Sri Lanka: More Than 600 Arrested for Violating 36-Hour Curfew Imposed by Govt

The curfew order came a day after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invoked a state of emergency in Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka: More Than 600 Arrested for Violating 36-Hour Curfew Imposed by Govt
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More than 600 protesters were arrested in Sri Lanka on Sunday, 3 April, for defying a 36-hour curfew imposed by the government on Saturday, 2 April.

The curfew had been imposed from Saturday evening to Monday morning ahead of the call for a massive public protest on Sunday.

Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa led the protest march of Opposition lawmakers towards Colombo's Independence Square in clear defiance of the curfew.

"We are protesting the government's abuse of the public security ordinance to deny the public's right to protest," Premadasa said, as per a report by PTI.

Hundreds of students in Kandy also defied the curfew by protesting against the government. The police resorted to the use of tear gas and water cannons to dispel the protesters, Reuters reported.

The Sri Lankan government also appears to have blocked dozens of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram, according to internet observatory NetBlocks.

Namal Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's Minister of Youth and Sports said, "I will never condone the blocking of social media. The availability of VPN, just like I’m using now, makes such bans completely useless. I urge the authorities to think more progressively and reconsider this decision."

The curfew order came a day after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invoked a state of emergency following a violent attempt to storm his house.

Rajapaksa issued the "Extraordinary Gazette," declaring a public emergency. The president said he believed there was a "public emergency in Sri Lanka" that necessitated invoking the tough laws.

Troops, backed by new powers, have been deployed under a state of emergency to quell protests against the president, his close advisors and family members.

‘India Has Responded To Urgent Requests With Promptness'

India has responded to urgent requests from Sri Lanka "with promptness", India's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay told ANI. Support from India to Sri Lanka since January exceeds US dollars 2.5 billion, he added.

Baglay told the agency a line of credit of $500 million signed in 4 February consignments totalling over 150,000 tons of jet aviation fuel, diesel and petrol have also arrived since January and five more consignments will follow till May.

Another line of credit of $1 billion for food, medicine, and essential items signed, under which the first consignment of rice will arrive shortly, he said. On the financial front, the RBI has extended a currency swap of US dollars 400 million and deferred payments owed by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka worth several hundred million dollars.


'Public Security Shouldn't Become Pretext for Human Rights Violations'

UK-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International advised the Sri Lankan government that the declaration of emergency in the name of public security should not become a pretext for human rights violations.

Under the new regulations, the president can change or suspend laws, authorise arrests and detentions, take possession of properties, and search any premises.

"The Sri Lankan authorities must not use unnecessary or excessive force to disperse protesters who are suffering the consequences of an economic crisis that is spiraling out of control," said Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Director, Yamini Mishra.

"Even in instances where protests turn violent, law enforcement officers must only use force where absolutely necessary and it must be strictly proportionate to the situation. The state must refrain from using force to create fear and stifle dissent."
Yamini Mishra

Sri Lanka is going through an economic meltdown of a scale unseen since the country's financial crisis of 1948, right after it secured independence from the British Empire.

As per the data released on Friday, 1 April, inflation in Colombo hit 18.7 percent in March, whereas food inflation touched a record 30.1 percent.

Sri Lanka, which is facing a crippling shortage of foreign exchange, has turned to both India and China for aid, as it struggles to pull the country out of this crisis and calm public tempers.

The Sri Lankan subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation said on Friday it would supply 6,000 MT of fuel to ease the power shortages. On Saturday, Indian traders said they were in the process of shipping 40,000 tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka, Reuters reported.

(With inputs from PTI, Reuters, ANI, and IANS.)

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Topics:  Sri Lanka   Protest   Economic Crisis 

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