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COLOMBO: Sri Lankan authorities on Sunday completely lifted a nationwide curfew to mark the Buddhist holiday of Vesak, giving people a chance to celebrate as the nation weathers 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 Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation as prime minister and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president.

For more than a month, protesters have taken to the streets demanding the president’s resignation as the country of 22 million people suffers from mounting shortages of food, fuel and medicines, along with record inflation and lengthy power outages.

Colorful Buddhist flags were hoisted on buildings in the mostly Buddhist country on Sunday as residents visited temples dressed all in white to celebrate the day commemorating Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

The government announced it would lift the Vesak curfew without saying when or if it would be reinstated. The Sri Lankans were also able to enjoy the day without any power outages.

“At this vesak, we can see the traditional alms centers, pandals (bamboo stages), vesak lanterns and the lighting of oil lamps, which will boost people’s spiritual morale,” said Rev. Udawela Kolitha Thera, Deputy Chief of Walukarama Temple in Colombo. said Arab News.

Sri Lanka has not been able to properly celebrate Vesak in recent years due to the pandemic and in 2019 the Easter Sunday attacks which also dampened celebrations.

Although events scheduled for this year have been scaled back due to political instability and the deepening economic crisis, the faithful nonetheless welcomed the chance for a pause.

“We are delighted to celebrate Vesak with added enthusiasm this year,” Colombo-based Kelum Bandara, who works at a leading publishing house in the capital, told Arab News.

“We will celebrate in a low-key manner because of the current economic crisis and the ongoing anti-government protests.”

“Sri Lanka was surrounded by spiritual fervor as the island nation celebrated another Vesak,” Colombo-based journalist Chaminda Perera told Arab News.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had previously been prime minister five times and never served a full term, made his first cabinet appointments on Saturday – all members of the Rajapaksas party.

The new appointments failed to appease Sri Lankan protesters who want the Rajapaksa, the country’s most influential political dynasty, removed from national politics.

The ruling family faces allegations of corruption and economic abuse as Sri Lanka faces its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Opposition parties refuse to join a new government unless the president resigns first.

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