Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sex, sexism and Lakshman Kiriella

Sex, sexism and Lakshman Kiriella
 May 06, 2017

When MP Geetha Kumarasinghe asked a question from Highways and Higher Education minister Lakshman Kiriella in parliament yesterday (04), he gave her a vulgar answer. She asked as to why the extension of the southern highway from Matara to Beliatte was yet to be completed. Minister Kiriella gave a lewd answer, saying the work was on its final stage, and that if needed he could accompany her to inspect the work. MPs who relish immorality welcomed his remark with laughter. It cannot be surmised that parliament comprised babies who could not understand the double-meaning of what Kiriella said. But, when a female MP was ridiculed at the country’s most supreme institution merely because of being a woman, there was no one to oppose it. That is how things work in a Sri Lanka that boasts about its culture and civilization.

Geetha could be the member of the joint opposition or any other group, but that is irrelevant here. Also, the court ruling against her parliamentary seat because of her dual citizenship is irrelevant here. The question here is the different treatment meted out based on one’s gender. The elderly minister Kiriella might have seen Geetha Kumarasinghe not as an MP, but as the sexy actress Geetha Kumarasinghe of the past, her body only. Just like it is commonly seen in this country, where it is boasted that Sri Lanka is the noblest country in the world, a woman was seen by Kiriella as merely a toy. The respect she deserves was irrelevant to him.
Sri Lanka has set records by searching for ‘sex’ in the internet, but Sri Lankans do not know what sexism is. If Sri Lanka was a nation that was aware of sexism, it would not have searched the internet for sex and set records. When those in parliament do not see it as an offence to inconvenience a person based on that person’s gender, what can be said about the others in the country.
Also, the particular remark was made by an elderly politician who has been in politics for a long time, a senior advocate, a cabinet minister who is in charge of higher education and the chief government whip. What is regretful here is that this particular person is not good-mannered. In front of Geetha, he fell to the level of Mervyn Silva. It is a different matter had Mervyn Silva made such a remark. The Rajapaksa regime, bad-mannered in all fronts, had used Mervyn Silva to abuse its opponents. People expelled that regime to see a change. But, when it comes to sexism, all are the same.
But, this government is called ‘yahapaalana’ (good governance). From its inception, it has been talking about equality, and so much had been said about it along the lines of race, gender etc. But, the government of president Maithripala Sirisena and prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that speak so much about gender equality did not include a single woman when many president’s counsels were appointed recently. Knowingly or unknowingly to both, women are not treated equally, and we do not know how the lewd mouths of Kiriellas could be kept shut. We thank Prof. Maithri Wickremesinghe, the PM’s wife, for having expressed disapproval over the absence of women in the new PC appointees.
Had this garrulous Kiriella been in the parliament of an European country, the response he would have received would not be easy. He would have to resign within 24 hours and a big compensation would have to be paid to the aggrieved party. But, this is Sri Lanka, where everyone takes that with a laugh.
Senior advocate Kiriella should learn to conduct himself in a manner that safeguards the dignity of woman, as a father of daughters some years younger than Geetha Kumarasinghe and as the husband of a beautiful woman. What we have to tell the Kiriellas who engulf themselves in male chauvinism, which is worse than racism, is that ‘shame on you.’