26 July, 2017

Standing Up For The Gay Politician: Mangala Samaraweera On Right Track?

By Chamindra Weerawardhana

Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

At a parliamentary debate on 5 May 2017, a less than pleasant verbal exchange occurred between Mangala Samaraweera MP, the Minister of External Affairs, and the opposition benches, especially with Wimal Weerawansa MP of the Jathika Nidhahas Peramuna. The former was accusing the latter of corrupt practices during the Rajapaksa administration, providing evidence of specific cases. One such case included financial malpractice (and diplomatic misdemeanour) in relation to a foreign trip on state business. The External Affairs Minister was clearly seeking to make a political statement, and so was Weerawansa, who found an opportunity to slam Samaraweera. At one point, a statement came from the opposition benches that the incumbent government was composed of ‘ponnayas’, a highly pejorative term that implies a discriminatory and downgrading attitude towards non-cisnormativity. This term is also widely used as a homophobic slur, and this was the intention of the MP who used this word to refer to the yahapalana government.

An LGBTQI-friendly government? OR NOT?

A number of non-heterosexual politicians occupy high-profile posts in the yahapalana government. However, none of them have ever risen in the chamber to stand openly for Sri Lanka’s LGBTQI community. When President Sirisena openly affirmed “Samalingika yojanava visikalé mamai” earlier this year, each and every one of the cis gay MPs and ministers [and those in ‘even higher’ office] maintained pin-drop silence. At election campaigns and in their day-to-day lives, the majority of cis gay MPs present themselves as ‘heterosexual’ – being legally married to cis women. In sum, present-day Sri Lanka does have a segment of the political class that is non-heteronormative, but it is composed of individuals who are cautious to NEVER affirm their non-heteronormativity in public.

Samaraweera as the exception?

In this context, Samaraweera has been the exception. A cabinet minister since 1994 (with a number of interruptions in between spent in the opposition benches), Samaraweera has never sought to hide his sexual orientation behind a cis-heteronormative marriage. In 2016, under his purview, Sri Lanka made the exemplary decision of voting in favour of the appointment of the UN’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression (SOGIE) Special Expert. Sri Lanka was also the only country in the South Asian region to vote in favour of the Special Expert. This decision is extremely important, as Sri Lanka’s foreign policy apparatus has a long-standing habit of brushing SOGIE issues directly under the carpet. They did so with skill, for example, at the 2013 Commonwealth summit, making sure that no SOGIE issues were openly raised during the summit proceedings held in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s endorsement of the SOGIE Expert is therefore a crucial and highly significant foreign policy decision, which ought to preferably mark the development of a stronger emphasis on fundamental rights, with a strong SOGIE component. That the Special Expert who was eventually appointed, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, is a distinguished academic and a citizen of the Kingdom of Thailand, a country with which Sri Lanka shares centuries-long ties of kinship, shared sociocultural, artistic and religious traditions, is also of tremendous significance.

Problematic elements of Yahapalana Foreign policy?

The exemplary nature of the SOGIE vote, however, does not transpire in many other foreign policy decisions of the yahapalana government. As this writer has noted in previous writing to the press, foreign policy under Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mangala Samaraweera leaves a great deal to be desired. Some aspects of foreign policy management involve a bleak understanding of strategic priorities, and a lack of thinking ‘beyond the box’ of conventional foreign policy trends of a bygone era. The effort to produce the polar opposite of the previous administration is yet another pitfall. The continuity of an external affairs budget-burden to sustain a ‘white-elephant-foreign-affairs-structure’ that Sri Lanka simply cannot afford is an issue that is largely overlooked. Deeper problems remain when negotiating the fine balance between national sovereignty, regional cooperation and global priorities, in one of the least supra-nationally integrated regions of the world.

However, and despite all these issues and more, a mere cursory glance suffices to admit the fact that the present foreign policy approach is much more disciplined and dignified than what preceded, especially during President Rajapaksa’s second mandate (2010-08/01/2015). In this sense, the Samaraweera-Wickremesinghe duo deserve a word of commendation in carrying themselves with a decedent level of decorum on the world stage.

