Professionals affiliated to former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa were described as ‘misogynists’ after they denied the existence of sexually harassment of women in public transport and on the streets.
An organisation called the Viyathmaga which promotes Rajapaksa as a presidential candidate rejected remarks of senior editor of the Daily FT, Marianne David, who focused on the sexual harassment women must endure on a daily basis.
David was commenting on twitter that Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake’s proposal for a car-free day was impractical as women could not freely walk without intimidation. The Dutch embassy is pushing the car-free day on Sunday mainly in the Cinnamon Gardens area of Colombo.
“No, I will not support car-free Colombo. I can barely walk 100 metres without some sick pervert or inbred idiot saying something perverted or stupid to me or making some strangled sound – today’s was a meow, of all bloody sounds, a MEOW. So no, no car-free Colombo for me, thanks,” David said.
Retired navy rear admiral Mohan Wijewickrama rushed in to demand the jettisoning of David from the country for pointing out what women endure daily while using public transport or simply walking peacefully.
“Please leave this country,” ordered the retired navy officer now supporting Gotabhaya to be a presidential candidate. “You do not belong here. What is your ulterior motive.”
Rajapaksa’s Viyathmaga went several steps further accusing David of lying and trying to portray a negative image of the country to discourage tourists.
“This is just shaming your country in front of the world,” Viyathmaga said on twitter responding to David.
“Do you think such stupid inaccurate statements going to help country trying to recover from the eastersunday (sic) terro (sic) attack. We will not encourage tourists by making statements that are far from the truth. M,” Viyathmaga said.
Local tweeps speculated who “M” was. “M is for Misogynist,” said one tweep.
Another suggested tongue-in-check that Viyathmaga may be promoting an exclusive “White Van” transport service for women.
“White Vans’ are associated with the period when Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was secretary to the ministry of defence when scores of people were abducted in white vans and extra-judicially killed.
Viyathmaga received a barrage of comments highly critical of the organisation.
“Patriotic citizens would rather expose the reality of the country than sell tourists a false image.” Said twitter handle Sachi. “Go around Mirissa and see the groping incidents and the number of beach boys harassing foreign women who just want to relax on the beach and you’ll get your answer.”
Added another: “ Both Viyathmaga & Admiral going at @MarianneDavid24 for speaking out about harassment women face on the streets. Does GR camp fear outspokenness about women’s issues will ruin the city’s image? Same old logic. Gloss over brutal urban evictions; focus on pretty paving stones #lka.”