Cablegate: Hollywood Buddha Protest at Embassy Colombo

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary - On Saturday, September 11, at
approximately 1235 hours local time, a group of approximately
70 Sri Lankan nationals, five of whom were Buddhist monks,
staged a peaceful demonstration outside the North Gate of
U.S. Embassy Colombo to protest the release of the American
film "Hollywood Buddha." The group requested to present a
letter to the U.S. Embassy but refused to enter the Embassy
Inspection Room at North Gate, therefore the letter was not
delivered. The group disbanded at approximately 1323 hours
without incident. Police support was excellent. A similar,
larger demonstration is expected Monday, September 13. End

2. (SBU) Details - On Friday afternoon, September 10, at
approximately 1600 hours, RSO Colombo received information
from the Sri Lankan Directorate of Internal Intelligence
(DII) that a demonstration would be staged on Saturday in
front of the U.S. Embassy by the National Patriotic Movement,
an umbrella organization of the right-wing Senhalese JVP
party. The purpose of the demonstration was to protest the
release of a U.S. film entitled "Hollywood Buddha." RSO
coordinated notification of Embassy community, Embassy
security elements, and local police. POL contacted JVP
Saturday morning to verify the information and was advised
that no demonstration was planned. RSO/FSNI was later
advised by DII that the JVP, now in alliance with President
Kumaratunga's party, was attempting to distance itself from a
protest against U.S. interests and therefore denied any
affiliation with the demonstration. It is unclear at this
point if JVP was in fact connected to the demonstration. On
Saturday morning, September 11, MSG's were reacted prior to
the scheduled demonstration and monitored events from react
positions inside the Chancery. At approximately 1235 hours,
a group of about 70 Sri Lankans, five of whom were Buddhist
monks dressed in traditional orange sarongs, began to
assemble outside the Embassy's North Gate carrying signs
written in Senhalese that protested the release of an
American film, "Hollywood Buddha," claiming the film was an
insult to Buddha. Some signs indicated an affiliation with
the National Buddhist Heritage (NFI). A significant media
presence was at the scene as well. At approximately 1300
hours, the LGF supervisor advised RSO that the demonstrators
had requested to deliver a letter to the Embassy. RSO, being
the only American officer present at the Embassy, responded
to the Inspection Room at North Gate to receive the letter.
Three members of the protest group were invited inside the
Inspection Room to deliver the letter, but they refused,
insisting the RSO walk outside the gate and into the crowd to
receive the letter. The RSO declined and returned to the
Chancery without receiving the letter. At approximately 1323
hours, the demonstrators disbanded peacefully without
incident. Police support and DII intelligence support was
excellent throughout the event.

3. (SBU) After the demonstration ended, DII notified RSO that
a larger demonstration of similar theme was scheduled for
Monday, September 13 at 1200. RSO will implement appropriate
security arrangements to include restriction of all traffic
entering and exiting the Embassy during the prescribed

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