COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankan authorities fully lifted the national curfew on Sunday to mark the Buddhist holiday of Vesak, giving the people a chance to celebrate as the country overcomes its economic and political crisis.
The curfew was imposed on May 9 after once peaceful protests turned violent, killing at least nine people and injuring hundreds more. The violence was followed by the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister, leaving his brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to lead as president.
For more than a month, protesters have taken to the streets to demand the president’s resignation, as the country of 22 million suffers from growing shortages of food, fuel and medicine, as well as record inflation. and long power outages.
On Sunday, buildings across the predominantly Buddhist country flew the multicolored Buddhist flags, as residents visited temples dressed in white to celebrate the day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.
The government announced it was lifting the curfew for Vesak without saying when or if it would be reimposed. Sri Lankans were also able to enjoy the day without power cuts.
“This Vesak, we can see traditional alms centers, pandals (bamboo stadiums), Vesak lanterns and oil lamp illuminations which will uplift the spiritual spirits of the people,” said Reverend Udawela Kolitha Thera, Chief Deputy of Walukarama Temple. in Colombo, Arab News said.
Sri Lanka has been unable to celebrate Vesak properly for the past two years due to the pandemic and, in 2019, the Easter Sunday bombings, which also dampened celebrations.
Although events planned for this year have been scaled back due to political instability and a worsening economic crisis, worshipers have still welcomed the possibility of respite.
“We are really excited to celebrate Vesak this year with increased enthusiasm,” Colombo-based Kelum Bandara, who works at a prominent publishing house in the capital, told Arab News.
“We will be celebrating in a low-key form due to the current economic crisis and ongoing protests against the government.”
“Sri Lanka was shrouded in spiritual fervor as the island nation celebrated yet another Vesak,” Colombo-based journalist Chaminda Perera told Arab News.
Newly appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has served as prime minister five times previously and has never completed a full term, named his first Cabinet appointments on Saturday – all from Rajapaksas’ party.
The new appointments have failed to appease Sri Lankan protesters who want the Rajapaksas, the country’s most influential political dynasty, removed from national politics.
The ruling family faces accusations of corruption and mismanagement of the economy, as Sri Lanka faces its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948.
Opposition parties have refused to join a new government unless the president resigns first.