Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe ordered the release of nearly 1,000 prisoners on Vesak Day, the country’s main Buddhist holiday. The move is aimed at promoting peace and compassion, which are integral to Buddhist beliefs. The Commissioner-General of Prisons, Thushara Upuldeniya, confirmed that only those convicted of minor offenses were eligible for the pardons. Upuldeniya also stated that the prisoners were released from 28 different facilities across the country, with 982 men and six women regaining their freedom. Sri Lanka is currently in the midst of official Vesak celebrations for the first time in five years, following the cancellation of festivities in 2019 due to the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that claimed the lives of 279 people. The celebrations were further halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s economic crisis, which was the worst the country had seen since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. However, the country has declared a week of celebrations to mark Vesak, which occurred on Friday, the first full moon of May. The island nation, which is currently facing severe economic challenges and a high rate of inflation, defaulted on its $46 billion foreign debt in April 2022. This led to the removal of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from office. However, Sri Lanka secured a $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund in March this year to help it get back on its feet. The country’s prisons are overcrowded, with official data showing that there were almost 27,000 inmates at the start of May in facilities meant to hold only 11,000. In light of this, President Wickremesinghe’s decision to release prisoners convicted of minor offenses on Vesak Day has been welcomed by many. The government has also banned the sale of alcohol over the weekend to ensure that the celebrations remain peaceful and harmonious.