Sri Lankan government imposes curfew and blocks social media platforms

Sri Lanka’s opposition lawmakers marched through the capital, Colombo, on Sunday to protest the president’s decision to impose a nationwide curfew and state of emergency following protests accusing the government of be responsible for an economic crisis.

Sri Lankan netizens were also unable to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and other social media platforms on Sunday after they were used to stage protests calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa , claiming that he is responsible for the economic deepening of the country. misfortunes.

Netblocks, a global internet monitor, confirmed that network data collected from more than 100 vantage points across Sri Lanka showed the restrictions come into effect on multiple providers from midnight.

Sri Lanka is under a nationwide curfew from Saturday evening to Monday morning after Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency and assumed emergency powers at midnight on Friday. More protests were planned across the country on Sunday as anger over shortages of essential food, fuel and long power cuts boiled over.

Rajapaksa’s declaration of emergency gives him broad powers to preserve public order, suppress mutinies, riots or civil unrest or to maintain essential supplies. In urgent cases, the President may authorize detentions, seizure of property and search of premises. He can also amend or suspend any law except the constitution.

In an apparent move to defy Rajapaksa’s order, lawmakers marched towards Colombo’s main square, shouting slogans and carrying signs reading “Stop Suppression” and “Gota go home”. Gota is an abbreviated version of the president’s first name.

Armed soldiers and police erected barricades on the road leading to the square, which was built to commemorate the country’s independence from Britain in 1948.

A pedestrian walks past Special Task Force (STF) and policemen standing guard along a street in Colombo on Sunday in April. (Signes S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

“It’s unconstitutional,” opposition leader Sajith Premadasa told troops who blocked MPs from entering the square. “You are breaking the law. Please think of the people who are suffering. Why are you protecting a government like this?”

Another lawmaker, Nalin Bandara, said, “How long can they rule in an emergency? The first time the curfew is lifted, people will be back on the streets.”

Fuel shortages, power outages

Sri Lanka faces huge debts and dwindling foreign exchange reserves, and its struggle to pay for its imports has resulted in a lack of basic supplies. People stand in long queues for gas, and electricity is cut for several hours a day because there is not enough fuel to run power plants and dry weather has undermined capacity hydroelectric.

The island nation’s economic woes are blamed on successive governments’ failure to diversify exports, relying instead on traditional sources of cash like tea, clothing and tourism, and a culture of consuming imported goods .

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the economy, with the government estimating a loss of US$14 billion over the past two years. Protesters also decry mismanagement – Sri Lanka has a huge foreign debt after borrowing heavily on projects that don’t bring in money. Its foreign debt repayment obligations amount to about US$7 billion this year alone.

The crisis has affected people from all walks of life. Middle-class professionals and businesspeople who would not normally take part in street protests held nightly rallies with candles and placards in many parts of the country.