On Friday 28 July, Vanushi Walters, Labour MP who is the only current member of
Parliament of Sri Lankan origin, hosted the group of visiting Sri Lankan MPs at the Pullman
Hotel in Auckland. Several members of the Sri Lankan community were invited to meet the
The following Members of Parliament and officials of the parliament and USAID who
funded the study tour attended the reception. The Lady members who were present were:
Hon. (Mrs.) Pavithra Devi Wanniarachchi – MP, Minister of Wildlife and Forest Resources
Hon. (Dr.) Seetha Arambepola, MP, State Minister of Health
Hon. (Mrs.) Geetha Kumarasinghe, MP, State Minister of Women and Child Affairs
Hon. (Mrs.) Thalatha Athukorala, MP
Hon. Dr (Mrs) Sudarshini Fernandopulle, MP
Hon. (Mrs.) Rohini Kumari Wijerathna Kaviratne, MP
Hon. (Mrs) Kokila Gunawardena, SLPP Gampaha, MP
Hon. (Mrs.) Nanayakkarage Muditha Prishanthi Jenadasa,, MP
Hon. (Mrs.) Rajika Wickramasinghe, MP
Hon. (Mrs.) Manjula Dissanayake, MP
Hon. Dr (Ms) Harini Amarasuriya, MP
Hon. (Mrs) Muditha Prashanti , MP
The other members of the study tour group were Angelina Hermon, Project Manager
USAID, Mrs.Anusha Rohanadeera,,Secretary-General of Parliament, Mrs.Chithrani Indira
Dissanayake, Assistant Director (Administration,) Nirmala Hathiyaldeniya, Media Manager,
SL Parliament; Ms. Sneha Moktan, NDI Program Director, Asia Pacific, Ms. Shyama
Lilamani Wikramanayake Salgado, NDI Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI)
Specialist, Ms. Marian Nimasha Fernando Hewage, NDI Senior Program Officer -GESI and Ms.Elida Isela Zaldivar Parada,NDI Program Associate.
Vanushi Walters, Labour MP for Upper Harbour, warmly welcomed the visiting dignitaries
and those present. MP Walters spoke about the journey of attaining 50% women in the New
Zealand Parliament and how the current 52nd parliament has two thirds of the number of
women elected to be in the Parliament ever. She also spoke about the current budget which is
Members of Parliament, Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Minister Pavitra Wanniarchchi Dr Sita
Arambepola, Thalatha Athukorale, Dr Harini Amarasuriya, Geetha Kumarasinghe and Rohini
Kaviratne addressed the gathering.
Dr Harini Amarasuriya gave an interesting address to those present and said that she was
aware that most Sri Lankan Kiwis were aware of what is happening in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is
at a very important stage in her life and if we come together, we can all get the country to
where it deserved to be. She also, as an academic and researcher of gender issues was very
impressed with how NZ got to 50% in women in the parliament and was impressed with how
NZ pays so much focus on diversity and inclusion and it being a huge focus for Sri Lankans
and is a huge lesson for them.
The women parliamentarians present all expressed their wish for Sri Lankans present to
support their home country in the current time of a major economic crisis and requested
people to send money to Sri Lanka. They also spoke of their experience of meeting their
counterparts in New Zealand and how they could work towards increasing the participation
of women in politics in Sri Lanka. New Zealand has reached 50% female members of
parliament in the current parliament but Sri Lanka has around 5% of women members.
There were several prominent members of the Auckland Sri Lankan community representing
some of the Lankan organisations. Majority of those present said they represented the NPP
(Jathika Jana Balavegaya) Auckland.
The women members networked with the community members present and spoke highly
about their counterparts whom they met in New Zealand. They had met former Labour prime
ministers, Hon. Helen Clarke and Hon. Jacinda Ardern and they were very impressed by
them both. Some of the MPs whom this writer spoke to said they had a lot to learn from their
counterparts in New Zealand and how they worked. Some were astonished at the few cabinet
ministers in our parliament and how one minister held multiple portfolios.
It would have been great to have included more Sri Lankan youth representation who are
active in politics, academia, arts social enterprisers etc. in this gathering. One of the MPs
whom the writer spoke to was very impressed about some of the achievements of some NZ
Sri Lankans and said would have been nice if they could meet up with them.
Asoka Basnayake the representative of the SriLankaNZ newspaper