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British tourist demands Rs 10 M in damages

2014 May 23

By Jayantha de Silva
The British nurse who was controversially deported recently from Sri Lanka for the Buddha tattoo inscribed on her upper right arm, filed a case yesterday, in the Supreme Court seeking Rs 10 million as compensation, citing her rights were violated. The petitioner also prayed for a declaration that her detention be null and void as it is in contravention to Article 13(2) and 12 of the Constitution.
The six respondents cited are the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, the Inspector General of Police, Police Sergeant Upasena, Inspector Suraweera, OIC Negombo Prison and the Attorney General.
The petitioner is Naomi Michelle Coleman (37).
The petition interalia states; that she is a practicing Buddhist. Expressive of her devotion to Buddhism she had a tattoo of the likeness to the Buddha seated on a Lotus flower on her upper right arm. She is aware of similar tattoos displayed by devotees.
She had attended meditation retreats in Thailand, Cambodia and in India.
She had a valid visa for 14 days. Earlier she had visited the island on two occasions in 2009. She had displayed the same tattoo then and there was no objection whatsoever.
The petitioner attributing her arrest to the tattoo says that her arrest on 21 April 2014 was arbitrary, irrational, capricious and ultra vires.
She was subjected to degrading treatment culminating in her deportation consequent to a Magistrate's Court Order.
Furthermore, due to the deeply traumatic experience she faced she cannot recall in exact detail all events relating to the incident.
She was not afforded the opportunity to contact the British High Commission. She was also denied the opportunity to instruct her Attorney.
The Tourists Board officials later admitted that her detention was a big mistake and apologized to her.
The petition had been filed on behalf of the petitioner by Attorney-at-Law, Vishva De Livera.

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