Sri Lanka has apparently decided that it needs to become the Buddhist equivalent of Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries where any form of disparagement to their favored religion, however trivial, is not allowed. We had the situation of tourists who were arrested for taking a gag photo at a Buddhist temple and R&B singer Akon who was denied entry because one his videos had scantily-clad dancing women with a Buddha statue in the background.
The latest case is that of a British tourist who was denied an entry visa at the airport because he had a Buddha tattoo on his arm and when questioned about it had allegedly spoken “very disrespectfully” which he flatly denies, saying that he got the tattoo because he has been a follower of Buddhist philosophy for many years.
It should be realized that unlike in Islam there is no prohibition in Buddhism against images of the Buddha. In fact, images in the form of posters and statues are all over the place in Sri Lanka, so it is not clear why this particular image was so offensive, since it seems like a pretty straightforward representation.
From what little I know of Buddhism, I think that the Buddha would have been appalled at his followers treating him as some kind of god-like religious icon. I recall attending a conference many years ago as a university student where a professor of Buddhist philosophy railed at how the Buddhist clergy and the politicians in the country had hijacked Buddhism and taken it from a sophisticated philosophy and turned it into just another god-based religion filled with rituals and superstitions and taboos. He clearly failed in his mission to reverse that trend and if anyone in a similar position said such a thing now, he or she would likely face censure and even get attacked by mobs.