Sri Lanka minister defects to challenge president

Updated 21 November 2014
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Sri Lanka minister defects to challenge president

COLOMBO: A senior member of Sri Lanka’s government has announced that he is quitting the ruling party to stand as the main opposition’s candidate against President Mahinda Rajapakse in upcoming elections.
“I thank the UNP (United National Party) for choosing me as the common opposition candidate,” said Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who is also general secretary in Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
“I am grateful to the UNP for choosing the general secretary of the SLFP to be their candidate,” he added.
“We will definitely win.”
Sirisena made his announcement at a press conference in Colombo, seated alongside three other ministers and former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is the main patron of the president’s party.
Rajapaksa, who came to power in 2005, declared on Thursday that he will seek an unprecedented third term as president — a move that was only made possible after he pushed through changes to the constitution.
While Rajapaksa remains generally popular with majority Sinhalese voters after overseeing the end of a 37-year war against Tamil separatists in 2009, critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian.
“The country is heading toward a dictatorship,” said Sirisena, who also accused the president of nepotism.
“The entire economy and every aspect of society is controlled by one family,” he said in reference to the president’s brothers who include the speaker of parliament Chamal Rajapakse.
“Corruption is rampant, there is no rule of law,” he added.
Although the exact election date has yet to be announced, it is widely expected to be held in the second week of January.


US border agents fire tear gas at Central American migrants

Updated 29 min 33 sec ago
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US border agents fire tear gas at Central American migrants

  • A group of migrants, including children, used an improvised rope to try to scale fencing installed on the beach between Tijuana and San Diego
  • They were forced back with tear gas

TIJUANA, Mexico: US Border Patrol agents on Thursday fired tear gas at Central American migrants attempting to cross the border from the Mexican city of Tijuana, AFP journalists saw.
A group of migrants, including children, used an improvised rope to try to scale fencing installed on the beach between Tijuana and San Diego, California — but were forced back with tear gas, which agents had not deployed since January 1.
An AFP journalist witnessed only one migrant cross the border, where he was immediately detained.
It marked the third time in a week that a group of Central Americans had tried to cross the border to ask for asylum on the grounds their lives were threatened by violence at home.
On the first occasion, a week ago, around 50 people made it across, with about 10 more crossing on Tuesday. All were detained by authorities.
“Someone brought them here, they train them because they know that upon crossing they must ask for asylum and that way they won’t be deported and they have to be processed according to US laws,” said one Tijuana policeman, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak.
Last November, hundreds of Central Americans that arrived from Honduras as part of a large caravan tried to cross en masse — but only a few succeeded as the crowd was met with tear gas.
In recent months, thousands of Central Americans have arrived in Mexico in several caravans in the hope of finding a better life in the United States.
US President Donald Trump has branded such migrants a threat to national security, demanding billions of dollars from Congress to build a wall on the southern US border.