According to The Gulf Times, British tourist Naomi Coleman, 37, was deported from Sri Lanka for sporting a arm-length Buddha tattoo, is suing local authorities for $78,000 over her ordeal, which allegedly included sexual harassment, her lawyer has said.
Naomi Coleman filed the lawsuit in the Supreme Court in Colombo on Wednesday (May 21) and is seeking compensation of seeking Rs10mn (US$78,000) from Sri Lankan police, immigration and prison authorities.
“We have filed the papers on the basis that her rights were violated as a result of her arrest, detention and deportation,” lawyer Vishwa de Livera Tennekoon said. A hearing date has not been scheduled.
Coleman, a 37-year-old mental health nurse, was arrested shortly after arriving at Sri Lanka’s main international airport in April over the tattoo on her upper right arm, which authorities found offensive.
Sri Lanka, a majority Buddhist nation, is highly sensitive to perceived insults to the religion.
COMMENT: The Sri Lankan government cannot have it both ways.
They cannot deport Buddhists and those that see a tattoo as a form of respect and deport foreigners for having tattoos, otherwise the word will soon get around that the country dislikes foreigners.
Worse, foreigners cannot be imprisoned and sexually harassed and expect a positive outcome.
We will follow Coleman's lawsuit carefully to determine whether she prevails.
A local magistrate ordered Coleman’s jailing and deportation three days later over the tattoo, which depicted Buddha seated on a pink lotus flower.
Coleman has said that she feared being raped during her one-night stay in Negombo Prison near the airport, after a male prison guard made lewd gestures indicating he wanted to have sex with her.
A female guard at Negombo also demanded a bribe to avoid undergoing a body cavity search, she said. Coleman was later transferred to a detention center in Colombo before her deportation on April 24.
Sri Lanka’s tourism promotion bureau paid for her return ticket and has expressed regret for the entire incident.
What I find so fascinating is that the Sri Lankan government paid Coleman's return airfare to Colombo to file her lawsuit and seemingly did not rearrest her for the same offense, unless she had the tattoo removed or rendered opaque with cosmetics.
Coleman 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.
In August 2012 three French tourists were sentenced to six months in jail, which was later suspended for five years, for kissing a Buddha statue in what authorities considered a sign of disrespect.
Sri Lanka prevented US rap star Akon from visiting in 2010 over a music video that featured scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue.