Nine Iranians detained for alleged drug smuggling in Sri Lanka

The suspects in the alleged drug smuggling after their arrest. (Photo courtesy: Sri Lanka Navy)
Updated 25 March 2019
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Nine Iranians detained for alleged drug smuggling in Sri Lanka

  • Nine Iranians were caught with 107.22 kg of heroin onboard a trawler bound for the country on Monday

COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan court remanded nine Iranians in custody after they were caught with 107.22 kg of heroin onboard a trawler bound for the country on Monday.

Colombo Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne permitted the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) to detain and interrogate the suspects, and ordered it to submit a report to the court on the progress of the investigation.

The vessel was tracked on Sunday morning by a joint operations team comprised of PNB agents, a police special task force and the Sri Lankan navy ship Suranimala off the southern coast of Galle.

Security forces seized the vessel and arrested the nine Iranians, after which the suspects and boat were transferred to PNB custody in the capital.

At a press briefing on Sunday night, Police Superintendent Ruwan Gunasekara said that 99 packets of heroin had been found hidden in four fertilizer bags onboard the boat, and that the suspects had posed as fishermen.

He added that the trawler had been at sea around 14 days, and that on seeing the approaching Suranimala, the crew had dumped an estimated 500 kg of heroin into the water. Mobile and satellite phones had also been found and confiscated.

“It was a joint operation and a great victory in combating the drugs menace,” Lt. Cmdr. Isuru Sooriyabandara said.

As the suspects were unable to communicate in English, the PNB said it would seek assistance from the Iranian Embassy in Colombo to help with translation. Embassy sources, meanwhile, claimed that the nationalities of the nine detainees had not been confirmed.

Early this year, a 24-year-old Iranian woman was arrested by the PNB at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo for smuggling cannabis.


Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

Updated 21 July 2019
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Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

  • “I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said

TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition secured a majority in Japan’s upper house of parliament in elections Sunday but will not reach the super-majority needed to propose constitutional revisions, according to vote counts by public television and other media.
NHK public television said shortly after midnight that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito had won 69 seats in the upper house, with nine seats remaining. If Abe gained support from members of another conservative party and independents, it would make only 76 seats, short of 85 he would have needed, NHK said.
Abe’s ruling bloc already has a two-thirds majority in the lower house, but without such control of the upper chamber, he has a slim chance of achieving his long-cherished goal of constitutional reform.
Nonetheless, Abe welcomed the results, saying winning a majority indicates a public mandate for his government.
“I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said in an interview with NHK.
Abe hopes to gain enough seats to boost his chances to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution — his long-cherished goal before his term ends in 2021.
But it’s a challenge because voters are more concerned about their jobs, economy and social security. Abe, who wants to bolster Japan’s defense capability, is now proposing adding the Self-Defense Force, or Japan’s military, to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution. He said he is not considering running for another term.
Abe said resolving the decades-old issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and signing a peace treaty with Russia would be his diplomatic priorities during the rest of his term.
Opposition parties have focused on concerns over household finances, such as the impact from an upcoming 10% sales tax increase and strains on the public pension system amid Japan’s aging population.
Abe has led his Liberal Democratic Party to five consecutive parliamentary election victories since 2012.
He has prioritized revitalizing Japan’s economy and has steadily bolstered the country’s defenses in the backdrop of North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats and China’s growing military presence. He also has showcased his diplomatic skills by cultivating warm ties with President Donald Trump.
Abe needs approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses to propose a constitutional revision and seek a national referendum. His ruling bloc has a two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house.
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and three other liberal-leaning parties teamed up in some districts. They stressed support for gender equality and LGBT issues — areas Abe’s ultra-conservative lawmakers are reluctant to back.
At a polling station in Tokyo’s Chuo district on Sunday, voters were divided over Abe’s 6 1/2-year rule.
A voter who identified himself only as a company worker in his 40s said he chose a candidate and a party that have demonstrated an ability to get things done, suggesting he voted for Abe’s ruling party and its candidate, as “there is no point in casting my vote for a party or a politician who has no such abilities.”
Another voter, Katsunori Takeuchi, a 57-year-old fish market worker, said it was time to change the dominance of Abe and his ultra-conservative policies.
“I think the ruling party has been dominating politics for far too long and it is causing damage,” he said.