Monks willingly agreed to comply with security protocols

Lanka Daily News, Oct 30, 2004

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- The Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka responding to various media reports which the Commission considers erroneous, states that the "monks willingly agreed to comply with the security protocols, provided them with a private changing facility with private shower along with new robes."

The staff also apologised to the monks and expressed regrets for the inconvenience, High Commission statement said.

The text: "On October 25 morning the High Commission experienced a security incident when an employee in the immigration section opened a passport and discovered an unknown white powder. The affected passport had been hand-delivered by a Buddhist monk who was accompanied by two other monks.

In accordance with the Government of Canada standard security procedures the substance had to be treated as a potential bio-hazard until an official analysis could ascertain that it was harmless. Our primary concern was for the health, safety and security of our clients and employees.

The High Commission therefore proceeded to implement established security protocols, including evacuating the building and sealing off the affected area.

The High Commission has the greatest respect for the esteemed place of Buddhist monks in Sri Lankan society. We have always maintained respectful and cordial relations with the Buddhist clergy. Canada accords the highest respect to religious leaders of all faith which is a fundamental Canadian value.

Throughout this incident, our staff made every effort to ensure the monks were treated with the utmost respect and dignity befitting their status and position.

Our security procedures require that we undertake certain precautionary measures for those who had come into contact with the unknown substance. The measures include showering and leaving behind potentially contaminated clothing. The affected persons included the three monks and four High Commission employees.

The established security procedures were explained to our affected employees and to the monks. All agreed to fully cooperate. Staff apologised to the monks and expressed regret for the inconvenience.

During the past few days there have been media reports stating or implying that High Commission employees treated the monks disrespectfully by forcibly disrobing them and forcing them to shower.

The High Commission wishes to clearly state that these reports are erroneous. The monks willingly agreed to comply with our security protocols and thus were provided a private changing facility with private shower along with new robes.

The High Commission received a letter on October 27 from the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) expressing concern about media reports claiming that the monks were treated disrespectfully. The High Commissioner responded to the JHU on the same day to clarify the misconceptions and to assure them of our higher esteem and respect for the Buddhist clergy.

The High Commission deeply regrets that responsible measures taken to ensure the health and safety of all those involved in a potentially hazardous situation may have caused unintended offense."