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Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan woman arrested for insulting Cardinal Ranjith

Facebook video makes malicious comments about prelate and uses hate speech to sow discord among Buddhists and Catholics

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: October 19, 2020 07:53 AM GMT

Updated: October 28, 2020 03:39 AM GMT

Sri Lankan woman arrested for insulting Cardinal Ranjith

Cardinal Malcom Ranjith, left, with former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2014. (Photo courtesy of EDA/Colombo Page)

Police in Sri Lanka have arrested a 43-year-old woman on charges of spreading hate between Buddhists and Catholics after she posted a video making various allegations against Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo.

Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigation Department arrested the woman on Oct. 18 in capital Colombo, police spokesman Ajith Rohana told media.

The video released on a social media network makes allegations against Cardinal Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, and makes a hateful statement fomenting unrest between Buddhists and Catholics, he said.

It "seems to be an attempt to stir religious hatred among Buddhists and Christians," said Rohana.

The police are "conducting further investigations in this regard," he said, adding that the woman will be produced before the court on Oct. 19.

"We have constantly informed the public to prevent any propaganda that incites hatred and enmity between religious groups. Then the law has to be enforced," said the media spokesman.

The Sinhala language video, in which Cardinal Ranjith is addressed as "uncle," is withdrawn since the woman's arrest.

The Archdiocese of Colombo issued a statement condemning the attempt to tarnish the cardinal's image.

Father Deninton Subasinghe, the cardinal's administrative secretary, condemned the woman's action.

He said the women's claims in the video "are false, baseless, misleading, and insulting."

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Father Subasinghe, on Oct. 18, said police action follows his complaint seeking legal action against the woman.

Ruwani Manusha, a Buddhist activist who works for inter-religious harmony, said in the video the women "disrespectfully" refers to Cardinal Ranjith as her uncle.

It tries to spread fake news that can result in religious and ethnic tensions.

"We will have to be very alert over the spread of racial and religious hatred in the country," said Manusha.

The Island nation's 20 million people are mostly Buddhist-majority Sinhalese and Tamil-speaking Hindus. While Buddhists make up 70 percent, Hindus form 12 percent.

The ethnic Moors and Malays form 9 percent of the population, mostly Muslims. Christians who are both Sinhalese and Tamils form just 7 percent of the population.

In the run-up to the general election in August, in which politicians used religion for votes, Cardinal Ranjith urged candidates not to use him or his photographs in their election campaigns.

Several politicians contesting the election had utilized photographs taken with Cardinal Ranjith for propaganda purposes. Many posts on social media and websites claimed the prelate supported various candidates.

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