Minister Sarath Weerasekera posted the above tweet in connection with Sri Lanka’s Independence Day. In his tweet, the minister suggests that the mere act of distorting or disrespecting the national flag can be punished under the Penal Code and that such behaviour should be prosecuted.
To evaluate this claim, FactCheck.lk examined the provisions of the Penal Code, and looked at related laws in other jurisdictions. The Penal Code does not have a specific provision which punishes distorting or disrespecting the national flag. This is unlike in some countries, where ‘flag desecration’ laws or ‘flag codes’ prohibit certain acts in relation to the use of flags.
However, under section 120 of the Penal Code, a person who uses signs or visible representations to “promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes” of the People of Sri Lanka is liable to be punished with simple imprisonment for a maximum term of two years. Therefore, a particular distortion of the flag (which can be considered a “sign” or “visible representation”) committed with this intention may be liable to punishment under this section. Nevertheless, the mere fact of distorting the flag would not automatically fall within section 120, and the act of ‘disrespecting’ the flag remains outside the scope of this provision.
Therefore, we classify this statement as FALSE.
*FactCheck.lk’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck.lk will revisit the assessment.
Penal Code of Sri Lanka
Michigan State University College of Law, A survey of Flag Desecration Laws Around the World, available at https://www.msuilr.org/msuilr-legalforum-blogs/2017/3/23/a-survey-of-flag-desecration-laws-around-the-world [Last accessed 23 March 2022]
Euronews, The EU countries that will punish you for disrespecting their flags, available at https://www.euronews.com/2017/11/09/which-country-has-the-harshest-punishments-for-disrespecting-flags-and-national [Last accessed 23 March 2022]