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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

UK tourist recounts 'hellish' time in Sri Lanka over Buddha tattoo

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 02:42 AM PDT

Colombo (AFP) - A 37-year-old British nurse recounted Tuesday her "hellish" experience in Sri Lanka after she was arrested and sent to a deportation centre for sporting a Buddha tattoo deemed offensive by authorities.

Naomi Coleman was arrested at the country's main international airport on Monday shortly after her arrival on a flight from neighbouring India and appeared before a magistrate who ordered her deportation, police said in a statement.

"It is a terrible, hellish experience," Coleman, a mental health nurse from Coventry in England, told AFP by telephone at the Sri Lankan deportation centre.

"I am a practising Buddhist and meditate. That is why I have the tattoo -- not out of disrespect for Buddhism."

Earlier, pulling up her white t-shirt, Coleman displayed for an AFP photographer the tattoo of a meditating Buddha seated on a pink lotus flower on the upper part of her right arm.

She said the tatoo had never created problems when she visited the country twice before or even in other Buddhist countries like Thailand and Cambodia.

Coleman said that she was never told what charges were brought against her, but was held for six hours and harassed by police for bribes.

She paid 5,000 rupees ($38) for a lawyer, who did not help her, she added.

"I cried. I am very afraid," she told AFP.

Sri Lanka, a majority Buddhist nation, is highly sensitive to perceived insults to the religion.

Sri Lanka barred another British tourist from entering the island in March last year for showing "disrespect" to Buddhism by having a Buddha tattooed on his arm.

In August 2012, three French tourists were sentenced to six months in jail, which was suspended for five years, for kissing a Buddha statue in what the authorities considered a sign of disrespect.

Sri Lanka prevented US rap star Akon from visiting in 2010 over one of his music videos which featured scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue.

It was not immediately clear to which country the detained British woman would be deported or when she would be put on a flight.

Young royals turn DJs in Queen's Australian namesake

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 02:14 AM PDT

Adelaide (Australia) (AFP) - Prince William on Wednesday visited the South Australian town named after his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, where he and wife Kate met disadvantaged youngsters and tried their hands at DJ-ing.

Named after the British monarch in 1955, Elizabeth is a northern satellite suburb of Adelaide which in recent years has been plagued by unemployment.

In a youth-oriented day on their three-week tour Down Under, the British couple visited a community music programme and a skateboard park, where they had a go at spinning some tracks on the DJ decks and watched some breakdancing.

"She was fantastic," Shane Petersen, a workshop facilitator in the hip hop class the couple visited, said of Kate's ability to scratch a beat. "But he can fly a helicopter so it's horses for courses."

William, second in line to the British throne and a trained military helicopter pilot, also spoke of his taste in music, saying: "I like house music, I still like a bit of rock'n'roll and the classics and a bit of R'n'B."

The 31-year-old prince added a blue sky to an aerosol artwork then watched a BMX and scooter display, at which he and the duchess were given a skateboard featuring boxing kangaroos for their baby son George, who is with them on tour.

Catherine, wearing a pale pink Alexander McQueen suit and nude stiletto pumps, also spoke to six-year-old Lauren Stephenson whose cancer has been in remission for two years.

The royals, who flew in from Uluru in Australia's central desert where they had spent the night camping under the stars, then attended a civic reception for young volunteers and community leaders.

Thousands of people flocked to Elizabeth's Playford Civic Centre, with some staking their positions before dawn to catch a glimpse of the glamorous pair.

"I think it is marvellous they are actually recognising part of... Adelaide that has had some difficult times," acting South Australian Premier John Rau told the Adelaide Now website.

After the reception, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met 100-year-old Monica Swarbrick.

"The duke wished me a happy birthday," she said.

William and Kate have been greeted by tens of thousands of well-wishers on their tour of New Zealand and Australia, which ends Friday after a reception hosted by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra on Thursday. - AFP

Australia boosts air power with $11.6b purchase of 58 F-35s

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 01:32 AM PDT

Sydney (AFP) - Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Wednesday the purchase of 58 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters costing Aus$12.4 billion ($11.6 billion) in a major defence upgrade to maintain Australia's regional edge.

The new aircraft will bring Australia's total JSF force to 72, with the first due to arrive in 2018 and enter service in 2020.

The deal with US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin includes an option to buy a further 18 planes and is additional to the purchase of 14 F-35s Australia already approved in 2009.

"The fifth generation F-35 is the most advanced fighter in production anywhere in the world and will make a vital contribution to our national security," Abbott said.

"It will also be a very substantial boost to jobs and technology here in Australia."

Abbott said the planes would cost about $90 million each but noted that one of the largest defence purchases Australia has ever made was budgeted for.

"This is not new money, it's money successive governments have carefully put aside to ensure that our nation's defences are strong," he said.

"It will ensure our edge as a regional power."

Abbott said the F-35 will "provide a major boost to the Australian Defence Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities".

"The acquisition of F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including regional areas and local defence industry," he added.

The prime minister said some 700 F-35 tailfins would be made at a factory in Victoria and the US-led JSF programme offered Australian manufacturing companies the potential to earn an additional Aus$7.5 billion.

The government will also consider an option to buy another squadron of 18 F-35s to replace the air force's fleet of ageing F/A-18 Super Hornets which are due for retirement from 2022.

- Ultimate stealth attack plane -

The overall price tag includes weapons, spare parts and maintenance facilities, with Australia's defence industry reportedly set to benefit by up to Aus$1.5 billion in flow-on business.

The fighter programme will see Aus$1.6 billion spent on upgrading air force bases at Williamtown in New South Wales and Tindal in the Northern Territory where the planes will be based.

Australia had originally indicated it would buy 100 of the jets, and that is still a target figure for air force chiefs, but budgetary constraints under the previous government saw it trim back and delay the order in 2012.

The JSF, costing $160 million according to Pentagon figures and not due to enter service until 2016, has been touted as a technological wonder and the ultimate stealth attack plane able to evade radar detection.

However it has suffered setback after setback notably with troublesome software. It is seven years behind schedule with a budget blow-out of US$167 billion to more than $390 billion, making it the costliest weapons programme in US history.

Australia's Defence Minister David Johnson expanded on the military importance of the F-35 to a country the size of Australia.

"This is a very, very potent force with a range to take out an adversary not seen around the world before," he said.

"With respect to our neighbourhood I think no one is going to be in that league for some long time."

Johnson said air combat capability was the cornerstone of Australia's national security.

"This aircraft is peerless, it has no identifiable rival in the air at the moment. We see it dominating the skies for the next at least 10 to 15 years.

"It's expensive, it's highly technical ... but this is a commitment that the world needs to see," Johnston said.

South Korea has plans to finalise the purchase of 40 F-35 jet fighters from Lockheed Martin later this year while Israel, Japan and Singapore have also expressed interest in buying.

Australia is one of eight countries, apart from the United States, taking part in the JSF programme: Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey. - AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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