Mental health nurse receives apology over Sri Lanka arrest
A British nurse has been offered a holiday in Sri Lanka by way of an apology, after she was arrested in the country because of a Buddha tattoo on her arm.
Naomi Coleman, 37, landed at Bandaranaike International Airport in the capital city of Colombo on April 21 but was quickly detained by police, who claimed her tattoo hurt the religious feelings of others.
The mental health nurse from Coventry practises Buddhism and had attended a number of meditation retreats and workshops in Thailand, India, Cambodia and Nepal before touching down in Sri Lanka.
She was deported back to London after a court refused her permission to continue travelling to The Maldives.
Buddhism is the religion of Sri Lanka’s largest ethnic group, the Sinhalese, and authorities in the country take strict action against any perceived insults towards it.
Another British tourist with a Buddha tattoo was arrested in 2013, while three French visitors were each given suspended prison sentences for kissing a Buddha statue in 2012.
R&B star Akon was refused a Sri Lankan visa in 2010 after his video for Sexy Chick, which featured a pool party in front of a Buddha statue, caused offence and widespread protests. He was later forced to apologise to Sri Lankan Buddhists.
Ms Coleman spent a night in prison in Negombo and a further two nights in a detention centre, while security checks were carried out following her deportation order.
She was visited at the centre by an embassy official and a representative from Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority, who paid for her flight home and also offered to fly her back for a free holiday in future.