Everything else.. Curfew in Sri Lanka | Then vs Now

Curfew in Sri Lanka | Then vs Now

2020 May 20

We can all agree that over the past few decades, our little island has experienced many different scenarios that required the imposition of a curfew, that served different purposes. 

In the past, Sri Lanka experienced a 30-year long civil war as well as a number of politically influenced occurrences that brought about terror and violence, making it an unsafe environment for our citizens to live in. The riots that took place in 1983 and 1988 to 1989 are some examples of the significant terror attacks that Sri Lankans had to face, causing harm to hundreds of lives and damage to people’s properties. Many people lived in immense fear during those periods of time, until a resolution was evident. The curfew that was imposed then was implemented in a state of emergency, making the regulations much different to what it is now. 


Image from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-23402727


The situation at hand due to the rise of the Coronavirus pandemic is not politically influenced, nor is it regarding a civil issue, but it is a situation that Sri Lanka should fight against, a common enemy of nature. The curfew laws that are imposed now were implemented, not in a state of emergency, but as means of precaution and safety to all citizens of the country.



We spoke to a few Sri Lankans who experienced what it was like to live through a period of time where curfew was imposed due to a situation concerning terror as well as the current situation, which is a situation that concerns the safety and well-being of all citizens. Here’s what they had to say. 


“The curfew was imposed back then with the intentions of carrying out search operations, with hopes of preventing the terrorists from causing more damage. The identity of the terrorist group and the areas that they were residing in were known to the government and the military, so a proper plan as to how the situation can be controlled was made.” said *Athula, when discussing the country’s situation during the years of the riots. He explained to us about the emergency curfew that was imposed then and how it was only imposed for a certain period of time. He also spoke to us about how the punishments of breaking the curfew laws were very much violent and stringent during those times. The people who did not obey the curfew laws were punished in a more violent manner, in order to identify if that person was part of the terrorist group. Since it was more likely for youth to gather outdoors with siblings and friends, parents were worried about their adolescents going out and gathering with friends, even in universities and schools, and in turn, would get into unnecessary trouble. 


Image from http://www.srilankaguardian.org/


“The current situation is very uncertain. We are unsure of when this will all come to an end. We’ve never experienced curfew being imposed for this long.” said *Chathuri when comparing the curfew restrictions that are imposed currently. She explained that unlike how it used to be, the main intention of the curfew that is currently imposed is for the protection of all the citizens in the country. She mentioned how the punishments of those who break curfew laws now, are far less violent. She also spoke to us about how the results of the curfew regulations that are currently in place are closely monitored and how the regulations are changing, according to the results. Furthermore, she noted that she has not experienced curfew in specific areas being lifted at a specific period of time, while curfew remains in place in some targeted areas of the country.  



“During those times, curfew was not imposed for long periods of time. Emergency curfew was imposed if a bomb went off in a public bus, train or other public places. But after identifying the cause of the attack and how it was carried out, the suspicious personalities were arrested, curfew was lifted and people could go outdoors again.” said *Sandun. He spoke to us about how the situation was under control sooner and how people didn’t have to stay at home for a prolonged period of time. He explained that businesses and most industries operated as normal and even though most of the government resources were spent on fighting the war and less on the infrastructure of the country, businesses and industries were still acquiring a slow growth. 


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Unlike previous times, the total responsibility of keeping the situation under control isn’t in the hands of the government, military and police, the responsibility falls to every citizen in Sri Lanka. Unlike before, we don’t have to experience the external fear and stress that is caused by an act of terror or violence. Since this situation is something alien to all of us, the government has also adopted to make our lives a little easier, by allowing delivery services to operate and by granting other government subsidies to people in need, until the situation is resolved. Let’s all count our blessings and take responsibility in fighting this common, unseen enemy, as one Sri Lanka.  


Image from https://www.weforum.org/

*Names changed upon request to protect privacy