A beauty queen has been released on bail after she was arrested for ripping the crown off the head of the new Mrs Sri Lanka during a pageant ceremony on Sunday.
Pushpika De Silva, 31, was handed the 2020/2021 title at the major event held in Colombo which aired on national TV, and was broadcast live via social media.
But moments after her title win, footage showed Caroline Jurie, 28, who won the crown in 2019 and is the current Mrs World, dramatically pull the crown from De Silva’s head claiming she could not be awarded the honour because she was divorced.
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De Silva, who walked off stage in tears, had hospital treatment after the incident, which was seen by stunned spectators in the packed venue and online.
The crown has since been returned to her after officials confirmed that while she is separated, she is not a divorcee.
Arrests made as a result of incident
On Thursday, Colombo police said Jurie had been arrested on charges of assault for the bizarre onstage intervention at the Nelum Pokuna theatre.
“We have arrested Jurie and [her associate] Chula Manamendra in connection with a charge of assault and causing damage to Nelum Pokuna [theatre],” senior police official Ajith Rohana said.
Jurie was pictured leaving a police station in Colombo on Thursday after being bailed.
De Silva was also seen leaving the same Cinnamon Gardens Police station after giving a statement to the police.
She told media she was ready to drop the charges if Jurie made a public apology, but she had refused.
“I tried to end this out of court, but she has refused,” De Silva said. “I can forgive, but not forget.”
Neither Jurie, her associate or their lawyers spoke to reporters outside the police station.
The fiasco began after dramatic footage showed Jurie with a microphone telling the crowd that contestants must be married, before citing a pageant rule.
“There is a rule that prevents women who have already been married and are divorced, so I am taking steps to make the crown go to second place,” she said after De Silva was named Mrs Sri Lanka.
The 28-year-old former titleholder then marched over to De Silva to snatch the golden crown, but struggled as it got caught in her hair.
After finally pulling it free, Jurie walked over to the runner-up and placed it on her head, causing De Silva to walk off stage in tears.
De Silva addressed the “unexpected incident” in a Facebook post the following day, saying she needed medical attention for “head injuries”.
She also described Jurie’s actions as “unreasonable and insulting”.
“I say a true queen is not a woman who snatches another woman’s crown, but a woman who secretly sets another woman’s crown,” De Silva said in a lengthy Facebook post.
“I’m still an un-divorced woman.”
Apology to winner from pageant organisers
In a media conference, the pageant winner said the crown is dedicated to “those women, those single mums who are suffering to raise their kids alone”.
“There are a lot of single mums like me today who are suffering in Sri Lanka,” De Silva said.
Event organisers branded the incident a “disgrace” and have officially apologised to De Silva.
“We are disappointed,” Chandimal Jayasinghe, the national director of the Mrs Sri Lanka World competition, told the BBC.
“It was a disgrace how Caroline Jurie behaved on the stage and the Mrs World organisation has already begun an investigation on the matter.”
He said they were claiming compensation from Jurie for damages to the stage and backstage dressing rooms where several mirrors had been smashed.
The ruckus also meant the event dragged on two hours longer and theatre management demanded an additional fee of half a million rupees ($A2500).
Jurie has also been accused by organisers of bringing disrepute to the event.
Social media calls have been mounting to strip Jurie of her “Mrs World” title, with many bombarding her Instagram posts, slamming her, for her actions.
“You are stunning it’s true but how you acted is sadly not the way a woman should act,” one follower wrote.
“Women are supposed to empower each other not bring each other down. There is a rule that Mrs World needs to be married, everyone knows that, but as a woman what right do you have to publicly humiliate another woman for being a divorcee.
“How you acted is one step back for society and our world because you are creating even more ‘stigma’ and pain around the idea of divorce.”
Police said a court hearing was fixed for April 19.