Samaraweera’s response in Parliament, 5 May 2017

Returning to the above-mentioned parliamentary debate, Samaraweera marked himself out in an exemplary manner when the word ‘ponnaya’ was thrown at him. He immediately responded that he is happier to be a ‘ponnaya’ than a thug, thief or a murderer. The parliament of Sri Lanka, with a highly disproportionate number of cis-hetero-normative men, is an extremely homophobic and transphobic, and indeed heavily [cis and trans]misogynist place. In a context of that nature, making a statement that ‘assumes’ one’s non-hetero-normativity from the frontbench is a brave and laudable feet indeed.

මිනීමරුවාට වඩා පොන්නයා ගෞරවනීයයි ! from Voice Tube on Vimeo.

Applauding Samaraweera

On this occasion, Sri Lanka’s LGBTQI community has an obligation to commend and stand unconditionally with Samaraweera, and call upon him to continue this bold approach. The obliteration of non-hetero-normativity and non-cis-normativity from politics, international affairs, local government, public administration, diplomacy and indeed many other vital fields, is something that should no longer be tolerated [and should never have been tolerated in the first place]. No Sri Lankan citizen should have to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity to survive in active politics or, for that matter, in another profession. Being non-cisgender and/or non-heterosexual in no way deprives one of their full rights as a citizen.

Challenging homophobia and transphobia in politics and society

A great deal of work is required in challenging existing approaches to exclusionary, clientelist, homophobic and transphobic politics. In this process, the role of people’s representatives is of crucial importance. This is where Samaraweera’s interjection is important. It is significant despite the problematic nature of the wording used. As mentioned above, ‘ponnaya’ is a highly pejorative term, and is the most derogatory Sinhala wording that refers to non-cis-hetero-normativity. Another way of responding would have involved calling out the homophobia and transphobia of the opposition benches, zooming in on their resort to personal attacks (in this case on an extremely private matter, someone’s sexual orientation) when factual evidence on malpractice is exposed. This exchange also highlights the vital necessity of reformulating parliamentary regulations, best practice guidelines and sanctions against sitting MPs on the use of un-parliamentary language during debates. Use of such vocabulary should lead to consequences, including suspension from parliamentary proceedings for a significant time period and when required, court proceedings. It is necessary for the Speaker of Parliament, the Chief Whips, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, chairpersons of committees the Secretary-General of Parliament, and all other elected and administrative officials to work on a fresh strategy that ensures that homophobia and transphobia have no place in the Sri Lankan parliament. If we are to present ourselves as a responsible member of the community of states in the digital age, it goes without saying that best practice policies of this nature are simply mandatory.

Grounds to strengthen ongoing work?

As the #Pride months approach, in which the world zooms in on LGBTQI equality, dignity, visibility and justice, this incident should provide an impetus for Sri Lanka’s LGBTQI community and its allies across the board to renew, revitalise and reinvigorate the #repeal365 campaign and Queer Liberation activism, developing strong campaigns that are ‘articulated’ in fluent Sinhala and Tamil, making the activism relevant to the local context, addressing specific local challenges, and thereby grounding Queer Liberation locally, and developing a rich, local, INCLUSIVE, and high-quality strategy of ‘Sri Lankan Queer Liberation’ that would be of comparative interest to other countries in the region and beyond.

*A researcher and gender justice activist, Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana is the LGBTQI Officer of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland.

 

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  • 28
    16

    Being gay is not a problem . . But being an incompetent lying piece of crap gay in the government is.. and that’s what Mangala is.. and that’s what most of the gay brigade in parliament who are ranils mates are !! .. including the central bank fraud guy!

    • 14
      1

      Standing Up For The Gay Politician

      As said been gay is not the problem. or the issue

      Why not ask the Minister how his former BF who was his private PA went around with Guns during CBK time?? In obviously Government issued pajero, So much for this fool defending the rights of others when he gave cover to his private PA who terrorized innocent people. Managala is a bloody crook and thug don’t insult the gays.

    • 2
      0

      Few ideas on Tamil Eelam policy on homosexuals

      It is time that Tamil Eelam should decide a policy on homosexuals, transexuals etc. What is the policy of future Tamil Eelam on homosexuals.

