Sri Lanka unveiled a towering Christmas tree on Saturday, claiming to have surpassed the world record for an artificial Christmas tree despite a shorter-than-planned finished product.
- The tree is 73 metres tall
- It contains more than 1 million natural pine cones
- Guinness World Records yet to confirm the record
The 73-metre tree, built in capital Colombo, is 18 metres taller than the current record holder China, organisers said.
The tree's steel-and-wire frame is covered with a plastic net decorated with more than 1 million natural pine cones painted red, gold, green and silver, 600,000 LED bulbs and topped by a 6-metre-tall shining star.
The tree cost $US80,000 ($111,000).
The Catholic Church criticised the tree as a "waste of money" and suggested that the funds would be better spent on helping the poor.
Sri Lanka's claim is subject to confirmation from Guinness World Records, which said it has received an application from the organisers and it is waiting for evidence.
Mangala Gunasekara, chief organiser of the tree-building project, said evidence was being gathered and would be sent to Guinness shortly.
Currently, the record is held by a Chinese firm that put up a 55-meter tree-like tower of lights and synthetic foliage, ornaments and lamps in the city of Guangzhou last year.
Tree promotes 'religious harmony'
Organisers said they wanted the tree to help promote ethnic and religious harmony in the Buddhist-majority South Asian island nation.
"This is just to show the world that we can live as one country, one nation," said Arjuna Ranatunga, the former cricket player and now Government Minister of Ports and Shipping in an interview with The Associated Press.
Sri Lanka has "issues regarding religion, caste and race," he said.
In recent years, Sri Lanka's reputation as an inclusive multicultural country has suffered amid complaints by minority Christian and Muslim communities of state-sponsored discrimination, as well as allegations of widespread abuses against minority ethnic Tamils both during and after the country's civil war against Tamil rebels, which ended in 2009.
Since assuming power in January 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena and his Government have ushered in an era of transparency and postwar reconciliation, but have yet to make good on many of their promises, including discovering the fate of thousands of people who disappeared during the war or investigating alleged wartime abuses by the military.
Hundreds of Sri Lanka's port workers and volunteers struggled for four months to put up a towering Christmas tree in time for the holidays.
"Our target was to go up to 100 metres, but due to the construction delays we had to stop at 238 foot (72.54 metres) as we need to open it on time for Christmas," Mr Gunasekara said.