Sri Lanka refuses singer Akon visa after protests

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka said on Tuesday it would deny a visa to the Senegalese-American R&B singer and rapper Akon, whose plan to hold a concert there in April infuriated Buddhists offended by one of his videos.

On Monday, hundreds of people stormed the head offices of the Maharaja Broadcasting and Television (MBC/MTV) Network, the media sponsor of the concert. Four employees were injured and windows and parked cars were smashed.

Akon’s video for the song “Sexy Bitch” features scantily clad women dancing in front of a statue of the Buddha. Sri Lanka’s ethnic majority Sinhalese are primarily Buddhists.

“Taking into consideration the allegations levelled against the singer Akon, the government has decided not to issue him a visa to conduct the concert in Sri Lanka,” said Anusha Palpita, director-general of the government’s Information Department.

Palpita said the main allegation against Akon was that he was “defaming Buddhism in his music videos”.

Representatives for Akon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist clergy are hugely influential in ordinary life and politics, and in the past hardline Sinhalese nationalists have used violence against those they see as offending Buddhism.

The attack by an estimated 200 people on the pro-opposition network, which runs three television and four radio stations from its headquarters in central Colombo, came as the campaign heats up for parliamentary elections on April 8.

In December 2004, a hand grenade attack at a concert by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan killed two people and wounded 19. The attack was blamed on Sinhalese nationalists who were angry that the concert was being staged on the first anniversary of the death of a renowned Buddhist monk.

Editing by Bryson Hull and Kevin Liffey