Tough fight predicted for four in Sri Lanka election

The four candidates in fray for Sri Lankan president are (clockwise from left) Mahesh Senanayake, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sajith Premadasa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake. The vote is set for Nov. 16. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 02 October 2019

Tough fight predicted for four in Sri Lanka election

  • Voters from minorities such as Muslims and Tamils ‘will be the deciding factor’

COLOMBO: As Sri Lanka gears up for its presidential elections on Nov. 16, prospective candidates were preparing to submit their nominations on Oct. 7, officials told Arab News on Tuesday.

The incumbent, President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, hasn’t announced his decision to contest the polls yet.

However, in January 2015, when he took his oath as president, he said that he would not re-contest for the presidency after the completion of his term.

Four candidates have so far announced their intentions to contest the post. The first is the deputy leader of the United National Party (UNP), Sajith Premadasa, son of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa; the second is former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who claims that he was responsible for the victory over Tamil rebels on the island and brought an end to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka; the third is Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who says he is determined to free Sri Lanka of nepotism, corruption and work toward economic development. 

The latest addition to the fray is Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake, who retired recently and believes that the country can move toward prosperity only with proper discipline.

Besides these four candidates, six more have expressed their desire to contest the presidency.

Born in 1967, Sajith Premadasa, cabinet minister for housing, construction and cultural affairs and Member of Parliament for the Hambantota district, is well known for his hard work. 

He developed more than 125 villages in various parts of the country to ameliorate the conditions of the poor.

An acclaimed social worker, he claims to understand the needs of the common man, while reiterating the fact that he was the only person who carried out development programs with the cooperation of commoners.

Major minority parties — such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the Sri Lanka Makkal Congress, headed by Ministers Rauf Hakeem and Rishath Bathiudeen — are backing Premadasa, supported by Tamil leaders such as former Northern Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.

Sri Lanka Pohottuwa Party nominee Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been named in several murder, abduction and anti-Muslim cases, believes he could win the presidency with the votes of the majority Sinhalese, who form 85 percent of the island’s population.

Rajapaksa was instrumental in beautifying Colombo city and improving the road networks in the country and says that the need of the hour is to give adequate security to the people, which he is confident about doing.

A problem looming over his candidacy is that he holds dual citizenship with the US, but he claims to have relinquished the foreign citizenship recently.

Mahesh Senanayake, who is the presidential candidate of the National People’s Movement and People’s Forum Organization, said on Monday that he had come forward as a presidential candidate to safeguard the country which is in turmoil, adding that he intended to develop the country by working with patriots.

JVP leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who will lead the National People’s Power (NPP) movement, says that Sri Lanka will be converted to a proud and unshaken country in the world. 

He invited capable people who love the country to join his effort to lead the country toward this target.

M. Ameen, veteran journalist and Leader of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said that this is going to be a tough election where four candidates will have equal shares of voters. 

He added that the voters from the minority communities such as Muslims and Tamils will be the deciding factor in the election.


Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

Updated 12 August 2020

Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

  • The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday
  • The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines

JAKARTA: Indonesia is stepping up efforts to find a COVID-19 vaccine by launching human trials of a potentially effective drug amid criticism of its lacklustre handling of the pandemic and concerns about its plummeting economy.

The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday and is being conducted by the Padjadjaran University School of Medicine at six locations in Bandung, West Java province, where the university and the state-owned pharma company are based.

“The first day of the trial went well, with 20 volunteers in each of the six locations injected with the potential vaccine. We have no complaints so far, and we are preparing the second injection batch on Aug 14,” Iwan Setiawan, a spokesman for Bio Farma, told Arab News on Wednesday.

He added that the six-month trial would require the participation of 1,620 volunteers who were “in good health and had not tested positive” for the disease.

Ridwan Kamil, governor of West Java, Indonesia’s most populated province, is among the volunteers who have signed up for the trial.

The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines.

“The potential vaccine had gone through three trials; the pre-clinical, the clinical trial first phase and the second phase in China,” Bio Farma CEO Honesti Basyir said in a statement.

According to Basyir, Sinovac is one of the few institutions that have progressed to the third phase of the clinical trial from among hundreds of research institutions around the world that are developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Oxford Business Group’s COVID-10 Economic Impact Assessment, there are more than 150 different vaccines that international researchers are working on. However, only 26 have reached the human trial stage so far.

Once the trials are concluded, Bio Farma will register the vaccine with the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency so that it can begin mass-production of the drug.

“We have prepared a production facility for the COVID-19 vaccine with a maximum capacity of 100 million dosages, and by the end of December this year we will have an increased production capacity to produce an additional 150 million dosages,” Basyir said.

President Joko Widodo oversaw the first injections to the batch of volunteers in one of the six locations and also toured Bio Farma’s production facility. 

“We hope this clinical trial would conclude in six months and so we can start producing the vaccine in January and vaccinate our people soon,” Widodo said.

State-Owned Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir, who is also the head of the COVID-19 mitigation and national economic recovery committee, said that Bio Farma was a well-established vaccine producer whose products were halal-compliant and used in 150 countries, including in the Middle East.

The collaboration with Sinovac is one of three vaccine-development projects that Indonesia is engaging in with foreign parties as it grapples with a surge in infections. At the same time, social restrictions and economic activities were eased. The other two projects are with South Korea’s Genexine and Norway’s Coalition for Epidemic, Preparedness and Innovation.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had reported 130,718 infections with 1,942 new cases, 85,798 recoveries and 5,903 deaths, although experts suggest that the numbers could be higher due to the country’s low testing capacity.

Cases also surged in the capital Jakarta with workplaces emerging as the new infection clusters after thousands of employees returned to work recently.