Media and advertising tycoons Varuni Amunugama and Dilith Jayaweera have turned their guns on cartoonist and musician Shanika Somatilake, a vociferous critic of Rajapaksa regime on the social media platform Twitter.
Both Jayaweera and Amunugama are members of President Nandasena Rajapaksa’s innermost circle and played a monumental role in building the politician’s brand as a clinical administrator with their branding prowess that has made the Triad Ad agency the most successful in the country.
Somatilake mercilessly mocked Varuni Amunugama’s disastrous interview with host Alanki in February 2021. Somatilake, who lives in New Zealand, uploaded videos parodying Amunugama’s 1950s views on women and their manipulative wiles, and her outrageous claims that most challenges women faced in the workplace were “in their heads”. Amunugama also debunked gender based obstacles as a “Western construct” and claimed that Sri Lankans were a nation of “grumblers” who refused to view things in a positive light.
Varuni Amunugama styles herself as a self-made woman entrepreneur and advocate for professional, entrepreneurial women.
But in a bizarre set of remarks in the context of sexual harassment, Varuni Amunugama claimed in her interview with Alanki that women had been gifted with the “64 wiles” (64 මායම්) – which should be “benevolently” manipulated to “get ahead”. Traditionally the 64 wiles of a woman in Sri Lankan history and folklore are associated with the female arts of manipulation and seduction. In two short videos she posted on Twitter, Somatilake mocked the remarks:
— 🌱Shanika (@Nikshazz) June 29, 2021
The Varuni Amunugama interview which went viral on social media, was initially shared by corrupt businessman of Krrish fame, Nimal Perera as an early morning lesson in “positivity”. The reception to the interview was exceptional outrage, particularly from Sri Lankan women, who were astounded by Amunugama’s regressive and patriarchal attitudes towards women’s issues and rights. The angry reaction forced Amunugama to return to Twitter after a long hiatus, to refer to her critics as “Twitter maggots” suffering from “patriotic paralysis”.
Somatilake, an electrical engineer by profession, revealed on Twitter that the media tycoon had messaged her privately, praising her talent, and expressing regret that the young performing artist had chosen to mock her interview. Publicly however, Amunugama railed against Somatilake on social media. The feud has escalated since.
Amunugama’s latest media venture, a Sinhala weekly tabloid called “Dharanee” published two huge feature articles this week (July 14). Page 3 of the tabloid featured a caricature of Somatilake in the costume she used in her video parodies, with the headline: “Those who criticise popular people for attention have personality disorders”.
A second article on Page 12 of the same tabloid published by Amunugama and Jayaweera, features a full page image of Somatilake in a two piece swimsuit, attached to an article authored by Professor Athula Sumathipala a psychiatrist attached to the Keele University of UK. The headline reads: Posting Half-Naked Images on Social Media sign of Mental Disorder. Professor Sumathipala remains on the faculty of Keele University and is an editorial member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists official publication. Somatilake has confirmed that her consent was not obtained prior to publication of the photograph, and therefore Colombo Telegraph has made a decision to refrain from publishing the page of the tabloid in full. However, the following is a partial copy of Page 12 of the Dharanee newspaper:
Users on Twitter have already commenced making official complaints to the Keele University and the Royal College of Psychiatrists regarding Professor Sumathipala’s contribution to Amunugama’s hit-piece against Shanika Somatilake, and his role in a major breach of privacy and ethics in the unauthorized use of a woman’s social media pictures.
.@KeeleUniversity this is your Professor of Psychiatry
putting his name against the following headline – "people who post half-naked pictures have a mental disorder" on a national newspaper – is this the kind of regressive, blatant misinformation that you teach your students? pic.twitter.com/khGQzxhAYB
— Kavindya Thennakoon (@kavindya_T) July 14, 2021
Furthermore Somatilake has reported consistent bullying and slander from Derana Media aligned Facebook groups and pages since she openly criticized Amunugama’s interview, including some that refer to her as a woman who went to New Zealand to “clean toilets”.
The attacks against the cartoonist by the Derana media powerhouse comes in the same week that Amunugama’s cheerleader Nimal Perera bullied two young women into issuing apologies to him on Twitter. Perera and his proxies telephoned their parents and employers in order to force them to delete posts referencing his alleged involvement in the Airbus corruption scandal.
In February 2020, police told the Fort Magistrate that a sum of US dollars 800,000 was transferred from a Singapore bank account belonging to Priyanka Neomali Wijenayake to Don Nimal Hemasiri Perera in Sri Lanka. Wijenayake and her husband former Chief Executive of SriLankan Airlines Kapila Chandrasena are accused of money-laundering centred on an alleged bribe paid to them by Airbus for SriLankan to purchase passenger aircraft from the France-based company. The alleged corruption was revealed in a global investigation of corrupt practices by Airbus carried out by UK authorities.
Last year Dilith Jayaweera threatened to sue a young woman for defamation for her remarks about him on social media.
See Varuni Amunugama’s disastrous Interview in Full Here: