The Sri Lankan President has been roundly criticised following homophobic remarks he made at a rally of over a hundred thousand supporters in Colombo. Sri Lanka’s LGBTQI+ community expressed their disappointment in Sirisena, claiming many among them had voted for him hoping for relief from the ‘rampant homophobia’ which marked the Rajapaksa presidency.
At the rally with his now de facto prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, President Sirisena accused his former coalition partner and prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had rejected ‘national values’ for a ‘butterfly’ lifestyle, implying a queer lifestyle.
As well as drawing criticism from high profile Sri Lankan commentators on social media, his remarks were condemned by Sri Lanka’s LGBTQI+ community and allies in a statement:
“The President, who was in a Joint Government with the United National Front (UNF) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, categorically stated that Mr 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 Mr 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.”