Tag Archives: Sri lanka

Storyline: Warships join fight to put out oil tanker inferno off Sri Lanka

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New Diamond, travelling from Kuwait to Paradip, is carrying cargo of 270,000 tonnes of crude and 1,700 tonnes of diesel.


A new fire broke out on a supertanker carrying about two million barrels of oil in the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka’s eastern coast as Russian and Indian warships joined the battle to put out the blaze.

The New Diamond, travelling from Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip with a cargo of 270,000 tonnes of crude and 1,700 tonnes of diesel, issued a distress call on Thursday, navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva said.

The vessel had a crew of 18 Filipinos and five Greeks. One crew member was missing, another was injured, and the rest were rescued from the Panama-flagged vessel, according to the navy.

“An Indian coastguard vessel and one of our ships are now in the process of dousing the flames that have spread to the deck of the tanker’s service area,” de Silva told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)

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There was no immediate danger of a leak from the stricken vessel, he added, which was 60km (38 miles) from the coastal town of Sangamankandi Point.

Photographs taken by Sri Lanka’s air force showed extensive damage to the tanker’s funnel, and thick black smoke and flames coming from the bridge, which is just behind the cargo area.

Two Russian warships, which were at Sri Lanka’s southern port of Hambantota to take on food and water, were now headed to the New Diamond’s location to help with the rescue.

India was sending three navy vessels and two more coastguard vessels in addition to providing aerial reconnaissance.

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De Silva said rescuers were trying to prevent the fire from spreading to the cargo area and ensuring there was no leak.

Sri Lanka’s Marine Protection Authority said it would take measures to prevent any possible oil leak.

Such a spill could cause an “environmental disaster” Ashok Sharma, managing director of shipbroker BRS Baxi in Singapore, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)

Thursday’s incident happened just over a month after a state of “environmental emergency” was triggered by the spill of about 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil from a Japanese bulk carrier, MV Wakashio, when it ran aground on a reef in Mauritius.


#Newsworthy…

Sri Lanka elections: Rajapaksas win by landslide

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Huge parliamentary win could enable the president and his brother to change the constitution and boost dynastic rule.


Sri Lanka’s powerful Rajapaksa brothers have secured a landslide victory in the country’s parliamentary election, according to final results.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) won 145 seats and can also count on the support of at least five allies in the 225-member legislature, according to the results released on Friday.

The SLPP’s main opponent obtained just 54 seats in Wednesday’s vote, which saw more than 75 percent of the 16.2 million eligible voters cast their ballots.

The prime minister is most likely to be sworn in the same position by his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the huge win on Friday could enable them to change the constitution and strengthen the dynastic rule.

“Sri Lanka People’s Front has secured a resounding victory according to official results released so far,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a Twitter message. “It is by belief that that the expectation to have a Parliament that will enable the implementation of my ‘vision for prosperity’ policy will be reality tomorrow.”

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Critics fear the siblings – renowned for their crushing of Tamil separatist rebels to end a decades-old conflict in 2009 – want to end presidential term limits, bring the judiciary and police under their direct control, and extend their dynastic power to a new generation.

Critics fear the Rajapaksas want to end presidential term limits, bring the judiciary and police under their direct control, and extend their dynastic power to a new generation [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Sri Lanka’s opposition has accused the government of corruption, censorship and intimidation.

Reporting from the capital, Colombo, Noble Reporters Media learnt despite criticism of “authoritarianism and dominance” people have opted for the governing party.

“Mahinda Rajapaksa was voted out of office essentially just one term ago. The previous government came to power on the promise of change but it failed miserably. They did carry forward some constitutional reforms but ultimately, they were such a big disappointment that people of this country have gone back to the Rajapaksas.

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“The handling of coronavirus crisis by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has invoked a lot of confidence in the people in contrast with the shambles the last government made following the Easter bombing attack last year.”

The Indian Ocean Island has largely contained the spread of the novel coronavirus with 2,839 confirmed cases, including 11 deaths.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is most likely to be sworn in the same position by his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa [Reuters]

However, analysts say any attempt by Gotabaya Rajapaksa to push for changes that will strengthen presidential power at the expense of those of the prime minister may trigger sibling rivalry.

Gotabaya was elected president last November after projecting himself as the only leader who could secure the country after bombings of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday killed 269 people in 2019.

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Since being elected, he has said he had to function under many restrictions because of constitutional changes in 2015 that strengthened Parliament and the prime minister and put independent commissions in charge of judiciary appointments, police, public services and the conduct of elections

Mahinda Rajapaksa is unlikely to cede any of his powers that might shrink his influence as he works on promoting his son, Namal, as his heir. Namal and three other members of the Rajapaksa family contested the election and are likely to control key functions in the new administration.

The election has left the splintered opposition decimated.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe lost his constituency, and his party, which had 106 seats in the outgoing parliament, was reduced to just one seat.

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A breakaway faction from Wickremesinghe’s party headed by the son of assassinated President Ranasinghe Premadasa, Sajith, got 20 percent of the vote and was a distant second with 54 seats.

