18 May, 2024


The Sirisena Saga: On Yahapālana Misogyny 

By Chamindra Weerawardhana

Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

The National Human Rights Action Plan [hereafter referred to as ‘Action Plan’] is one of the best developments that came out of the otherwise jaundiced SirisenaWickremesinghe joint government. A crucial component of the Action Plan was a call to work towards repealing legislation of yesteryear that restrict fundamental freedoms of Sri Lankan citizens.

Last week, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera MP announced a decision that was part of the gradual implementation of the Action Plan – which involved amending a law passed in the Dominion of Ceylon in 1955. This extremely misogynist ‘law’ banned selling alcohol to women. It also prohibited women from working in bars, distilleries and breweries. Samaraweera’s directive was intended at rescinding this archaic dinosaur of a law, which simply has no place in a country that is even parsimoniously serious about gender equality.

What happened thereafter does not require any reiteration here. The first and the trickiest of elections since the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections is on the way, and President Sirisena was quick to jump in the bandwagon of fundamentalist and, in the book this writer has read, thoroughly uncultured conservatism. He used presidential powers to overturn the ministerial directive, reinstating the 1955 monstrosity of a law.

This decision can be interpreted as an effort by Sirisena to reap electoral advantage among the non-urban, and to a very large extent socially conservative vote base. It can also be understood as a decision that helps cement Sirisena’s position as a politico from the rural conservative hinterland, as opposed to the urban, cosmopolitan and to follow the much-repeated cliché, ‘westernised’, types heading the UNP.

It can also be argued that Samaraweera, being the seasoned politician he is, ought to have waited until the end of the local government poll to come up with this directive.

At another level, Samaraweera’s directive can also be understood as precisely intended at appealing at a very specific vote base that would be extremely decisive at the forthcoming elections – the Colombo electorate. This time around, the UNP has fielded one of its most progressive voices, Rosie Senanayake, as the Colombo mayoral candidate. To the cosmopolitan Colombo electorate disillusioned by the Joint Government’s many vices,  a directive of this nature would have meant that their 2015 vote was not in vain. A decision with gender equality and fighting misogynist prejudice at its core implemented by her party would have been advantageous to Ms Senanayake.

Leaving political speculations aside, it goes without saying that Sirisena’s reaction to this directive is extremely pathetic and puerile. It is a move that relegates the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the absolute laughing stock of the world. This decision shows where Sirisena stands on the fundamental rights and freedoms of women.

Reactions by many Sri Lankans on social media demonstrate the extent of the presidential decision’s unpopularity.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/LordDK82/posts/574798699519022?pnref=story

Source: https://www.facebook.com/Supzter/posts/2315351448490961?pnref=story

Source: https://twitter.com/kavindya_T/status/952659144993132545

Source: Click here.

This decision may come as a shock to some, but to this writer, a member of the LGBTQI+ community, it certainly does not come as a surprise.

Sirisena’s misogynist, homophobic, transphobic worldview came to light when he publicly affirmed that it was he who ‘threw away’ a recommendation to repeal Articles 365 and 365A from the Penal Code. His conduct as Head of State has been a sheer disappointment to Sri Lanka’s vibrant, multi-faceted and resourceful LGBTQI+ community.

This decision only adds up to strengthen Sirisena’s thoroughly misogynist credentials, and his disregard for progressive, forward-thinking citizens who voted for him at the 2015 Presidential Election.

Where do we stand, days from Dominion Status Day 2018,* in terms of our political class? Who gives leadership to a highly talented and extremely resourceful people? How can we come out of the abyss of conservatisms and misogyny in the most vital public policy apparatuses? Where do we go from here?

All these and many more questions abound.  Possible answers could perhaps be found in a dire necessity for a new Sri Lankan political discourse that needs to be grounded in a logic of gender equality and justice.

* This writer, a Sri Lankan citizen, refuses to use the appellation ‘Independence Day’ when referring to 4th February. She believes that the ‘Independence Day’ of Sri Lanka should be changed to 22 May, the day on which the Constitution of the 1st Republic was promulgated in 1972, marking the end of Dominion Status. 

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Latest comments

  • 4

    What a joker is she ?
    I.D is 4th Feb or 22th May?
    What a fuss about it ?
    What is it all about this argument?
    Does not make any sense?
    Does it bring any benefits?
    This is polemic?
    Useless argument?
    This type of writer does not deal with real issues
    Look what politics we have now ?
    Do not go back in history and mourn about colonization..
    It does not bring any good ?
    Japan was bombed in 1945 but still come out of it..
    Did not keep mourning like us?
    What is the point in arguing for and against this date ?
    Look we need a green politics?
    Who gives us it?
    Is it UNP?
    Is it SLFP?
    No one except JVP?
    JVP is clean hands
    JVP has talents?
    JVP has skills
    JVP has all team in waiting to rule the country..
    It does not have looters / thugs.
    Did you see any bad thing in them ?
    Did you see them taking public money?
    Why public vote anyone except JVP..?
    How could you vote for thrives?
    Vote JVP to free the country?

    • 5

      I suggest we must believe in people rather than political party. The day that people elect right minded people from all political parties this country will prosper.
      Otherwise every now and then we decide this party is good and that party is bad as we have done in last 70 yrs.
      It is the “attitude and mind set” of the people that need to be changed NOT the party NOT the government.
      Unless you do that we always vote for the wrong person even though we are boast about our literacy rate..

