ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka imposed local indefinite police curfew in some areas of capital Colombo and a town near the island nation’s main airport from 2100 hours of Friday, a day ahead of a protest to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign after his failures to ensure supplies of essentials like fuel, cooking gas, and kerosene oil.

The local police curfew was imposed in the North, South, central Colombo, Mount Lavinia, and Nugegoda in the district of capital Colombo while the same was imposed in Negombo near the island nation’s main airport and Keleniya in the adjoining district of Gampaha.

“People residing in these police divisions should stay inside their houses and it is hereby informed that breaching the curfew rule will be considered as disrupting the law and order and tough actions will be taken against them,” the police said in a statement.

The police announcement came as thousands of people were expected to participate in the protest near President Rajapaksa’s official residence where his movement has been limited since April first week.

The protesters have warned of prolonged and aggressive protests if Rajapaksa does not resign.

Rajapaksa’s wrong economic policies and a chemical fertilizer ban have led the country to an unprecedented economic crisis and a looming food shortage. The protesters have been agitating for the past 3 months across the country demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation.

The economic crisis also has led to shortage of dollars which in turn has resulted in shortage of essential like fuel, cooking gas, kerosene oil, medicines, and some other essential food amid extended power cuts. The government has announced that it could not supply fuel for two weeks through July 10 though the fuel shipment arrivals show the shortage will not end in the foreseeable future.

The prolonged protests saw the resignation of cabinet twice, resignation of prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former central bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa from the legislator post, and resignation of former treasury secretary S R Attygala.

Despite the curfew, the protesters said they will continue the agitation on Saturday as planned.

“Curfew won’t stop us. This is Gotabaya’s old idealogy, last time also we came to the streets. He can expect the same tomorrow,” Nipun Tharaka, a protester told Economy Next.

“We aren’t scared of their gunshots, tear gas and water canons, hit us or kill us. We are ready. We came to the protest with a mindset to sacrifice ourselves and that hasn’t changed, we’re ready.”

W.P Harin, 26 said he was ready to be killed if Rajapaksa deployed military and give shooting order.

“We are not scared. They have tear gassed us more than 5 times in the last 100 days. I got attacked by Mahinda (Rajapaksa’s) supporters and police arrested me for engaging in protests, but still I continue our fight,” he said.

Legal experts and opposition legislators challenged the police curfew order.

“There’s no law in Sri Lanka that provides for or allows imposition of anything called a “police curfew”,” Viran Corea, a lawyer tweeted.

“Any action to prohibit the freedom of movement and thereby the right to peaceful protest on such a non-existent basis is illegal and a denial of citizens’ fundamental rights.” (Colombo/July 08/2022)