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In response to a request from Dianne Silva of the Daily Mirror – Sri Lanka [express your views on the statement by David Cameron, threatening to withhold aid from countries which have anti-gay legislation. The full story can be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15511081 ]

David Cameron - CHOGM 2011

I suspect the report is an exaggerated version of what Mr Cameron had said, since I cannot believe he is so silly. Such a claim would be as gross as an Arab country refusing to give assistance to countries that banned polygamy.

I would not want to introduce polygamy in Sri Lanka, and equally I believe that legislation against homosexual activity in private is a woeful legacy from the British period that we should get rid of. However in a multicultural society there must be cultural sensitivity. Though Buddhism and Hinduism have always been enlightened about personal morality, some interpretations of what are termed the received religions (handed down from God) oppose homosexuality. Though Christianity has by and large become more enlightened, some Christians, as well as some Muslims, believe discrimination against homosexuality is a divine injunction. I think it is wrong that such beliefs should be imposed on others, but given that in many countries this was done as a result of British prejudice in the 19th century, making changes is not easy. I believe when this was tried, in the nineties, when Prof Peiris was Minister of Justice, a coalition

Simon Hughes MP

of extremist Christians and Muslims opposed it, and the consequence was that lesbianism, which the British had not criminalized because Queen Victoria could not conceive this was possible, was also criminalized.

Unfortunately, I was told, only Neelan Tiruchelvam spoke in favour, but with luck more, given our cultural and religious traditions before the British got here, we will end such discrimination in the future. But Britain must realize that there are some countries where feelings run high because of what is still seen as god’s command. He should also realize that even in Britain prejudices run deep. For instance one of the leading lights of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, ran a nasty campaign to enter Parliament, targeting his Labour opponent Peter Tachell who was a pioneer in the Gay Rights Movement. Hughes later admitted to being homosexual himself or rather, as his admirers put it, bisexual, another exemplification of underlying prejudice.

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1.       Simon Hughes launched an attack on Sri Lanka and its government in his speech intended to welcome members of  Liberal International. He did this knowing that the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka is part of that government. He also did it in knowing contravention of facts.

2.       To cite one obvious example, he implied that the ICRC  was not allowed in during the conflict in Sri Lanka. In fact the ICRC was present throughout, and I had informed him of this when we last met. He affected surprise at this, and said he would check, but clearly he failed to do so. I attach two letters, one from the ICRC, the other from the Commissioner General of Essential Services, making clear our joint efforts to help our citizens held hostage by the LTTE. An extract from a UNICEF publication makes clear what was being done to these people.

3.       Two days previously Mr Hughes had been invited to a meeting in the House of Commons at which the Sri Lankan government presented its version of what had happened. I was told that Mr Hughes had asked to attend, but he failed to turn up. I asked him why, and he said he had sent a researcher. However he added that he had not had a report from that researcher. While he may have been busy, it was utterly irresponsible to have made such categorical comments about Sri Lanka without having checked. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

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