Sri Lanka to hold snap elections in April

Sri Lanka to hold snap elections in April
Polls will take place on April 25. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 March 2020

Sri Lanka to hold snap elections in April

Sri Lanka to hold snap elections in April
  • News follows president’s decision to dissolve parliament six months ahead of schedule

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved his country’s parliament six months ahead of schedule on Tuesday, paving the way for new elections in April.

Polls will take place on April 25, nominations for which can be filed from March 12-19. Once through, the ninth parliament will be convened on May 16.

Rajapaksa’s brother, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country’s prime minister, leads a minority government. He justified the dissolution on Tuesday by saying that his government could not continue due to the “weak strength of his party” in the 225-member parliament.

Last week, the Vote on Account (VOA) bill was withdrawn due to stiff protests from the opposition which holds the majority of votes in the legislature.

Commenting on the move, opposition member Mujibur Rahman told Arab News “no government could run well” with a marginal majority, adding that the United National Party (UNP) were the party to watch.

“The opposition UNP, which has formed an alliance with Muslim and Tamil parties, would have a walk-over at the polls,” he said.

Rishad Bathiudeen, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress Party, told Arab News: “We are winning (in the polls) with a bigger majority than in previous years,” adding that the present government had “shown its feebleness with the premature dissolution.”

Experts said that the dissolution was expected, since the government could not function with a slim majority.

“The government has lost confidence among the people and it is hoping against hope to win the elections,” Muheed Kiran, and international human rights activist, told Arab News.

Meanwhile, the president of the Sri Lanka Muslim Council, N.M. Ameen, said the council was worried about the safety and security of his community.

“So far so good, but let’s wait for the upcoming elections,” he said.

Following the dissolution, the country will be run by a caretaker government with Mahinda Rajapaksa continuing as prime minister, while all state ministers and deputy ministers have been requested to resign from their posts on Tuesday.

Nearly 16.3 million Sri Lankans are eligible to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections.

With the premature dissolution, 67 parliamentarians will lose their pension rights, since they will not have completed the required five-year term in order to qualify.
 


UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly
Updated 23 January 2021

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly
  • PM Boris Johnson had previously said evidence showed higher mortality rate 
  • Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant carries with it a higher mortality rate

LONDON: The discovery of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant in the UK should not alter the response to the pandemic, scientists say, despite fears that it could prove more deadly.
Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant, thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, carries with it a higher mortality rate.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed there was “some evidence” the variant had “a higher degree of mortality” at a press conference on Friday, Jan. 22, with the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, adding it could be up to 30 percent more deadly. 
That came after a briefing by the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said there was a “realistic possibility” of an increased risk of death.
Prof. Peter Horby, Nervtag’s chairman, said: “Scientists are looking at the possibility that there is increased severity ... and after a week of looking at the data we came to the conclusion that it was a realistic possibility.
“We need to be transparent about that. If we were not telling people about this we would be accused of covering it up.”
But infectious disease modeller Prof. Graham Medley, one of the authors of the Nervtag briefing, told the BBC: “The question about whether it is more dangerous in terms of mortality I think is still open.
He added: “In terms of making the situation worse it is not a game changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse.”
Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling for the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said he was “quite surprised” Johnson had made the claim.
“I just worry that where we report things pre-emptively where the data are not really particularly strong,” he added.