President Sirisena lifts nationwide state of emergency in Sri Lanka

On March 6, the government imposed a state of emergency blocking Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media sites.

President Sirisena lifts nationwide state of emergency in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday lifted the nationwide state of emergency which was imposed on March 6. For a first, the emergency was declared since the civil war following days of communal violence between majority Sinhala Buddhists and minority Muslims in the country.

President Sirisena, who returned to Sri Lanka on Saturday night from an official visit to India and Japan, removed the state of emergency as the situation in the country returned to normal. "Upon assessing the public safety situation, I instructed to revoke the State of Emergency from midnight yesterday," he twitted.

On March 6, the government imposed a state of emergency blocking Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media sites following anti-Muslim violence in the island's central hills Kandy and Ampara districts in which three people were killed and hundreds of Muslim-owned properties, including mosques, were damaged.

Facing flak from the Opposition for not lifting the blockage on social media despite improvement in the situation, the government lifted the ban on Facebook on March 15 after officials from the US social media giant agreed to step up efforts to remove hate speech posted on its platform during the anti-Muslim violence.

The communal violence was triggered by the death of a Sinhalese man by a mob.

The government had deployed thousands of troops to restore peace and protect the minority Muslims and their property. "The President decided to revoke the order in view of the improved security situation," a presidential official said.

The police arrested more than 200 people for violence against Muslims.

It was the first time in seven years Sri Lanka had imposed the measure. The country was under a state of emergency for nearly three decades when the government fought Tamil rebels LTTE in the civil war that ended in 2009.

Violence has risen in the Buddhist-majority country since 2012, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites.

(With PTI inputs)

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