Sri Lanka Economic Crisis

Sri Lanka: Opposition protest over the state of emergency, government shuts down social media

Sri Lankans gather at a fuel station in Colombo to buy diesel before the beginning of curfew in Colombo (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

On Sunday, opposition politicians in Sri Lanka marched through the capital, Colombo, to protest the president's decision to impose a curfew and state of emergency in a worsening economic crisis.

On Sunday, the majority of Sri Lanka's internet users were also unable to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms, which had been used to organize demonstrations calling for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's resignation, claiming he is to blame for the country's economic woes.

Netblocks, a global internet monitoring service, confirmed that network data collected from over 100 vantage points throughout Sri Lanka indicated that the restrictions would affect at midnight across multiple providers.

Sri Lanka is currently under a nationwide curfew from Saturday night to Monday morning following Mr. Rajapaksa's declaration of a state of emergency and the assumption of emergency powers at midnight on Friday.

On Sunday, other protests were planned across the country as anger over food shortages, fuel shortages, and prolonged power outages boiled over.

Mr. Rajapaksa's emergency declaration vests him with broad authority to maintain public order, suppress mutiny, riot, or civil disturbances, and maintain essential supplies.

The president may order detentions, the seizure of property, and the search of premises during an emergency. Additionally, he can amend or suspend any law except the constitution.

Opposition politicians marched toward Colombo's central square, shouting slogans and carrying placards reading "Stop Suppression" and "Gota go home" (Gota is a shortened version of the president's first name).

Armed soldiers and police officers erected barricades on the road leading to the square, constructed in 1948 to commemorate the country's independence from the United Kingdom.

Sri Lanka is burdened by massive debt and dwindling foreign reserves, and its inability to pay for imports has resulted in a shortage of basic supplies.

People queue for gas, and electricity is cut off for several hours daily due to a lack of fuel for power plants, and dry weather has depleted hydropower capacity.

The island nation's economic woes have been attributed to successive governments' failure to diversify exports, relying on traditional cash crops such as tea, garments, tourism, and the culture of imported goods consumption.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on the economy, with the government estimating a 14 billion US dollars (£10.7 billion) loss over the last two years.

Protesters also point to mismanagement – Sri Lanka has a massive foreign debt due to excessive borrowing for non-profit projects. Its foreign debt repayment obligations for this year alone total around 7 billion dollars (£5.3 billion).

People from all walks of life have been affected by the crisis. In many parts of the country, middle-class professionals and business people who would not usually participate in street protests have been holding nightly rallies with candles and placards.

Publish : 2022-04-03 16:33:00

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