Sri Lanka angered over Canada's disrobing of Buddhist monks

PTI, Oct 28, 2004

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka lodged a strong protest with Canada after its diplomats allegedly disrobed three Buddhist monks and forced them under a shower during an anthrax scare, a senior Minister said today, as Canada denied that the monks, seeking visas at the Canadian embassy in Colombo, were forced to strip.

Cabinet spokesman Mangala Samaraweera, who is also Ports, Aviation and Media Minister, said the Colombo Government viewed the incident with serious concern. "The Foreign Minister has already sent a note of protest expressing concern over their department of the most venerable clergy of this country," Samaraweera told reporters.

He said the Government wanted to ensure there would be no repetition of the incident, which has angered the country's influential Buddhist clergy.

The monks, one Sri Lankan and two Thais, went to the mission four days to obtain visas. But, police said talcum powder in one passport caused diplomats to panic and seize all three of them. Police said they were made to disrobe and the passports and robes were sent for forensic tests.

The monks told Canadian staff they had simply sprinkled some talcum powder to prevent silverfish attacking a passport.

Meanwhile in Ottawa a spokeswoman for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs said that reports of the monks being forcibly disrobed were "completely erroneous." "At no time were they forcibly disrobed or forced under a shower. They were offered a private changing facility with a private shower stall in the High Commission recreational area."