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.


Two thirds of African cities face ‘extreme climate risk’

In this file photo taken on July 7, 2014 children wait in line during a food distribution by the Word Food Programme (WFP) at a school in Bangui. (AFP)
Updated 14 November 2018
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Two thirds of African cities face ‘extreme climate risk’

  • The data also showed that some of the most populous cities on Earth — including Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and Karachi — were all at “high-risk” of damage to their economies and populations

PARIS: Rapid population growth and poor infrastructure have put two out of three cities in Africa at “extreme risk” of the threats posed by climate change, according to a new analysis released Wednesday.
With UN figures showing 86 of the world’s 100 fastest-growing cities are in Africa, experts warned nearly half of the continent’s GDP was exposed to the perils posed by our warming planet.
The findings were laid out in the 2018 Climate Vulnerability Index which calculates an overall risk figure from more than 50 separate data sources, including state-of-the-art climate models, socio-economic factors and demographic trends.
It found Bangui in the Central African Republic, Liberia’s capital Monrovia and the Congolese city of Mbuji-Mayi to be the three most at-risk cities.
Eight African cities featured in the index’s top 10.
“It’s really assessing the ability to withstand climate-related shocks and this is what makes African economies stand out as at risk compared to the rest of the world,” said Niall Smith, an environment analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, which compiled the index.
The British-based risk consultancy also singled out DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa as being of particular concern for investors.
Currently home to 13.2 million people, the city regularly experiences weather events such as cyclones and flooding, which will cause greater disruption as the population swells to 26.7 million by 2035.
“Urban population growth at this projected rate will, without doubt, intensify the city’s alarming risk profile,” they said.
“Africa’s megacities already face issues like lack of clean water, sanitation and shelter.”
The study found that as much as 47 percent of Africa’s GDP — an amount totalling close to $1.4 trillion (1.24 tn euros) — to be at “extreme risk” from climate change by 2023, significantly higher as a percentage than any other continent.
“By no means are we saying don’t invest in these locations,” Richard Hewston, principal climate change and environmental analyst at Verisk told AFP.
“But climate risk should be one of the elements you consider. There’s a huge opportunity for investors and we would say that you need to go in with your eyes open by doing due diligence beforehand.”

The data also showed that some of the most populous cities on Earth — including Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and Karachi — were all at “high-risk” of damage to their economies and populations due to climate change.
Scientists in May released the findings of a study suggesting that prompt global action to tackle climate change could save the world economy $20 tn by the end of the century.
But in many nations domestic political concerns still trump climate action.
Hewston gave New York as an example of a city with the technical know-how and political will to invest in climate defenses after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“But if you’re looking for other cities, say in Africa, or Dhaka or Mumbai, they also have competing aspects they look to fund so things like climate resilience don’t always top the list,” he said.
Verisk found that British cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast were the three cities best prepared to manage the impact of climate change.