For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
By Anarkalee Perera
Sri Lankan authorities have detained Sarah Malani Perera, a Sri Lankan-born resident of Bahrain, at the Katunayake Airport for publishing two books allegedly offensive to Buddhism. She was leaving after a three-month holiday in Sri Lanka.
Perera, who was born to Buddhist parents, converted to Islam in 1999. The books, titled Darkness To Light and Questions And Answers, were seized at the airport.
According to the family of the detained woman, the owner of the cargo company handling the shipment contacted police to claim that the book was offensive to the Buddhist religion.
The Sunday Leader visited the Special Unit at the Mirihana Police Station where Perera is currently being held and spoke to Inspector Udaya Kumara and OIC Pradeep Ratnayake. Although they both refused to name the charges against Perera or give out any information regarding the case, The Sunday Leader was able to see the two books published by Perera. The books refer to Christianity and Hinduism as well as Buddhism.
Perera, meanwhile, has been in police custody for the last six days. Police Spokesperson Preshantha Jayakody said he is unable to provide any information about the charges, as he has not been given a report yet by the Mirihana Police. He went on to say that the investigation is still ongoing and that Perera is being held under a detention order from the Defence Ministry. Detention orders are issued under emergency regulations.
A report in the Bahrain-based Gulf Daily News said Perera has lived in the Gulf state since she was a teenager in the mid-1980s.
The newspaper reported that she converted to Islam in 1999 and that her parents and sisters had also converted.
The newspaper quoted her sister, also a Bahrain resident, as saying that Perera recently published the two books on Islam and comparative religion to explain why she changed faiths.
Perera, who is said to have studied religion in Bahrain, has issued an international appeal to human rights groups to secure her release.