Women to the fore with a statesmanlike President | Sunday Observer

Women to the fore with a statesmanlike President

Oo-la-la! This feline stretches herself on her sofa in satisfied delight and purrs this first Sunday of 2018. Purr-purr she goes as she discerns the signs for the New Year - almost a week old - are propitious; in simple terms satisfactory. And why this definite optimism? Two reasons, dear Reader.

The statesman

First, the President of the Democratic …etc nation we are citizens of. Most Sri Lankans held their breath in anticipation of the Wednesday, January 3 statement of the President to the nation on the reports of presidential commissions handed over to him late last year. He did not disappoint the citizenry of the country. Of course, there will come forth in print and speech the nitpickers, the critics, the offensive, the disagree-ers. But, this cat is sure most applaud him – his statement, his stand and his stance.

Personal comments first. It was so refreshing and mind calming to see a serene face deliver an all important statement with sincerity, clarity and a certain sternness connoting business is meant. Next, the general comment: he said he had taken note of the recommendations of the presidential commissions he appointed to probe the Central Bank bond business and other corruptions. He said he had passed on the reports to the relevant authorities, including his secretary, to initiate necessary action. Mentioned also was the fact that new laws would be promulgated to expedite repayment of money fraudulently stolen from the country.

Thus this cat’s total approval of our Head of State.


TIME magazine selects a ‘Person of the Year’ at the end of each year. Most times their selections have been acceptable to even us easterners. This year, the magazine elected a whole group and by deduction, offered kudos to half the human race.

TIME’s choice of the most outstanding person of 2017 was The Silence Breakers – the Voices that launched a Movement. Yes, they were the women who came forward to speak out on harassment by men and thus started a website “#MeToo” which has branched to many. The person who really started it all was actress Ashley Judd who came out and spoke on the sexual harassment she suffered under Harvey Weinstein (64), head of the Hollywood company that produces and distributes films and thus has a hand in the selection of actors. Weinstein had been forcing sexual compliance from women he interviewed but as was usual they kept silent through fear he would damn their careers. Many followed Judd in speaking out. On October 5, the New York Times carried an article of accusation against him which resulted in the resignation of four members of the all-male Weinstein Company Board. The big man was fired. Then was created the website and many bosses were booted out for the harassment they had meted out to women.

“The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe. They might labour in California fields, or behind the front desk at New York City’s regal Plaza Hotel, or in the European Parliament. They’re part of a movement that has no formal name. But now they have a voice.”

Situation in our country

As women in a basically patriarchal societal milieu and being culturally eastern and reticent about personal matters, Sri Lankan females suffered and continue to suffer silently sexual harassment in buses, on the streets, in schools and offices and mostly in homes. This cat may bristle and snarl but she too has silently suffered harassment emotionally and physically; mercifully, not sexually. Maybe, there is no lucky woman in the country who has sailed through life without bumping into perverts and even ‘normal’ men who gloat on their superiority and thus take advantage of the so called weaker sex.

Things seem destined to change. Steps are taken by the police to prevent exploitation of girls by having a female officer man a Women’s Desk at every station. Women have come forward with complaints and the law has come down heavily on rapists and kidnappers. The most significant ray of hope is that corruption and immorality in politics is being targeted. Political party leaders have been warned to field candidates who do not have stained CVs. People are wiser after being sickened by Pradeshiya Sabha high ups, particularly, being caught molesting, kidnapping, raping helpless women. One was duly punished for murder too.

A rule is in place for higher women’s representation in the public sector and in LG bodies and Parliament. A ray of hope shines through to this cat’s eye. Rosy Senanayake, noted not only for her beauty but her ability to get things done, her equal competence in English and Sinhala, and her many years experience in the hurly burly of politics, is contesting the Mayor’s post in the Colombo Municipality. This feline is rearing to go vote for her.

An even greater ray of hope for women is that the President, in his wisdom, is to set up a women’s group (or whatever) to advance the progress of women so they stand abreast of men and not as traditionally, ten paces behind. That will surely encourage more women to step into politics and positions of power. All for the better, my dear! There will result more honesty and much less corruption. Sexual harassment will have its ugliness and harm to gentle psyches greatly reduced. Of course, women can turn out harassers, even sexual, but this condition is all too rare, maybe hopefully totally absent in this fair isle of ours.

So cats and humans, we do have the opportunity to look forward to better times in this year of elections and what not – 2018. The best to you for the New Year!

- Menika