Sri Lanka on Sunday shut down all social media during a 36-hour curfew, to stem anti-government protests against rising costs. Soldiers and agents also prevented several opposition MPs who marched in the commercial capital Colombo despite the curfew.
About 100 protesters, including MPs such as opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, marched in Colombo, the country’s largest city, on Sunday. The army and police blocked their way near Independence Square in the center.
A spokesperson said the Defense Department has ordered the blocking of social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has declared a state of national emergency due to mass protests against the deep economic crisis in the island state. The state of emergency gives the president, police and army expanded security powers, for example to arrest protesters.
Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on Saturday following a demonstration outside his private residence, 14 kilometers south of the capital, Colombo. It started on Thursday night and quickly turned violent. The demonstrators threw stones at the police and set five cars on fire, after which the police fired tear gas. More than 30 protesters and at least 24 police officers were injured and 53 people were arrested.
The curfew is in effect until Monday morning. Curfew is strictly enforced. For example, 664 people have been arrested for ignoring the ban.
The protests are mainly the result of inflation, which is now around 19 percent. In addition to the currency devaluation, the country is also experiencing shortages of energy, food, medicine and fuel.
The island of 22 million people has seen 70 percent of foreign currency evaporate within two years and can no longer afford to import basic products.
India bailed out with a €900 million loan to quickly ship rice and other basic needs to Sri Lanka, among other things. Rice in Sri Lanka is already twice as expensive than it was a year ago. It has already started loading ships to bring rice to Sri Lanka within days, the head of the giant South Indian rice company, Pattabi Agro Foods, said.
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