      I would like to note following points
      1) As we all know, our eternal leader , V Prabhakaran did not tolerate homosexuals in Tamil armed forces. freedom fighters of LTTE was stripped of all forms of faggots. the guilty were sodomized with rifle butt to much of their dilight and kicked out from Tamil Eelam armed forces.

      Tamils have no reason to renege on Thalaivar’s policy. homosexuals should not be included in Eelam armed forces.

      Second, what about the homosexuals in public life. as a martial race, Tamils do not have fagots. few who there are sissified by genocidal sinhalese policy. So Tamil Eelam should introduce homosexual rehabilitation policy .

      third important issue is the current leadership of Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam is occupied by a fagot Rudra. when a fagot is at the top, entire freedom struggle is sissified. Thalaivar never wanted a fagot to be a leader of Tamil Eelam.Eelam Tamil should find a new leader.
      finally the crucial question. even among Eelam Tamils in future Tamil Eelam there can be homosexuals. what are we going to do to them. Is Tamil Eelam going to tolerate homosexuals or prosecute them. I am not sure. Worse even Thalaivar has not touched the aspect.so we Eelam Tamils have to decide . however we have to decide now before it is too late

  • 11
    1

    Dear Mz/Ms Chamindra,
    So many long and inscrutable words. In our Thomian schooldays we only had “pons” and “gons”. We would have been horrified to learn of the many variations on the theme. However, peace be to you all. If you are happy, I am happy.
    However, I think each cis-hetero-normative cis and trans misogynist honourable member should be locked up in a cell with a non-cisnormative cabinet member for 24 hours. This will enable them to get to know each other properly. Friends do not insult each other.

  • 7
    7

    What about the unmarried fake lawyer and especially fake navy officer?

    • 2
      0

      Are they gay too?

  • 17
    3

    I’ve had some rotten experiences in public toilets in SL. I assume these are homosexuals. I used to tolerate them, unless they try to get physical. Eventually I avoided public toilets or I used ones with enclosures. But once I went berserk! This was at a private hospital. I had a 102’f fever and when some sh!t came right beside my urinal, moving his head towards my asset and I completely lost it. I grabbed his head and almost shove it into the urinal. Since I was in a physically weakened state that person manged to run away. Through investigations we found out that this person is a common nuisance at the hospital.

    That being said, the main reason hetero-men are so afraid of homo-men is because of their own guilt. The way hetero-men treat women from the constant catcalling, unwanted advances to physical harassment & outright rape. Men have been treating women like sh!t. Not looking at women as someones daughter, sister, mother or simply another human being but only as an object MEN OWN. This is why hetero-men are so afraid of homo-men. Now the hetero-men think the homo-men are going to treat them the same way they treat women. This is the ugly truth. Hetero-men think they can do all sort of crap to women but the moment a homo-man even looks at them all hell will break loose.

    Despite some of my negative experiences, I do not have to fear law abiding homo-men just the way women do not have to fear law abiding hetero-men. Homosexuality is not immoral, it is not a choice, it is not a disease it is their sexual orientation. They are just another bunch of human beings. They should have the same rights as I do PLAIN & SIMPLE!

  • 8
    9

    not one ponnaya but five
    but as you say he is the only one quite open about it
    unfortunately his foreign policy is quixotic
    he was an excellent minister when he was in charge of telecom and [Edited out]

  • 2
    0

    [Edited out]

  • 13
    10

    I was under the impression budhism teaches tolerance. The irony is Budhists monks are dressing up as drag queens in saffron saree, and politicians are labelled ‘pons. Gacham saranam gachami,

  • 8
    6

    While discrimination against those of LGBTIQ orientation and identity should be opposed and their rights stood up for, the person who defends them can confer the kiss of death on the cause. A classic example is the case of the Shah of Iran who discredited the modernizing reforms, including in the status of women, that he implemented– precisely because of his role as a US puppet and his lopsided economic policies. The blowback that he generated resulted in the wiping out of even the good he had done. Khomeini was the result.

    We experienced a milder, miniature version of the same thing in 1956 and 1970– and the character of the UNP regime was the cause.

    This time round, the neoliberal, pro-Western nature of the RW-Mangala-CBK troika is generating and will generate a powerful populist-nationalist blowback with its attendant homophobia etc. Mangala is quite simply, the very worst possible champion of gay rights and this administration is the very worst possible advertisement and vehicle for the LGBTIQ community and cause.

