Following pressure from an ultra-nationalist Buddhist group, police have arrested award-winning Sinhala novelist Shakthika Sathkumara under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) for insulting Buddhism.
Sathkumara was arrested on Monday 1 April and placed on bail until the 9th by a magistrate in Polgahawela, just north-east of Colombo, following the publication of his short story "Ardha (partial)" on Facebook and in local Sinhalese language publications. The short story contained indirect references to homosexuality among the Buddhist clergy, which holds considerable power within Sri Lanka.
When the short story first appeared, Buddhist monks stormed Sathkumara's workplace threatening him with legal action.
Ahungalle Jinananda, a Buddhist monk working for the Buddhist Information Centre, urged the police chief to explicitly use the ICCPR act to arrest the writer in February. Jinananda claimed that his work was in clear violation of the act which was established to prohibit "advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence".
The Kurunegala District Secretariat gave into Buddhist demands an initiated a disciplinary inquiry against the writer who is a government employee.
Sri Lanka continues to legally prohibit same-sex relationships under an 1883 colonial-era law. The US State Department 2018 human rights report on Sri Lanka highlighted the reports of police threatening to “assault, harass, and sexually and monetarily extort LGBTI individuals”.
The Free Media Movement, a local watchdog, have condemned the actions of the police.
Under ICCPR, Sathkumara has not been granted bail.
Sathkumara was an adjudicator for the best Sinhala short story writer in Sri Lanka's National Youth Literary Festivals of 2010 and 2014; he was also twice the recipient of the northwestern provincial state literary award.