The political sphere of Sri Lanka, with its feudalistic and clientelist fault lines, is a space where ‘liberal’ political discourses and praxes are unwelcome. It is a polity where ethno-nationalist majoritarianism, in the form of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism, is a sure trump card to succeed in electoral politics. Similarly, affiliations to other conservative religious establishments, including the Catholic church, are extremely helpful in climbing the political ladder. In such a polity, the politician who wishes to stand on the ‘middle ground’, advocate for the rights of all citizens irrespective of ethnicity, language, class, caste, sexuality, gender identity, or any other factor…

The new year week witnessed the drama surrounding the press conference of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe MP and ven. M. Aanada, followed by the subsequent publicising of the news of a heated conversation between President Nandasena and Wijeyadasa. As many analysts and citizens have highlighted, this drama has all the characteristics of an orchestrated critique of the legal status of the Port City — a critique that the government can control, and also prevents a genuine and organic critique from emerging. This spectacle points at a number of realities of Lankan politics that are of interest to the discerning observer.

The Domestic…

Above: Bhagya Abeyratne [left] & Disha Ravi [right]. Sources: Facebook Inc. & The News Minute
Above: Bhagya Abeyratne [left] & Disha Ravi [right]. Sources: Facebook Inc. & The News Minute

The name of Disha Ravi [DR], a 21-year-old climate justice activist, shook Bharat by storm in mid-February 2021. DR is the founder of the India chapter of Fridays for Future, an international protest network launched by Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg. On 13 February 2021, DR was arrested, on the grounds of her alleged involvement in the creation and dissemination of a ‘toolkit’ to support the farmers’ protests, which have been raging since November 2020. …

Nandasena Rajapaksa [NR], the president of Sri Lanka placed in that role by powerful commercial and media interests, recently published a tweet — on equality! Some Sri Lankans who have built reputations as advocates for the rights of citizens who face systemic institutional discrimination, such as LGBTQI+ citizens, have taken to sing praises of NR.

That rights advocates fail to grasp the futility of such inanities is beyond belief. However, if one takes a cautious glance at Lankan society at large, progressive citizens praising fascists does not come as a surprise.

Blind Spots?

Sri Lanka is home to rights advocacy…

It was undoubtedly the most frustrating cinematic experience ever. I watched Funny Boy by D. Mehta [DM] on CBC Gem, during the weekend of 5th November 2020. It is indeed a ‘funny’ film, which does a great deal of injustice to a Lankan Tamil queer boy’s coming-of-age story. Funny Boy is a novel authored by a cis gay Tamil man, S. Selvadurai, who is a member of the global Tamil diaspora, or to be precise, the Lankan Tamil diaspora of the territories of Turtle Island we know as Canada. It is definitely a beautifully written book.

Growing up in socially…

By Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana

photo: ©SDLP Northern Ireland

John Hume has passed away at the age of 83.

Hume is credited for making major innovations in the peace process of the north of Ireland. His contributions are considered as especially vital, in terms of developing a bridge of dialogue with the Irish Republican leadership on the imperatives of a durable peaceful settlement, and also in the area of strengthening links with the international partners of the peace process.

Hume’s role in the politics of Ulster became that of a victor, in the aftermath of the signing of the 1998 Agreement, and the tremendous hype…

Pride 2020 is markedly different from previous years. Apart from the obvious reality that we are unable to organise pride events and social gatherings, the pandemic situation has impacted pride, and SOGIESC rights advocacy in general, in a number of very specific ways.

Pandemic as a ‘grounding’ force? Impact on NGO sector and Philanthropy

Firstly, the pandemic has clearly demonstrated how the most marginalised and least represented segments of the LGBTQIA+ community are on very thin ice — especially on the financial front. Across the world, many people have been faced with severe difficulties over the last few months of…

[part one]

*Published in the Colombo Telegraph on 4 May 2019.

Left to right: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, President Sirisena and Opposition Leader/ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the residence of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Colombo. ©Roel Raymond 28/04/2019

Sri Lanka in May 2019: we have a man in the top job, whose incompetence has been repeatedly proven. He lies like he breathes, lets innocent citizens and their children be bombed in the most brutal way, and travels abroad on private trips. Another equally if not more incompetent man occupies the seat of Prime Minister. Given his haste to use the current crisis to pass his antiterrorism act, it is very clear that he knew all about the Easter Sunday attacks and let them happen. In a case…

Dr Savita Halappanavar (1981–2012)

[to mark Dr Halappanavar’s sixth death anniversary]

Six years ago, Dr Savita Halappanavar, herself a medical professional living and working in the Irish Republic, was denied an abortion. To quote the New York Times:

…17 weeks pregnant, Dr. Halappanavar went the hospital with back pain on Oct. 21 and doctors said she was having a miscarriage… Dr. Halappanavar was told that her fetus would not survive — but that she could not be given an abortion, her husband said. Ireland, she was told, is “a Catholic country,” and it would be illegal to terminate the pregnancy while the fetus still had a heartbeat, her husband said.


Originally published in The Last Round, on 27th May 2018].

As activists celebrate the landslide victory from last week’s referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment; Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana talks to TLR about the result and what lies ahead for rights and equality advocates.

The Referendum on the 8th Amendment has come to an end, and the Irish people have conveyed a very clear message to the political class and the Catholic Church, It is a message that reinforces the people’s verdict from the equal marriage rights referendum in 2015. The political class of Ireland, despite all odds, is one that…

Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana

Political Analyst | Author

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