Law and Crime Prevention

Concerns Arise as Sri Lanka Fails to Properly Manage Economic Crisis

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) on Tuesday urged authorities in Sri Lanka to defuse tensions peacefully, after a state of emergency was declared in response to protests over the country’s deepening economic crisis.      

OHCHR said that the situation has worsened and that there have been shortages of food and fuel, along with power cuts, prompting new protests by desperate Sri Lankans.  


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Following the state of emergency and other restrictions, Liz Throssell, Spokesperson for OHCHR said her office was “concerned that such measures are aimed at preventing or discouraging people from legitimately expressing their grievances through peaceful protests, and that they frustrate the exchange of views on matters of public interest”. 


Deteriorating situation 


Public frustration has been rising in recent months with largely peaceful demonstrations taking place across the country.  


However, amid sudden shortages in fuel, cooking gas and essential food items; worsening inflation, currency devaluation and rolling power cuts over the past two weeks, the situation has worsened.  


“This led to further protests by Sri Lankans left desperate by the rising cost of living and difficulties to obtain basic items,” Ms. Throssell added, speaking to journalists in Geneva.  


‘Unwarranted’ violence  


After a demonstration outside the president’s residence on 31 March, the Government declared a state of emergency on 1 April, announced a 36-hour curfew from 6pm on 2 April and shut down social media networks for 15 hours the following day.   


There have also been reports of excessive and unwarranted police violence against protesters.    


OHCHR reminded the Sri Lankan authorities that measures related to states of emergency “must comply with international human rights law”, should be limited to the extent strictly required by the situation and be proportionate to it, and “should not be used to stifle dissent or hinder peaceful protest”.  


“The UN human rights office will continue to closely watch developments,” said the agency’s spokesperson. 




Drift towards militarization 


As UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet noted in her recent report to the Human Rights Council in February, the drift towards militarization and the weakening of institutional checks and balances in Sri Lanka have affected the State’s ability to effectively tackle the economic crisis and ensure the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of all citizens. 


The High Commissioner had also previously voiced her concern over how the Government responds to criticism and dissent in ways that undermine civic space.  


“We reiterate these concerns today,” said the UN official. 


“We urge the Government, political parties and civil society to engage in immediate, inclusive and meaningful dialogue to find a solution for the pressing economic and political challenges that Sri Lanka faces and to avoid further polarization of the situation”.   


Call for restraint 


Meanwhile, in New York, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, told journalists at a regular media briefing that the UN’s team in Sri Lanka is “closely following the situation.”  


He said the UN Resident Coordinator in the country, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, had reminded the Government that the rights to peaceful assembly, association and expression are universal fundamental rights which help foster dialogue between citizens and the State.   


On Friday, the top UN official in the country also called for restraint from all sides, and for the de-escalation of tensions, away from violent confrontation.  


“Our UN team encourages all citizens to engage in dialogue for peaceful solutions,” said Mr. Haq. 

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12 Comments

  1. OHCHR said that the situation has worsened and that there have been shortages of food and fuel, along with power cuts, prompting new protests by desperate Sri Lankans.

  2. As the situation worsens in Sri Lanka, it is crucial for authorities to handle the economic crisis with care to avoid escalating tensions and potential rights violations. The restrictions and state of emergency should not prevent people from peacefully expressing their grievances. The lack of essential resources is fueling public frustration, and legitimate protests should be allowed to take place.

  3. Following the state of emergency and other restrictions, Liz Throssell, Spokesperson for OHCHR said her office was “concerned that such measures are aimed at preventing or discouraging people from legitimately expressing their grievances through peaceful protests, and that they frustrate the exchange of views on matters of public interest.”

  4. Do you think the authorities in Sri Lanka will be able to effectively manage the deepening economic crisis? What measures do you believe should be taken to address the shortages and protests?

    1. As an experienced journalist, I believe that the authorities in Sri Lanka must prioritize open dialogue and cooperation with the citizens to effectively manage the economic crisis. Immediate actions should include addressing the shortages of food and fuel, implementing transparent economic reforms, and ensuring the protection of citizens’ rights to peaceful protests as essential pillars for stability.

  5. As an observer, I believe that the economic crisis in Sri Lanka is reaching a critical point. It is concerning to see the worsening situation with shortages of essential items and power cuts leading to desperation among the people. The government must address these issues promptly to avoid further unrest.

  6. As a long-time observer of economic crises, it is alarming to see the situation worsening in Sri Lanka. The government should prioritize peaceful solutions to defuse tensions and address the shortages of food and fuel effectively. The frustrations of the Sri Lankan people are completely understandable in the face of such challenges.

  7. As an economic crisis escalates in Sri Lanka, it’s crucial for authorities to address the shortages and tensions peacefully to avoid further unrest among the population. The UN’s concerns highlight the urgent need for effective management and resolution of the crisis.

  8. The situation in Sri Lanka is deteriorating rapidly, and it’s essential that authorities address the economic crisis immediately. The shortages of food and fuel, along with power cuts, are causing distress among the people. It’s crucial to find peaceful solutions to defuse tensions and ensure that the grievances of the citizens are heard and resolved effectively.

  9. As a Sri Lankan citizen, I am deeply concerned about the government’s handling of the economic crisis. It’s disheartening to see the shortages of food and fuel, coupled with power cuts, leading to desperate protests. The authorities must find a peaceful solution to defuse tensions and address the grievances of the people.

  10. As a human rights advocate, I find it concerning that the Sri Lankan authorities have failed to effectively manage the current economic crisis. The shortages of food and fuel, coupled with power cuts, are exacerbating the situation for the citizens. It is crucial for the government to address these issues promptly and ensure that the people’s grievances are heard through peaceful protests.

  11. As a concerned citizen, I believe that the Sri Lankan authorities should prioritize peaceful solutions to defuse the tensions arising from the economic crisis. It’s worrying to hear about the shortages of food, fuel, and power cuts affecting the people. It’s crucial for the government to address these issues promptly to avoid further escalation of the situation.

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