No need to extend 'State of Emergency' in Lanka, ban on social media to be lifted by Friday: Minister

The government said that the restriction on the use of social media, including the Facebook would lifted by Friday.

Published: 13th March 2018 09:59 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th March 2018 09:59 PM   |  A+A-

Image for representational purpose only

By PTI

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government is unlikely to extend the 10-day nationwide state of emergency imposed after communal riots erupted in Kandy district, as no fresh incidents of violence has been reported from anywhere in the country, the new Law and Order Minister has said.

Also, the government said that the restriction on the use of social media, including the Facebook would lifted by Friday.

Communal violence broke out in the country's scenic district following the death of a man from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority, resulting in the death of two persons and damage to several homes, businesses and mosques.

President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed a three-member commission to probe the communal clashes in Kandy.

He had declared a nationwide state of emergency on March 6 and deployed the police and military to prevent escalation of violence after clashes between majority Sinhala Buddhists and minority Muslims erupted in other areas of the central riot-hit district.

Ranjith Maddumabandara said he thinks it was not necessary to continue the state of emergency any further.

"I had a discussion with the Inspector General of Police and senior police officers this morning to assess the current security situation in the country.

"We are of the view that the country's security situation is normal right now and therefore, the extending of the 'state of emergency' which will expire on Thursday (March 15) will not be necessary," Maddumabandara was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.

He also said he discussed the possibility of lifting the temporary ban on social media, including Facebook, with the police.

The government had restricted the use of social media, including Facebook, and social messaging app, Whatsapp after police claimed that they were being used to spread hatred against the minority community.

"A decision in this regard would be taken soon but the final decision, however, will be taken on both issues after President returns from his official visit to Japan," the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Minister for Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando today said that social media platforms, including the Facebook, would be made accessible by Friday morning.

He said that the President has instructed to lift the restrictions on the use of social media platforms including Facebook, Viber, WhatsApp and Imo.

"Social media platforms, including the Facebook, which were blocked last week, would be accessible by Friday morning after holding talks with the officials from Facebook," Fernando was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.

Officials from the Facebook would be arriving in Sri Lanka on Thursday.

Earlier, in response to the government's ban, Facebook has said it is in contact with the Sri Lankan government and non-governmental organisations to support efforts to identify and remove hate speech from its platform.

"We have clear rules against hate speech and incitement to violence and work hard to keep it off our platform.

We are responding to the situation in Sri Lanka and are in contact with the government and non-governmental organisations to support efforts to identify and remove such content," the Facebook has said in an email to the CNBC.

It said the ban in Sri Lanka came after several years in which critics have said Facebook and the government were not doing enough to prevent the spread of such harmful posts.

Meanwhile, Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said that the situation in Kandy was calm and quiet.

"Though the situation was normal, but the police would not relax its guard in Kandy in particular," he said, addingh that 3,000 police and 750 STF personnel had been deployed in the riot-hit district.

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