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Lankan arrest nothing to do with idol worship: Embassy

Arab News, July 8, 2012

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia -- The Sri Lankan Embassy has rejected reports in Colombo claiming yesterday a Sri Lankan domestic worker has been arrested in Saudi Arabia for worshipping a statue of Lord Buddha.


According to the Bodu Bala Senaa, a Buddhist organization based in Colombo, it was alleged the youth, identified as Premanath Pereralage Thungasiri, was arrested by Ummul Hamam police for worshipping the statue inside his home.

It was alleged in the report Saudi authorities were planning to execute him.

The report added: “Although a complaint has been lodged at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment in Colombo, under complaint no: CN/158/1205, so far no action has been taken.”

Reacting to the reports, a senior official from the mission said the whole story was totally fabricated and had nothing to do with idol worship.

The diplomat, who had met Thungasiri in jail yesterday, said that he had been booked on some other charges by police in the Ummul Hammam district.

According to the official, Thungasiri, who works as a driver, had visited another Saudi’s house to resolve a dispute involving a housemaid there. He said the maid was his relative, and during the dispute police arrested him.

In his statement to the embassy, Thungasiri said his Saudi sponsor had nothing to do with the case and had surrendered his passport and other documents to prison authorities for his deportation.

The diplomat, responding to the allegations, said: “So far, no Sri Lankan has been found guilty of practicing his own religion in the Kingdom.”

He added no one had been executed for practicing their religion.

The official said that Vesak, the birth anniversary of the Buddha, was observed recently at the Lankan missions in the Kingdom. More than 20,000 expatriate workers attended the functions in Riyadh and Jeddah.

Subsequently, Poson, the day Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka, was also celebrated without any hassle at the mission’s headquarters.

The diplomat said: “Besides Sri Lankan Muslim expatriates, Buddhists and Hindus from the island are also leading a happy and contented life in the Kingdom.”

He urged the Sri Lankan community not to allow parties with vested interests to tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia, home to 500,000 Sri Lankans.

The diplomat also stressed millions of foreign workers who come to the Kingdom for employment are expected to abide by the host country’s regulations.


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