Torture over Buddha tattoo

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The arrest, jailing and the deportation of a British woman over a tattoo has seriously harmed Sri Lanka’s image as a peaceful, tolerant and a visitor-friendly nation. The 37-year-old woman tourist, Naomi Coleman, was allowed into the country, but it seems a taxi driver at the airport drove her to the police station after a dispute over the fare. A chain of events kicked in and there are allegations that police demanded bribes to set her free. She makes a more serious allegation that a “lawyer” extorted Rs. 5,000 from her, but did not represent her and she was also not allowed a hearing. These are very serious allegations and merits intervention by the Chief Justice. It will not be difficult to call up the case record and see which lawyer marked an appearance and question him about the allegations. Even more shocking is the Judge, Tillakaratne Bandara, who passes judgement without even asking the accused for her side of the story. This type of instant injustice which causes more damage to Sri Lanka’s image than anything the Tiger diaspora can achieve on their own. I urge the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission to cause an investigation into this sordid affair, including the allegations that the tourist was sexually harassed at the Negombo prison. The Police Spokesman has taken great pains to explain provisions of the law. I would like to ask him how the Police proved “malicious intent” to outrage the religious feelings of Buddhists by displaying a tattoo of the Buddha on her upper arm. Did the taxi driver get in the dock to say how terribly hurt he was to see a white woman displaying her devotion to Buddhism? I look forward to the Negombo/Katunayake Police launching a drive to arrest drivers of cattle/kasippu transport vehicles which display not just one Buddha statue, but several religious symbols as a matter of routine. I hope police will also raid all shops which have a Buddha statue and light a lamp for the Buddha. It hurts my religious feelings to see someone exploiting the Buddha for commercial purposes. We should congratulate the OIC of the Airport Police for his smart detection of this woman to bring Sri Lanka on par with a Taliban state. And hallelujah to the Tourist Board for keeping mum. With Police, prisons and tourist boards like this, the Tiger diaspora can take a permanent vacation, but their work will still be done. S. Mendis