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Government insists “butterfly” comments misunderstood

The Government today insisted that the “butterfly” comments made by President Maithripala Sirisena had been misunderstood.

Cabinet co-spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe told journalists that the President had only made references to the people around former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and not targeting a particular community.

“Former Minister Rajitha Senaratne had said it may have been targeting him. So it is clear this was not against any community,” Samarasinghe said.

The LGBTQI community in Sri Lanka yesterday condemned the statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena at a public rally on Monday.

In a joint statement, the LGBTQI community said that President Sirisena had made a series of homophobic comments at the rally.

The President, who was in a Joint Government with the United National Front (UNF) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, stated that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe rejected national values and had entered a “butterfly life” [“samanala jeevithaya” in Sinhala], which implies a queer lifestyle, the  LGBTQI community said.

Sirisena then commented that key decisions of government were made not by the President nor by party seniors but by Wickremesinghe and his “butterfly caucus” [“samanala rela” in Sinhala]. These comments were met with laughter and applause by those gathered on stage beside Sirisena, including Mahinda Rajapaksa who was appointed as Prime Minister by Sirisena.

“As members of the Sri Lankan LGBTQI+ community, we categorically condemn this homophobia openly promoted by the elected head of state of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. This statement makes it clear that President Sirisena has absolutely no notion or commitment whatsoever for the fundamental rights and human dignity of all Sri Lankans. It is particularly disappointing coming from a President elected on the votes of many members of the Sri Lankan LGBTQI+ community who saw his candidacy as a respite from the rampant homophobia of the preceding Rajapaksa presidency,” the joint statement said.

The LGBTQI community called upon all Sri Lankans who respect the fundamental rights of each and every Sri Lankan for equality, justice and dignity to join with them in categorically condemning President Sirisena’s homophobia and public incitement of homophobic hatred.