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Ousted Sri Lankan Prime Minister's party asks Facebook to protect its supporters

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By Associated Press  with NBC News World News
Supporters of Sri Lanka's ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe cheer at a rally in Colombo on November 15, 2018.   -   Copyright  LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The ousted Sri Lankan prime minister's party urged Facebook to safeguard the identity of its supporters on the social media platform, fearing information sharing with what it calls the country's "illegal" government could lead to a crackdown against the users.

In a letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, the United National Party said such information could be used against the users "in ways which are legally prohibited."

Party spokesman Piyasena Dissanayaka said Sunday that Facebook blocked its official page ahead of a public rally on Thursday but restored it on Saturday.

"It is very likely that officials from the current illegal administration ... may ask Facebook for information on selected Sri Lankan users of Facebook that should rightfully be private," said the letter, sent on Thursday.

"Such requests may include information on named individuals, geo locations and other identification details of users who view and post on these pages," the letter said. "It is vital this information be safeguarded as the current illegal administration will most likely use these in ways which are legally prohibited."

Dissanayaka said Facebook officials had not yet responded to the letter.

Facebook officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.


Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked last month by President Maithripala Sirisena. Sirisena replaced Wickremesinghe with Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has had two no-confidence motions against him.

Rival lawmakers exchanged blows in Sri Lanka's Parliament on Thursday as the country's political crisis continued.

Rajapaksa, a former president, is considered a hero by some in the ethnic Sinhalese majority for ending a long civil war by crushing ethnic Tamil Tiger rebels. However, his time in power was marred by allegations of wartime atrocities, corruption and nepotism.

India and Western countries have have raised concerns over Rajapaksa's close ties with China.