Opposition lawmakers in Sri Lanka protest government's decision to impose state of emergency
Colombo: Defying curfew orders, lawmakers from Sri Lanka's principal opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) on Sunday staged an anti-government protest here against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's move to impose a state of emergency and other restrictions amidst the worst economic crisis in the island nation.
A majority of Sri Lankans were unable to access social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on Sunday after the Sri Lankan government decided to block them after they alleged that these were being used to organise demonstrations against the government.
NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that monitors cybersecurity and the governance of the Internet reported that real-time network data collected from over 100 vantage points across Sri Lanka showed restrictions coming into effect across multiple providers from midnight.
We will protect #democracy in #SriLanka, opposition legislator Harsha de Silva said.
Opposition lawmakers marched towards Colombo's Independence Square, chanting slogans and carrying placards that read: Stop Suppression and Gota go home.
Police officials set up barricades leading up to the Independence Square, which was built to commemorate Sri Lanka's independence in 1948.
Additionally, the Sri Lankan police on Sunday have arrested 664 persons in the country's Western Province for violating the curfew, the Colombo Page newspaper reported.
The arrests took place during an operation between 10 pm on Saturday night and 6 am this morning, the newspaper said, quoting police officials. They said that more operations were being carried out across the country to nab people violating the curfew, the report said.
The Sri Lankan government on Saturday imposed a 36-hour curfew as a nationwide public emergency has been enforced ahead of a planned anti-government rally over the worst economic crisis in the island nation that has hit the common man badly.
The nation-wide curfew has been imposed with effect from 6 pm Saturday to 6 am Monday (April 4), the information department said.
President Rajapaksa has given the directive under the Public Security Ordinance regulations, it said.
The move came as the island nation braced for country-wide protests on Sunday against the government's poor handling of the ongoing economic crisis where people currently endure long hours of power outages and scarcity of essentials.
The imposition of curfew would prevent citizens from holding protests.
Rajapaksa issued a special gazette notification late on Friday night, declaring a public emergency in Sri Lanka with immediate effect from April 1.
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in history. With long lines for fuel, cooking gas, essentials in short supply and long hours of power cuts the public have been suffering for weeks.
Rajapaksa has defended his government's actions, saying the foreign exchange crisis was not his making and the economic downturn was largely pandemic driven where the island's tourism revenue and inward remittances waning.