Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development, Jeevan Thondaman, appealed to his political colleagues to pursue inclusive and secular policies that placed human dignity and inclusion before division.

Speaking as the chief guest at a reception hosted by the Friedrich Nauman Foundation on “Deepening Friendships and Cultural Exchange” between Europe and Asia, Minister Thondaman spoke elaborately on the importance of cultural exchange between communities and its impact on broadening minds and increasing understanding.

“When cultural exchanges take place”, he said, “you tend to develop empathy, you tend to understand another community’s aspirations…their goals and their difficulties and without any of that, progress is not possible”.

The Minister acknowledged the various challenges faced by marginalised and ostracised communities in Sri Lanka including the LGBTQ community, estate workers and several segments of Sri Lankan society.

Wishing everyone a Happy Pride Month, Minister Thondaman regretted the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community and applauded MP Premnath Dolawatte for his Private Member’s Bill to decriminalise same sex consensual relations.

He said that Sri Lanka needs to “move forward” with social progress for all her communities.

Speaking about the 200th year anniversary of the arrival of Hill Country Tamils to Sri Lanka, he spoke of their status as “indentured labour” and that despite decades of progress, there was still a long way to go for the community to equitably enjoy their citizenship.

Minister Thondaman highlighted the importance of allyship when addressing marginalisation and discrimination. “You don’t have to be gay to speak about the LGBTQ community. You don’t have to be an estate worker to speak about the exploitation of labour,” he said. “Regardless of your background, where you come from, how you’re born or where you are born…everyone deserves the right to be advocates for change”.

Minister Thondaman, at 28 years, is the youngest Cabinet Minister in Sri Lankan history. He is the Minister for Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development and has been a strong advocate for the rights of marginalised communities especially plantation workers and the LGBTQ community.

Currently he is pursuing the widest ever reforms to the water sector to increase access to safe drinking water and to become more resilient to climate change. The reform programme is supported by a US$ 200 million ADB budget support loan.


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