35 vie for Lanka’s President post

Sri Lanka People's Front party presidential election candidate and former wartime defense chief Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (L) and his brother, former president and opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, show victory signs as they gesture at supporters after handing over nominations papers at the election commission ahead of Sri Lanka's presidential election, in Colombo, Sri Lanka October 7, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 08 October 2019

35 vie for Lanka’s President post

  • The nominations were processed under tight security in the city of Colombo

COLOMBO: Thirty-five out of the 41 candidates who paid their deposits to contest the island’s Presidential elections were accepted by the Elections Commission in Colombo on Monday.

The incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena did not contest for the second time for the President’s post. His party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) did not nominate anyone for the election, which shocked voters since the Bandaranaike clan, so long the dominant political force in the country, will not be backing any political party in the election.

The candidates include the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, United National Front Candidate (UNF) Sajith Premadasa, National People’s Power (NPP) Candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake and former Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake.

The nominations were processed under tight security in the city of Colombo. Some of the schools close to the headquarters of the Elections Commission were closed during the day, roads were blocked and more than 1,200 policemen and 500 members of the special forces were deployed in the capital to ensure a calm nomination day. Processions and demonstrations were banned on Monday.

Sri Lanka police said that the displaying of posters, banners and cut-outs related to the forthcoming presidential election is prohibited with effect from Monday. Police spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said as per the provisions of the Presidential Elections Act, the displaying of posters, banners and cut-outs will be prohibited from Monday subject to certain exceptions. According to the provisions in the act election-related parades, including vehicle parades and processions of people, will also be prohibited from today, he said, adding that these regulations apply to the entire island.

Chairman of the Elections Commission Mahinda Deshapriya said that out of the 41 candidates who had paid their deposits, were from 19 recognized political parties,19 from independent parties and three from other political parties.

Deshapriya said that the cost of the elections would be at least 10 million rupees ($55,000) which is an increase over the previous elections. “This is due to the increased number of candidates, the rise in stationery costs and the increase in the number of polling stations,” he added. He said that there were two objections raised against the candidacy of the nominees during the nominations and they were dismissed since they were baseless.

The chairman also urged all trade unions to call off their strikes during the election period till November 16 to ensure a smooth election without violence and disturbances.

Western Province Governor A.J.M.Muzammil received one of the main contenders, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, at the Wijerama Temple in Colombo following the nominations. Najeeb Mowlana, a prominent social worker who was present at the temple, said that Rajapaksa is an independent who will serve all communities without any discrimination.

National Unity Alliance Leader and former Governor of the Western Province Azath Salley said on Monday that 29 out of the 35 candidates are from the majority community and they all are vying for the 70 percent majority community votes. “The votes from the majority community will be divided among the first four contenders and they have to depend on the minority votes to win the election,” Salley said.

M.R.M.Waseem, political journalist from a reputed local daily, said that the absence of SLFP candidate in the presidential polls, is a major drawback. “President Maithripala Sirisena is from SLFP and it was founded by late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and had ruled the country for decades,” Waseem said, lamenting that its absence in the election will lead to the natural death of the powerful party.

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.