Several parties pledge to ensure rights of LGBTQ community in Sri lanka
Marking a historic day in Sri Lankan politics, representatives from several major political parties came together to discuss their views on ensuring the rights of LGBTQ Sri Lankans.
Ceylon Workers’ Congress Leader, Minister Jeevan Thondaman, SLPP MP Premnath C. Dolawatte, SJB MP Mayantha Dissanayake and Freedom People’s Congress MP Prof. Charitha Herath shared their views during adiscussion jointly hosted by NextGenSL and the Canadian High Commission to Sri Lanka. Attorney-at-Law Aritha Wickramasinghe, Equality Director of iProbono moderated the panel discussion.
Premnath Dolawatte, who recently presented a Private Member’s Bill to Parliament seeking to decriminalise LGBTQ Sri Lankans, said he was hopeful that the majority of MPs in the House would support his Bill and join the effort to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community.
“I know the ultimate fight should be for non-discrimination and decriminalisation of the LGBTQ community is only one aspect of it. But, we must start somewhere,” Dolawatte said, sharing his views at the event.
“Minister Ali Sabry has assured that the government will support the motion. Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has also communicated to me that the ruling party will back the Bill. So, I am hopeful that the motion will secure a majority in Parliament. However, it is now with the Attorney General’s Department and those who are aware of the system know that getting a document out of the AG’s Department is no easy task. Also, getting a private member’s Bill passed in Parliament is also a time-consuming process. But, with your support, I am confident that we will be able to get this done,” Dolawatte said.
MP Mayantha Dissanayake from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya said he was in favour of the Private Member’s Bill presented by Dolawatte. “We are a progressive party and we understand the need for change. I briefly spoke to our party leader, Mr. Sajith Premadasa, and shared my views on this matter with him. We haven’t made a formal policy statement on this yet, but we are in favour of this because we want to do the right thing by the country.”
“When this is presented to Parliament, there will be stiff resistance from many quarters. That’s something we must expect. But I, as a Parliamentarian and e person who values human rights, will champion this cause within my party and within our parliamentary group. There are many countries in the world that have made progressive steps in this regard and we must follow those examples,” Dissanayake added
“Addressing the concerns of religious circles will be a critically important step and I am confident that we will be able to convince them by directly engaging with the right information. For instance, this is perfectly in line with the fundamental teachings of Buddhism such as compassion and that should be the basis our engagement with Buddhist monks,” the MP said.
“We inherited a country that needed change. We must now deliver, ” Dissanayake said, adding that his traditional upbringing in Kandy would not deter him from supporting this cause.
Joining the discussion, Freedom People’s Congress MP Prof. Charitha Herath said they would support decriminalisation of same-sex relations, if and when the Bill is presented to Parliament.
“We must engage with two domains to achieve the desired results. One is the political domain and the other is the cultural domain. We can change old-fashioned political and cultural establishments through constant engagement,” Herath explained.
“The technical approach alone will not usher in meaningful change. That is why I highlight the importance of cultural discussions as well to overcome the existing barriers. Sometimes, I feel that these cultural platforms are forgotten by the younger generation.”
“If you look at this region, India has made significant progress in the recent past while we are lagging behind. We must explore the reasons for this and address them adequately,” the MP added
Minister Jeevan Thondaman, the youngest Cabinet Minister ever to hold office in Sri Lanka, countered the argument that culture was a barrier in achieving non-discrimination for the LGBTQ community in Sri Lanka
“There is more than enough evidence from the ancient history that same-sex relations existed then and they were very much embraced many, many centuries ago. There are ancient statues, literary works and many other things to prove this point. So, where did we go wrong?” Thondaman, the Leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), asked.
“The answer is quite clear. It is the colonialisation and westernisation of our ancient civilisations. Their beliefs and values became a dominant factor and we lost many of ours.”
“Culture has never been a barrier to us. It is the colonial mindset that has become a barrier. It is time we understand the reality,” he added.
“I am a member of a minority community and a representative of a marginalised group of people, I request you to take these little victories. It will eventually lead you to the promised land. 10 years ago, a dialogue of this nature would not have been possible. Today, we are trying to sit with you and understand the gravity of this issue,” Thondaman said pledging support to legislative reforms decriminalising same-sex relations.
David Sood, Counsellor, Political and Trade from the Canadian High Commission to Sri Lanka delivered the opening remarks while Bhoomi Harendran and Kaushalya Sendanayaka Arachchi, a representative from Equal Ground shared observations from the civil society perspective.
Heat index at caution level in Northern, North-Central, North-western and Eastern provinces and Monaragala and Hambanthota districts.
Heat index Advisory Issued by the Natural Hazards Early Warning Centre at 06.30 a.m. 27 May 2023, valid for 27 May 2023
Heat index, the temperature felt on human body is expected to increase up to ‘Caution’ level at some places in Northern, North-Central, North-western and Eastern provinces and Monaragala and Hambanthota districts.
Navy update Mullaitivu fishing communities of prevailing issues in industry
The Sri Lanka Navy held a special meeting at SLNS Gotabaya in Mullaitivu recently, to update the fishing communities in Mullaitivu of prevailing issues in the industry. The meeting was chaired by Commander Eastern Naval Area and Commandant Volunteer Naval Force, Rear Admiral Dammika Kumara.
During the meeting, the local fishing communities raised their concerns over poaching by foreign fishermen in their waters as well as illegal fishing practices of a handful of local fishermen. The Navy updated the fishing communities regarding the collaborative efforts undertaken by the Navy, Coast Guard, and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to combat illegal fishing practices.
President spearheads Sri Lanka’s economic revival and seeks Japanese investment
President Ranil Wickremesinghe actively engaged in a pivotal business round table on “Sri Lanka’s Economic Revival & Opportunities for Japanese Enterprise,” where he presented the nation’s commitment to stabilizing and liberalizing the economy while actively inviting new foreign ventures.
The event, jointly organized by JETRO, Japan-Sri Lanka Business Co-Operation, and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Japan, aimed to strengthen economic ties between the two nations.
During the round table, President Wickremesinghe fervently outlined the ongoing efforts undertaken by Sri Lanka to restore stability and openness to its economy, presenting an inviting climate for foreign investment. With a clear vision to attract Japanese enterprise, he discussed the various measures and reforms being implemented to create a conducive business environment for potential investors.
Recognizing Japan’s significance as a vital economic partner, President Wickremesinghe emphasized the mutual benefits that can be derived from increased collaboration between the two nations. Sri Lanka’s strategic location and skilled workforce were highlighted as key advantages, providing a gateway for Japanese companies to expand their operations in the region and leverage the country’s emerging economic opportunities.
As Sri Lanka continues its journey toward economic revival, President Wickremesinghe’s active participation in the round table, underscores the government’s unwavering commitment to attracting foreign investment and driving sustainable economic progress.
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