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Over 600 protesters arrested in Sri Lanka for breaking national curfew

More than 600 people were arrested in Sri Lanka’s Western Province on Sunday for violating a 36-hour nationwide curfew and attempting to stage an anti-government rally to protest the country’s worst economic crisis. Opposition lawmakers, led by their leader Sajith Premadasa, had embarked on a march to Colombo’s iconic Independence Square, defying a government-imposed weekend curfew on Saturday, ahead of the protest scheduled for Sunday.

We are protesting the government’s abuse of the public safety order to deny the public’s right to protest, Premadasa said. The protest was organized by social media activists against the current economic crisis and the hardships plaguing people due to shortages of essential goods.

A total of 664 people were arrested in Western Province on Sunday. A nationwide curfew has been declared ahead of an Arab Spring-style protest due to take place on Sunday, Colombo Gazette reported. In an apparent attempt to block the planned protest, the Sri Lankan government imposed a 36-hour curfew on Saturday. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a special gazette notice on Friday evening, declaring a public emergency in Sri Lanka with immediate effect from April 1.

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In another settlement after his action to impose a state of emergency which followed an order to impose a nationwide curfew, Rajapaksa said no one should go out and visit public places without permission during curfew hours. fire. I consider it necessary to maintain public order in the areas. direct that no one be on any public road, railway line, public park, public recreation area or other public land or the seashore in these areas from 6:00 p.m. on April 2, 2022 at 0600 a.m. of April 4, 2022, except under the authority of a written permit granted, he said.

The government on Sunday banned gatherings and ordered internet service providers to restrict access to social media, tightening restrictions amid planned protests calling for the ousting of President Rajapaksa over soaring living costs and a currency crisis. The decision to block social media platforms was criticized by the government’s own ranks.

Dialog Telecom, a major service provider, said access to Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, WhatsApp, Viber, Twitter, IMO, Instagram, Telegram, Snapchat and TikTok has been restricted. Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Sports and nephew of President Rajapaksa, told reporters the blockade was unnecessary as many people would use VPNs to access social media sites.

The blockade occurred at the request of the Ministry of Defense to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. The government’s blocking of social media platforms forced the government’s top information and communications technology official, Oshada Senanayake, to resign.

I’m sorry I can’t do more, but the circumstances are such and as I have always said, I will vehemently maintain my principles and the philosophy I believe in, he tweeted. The island nation is going through the worst economic crisis in its history, which has led to a severe shortage of food and fuel as the country has run out of dollars to pay for its imports. The public has been suffering for weeks with long queues for fuel, cooking gas, shortages of basic necessities and long hours of power cuts.

Rajapaksa defended his government’s actions, saying the currency crisis was not his fault and that the economic downturn was largely due to the pandemic.

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