Sri Lanka limits size of public events ahead of opposition rally

Main opposition party says government using COVID-19 pandemic as ‘cover’ to limit size of public gatherings.

Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa speaks at the national parliament session in the capital Colombo [File: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP]

The Sri Lankan government has declared new anti-coronavirus regulations to limit the size of public gatherings, days before the opposition plans to hold a mass rally in the capital.

The government has empowered authorities to determine the maximum number of people gathering at public meetings in an order released on Thursday.

So far, it is unclear how each local health authority will act and therefore whether the rally will be allowed to go ahead.

The move came soon after the main opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (United People’s Front), called for a protest next Tuesday in Colombo.

The event would draw crowds from across the country, with organisers expecting more than 10,000 participants.

It would also be the first huge public show of protest against the government since it was elected to power in August last year.

Health Services Director General Asela Herath said the regulations were part of measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

However, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Sri Lanka has dropped to a daily average of 20 compared with more than 200 in September, while the number of infections reported daily currently stands at approximately 600 compared with 4,000 in September.

“It is obvious that the government does not want the protest to take place and is making use of health regulations as a cover,” SJB member of parliament Nalin Bandara said.

Source: News Agencies