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Sri Lankan police arrest man for TikTok post 'distorting' Sinhala song

Sri Lanka police arrested a 31-year-old man this week, accusing him of “distorting” a Sinhala song on TikTok.

The individual, a 31-year-old man from Wariyapola, posted a TikTok video singing along to a version of the song usually played as part of New Year festivities, with his own lyrics.

“The Criminal Investigation Division of Sri Lanka Police have taken into custody an individual who has shared a distorted version of the famous song Soorya Mangalya sang by Rohana Beddage,” the police media unit said in a statement. A complaint was reportedly made to the Inspector General of Police Deshabandu Tennakoon, a man who Sri Lanka’s supreme court found guilty of torture, regarding the song.

“What is not normal is arresting people for such acts in the guise of maintaining morality, which is not the business of the State,” said lawyer Thishya Weragoda. “Unless, of course, we are either Saudi Arabia or Iran.”

“I do not see any criminal offence in this situation. The lyrics created were for obviously satirical and humorous purposes. It had no intention to annoy others.”

Sri Lankan authorities have frequently cracked down on those that it claimed has “insulted” Buddhism, including the more recent arrest of comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya last year. Meanwhile in the North-East arrests and intimidation of individuals, particularly Tamils is a common occurrence, including for posts on social media. Recently an activist was summoned to the Terrorism Investigation Division over a Facebook post. He continues to be in jailed under charges that have not been publicly revealed. Writers have been questioned and even those who posted satirical videos, such as two Tamil youth who mocked the rampant bribery of Sri Lankan police, have faced arrest.

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