JVP will forget all about this subject after the elections. Same shit different time .

  • 4
    1

    Useless JVP. They got killed thousands of youth and destroyed the Country. Now, they play cheap politics. If they wanted to help the country, they had a better opportunity to get rid of the govt during 2018 October revolution. They did not do it. What Losers.

  • 5
    4

    Chamindra: JVP should be protesting outside th US embassy and against the US Special Operations Forces (SOF), and their Saudi friends that own and operate ISIS and that staged the Easter crime in Sri Lanka to get the SOFA and MCC compact signed, and pass the anti-terrorism bill pass to ban protests in Lanka, and turn Lanka into a colony of the USA.

    Nothing against Gay folk – more power to you all, but fact is that LGBTQ identity politics has become a cover and a liberal NGO show and distraction- to mask and push for fake liberal, neolibeal neo-con US imperialist agenda in Sri Lanka by and with US Puppet Bondscam Ranil’s gay but ugly and corrupt butterfly network that are looting Lanka and turning it into an American military base with the financially illiterate Finance Minsiter Managla leading the charge to turn Lanka into a colony of the Washington Consensus.

    The fact is that a crime – like looting the Central Bank CBSL – is a crime, is a crime, is a crime – whether one is Straight or Gay.
    JVP has clearly been bought by the US, both, to suppor Bondscam Ranil and to play LGBTQ identity politics. Hence it has not held any protests against US imperialism in the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka oor tried to educate the people on the Geopolitics of the Easter Crime committed by USA in Sri Lanka.
    The JVP is a lost cause and AKD is a traitor..

    • 0
      3

      Dinuk
      A penetrative intelligent ‘Nail’ on the head, realistic, no holds barred exposure of all the demonic forces operating in the island.

  • 2
    3

    Is the LGBTQIA trying to hang on the tail of the JVP?

    • 1
      3

      gamini, not exactly the tail…..

  • 3
    1

    what are their views on the rights of disabled people?
    can people forget their dirty past as southern terrorists i think not
    the leopard does not change its spots
    the transformation may not be what it seems

  • 1
    3

    The interest and keenness Chamindra Weerawardhana takes to give publicity to the SOGIESC lifestyle baffles me. We are communal creatures. Some leanings and tendencies are more prominent than others. It is natural to be different. It is not usual to be unnatural.
    .
    Do such groups deserve attention at the expense of the concerns of more broad and mainstream population.
    .
    Am I the only one unsympathetic to such groups or is it that others prefer to stay politically correct!

  • 11
    0

    Oh Come On … Doctor Chamindra. Don’t be so harsh on our home grown radical boys. One must appreciate that what they have done is truly remarkable coming as they’re from the backwoods. They have taken a very courageous step in making this historic decision to fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ people. JVP is the only political party, in my view, prepared to stand up to the rising tide of neo-conservative nationalisms in the country. All the other parties, whether national or representing the minorities, are socially conservative and are happily jumping into this populist bandwagon. Now Doctor Chamindra, you’re living the ‘good life’ in the cosmopolitan urban West and trying to bamboozle the local Marxist boys with your fancy theories. It is not fair. It is an overkill by a privileged person. I think one should not be cynical, but feel positive about this ground-breaking development in the struggle for the rights of the most marginalized and silenced members of our society.

  • 6
    0

    JVP is getting ground support now, yet, public have been fooled by UNP AND MR groups. So, what they need is to go grass root level. It is pubic ( uneducated people of Sri Lanka decides political leadership of this nation. JVP has not yet, taken its message to public.. so, what mechanism they have to do it.. We know all TV and Radio are controlled by government: what else they could do now to take it into grass roots. Social media alone is not enough: old generations do not use it.. so, best way is to grass root meeting at village levels..

    • 3
      0

      JVP is the most important party in Parliament, they are the check and balance , they will always be that , but if they move a new Constitution with a senate then they will.be the most powerful.voice and vote of decision making .
      But most politicians will never support a Senate and will not allow a powerful peoples parliament.

  • 1
    4

    Monks & Priest are not marring then LGBTQIA life style males dying in war then when female population is more unmarried without husbands this is instability What is the guidance/ messages for future youngster. is it not the JVP Queering

  • 3
    0

    JVP is the most important party in Parliament, they are the check and balance , they will always be that , but if they move a new Constitution with a senate then they will.be the most powerful.voice and vote of decision making .
    But most politicians will never support a Senate and will not allow a powerful peoples parliament.

  • 0
    6

    LGBTQ is part of MCC – Human rights agenda. So, JVP is behind that or getting money from the civil society. OR CIVIL Society is saying we can give you money and work for us.
    LGBTQ is important for the west whose everything is extremely polluted.
    Sri lanka or Asian countries where Buddhist or Hindu atmosphere prevails, Ponnaihs are made when they are not there. But, they did not fight for political rights, marriage rights, divorce rights and right to adopt children. This may be because of UNP has so many butter flies including the Ranil SAMANALAYA.

  • 2
    0

    In 1971 and 1987, it was the gun, bomb, threat, and violence. This time, they are really showing their love for mankind!!!

  • 0
    1

    Chaminda,
    JVP is not a serious political party. They are an always anti-government organisation. If they were serious about forming a government, they could have won several seats in the 70s and 80s with “peeditha panthiya” votes. See, how minority political parties get their way with few seats in the parliament.
    /
    JVP was created by the then British colonialists and the UNP to attack Sirimawo. That’s why JVP terrorists of 71 were released by JRJ, British orders.
    /
    NEVERMIND LGBT NONSENSE, TELL JVP TO STOP UTTER BARBARIC RAGGING IN UNIVERSITIES.
    /
    LGBT NGO groups are trying to lurk children into their cult which is funded by pedos like wealthy Epsetine.

  • 0
    1

    There are more urgent matters than LGBTQ issues
    that affect only .0001% of population.

    We did not have this sort of issues in Sri Lanka
    until some western educated perverts started talking about these things.

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