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

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Last week, the Vote on Account (VOA) bill was withdrawn due to stiff protests from the opposition which holds the majority of votes in the legislature.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

US to pay over $1bn for 100m doses of J&J’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

Updated 05 August 2020

US to pay over $1bn for 100m doses of J&J’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

  • The latest contract equates to roughly $10 per vaccine dose produced by J&J
  • This is J&J’s first deal to supply its investigational vaccine to a country

WASHINGTON: The United States government will pay Johnson & Johnson over $1 billion for 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine, its latest such arrangement as the race to tame the pandemic intensifies, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.
It said it would deliver the vaccine to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) on a not-for-profit basis to be used after approval or emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
J&J has already received $1 billion in funding from the US government — BARDA agreed in March to provide that money for the company to build manufacturing capacity for more than 1 billion doses of the experimental vaccine.
The latest contract equates to roughly $10 per vaccine dose produced by J&J. Including the first $1 billion deal with the USgovernment, the price would be slightly higher than the $19.50 per dose that the United States is paying for the vaccine being developed by Pfizer Inc. and German biotech BioNTech SE.
The US government may also purchase an additional 200 million doses under a subsequent agreement. J&J did not disclose that deal’s value.
J&J plans to study a one- or two-dose regimen of the vaccine in parallel later this year. A single-shot regimen could allow more people to be vaccinated with the same number of doses and would sidestep issues around getting people to come back for their second dose.
This is J&J’s first deal to supply its investigational vaccine to a country. Talks are underway with the European Union, but no deal has yet been reached.
J&J’s investigational vaccine is currently being tested on healthy volunteers in the United States and Belgium in an early-stage study.
There are currently no approved vaccines for COVID-19. More than 20 are in clinical trials.