Buddha images draw attention to Sri Lanka’s inept police

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka arrested an Indian tourist for wearing a T-shirt with a Buddha image, an act police spokesman  Ruwan Gunasekera said was an offence under the penal code.

The Indian woman was arrested by three policemen on Monday and marched off to the Kollupititya police station where she was asked to sign a statement and apologise to the authorities.

Police had told her that they could have deported her, but since she was leaving the country on the same night, they were letting her off with a warning.

Superintendent  Gunasekera told the Hindu newspaper that the Indian woman had breached Sri Lanka’s penal code, but senior officers shrugged it off and said the police spokesman being a lawyer too should have known better.

Senior lawyer J.C. Weliamuna told the respected Indian national newspaper that wearing Buddha T-shirts was not a violation of any law in the country.

“Only defaming a religion is a criminal offence in Sri Lanka, wearing a normal print of the Buddha does not amount to that,” Weliamuna said describing the police action and Gunasekera’s remarks as “ridiculous.”

A British nurse is currently suing Sri Lankan authorities and seeking 10 million rupees in compensation for her wrongful arrest in March 2014 for having a tattoo of a Buddha on her upper arm.

Sri Lanka’s Tourism Promotion Bureau apologised to her and paid for her return ticket and has expressed regret for the entire incident.

Nurse Naomi Coleman has insisted that she is a devout Buddhist and that the tattoo is a mark of respect.

Sri Lanka barred another British tourist from entering the island in March 2013  for showing "disrespect" to Buddhism by having a Buddha tattooed on his arm.





Sri Lanka’s current national cricket coach Nic Pothas is also known to sport what looks like the image of a Hindu deity on his arm, but he appears to be covering it, probably out of fear that it might cause trouble.

A member of the Indian cricket team, Ishant Sharma, was seen Saturday with a tattoo which appeared to be of a Buddhist or Hindu religious symbol.

The authorities have been asked to investigate Gunasekara’s comments justifying the police arrest of the Indian tourist on Monday.

Gunasekera was in hot water on a previous occasion too when he reportedly ordered a controversial arrest of an army major and his driver so that he could give a sound bite to radio and television networks last year.

Gunasekera had ordered the Officer in Charge of the Opanayake police station to arrest both the army driver and his passenger following a fatal accident on February 18 last year. He also famously declared that all passengers are responsible if their driver is involved in an accident.

Law and Order minister shut the entire media unit run by Gunasekera in May last year, but he was taken back by IGP Pujith Jayasundara after DIG Priyantha Jayakody stepped down last month due to health reasons. (COLOMBO, July 22, 2017)


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