Colombo. Three French tourists convicted in Sri Lanka for desecrating a temple by photographing themselves kissing and posing with a Buddha statue drew condemnation Wednesday for their “uncivilized behavior.”
The National Heritage Party, which is in the coalition government, said the trio of travellers aged 26-35 had been insensitive to the religious feelings of the island’s majority Buddhists.
“Sri Lankans consider this statue to be sacred. They desecrated it. This is uncivilized behaviour,” Heritage Party spokesman Udaya Gammanpila told Agence France-Presse, referring to the statue in the Ambekke Temple in the central district of Kandy.
“We condemn this action of the three French tourists and urge Westerners to please respect our culture and act decently,” Gammanpila added.
The photos violated local laws protecting religious feelings and the two women and man were sentenced to six months in jail, which was suspended for five years by a magistrate in the southern town of Galle on Tuesday.
One of the women, who arrived on Aug. 4 in the capital Colombo for a tour of tourist towns and the beach, posed pretending to kiss the statue on the lips, a photo published on a local website showed.
The magistrate fined the trio 1,500 rupees ($11) each, ordered the destruction of the photos, but handed back the camera and their passports.
As well as the photo of the woman appearing to kiss the statue, the man tried to imitate the pose of the Buddha, police told the magistrate.
“If we had not arrested them and prosecuted them, they would have taken the pictures abroad, published them and gloated,” police spokesman Ajith Rohana told AFP.
“They had not only broken Sri Lankan law, but they have also violated universally accepted norms of respecting religious symbols of others,” Rohana said. “We condemn this and urge tourists not to make religious offence.”
Officers were alerted to the incident after the travellers, named as Cristina Bras, Jorge Bras and Emilie Fontaine, tried to get their holiday pictures printed at a photo shop in Galle on Monday.
“I am also a Buddhist and I was very hurt when I saw what was in the pictures,” the owner of the shop, Prasanna Gamage, told AFP by telephone. “That is why I refused to print them and called the police.”
In 2010, Sri Lanka prevented US rap star Akon from visiting over his music video which featured scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue.
Eight years ago, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court ordered police and customs to seize CDs of Buddha Bar chill-out music.