Three days after the crown prince of Sri Lanka’s ruling Rajapaksa dynasty tweeted an offensive picture of his ruling party colleague Anarkali Akarsha on his official Twitter page that elicited widespread condemnation on social media networks, Namal Rajapaksa is yet to issue an apology or even delete the meme.
Namal Rajapaksa who regularly portrays himself as Mr. Clean, moderate and pious on his social media networks tweeted a meme of himself and a political colleague making crude and sexist remarks about parts of Anarkali’s anatomy in Sinhalese on March 4.
The picture generated a widespread outcry, but MP Rajapaksa completely failed to grasp the magnitude of what he had done, repeatedly later the same day that he was not offended by the meme and that he regularly shares jokes. The matter was exacerbated when young Rajapaksa’s friend Anarkali defended his actions, saying she was not offended by the meme. Anarkali and several Namal Rajapaksa followers then heckled those commenting on the meme as being in poor taste and widely offensive to women many of whom commented themselves, even though the subject of the crude picture herself appeared to be entertained.
In most other places in the world, even neighbouring India, where political dynasties are not unusual, a young politician would be flayed in the media and forced to apologise or resign over the outrageous slight to women, a women’s rights activist told Colombo Telegraph on grounds of anonymity.
“Imagine if Rahul Gandhi did this? Would the Indian media allow it to pass? Wouldn’t there be an outcry?” the activist said.
The fact that Namal Rajapaksa is yet to even remove the offensive tweet, speaks volumes about the impunity he enjoys and the sense of entitlement he has grown accustomed to, another analyst said.
The fact that so many people are willing to laugh this off, the fact that his ‘friend’ Anarkali is not offended speaks to the larger problem in Sri Lankan society. Have we grown so used to political incorrectness and sexism that we no longer instinctively feel the need to respond with appropriate outrage?” the analyst questioned.
Writing into Colombo Telegraph, a reader asked – “if it was his mother the meme was about, perhaps Namal Rajapaksa would laugh it off and let it go. But the question is, would he post it on his Twitter feed? So why is it okay to tweet it about Anarkali? What is it about her that in Namal’s eyes makes her less of a woman than his mother? And why doesn’t this bother her more?”
Immorality, irreverence and irresponsibility disguised as humour. Utterly unacceptable @RajapaksaNamal, the women’s activist group Women and Media Collective tweeted to the President’s son.
Anarkalli tweeted to Groundviews that she was not offended at all and that as friends “we look at memes and laugh it off.”
“You miss the point entirely, it is no less sexist or outrageous because you or he laugh it off” Groundviews retorted.
When Groundviews went on to say that the tragedy of sexism in Sri Lanka was that it was tolerated and celebrated by Anarkali’s handling of the situation, the actress turned politician said “you don’t know him like I know him.”