  • 8

    You are dead right Madam . The females in the plantation sector , the backwoods of Uva, Moneragala and Hambantota ,and not to mention the thousands of war widows in the North and the East , are all devastated by the fact that they can’t go to their favourite watering holes to knock back a few martinis after a day out in the fields. Those who have spouses – not taken by war , alcohol abuse or other such trivial matters need to be liberated quickly so that they too could have equal rights .
    They are ever so grateful that fearless persons yourself living thousands of miles away , have taken up their case so effectively .

  • 2

    TG rights are out of the window in USA.

  • 3

    I’m of the view that giving ladies the right to go bars is dsngious trend.
    It could destroy Buddhist culture.
    Ghananasara monk should come out and fight for this ?
    Drink rights for ladies; tights to work in public and open public .
    What would happen for children and next generations.

    • 0

      Sinhalese pundit: What a laugh – Buddhist culture- Dutu Gemunu was the illigetimate son of a so called Buddhist priest – he was roasted in oil,. A sel lipi – Rock inscription- uncovered recently indicate that men had to leave their wives with the temple in the morning and collect them in the evening after paying a ransome- fantastic, free sex, may be by the whole lot in the temple, free meals, where the food items are also provided by the villager and summa income.

      65 years ago, I had to visit a temple in Colombo. Lo what I discovered – there was a youing brought to the temple- you know what for.

      Come on Sinhalese pundit – that is the venerated B uddhist culture Ha Ha Ha Ho Ho Ho

  • 7

    Need not argue over liquor for women; hold a referendum to decide it; let only women vote.

  • 0

    Chamindra Weerawardhana points out how a progressive directive by a minister regarding buying/selling alcohol was over-ruled by the President. Chamindra is losing sleep over SL becoming the ‘laughing stock of the world’. The laughing stock is US led by the comedian Trump!
    Unfortunately Lankan politics revolves around trivial issues.
    Chamindra’s suggestion that 22 May be declared independence day is stretching things a bit far. It was suggested that 04 February be declared National day – the word ‘independence’ is a reminder of servitude. The 22 May 1972 Colvin Constitution was solely to prevent appeals to Privy Councils. Why? Colvin had Kodeeswaran in mind! Colvin introduced the foremost place to Buddhism. Clearly Colvin was playing to the gallery.
    Chamindra pats herself by calling LGBTQI+, vibrant, multifaceted and resourceful. India is about to decriminalise ‘gay’. Any moves in this direction in Lanka?

  • 1

    Miss Chandra Dharmawardane: “In the west where it began FEMINISM is dead. Feminists were women either who could not sleep with a man for some reason or they had reasons to get angry with men, Now, they have realized it things are chaining. Because, unlike in the those good -old days, living is hard. What about the females in Great Britain where you are living. How they are raped and how they treated like scum. Unlike many western countries which are new, Sri lanka and asia has a CULTURE too. IT is not all money and Politically correct views. The westwrn culture grew up financially for one generation Portugal, Spain, Denmakr, United Kingdom all came and gone. USA also came and almost gone now. Sri lanka is poor but we still exist. So, just keep your crap for your self. I don’t think even for you you can not freely in the dark while drunk in London Streets or even in Bad scetors of Belfast. Keep your politically correct craP for yourself.

    • 2

      Jim Softy,

      So Sri Lankans are a shining example of a people with a culture and value system so wonderful? I suggest you hold a mirror of truth and reality in front of yourself…would be one ugly creature staring back. Just look at the hypocritical crap that you are spewing on this forum..says everything about the narrow minded, hateful, bigoted, chauvinistic, racist, sexist, brain washed, insecure, backward(need I go on?) mindset of too many Sri Lankans. There’s nothing to be proud of the Sri Lankan identity these days..Of course you are a lost cause, so none of this will make you hold that mirror to yourself!

      • 0

        Lankan: Sinhala people had a culture until You christians destroyed it. Even ?chandra dharmawardane is talking about Neocoloniolism and christianity comes behind that. LANKAN, you do not know Sri lankan culture. LGBTQ is not western. GO AND see INDIA. Sinhala people knew it. the problem is their political rights and their wish to behave like animals on the road. IT is the same thing about what this woman is preaching here. christian values and the human rights built based on christian values. You people have two billions and have destroyed your cultures and they are on the verge of disintegration. Do not do that to Sinhala and Tamil communities too. It is your western culture which has animal values. for you people Only, Career and Sex.

  • 0

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  • 0

    Do not blame west alone.
    It is a universal problem now.
    Do not say that it is only in west you gave all these problems.
    Today in Sri Lanka too we have this issue.
    Did they come to tell do homosexual or lesbianism.
    It is a universal problems.
    When msn goes against religious ethos or teaching this will take place

    • 2

      Who came up with these religious ethos? ignorant bigots from centuries ago?

  • 0

    If Subha and Yasa’s government does not allow to repeal this archaic law that no one knew even its own existence, the truly progressive women in Sri Lanka should pressure the government to make it compulsory to display this law in every bar/liquor outlet including in 5-star hotels and enforce it strictly. As this would be the end of tourism in Sri Lanka, both Subha and Yasa and their minions will back track very, very fast.

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