Colombo, March 11 (newsin.asia): A top official in the Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat said on Sunday that the State of Emergency as well as the ban on Facebook and other social media will remain till the Defense Secretary gives the “all clear” (OK) signal.
Secretary to the President, Austin Fernando, said that while he is aware that many citizens feel handicapped by the ban on popular social media platforms, the government has the responsibility to see that these platforms are not used again to stir up trouble.
“If the situation is improving it is because of the State of Emergency and the clamping down on social media,” he argued.
“The situation has to improve convincingly and agitated minds have to return to equanimity for the government to lift the State of Emergency and restore the social media platforms. These platforms had been liberally used to spread communal contagion. On lifting the Emergency and other bans we will go by the recommendation of the Defense Secretary,” Fernando said.
President Maithripala Sirisena, who will be in India and Japan till March 14, is keen that the Emergency is lifted as early as possible, nevertheless, he has asked Fernando to go by the advice of the Defense Secretary and the intelligence agencies.
Since community feelings and political sensitivities are involved, the government has to move cautiously while being firm. Quick fix solutions and hurried actions would be counterproductive, Fernando said.
Face off with Facebook
An official of Facebook based in India had met Fernando and requested the lifting the ban on his site.
“But when I asked the young man if Facebook could censor and filter the content to make it safe, he said his organization would not do that. It is not fair to demand freedom without accepting the attendant responsibilities,” Fernando said.
‘In the absence of any help from Facebook, the government has no option but to take actions which it deems best in the interest of peace and security,” he added.
Asked if the Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), of which he is the chairman, could itself censor Facebook content instead of blocking the site altogether, the Fernando said that he has asked the TRCSL to look into this possibility.
On when people might expect the State of Emergency to be lifted, Fernando said that a decision would be taken by March 13 when the seven day period for which it was clamped, ends.
Apart from other factors there is a legal issue to be settled in the matter of ending or extending the Emergency, he pointed out.
“The President has to sign the notification, but he is abroad till March 14. One way out is to send the document to the Sri Lankan embassy in Tokyo and have it signed there as that is Sri Lankan territory. I have asked the Attorney General’s advice on this,” Fernando said.
(The featured image at the top is that Austin Fernando, Secretary to the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena)