Campaigning for Sri Lanka presidential election ends

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka People's Front party presidential election candidate and former wartime defence chief, with his brothers, Mahinda Rajapaksa, former president and opposition leader and Chamal Rajapaksa (R). (Reuters)
Updated 14 November 2019

Campaigning for Sri Lanka presidential election ends

COLOMBO: Campaigning for Sri Lanka’s Nov. 16 presidential elections came to an end on Wednesday.

Competition is tight between the United National Front’s (UNF) candidate, Sajith Premadasa, and former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.

Rajapaksa’s final rally took place in the town of Homagama on Wednesday evening, while Premadasa concluded his campaign in Colombo.

Thus far, 35 candidates have submitted their nominations, while two — Milroy Fernando and Dr. I.M. Illyas — have openly urged supporters to vote for Premadasa.

In comments to the media on Wednesday, Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, said all candidates have been requested to attend a special meeting on Thursday to be briefed about the electoral process, including the counting of votes and the announcement of results.

The commission urged the candidates not to partake in any promotional activities on social media.

It has received 3,729 complaints pertaining to vandalism and violation of laws, leading up to the elections, with 27 cases of violence reported. Additionally, 3,596 election law violations were reported.

To address these concerns, the commission is setting up complaints offices at the Elections Secretariat in Rajagiriya and all other district offices.

Ali Sabry, chief legal adviser to Gotabaya, told Arab News that a proven track record will propel Gotabaya to victory.

Sabry added that Gotabaya is taking credit for eliminating terrorism in Sri Lanka. Industry and Commerce Minister Rishath Bathiudeen, who was involved in Premadasa’s political campaign, told Arab News that he is hopeful about his candidate’s chances.

Bathiudeen, who is the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, said Premadasa would garner 95 percent of the Muslim vote and a majority of Tamil votes.

Azath Salley, leader of the National Unity Alliance, said: “The majority of the Tamil and Muslim communities are with … Premadasa.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, N. M. Amin, said this is the first time that incidents of election violence are few and far between.

Meanwhile, a group deployed by the Commonwealth to observe the presidential elections has called on stakeholders to demonstrate a commitment to a “peaceful, transparent, credible and inclusive” poll.

The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) was invited by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka to observe the poll.

The COG will receive briefings from relevant stakeholders including election management officials, representatives of political parties, civil society groups, the police, members of the international community, citizens and international observers.

In a statement, COG Chair Prosper Bani said: “As independent observers, we will remain objective and impartial in discharging our duties. The Group’s assessment will be its own and not that of any Commonwealth member country. We hope that our group’s presence will support the strengthening of democracy in Sri Lanka.”


India moves into top 10 worst-hit by COVID-19

Updated 21 min 40 sec ago

India moves into top 10 worst-hit by COVID-19

  • Experts claim lockdown measures have failed as death toll passes 4,000 mark

NEW DELHI: India on Monday climbed into the top 10 countries worst-hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with the number of deaths passing the 4,000 mark.

Sunday saw the highest one-day surge in cases with 6,634 new infections reported, taking the current total to 140,215, slightly ahead of Iran.

The deadly COVID-19 outbreak has now claimed the lives of 4,041 people in India.

Monday’s milestone figures coincided with the resumption of domestic flight services which experts claimed was an indication of the failure of the two-month-long nationwide lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

“The lockdown was meant to contain the cases but even after 60 days cases are rising, which means the lockdown was not properly planned and executed,” said virologist Prof. T. Jacob John, of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Harjit Singh Bhatti, of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, said: “The government understands that it has failed in its lockdown plan. They could not anticipate the problems and the crisis it would engender. As a result, the government has no other option but to resume the economy. For the government now the focus is livelihood not the life.”

However, the Indian government disputed the claims saying the lockdown had helped to tackle the virus.

“If the doubling rate in India before the lockdown was between three to four days, today the doubling rate is more than 13 days. Lockdown and all its guidelines have acted as a potent social vaccine,” said India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

“Lockdown was imposed in India at the right time. Other developed countries wasted many days to take this decision,” he added.

On March 25, India started the first phase of its nationwide lockdown and the country is now into the fourth phase of the shutdown, which ends on May 31. Two months ago, India had only recorded 550 COVID-19 cases.

The western state of Maharashtra is one of the worst-affected in India with close to 60,000 cases and about 2,000 deaths. Mumbai, its financial capital, has registered more than 30,000 cases alone with at least 1,000 fatalities, forcing local authorities to procure 80 percent of private-hospital beds in the metropolis to deal with the crisis.

“The cases in Mumbai are increasing every day and health workers across the city are working overtime to deal with the situation,” Dr. Shariva Randive, of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), told Arab News.

Pune-based Dr. Avinash Bhonde, of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), said: “A central team of doctors said a couple of months ago that Mumbai alone would witness more than 150,000 cases but in the whole of Maharashtra the total number is around 60,000, so it is less than what we expected.”

He added that there had been gaps in handling the lockdown. “Had there been micro planning and some corrective steps taken in the middle of the lockdown we could have been in a better situation.”

The length of the lockdown left millions of daily wage workers in big cities jobless and homeless. With no economic incentives or alternative plans put in place for them by the government, and no transport, many walked back to their villages, sometimes up to 800 km from their place of work.

To deal with the unprecedented situation the government, from the first week of May, started running special trains to carry more than 3 million people to the eastern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

On May 10, Bihar had recorded 700 cases of COVID-19, but on Sunday the number was more than 2,600. The state has set up an estimated 14,000 quarantine centers to house thousands of people returning from virus hotbeds such as Maharashtra and Delhi.

“Bihar’s coronavirus cases may be lower than other states right now, but the way it is growing it is alarming and the state might face a huge problem,” a health official in the Bihar government told Arab News.