Sri Lanka lifts controls on facebook, social media: President’s office

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has lifted restriction on access to social media platforms where nationalist messages and scapegoating was used to target a Muslim minority, following a meeting a team from, the President’s office said.

"President Maithripala Sirisena has given instructions to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka to remove the temporary restriction to access the social media site Facebook with immediate effect," a statement from the President’s office said.

"The President has given this instruction following a detailed assessment of the decisions taken during the meeting between the Secretary to the President and the representatives from Facebook, held at the Presidential Secretariat, today (15)."

The government blocked access to social media in a knee-jerk kill-the-messenger reaction saying that Sri Lanka’s nationalists used facebook and other social media platforms to incite crowds of majority Sinhalese, who follow Buddhism, to attack minority Muslims and their property, in several areas of the country.

But the climate for nationalist hate has been set section of the mainstream media, analysts have pointed out.

"The root cause of the problem lies in this insidious spread of falsehoods and hate over multiple years, not solely in the specific messages being communicated now," Rohan Samarajiva, economist and former telecom regulator said in a blog post.

"There is no doubt that we need to work hard, in cooperation with the providers of social media applications, to prevent the spreading of hate speech. This is not a task that is limited to when the mobs are running, but is a long-term project."

In Sri Lanka ethno-religious nationalism gained ground from the latter stages of British rule with the greater freedom of speech and cheap printing technology developing, a little after it happened in Eastern Europe with the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, analysts have said.

With the popular vote, nationalism in East European newly emergent nation-states such as Romania, Hungary, Prussia (later Germany) eventually led to National Socialism (Nazism) which is one of the most extreme forms of post-feudal nationalist variants known.

With the popular vote sans liberty (illiberal democracy) nationalism was the easiest path to power in a newly emergent nation-state.





In Sri Lanka nationalism is insidiously taught in tax payer funded schools with revisionist history, according to some critics.

Academics who have studied nationalist hate closely finds several characteristic in countries troubled with nationalist hate.

The key philosophy is that there is a ‘core nation’ or nationality, defined in ethno-cultural terms that is different from the current resident population of a country. Such a ‘nation’ may not even have existed in the past, since, mass-migration, fluid borders, changing languages and religions were the norm rather than the exception even during a few hundred years of history.

The idea is promoted that the core nation legitimately ‘owns’ the polity. That the core nation is not flourishing or is in decline, and specific action is needed to promote language or other aspects

Nazism was practiced mainly by Christian sects. Followers of Mussolini’s facism were Catholic. Sri Lanka’s nationalism and Burma’s after the end of its military rule is connected to Theravadin Buddhist followers. (Colombo/Mar15/2018)

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