Sri Lanka police dog 'weddings' condemned by minister

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Media captionThe "brides" wore mittens, shawls and hats while the "grooms" wore red ties

Sri Lanka's culture ministry has strongly condemned a mass "wedding" of police dogs which they say offensively used traditional Buddhist symbols.

Police "married" nine pairs of dogs on a platform decorated with white cloth and flowers in a ceremony resembling a traditional marriage.

The "brides" wore mittens, shawls and hats while the "grooms" wore red ties.

Police have defended the "wedding" saying that it was done to promote the domestic breeding of sniffer dogs.

But in a statement they also apologised for their actions.

Culture Minister TB Ekanayake said that police officers had "contemptibly devalued" traditional weddings in a devoutly Buddhist country.

He said that he was incensed that the dog couples were placed on a Buddhist poruwa - a stage used in traditional Sinhalese weddings.

"This is not acceptable according to our cultural norms," Mr Ekanayake told reporters.

"We are people who really value out traditional weddings - which are only done at auspicious times alongside the chanting of stanzas and [other] poruwa rituals.

"The police have demeaned all this by conducting this in the Kandy - the city of the [famous Buddhist) Temple of [the] Tooth. I totally condemn this."

Mr Ekanayake said that such an incident had never happened before in Sri Lanka and that he had written to the the inspector-general of police asking him to conduct a full inquiry.

'Photo opportunity'

But police say that the structure where the "weddings" were staged had nothing to do with Buddhism and that it was necessary to elevate the dogs so that they could be better photographed.

Image caption Nine pairs of dogs were escorted by police for the "marriage" ceremony

"This did not in anyway resemble a poruwa and was simply placed there for the photo opportunity," the police said in the statement.

Police have apologised for any offence caused to cultural and religious sensibilities - Sri Lanka is 75% ethnic Sinhalese and Buddhist.

They say that the "wedding" on Monday was intended to promote a programme to breed sniffer dogs domestically.

Police told local media that in 2011 Sri Lanka spent 70m rupees ($526,000; £339,000) on importing police dogs from Netherlands.

They said that the domestically-run breeding programme would not only keep this money in the country but would also produce dogs better suited to its climate.

Constables served milk rice and cake to about 1,000 guests at the specially decorated venue where the ceremony was held.

The dog couples were driven off by police van to the hill resort of Nuwara Eliya for their "honeymoon".

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