    I venture to suggest a great model for LGBTIQ rights advocacy in the sociopolitical context of the global South, is the work and the personality of Mariela Castro, Fidel’s niece and Raul Castro and Vilma Espin’s daughter (who I believe, also happens to be ‘straight’).

    • 6
      7

      Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

      discrimination is part of the life in in the christian/Catholic/Islamic society. but, not in the buddhist or Hindu society./ that is political crap.

      In Sri lanka men wear weird cloths only when they dance something called “daha ata Paaliaya”. That also might not exit now. As it is part of black magic psychotherapy among law country sinhala people.

      Other wise what gays are doing asking legal permision to spread HIV=AIDS because, they don’t have hole, so they use the wrong place ans spread the HVI/AIDS and they want to promote male prostitution and particularly to destroy economically poor -teenagers.

      These things good for the western society which does not have proper culture. but, Sri lanka and India are different. We have our own established culture.

      Even if Sri lankan politicians become weirdos, they would be chased out from the parliament. I don’t think Even Mangala Samarawickram would escape this from his voters, except he has already made arrangements to jump into some UN job.

      The Gay and LEsbian rights are simply a joke in the west. Simply they use sensitive words like discrimination to their adcvantage and to spoil the world. Other than that, what have they done useful to the world. they beahve as the same heterosexual couples except inthe bed room. They wear cloths like weirdos. they have helped spreading diseases and destroying the youth generation.

      They are simply asking political rights to behave like weirdos.

      There are other sexual deviants. IF every one gives into their mental fantasies wolrd become a jungle where only the animals are living.

      • 1
        0

        “Other wise what gays are doing asking legal permision to spread HIV=AIDS because, they don’t have hole, so they use the wrong place ans spread the HVI/AIDS and they want to promote male prostitution and particularly to destroy economically poor -teenagers.”

        This is exactly the monks are doing now….cross dressing and sleeping with other men, spreading AIDS. I heard monks have a unique strain of virus only found in goats.

    • 5
      6

      Dayan Jayathilake is just talking Crap probably to discredit Ranil-CBK- etc.

  • 8
    6

    Manngala is corrupt to the core.

  • 7
    3

    You say the word Ponnaya is deregotary. How come ? what is the word acceptable to you ? Whether it is deregotary or not it is in your mind.

    You don’t allow even people to talk as they please. It has to be only a word acceptable to you. You don’t care about them. You just want to live in your world.

    See what is in your photo ?. You want to wear like a woman and prove that is normal ? So, it is what you want to believe or make true.

    If you use the same logic, why the word ponnaya is wrong ?

    Just think instead, trying to brain wash public to suit your rhetoric crap.

    • 2
      0

      “You want to wear like a woman and prove that is normal ?”

      Budhists monks do that on regular basis. you accept its not normal then

  • 8
    1

    Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana,

    Will keep this post with the archives, and might be useful probably after more than a century.

    SL is not Northern Ireland, and our first target is to reach Singapore which is very near but might take decades or we might not even reach there since we have no clue where our sailboat that depends solely on the mercy of wind direction will take us. It can be Singapore, Somali or somewhere else, God knows probably

    “No Sri Lankan citizen should have to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity to survive in active politics”

    What are you talking about? Our politicians are still going to temples, kovils, churches and mosques to show their religiosity and hoodwink the masses.

  • 4
    2

    There is no much of a Lgbt community in Sri Lanka. So ngo funded lgbt offices are open by schools in order to recruit their members from schools.

    Sri Lanka’s strong cultural values managed to keep lgbt nuisance and its rest of the package’s all sorts of diseases faraway, but now, Yahapalanaya traitorous regime is destroying the great Sinhalese Buddhist culture and values.

    Baggery spreads all sort of diseases. Who the he’ll wants to romance the waste products outlet? It’s unnatural, unscientific, disgusting, and dangerous for both parties.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    सोमस जी (somass ji)
    नमस्ते जी(Namaste Ji)

    Excellent

    धन्यवाद! सोमस जी (Thanks somass ji)
    जय हिंद Jai Hind

  • 2
    0

    Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana,

    Probably you not in the right place doing the right thing. People are struggling here for their primary issues and making both ends meet for decades.

