Social Media Blocked, Curfew In Sri Lanka As Protests Spread: 10 Points

Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency amid its worst ever economic crisis.

The Sri Lankan government, battling nationwide protests over the economic crisis, has blocked access to all social media sites in its latest bid to quell protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

  1. Access to all social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube, following a governemt order late on Saturday. The Sri Lankan government said the decision was taken to stem misinformation.
  2. A 36-hour curfew is already in place in the island nation of 22 million. The curfew, which began on Saturday 6pm, has been imposed till  Monday 6 am – a period that covers planned mass anti-government protests against worsening shortages of fuel, food and medicines.
  3. The curfew and state of emergency in the near-bankrupt country came as social media posts called for protests on Sunday. “Do not be deterred by tear gas, very soon they will run out of dollars to re-stock,” said one post encouraging people to demonstrate even if police attempt to break up gatherings.
  4. The tough laws allow the military to arrest and detain suspects for long periods without trial. In his defence, Mr Rajapaksa has said that the state of emergency was needed to protect public order and maintain essential supplies and services.
  5. Sri Lanka is facing an acute lack of foreign currency to pay for even the most essential imports. Hundreds of people have defied the curfew and gathered at several suburban towns, police and residents said.
  6. “#GoHomeRajapaksas” and “#GotaGoHome” have been trending for days on Twitter and Facebook in the island nation, which is battling severe shortages of essentials, sharp price rises and crippling power cuts in its most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.
  7. The ongoing crisis – the result of economic mismanagement by successive governments – has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit tourism and remittances.
  8. It has also marked a sharp turnaround in political support for Mr Rajapaksa, who swept to power in 2019 promising stability.
  9. The government has said it is seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and loans from India and China. New Delhi recently announced that it will extend a USD 1 billion line of credit to Colombo as part of its financial assistance to the country to deal with the economic crisis following a previous USD 500 billion line of credit (LoC) in February to help it purchase petroleum products.
  10. India also delivered a consignment of 40,000 metric tonnes of diesel to Sri Lanka on Saturday, the fourth such assistance from New Delhi, to mitigate the spike in power cuts in the island nation.

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