COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan court said it had remanded a controversial self-proclaimed Christian prophet in custody for two weeks today after allegations he gave a sermon offensive to the island’s Buddhist majority.
Jerome Fernando said in May that the Buddha had been “looking for Jesus”, remarks that caused a backlash in a country where the government is highly sensitive about its religion.
Fernando fled the country fearing arrest but returned earlier this week after he apologised, on the understanding he would not be arrested.
Fernando has been accused in the past of influencing Sri Lanka’s national cricket team.
A cricket board panel suggested Fernando had considerable influence over some team members and officials after Sri Lanka’s inglorious exit from the T20 World Cup in Australia late last year.
They included bowler Chamika Karunaratne, who left an oil lamp burning in his room against hotel fire hazard warnings, the panel said.
Sri Lanka’s government has deported tourists for wearing clothes with symbols of Buddhism or tattoos of the Buddha.
In 2017, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court awarded US$66,000 in compensation to British nurse Naomi Coleman, who was detained in prison three years earlier for entering the island with a tattoo of the Buddha on her arm.
Three French tourists were sentenced to six months in jail for kissing a Buddha statue in August 2012, a sentence that was later suspended.
Sri Lanka also denied US rapper Akon permission to visit in 2010 after his music video showing scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue was deemed offensive.