    Let’s keep cosmetic issues for later please

  • 0
    1

    Sadly, because of deviants all LGBTQ people are being villifird. Most gay people just are the same as most heterosecs. Mangala will not stand up for their rights though everyone knows his gender inclination. Why? Because like all others in SL, he lacks the courage. One would think the PM’s wife will be a great spokeswoman but they too live pretend false lives. They have no choice because of the ignorant bigotry and hypocrisy. Then you add deviants like those who take Sadie pleasure in torture and anal rape at places like Batalanda; or those who throughout their career as rugby coaches lived deviant perverted child abusing lives are elevated to extremely close and powerful posts bring this regime a very bad name. Being gay or TG is different from being a child molester like some of these ministers, or being the favoured partner of VVIPs and get plum ministries.Mangala ran amok giving government jobs and took people on paid trips at our expense. Now attacking others for same abuse.

  • 1
    0

    Please note, always use condoms with good lubricants if you have anal sex. Given that TG who want to live a pre op female life mean more than likely that like straight up homosexuals, you also like anal sex and like giving head. Both cases remember HIV rates are still much HIGHER amongst active homosexuals and transition females and males. Females who are manly lesbians use devices and the tongue more than engaging in anal sex. So lesbians carry less of a risk. But then people like Cher and Sonny Bono’s wx daughter has had surgery and has a Penis but that penis cannot ejaculate. But he is taking male hormone therapy has has a beard. “His ” vagina was removed. But in your case if you prefer cross dressing then you have to be careful about receiving it anally.

  • 0
    0

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  • 1
    0

    Ms. Weerawardhana,

    You are trying to re-define what we normal humans consider to be normal. Fever is not normal but need to be treated. So, don’t make fever a new normal.

  • 1
    0

    “A great deal of work is required in challenging existing approaches to exclusionary, clientelist, homophobic and transphobic politics.”

    It is important to understand, being gay is a lifestyle choice. No one is born gay. No gay “gene” has ever been found; compare with obesity, for example. Neither is there any necessity to be gay, since being gay does not promote survival of a species (in fact, it does the opposite). So when people talk about “gay rights”, readers should not equate that with say, secularism or racial equality. The natural attraction of men is towards women (and vice-versa), because that is the only way to reproduce. Meddling with this formula should not be construed as a fundamental right.

    • 0
      0

      Dear Mr. Lester,
      I say Mr. Lester,I am absolutely amazed by your writing. Coming from the greatest Muslim-basher in CT, it is nothing short of revolutionary! Have you been re-reading the Quran, and decided to agree with its contents? Or is it the official Jewish stand?

      • 1
        1

        Funny thing, Muhammed tried to convert the Jews but they refused. That is why in the “Quran” Allah turns Jews into apes. What a silly book.

        • 1
          1

          Ignorant comment from a man who have not read the Quran.

          Read before expose your stupidity

          • 1
            0

            So you are saying your imams don’t know how to read Quran?

            In one of his sermons, Saudi sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, imam and preacher at the Al-Haraam mosque – the most important mosque in Mecca – beseeched Allah to annihilate the Jews. He also urged the Arabs to give up peace initiatives with them because they are “… the scum of the human race ‘whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs…’

            https://www.memri.org/reports/based-koranic-verses-interpretations-and-traditions-muslim-clerics-state-jews-are

  • 2
    0

    Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana,

    You’re in Rome and acting like a Roman is understood. Why expect others who are out of Rome to act like Romans?

    Your writing proves how typical Sri Lankans acts and understand the culture and values of their country of origin once they’re settled in a better place.

    On the other hand, have you asked yourself why should countries like SL legalize LGBT? Sure many reasons might be there but all having roots to EU / US legalizing it.

    Why should always 3rd world / developing countries follow developed countries in everything (not just ones that improves the economy)? When are they going to follow us? Is there any ego issue with them?

    Please come here doctor, and do you campaign and get first hand experience, instead of wasting some digital space

  • 1
    0

    Dr Weerawardhana,

    I am comfortable how we pro-create in Sri Lanka.

    Don’t teach us how the Europeans do it.

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