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LGBTQI community condemns President’s statement

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

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.

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.

They also reiterated that the accusation that the UNF was run by an LGBTQI+ agenda is wildly inaccurate.

“We have experienced the UNF’s own efforts to keep fundamental rights of LGBTQI+ Sri Lankans rights at bay, and to ignore the pleas of non-cisnormative and non-heteronormative Sri Lankan citizens to ensure their fundamental rights. The UNF’s Minister of Justice, to cite but one example, was reluctant to even provide a courtesy call appointment for a delegation of LGBTQI+ professionals, in the aftermath of the Indian Supreme Court’s progressive decision to repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Had the UNF actually been led by an LGBTQI+ agenda, Sections 365 and 365A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code would by now be repealed, and equality irrespective of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity/Expression and/or Sex Characteristics [SOGIESC] would have been enshrined in the Constitution,” the statement said.

“President Sirisena’s statement is therefore a clear case of misinformation, and misleading his own party and supporters. We condemn his use of homophobia to amuse his political gallery. By trivialising homophobia in this fashion, President Sirisena should be held responsible for any homophobic incidents that Sri Lankan citizens may experience in the coming days.”

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.