Strawberry sabotage akin to ‘terrorism’: Australia PM

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, September 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Strawberry sabotage akin to ‘terrorism’: Australia PM

  • The scare has prompted a slew of supermarket recalls, and some stores in New Zealand have temporarily banned the sale of Australian strawberries

SYDNEY: The tainting of supermarket strawberries with sewing needles is comparable to “terrorism,” Australia’s prime minister said Wednesday, as he demanded tougher sentencing in response to a nationwide scare.
Urging Australians to make a strawberry pavlova this weekend to help struggling farmers, Scott Morrison demanded a change in the law to put the perpetrators behind bars for 15 years.
“We’re not mucking about” said Morrison, after at least 20 pieces of fruit were found to be contaminated with needles or pins. “This is not on, this is just not on in this country,” he said.
Calling the perpetrator a “coward and a grub,” Morrison called on parliament to quickly raise the maximum sentence for such deliberate food contamination from ten to 15 years behind bars.
That, he said, would put the crime on par with “things like possessing child pornography and financing terrorism. That’s how seriously I take this.”
The scare has prompted a slew of supermarket recalls, and some stores in New Zealand have temporarily banned the sale of Australian strawberries.
Farmers have been forced to pulp fruit and layoff pickers because of slower sales and lower wholesale prices.
“Just go back to buying strawberries like you used to, and take the precautions that you should,” Morrison told Australians in a televised address.
“Make a pav this weekend and put strawberries on it,” he suggested.
Authorities have suggested strawberries be cut up before they are eaten.
Australian police on Tuesday said they still did not know the motive behind the attacks and were still looking for suspects.
They have asked the public for help with their investigation and are expected later Wednesday to increase a reward for information that helps resolve the case.


Sri Lanka parliament to meet in showdown between rival PMs

Updated 14 November 2018
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Sri Lanka parliament to meet in showdown between rival PMs

  • Sri Lanka has been locked in a power struggle since the prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked
  • The power struggle has crippled the work of the administration

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s parliament will meet under tight security Wednesday, after the top court ruled its dissolution illegal and opened the door to a vote on which of two rival prime ministers has the support to rule.
Sri Lanka has been locked in a power struggle since the president sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replaced him with former strongman president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
On Tuesday the Supreme Court overruled President Maithripala Sirisena’s dissolution of parliament, and halted preparations for a snap election, in a major boost for the ousted prime minister.
Wickremesinghe is confident he can command a majority and wants a vote on the floor of the 225-member assembly to determine the legitimacy of the government installed by presidential diktat.
“Speaker Karu Jayasuriya ordered the police to ensure that MPs have free access to parliament,” a spokesman for the Speaker said. “There will be tight security.”
Thousands of armed police have been deployed along the key approach roads to parliament, which is located on a man-made lake island, with several anti-riot units on standby.
Parliament officials fear that supporters of Rajapaksa’s party may try to stop legislators getting to parliament.
However, by early Wednesday there were no large crowds and only small pockets of Wickremesinghe supporters gathered near the parliament complex.
Rajapaksa’s party was divided Tuesday on facing a test in parliament. His legislator son Namal Rajapaksa said they will attend the legislature, but other party seniors said they would not.
Sirisena sacked the legislature after his party admitted that they did not have an absolute majority despite engineering the defections of eight legislators from Wickremesinghe’s party.
Since then, at least two legislators have ditched Rajapaksa and joined Wickremesinghe’s UNP party which insists it has a comfortable majority in the House.
Wickremesinghe, who insists he is still the prime minister, has refused to vacate the official Temple Trees residence which is a symbol of state power in the island.
The power struggle has crippled the work of the administration, according to lawmakers on both sides.