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Sunday October 1st, 2023

Sri Lanka police arrests 21 anti-govt protestors as IMF talks begin

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka police has arrested 21 protestors at the ‘GotaGoGama’ agitation site in Colombo for obstructing the gates of the Presidential Secretariat and the Treasury building, police said ahead of a meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials.

“We arrested 21 suspects for blocking the entrances of the Presidential Secretariat and the Treasury building as officials were unable to go in and out of those buildings,” Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa told EconomyNext on Monday June 20.

In the early hours of Monday, GotaGotaGama protesters had blocked all three entrances of the Presidential Secretariat. The building’s main entrance had been blocked for over 70 days since the demonstrations began in April, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Out of the 21 people arrested, four were women and 16 males including a Buddhist monk. “They were arrested for unlawful assembly because they were obstructing the entrance,” Thalduwa said.

Footage shared on social media showed some suspects being carted off to a police bus. One of them was ordered to be taken to the bus for recording. It is not clear what provisions of the law was used for these arrests.

Thalduwa further said the protestors were also obstructing officials from going to a meeting with IMF officials held Monday morning. Some of the protestors, however, claimed that they had been blocking the entrances since midnight.

They claimed that they had surrounded the gates to wish President Rajapaksa for his 73rd birthday which fell on Monday.

The human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on the Sri Lankan government to immediately release those restrained. (Colombo/Jun20/2022)

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Sri Lanka National Christian Council opposes Online Safety Bill

ECONOMYNEXT – The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) in a statement on the Online Safety Bill, said that the existing legal regime is adequate to deal with instances of harmful speech, making it unjustifiable to enact such “stringent laws”.

The Council called upon the government to withdraw the bill immediately.

The body expressed “deep concern” over the proposed bill, detailing its potential to curtail freedom of speech and how, according to the Council, the piece of legislature is inconsistent with the principles of democracy.

“The bill proposes the establishment of an entity named the Online Safety Commission without provisions to guarantee its independence and impartiality,” the statement said.

Chapter 3 imposes restrictions on online communication of certain statements, many of which are vague and overbroad, leaving room for executive control and the curtailing of legitimate criticism and dissent that are basic features of democracy, the statement said.

“The laws granting wide discretion to the executive and its investigative agencies with expansive reach have been misused in the past.”

The Council said that the bill was not drafted with the process of public consultation and discussion, which might have ensured the bill would be less draconian in nature.

“The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka calls upon the government to withdraw this anti-human rights and anti-democratic bill immediately.” (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to implement new vehicle revenue licence issuing system

ECONOMYNEXT – A new system of issuing vehicle licences called eRL 2.0 is to be implemented in 5 provinces, excluding the Western Province, from 3 October onwards.

The new system is to be implemented beginning in the North West, South, North Central, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces, respectively. The existing vehicle licence issuing system eRL 1.0 will continue to be used in the Western Province.

The issuing of revenue licences islandwide at Department of Motor Traffic head offices and regional branches will be temporarily halted on October 2.

The facility of obtaining vehicle permits online will also be temporarily halted on 6 October till midnight.

The Sri Lanka Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Provincial Motor Traffic Departments are working to modernize the current vehicle revenue license issuance system.

The implementation of the new eRL 2.0 system is expected to be an important step in the digitalisation of Sri Lanka. (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lankan Airlines flights cancelled as aircraft grounded

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run SriLankan Airlines has apologized to passengers who were stranded as multiple aircraft were grounded at the same time.

The airline said it has strict procedures which requires aircraft to be grounded when technical issues are discovered.

“Unfortunately, in this case we suffered a number of groundings at the same time,” the airline said.

“We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience caused and assure all our loyal customers that we are working diligently to minimize such occurrences moving forward.”

The airline said it was booking passengers on other airlines while some have been accommodated at hotels. (Colombo/Sept30/2023)

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