British woman deported for Buddha tattoo files rights violation application in Lanka Supreme Court

The Island
Chitra Weerarathne
May 22, 2014

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British National Naomi Michelle Coleman, aged 37 years of age, a professional nurse, who was deported for having tattooed a Buddha symbol on her upper right arm, has filed a fundamental rights violation application in the Supreme Court. She has said that she was arrested at the Katunayake Airport on April 21, 2014 and detained thereafter at the Negombo Prison and the Mirihana Immigration and Detention Camp.

The police and prison authorities demanded money from her. They used indecent language and made obscene gestures at her, she has said.

She has alleged illegal arrest and arbitrary treatment, claiming that she did not attempt to insult Buddhism. In an ardent attempt to display devout faith, she had got a tattoo done, on the upper right arm. She was a practising Buddhist, who has visited meditation retreats in Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia and India, she has said.

The respondents cited in the petition are the Attorney General, Police Sergeant Upasena, Inspector Suraweera both of the Police Station, Katunayake, the Officer-in-Charge of the Negombo police station, the IGP and the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration.

The petitioner has said that no reason was given for her arrest and the unlawful detention in a police cell. Her deportation and the crude treatment she received while in police and prison custody were all arbitrary. She has requested the Court to declare the violation of her fundamental rights and claimed Rs. 10 million as compensation.

The petitioner has said that while the petitioner was in custody at the Negombo Prison, a woman police constable took away her money. A prison guard had made an indecent remark.

The treatment meted out to the petitioner while in detention was inhuman, degrading and indecent. The petitioner broke down in tears when her money was forcibly taken away after she had been scolded, she has said.

Thereafter on April 22, 2014 the petitioner was transferred to the Mirihana Immigration Camp. The petitioner faced great distress there as well.

Ultimately the Sri Lanka Tourist Board officials apologised to the petitioner on or about April 24, 2014.

She was offered a business class ticket to return to U.K.

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