This image has circulated in reports since 2018 about Sri Lanka's former prime minister opening a restored Buddhist temple

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A photo showing former Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe pouring water into a pond has been shared multiple times in Facebook posts that claim it shows him performing a ritual for re-election in 2020. The posts circulated online after after the incumbent minister of health was mocked for performing a ritual that sought divine intervention to eradicate the novel coronavirus from Sri Lanka. However, the claim is false: the photo has circulated online since 2018 in reports about Wickremesinghe pouring blessed water into a pond in Maha Viharaya, a buddhist temple in Sri Lanka’s Anuradhapura, as part of a re-opening ceremony.

The photo was published here on Facebook on November 2, 2020. 

The Sinhala-language post translates to English as: “That's blessed water... This is also blessed water... One is wishing for better times for the country... Other is in hope of positions (Presidency, Premiership)”.

Screenshot of the Facebook post published on November 2, 2020

The posts circulated online after after the incumbent minister of health and other ministers were mocked for performing a ritual that sought divine intervention to eradicate the novel coronavirus from Sri Lanka.

The photo was also published here, here, here and here on Facebook alongside similar claims.

However, the claim is false.

A reverse Google image search of the photo in the misleading posts found this report by Sri Lankan newspaper the Daily Mirror dated August 15, 2018.

Screenshot of the August 2018 Daily Mirror report, captured on November 2020

The article is headlined: “PM visits newly preserved stone pond at Anuradhapura” and it reads, in part: “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe poured Pirith Water into the newly preserved stone pond (No: 17) at the Maha Vihara Premises in Anuradhapura yesterday.”

"Pirith water" is water that has been blessed by Buddhist monks who chanting pirith -- a recitation of Buddhist scriptures to ward off evil. 

Maha Vihara is a Buddhist temple in the Sri Lankan city of Anuradhapura.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the photo in the misleading post (L) and the Daily Mirror photo (R):

Screenshot comparison between the photo in the misleading post (L) and the Daily Mirror photo (R)

AFP also located this tweet published on Wickremesinghe’s official twitter account on August 15, 2018 about his visit to “religious sites” in Anuradhapura.