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Sri Lanka election: Rajapaksa brothers win ‘super-majority’

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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has declared victory in the country’s parliamentary election.

His brother Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to be installed as prime minister, having held the role as caretaker since November.

The brothers’ party, Sri Lanka People’s Front, has secured a two-thirds “super majority” of seats needed to carry out its promised constitutional changes.

The party won 145 of the 225 seats, plus five more seats from its allies.

Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier tweeted that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called to congratulate him.

The controversial Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for two decades. Mahinda Rajapaksa was previously president, from 2005 to 2015.

The opposition of former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been trounced, having lost all but one of the 106 seats it held in the outgoing parliament.

The main opposition party is now a new group established by the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa, a former president who was assassinated in 1993.

Sri Lanka has been one of the few nations to hold an election despite the coronavirus pandemic. The vote had already been postponed twice because of the virus.

The country has had relatively few confirmed infections and deaths of coronavirus – with a total of 2,839 cases and 11 deaths.

Another victory for controversial brothers

By Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC South Asia Analyst

Once again it’s a huge victory for the Rajapaksa brothers.

Just nine months after his impressive win in the presidential election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has led his Sri Lanka People’s Front to a two-thirds majority.

He is hugely popular among the Sinhala majority for crushing the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in 2009 when he was defence secretary. Many in the country also credit his administration for bringing stability and successfully containing the coronavirus outbreak.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is accused of human rights abuses during the civil war and also of targeting those who dissented. He always dismissed such accusations – but they have not gone away.

A surge in Sinhala nationalism in the run-up to the election has also worried Sri Lanka’s minority communities.

Muslim leaders say their community is still reeling from the vilification that followed the devastating Easter Sunday suicide attacks by Islamist militants last year, which killed more than 260 people.

With their dominant majority, the Rajapaksas could attempt to change the constitution, increase the powers of the president so reversing the work of the previous government to introduce more checks and balances.

Activists, already alarmed by the diminishing space for dissent and criticism, fear such an eventuality could lead to ever greater authoritarianism. (BBC)

 



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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