A man hangs newspapers in Colombo carrying headlines about the victory of the ruling Sri Lanka People’s Front party [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

The moderate Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which had 16 seats in the outgoing parliament, also suffered badly and was left with just 10 seats in the new assembly, which is due to sit on August 20.

A total of 196 seats in the 225-member house were decided on district proportional representation while the remaining 29 were decided on the basis of votes polled nationwide.

The election was originally scheduled for April, but it was twice postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

Sri Lanka: Voting, under way to elect new parliament

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Voters flock to voting centres as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa seeks a fresh mandate to boost his power.


Sri Lankans have begun voting to elect a new parliament, wearing masks and adhering to strict social distancing guidelines at polling stations across the country, in an election President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hopes will boost his powers.

More than 16 million people are eligible to vote in the island nation, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism and has struggled deeply since deadly attacks on hotels and churches last year killed more than 260 people.

This year, strict curfews and lockdowns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic have further slowed economic growth, with the World Bank estimating the country’s GDP could contract by as much as three percent in 2020.

Polls opened at 07:00 local time (01:30 GMT) on Wednesday, with voters forming queues outside polling stations as per the Election Commission’s (EC) coronavirus guidelines. More than 750,000 Sri Lankans voted by postal ballot this year, according to the EC’s data.

Votes are to be counted on Thursday and the results should be known later that day.

Constitutional changes
Rajapaksa, 71, was elected in November after a landslide victory in a presidential poll, and is seeking a two-thirds majority for his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and its Sri Lanka People’s Freedom Alliance (SLPFA) in the 225-member parliament.

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More than 7,400 candidates are standing for 196 seats in Wednesday’s poll, with the remaining 29 to be filled by proportional representation based on the results of the election.

President Gotabaya’s older brother and former two-time president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, right, is the prime ministerial candidate for the governing party [File: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi /AFP]

Gaining more than 150 seats in total would allow Gotabaya Rajapaksa to enact constitutional changes, and potentially revoke the country’s 19th constitutional amendment, a long-standing campaign promise from last year.

The amendment, enacted in 2015 following 10 years of rule by Gotabaya’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, curtailed the powers of the president, distributing them more evenly with the prime minister and other democratic institutions.

Mahinda Rajapaksa is the SLPFA’s prime ministerial candidate, and the current incumbent in the position after former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe resigned after his opposition United National Party’s (UNP) humiliating defeat in the November presidential poll.

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The aftermath of the poll saw deepening divisions within the UNP, with the party’s presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa leading a split from the party in February, forming the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and taking the majority of UNP legislators with him.

Strict social distancing rules
At the polls on Wednesday, election officials wore transparent face shields while medical personnel ensured voters adhered to strict social distancing rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“There will be no chance of you getting infected by the coronavirus at polling stations,” said Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, who was among the first to vote at a Colombo school early on Wednesday.

Since coming to power, Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he has felt hobbled by the constitutional amendment that reduced president’s  powers [File: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

“The polling station is safer than the beach, the restaurant and the marketplace, it’s totally corona free.”

Sri Lanka had reported 2,834 cases of the coronavirus and 11 deaths as of Tuesday, as per the country’s healthy ministry.

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Rajapaksa claimed credit for controlling the outbreak with strict lockdowns, and the relatively low numbers have seen his public support grow.

Election observers said that it was unclear what effect, if any, the coronavirus outbreak would have on voter turnout, which is generally high in the island nation.

“Normally, Sri Lankans are much interested in three things: cricket, religious activities and elections,” Manjula Gajanayake, national coordinator for the Colombo-based Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) told Al Jazeera. “We always have a good turnout, but due to COVID19 it is very difficult to predict.”

Gajanayake said that the CMEV was “satisfied” with the election commission’s guidelines for conducting the poll safely.

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The poll had been twice-delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the opposition protesting against the extended period of direct rule by the president after he dissolved parliament in March.

Buddhist nationalism
The Rajapaksa brothers have built their political careers as nationalist champions of the country’s majority Sinhala Buddhist community, which forms roughly 70 percent of the population.

Voting got under way at 7am (01:30 GMT) with strict hygiene measures in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

They are best known for having crushed an ethnic minority Tamil armed separatist rebellion in the north of the country, which raged for more than three decades as armed groups fought for independence for the island’s north and east.

The conflict ended in 2009, when Mahinda Rajapaksa was president and Gotabaya was defence minister, amid allegations of torture, civilian killings and war crimes in the final stages of the war.

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Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in a presidential election in 2015, which saw former ally Maithripala Sirisena ascend as president, with the UNP in control in parliament. Years of economic and governance mismanagement, however, saw the UNP perform poorly in the 2019 presidential poll.

Since coming to power, Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he has felt hobbled by the constitutional amendment that reduced his powers. He has appointed a number of presidential task forces, putting serving and former military officers in key bureaucratic and other positions.

“I need power to implement my economic programme which you voted for,” he told supporters last week.

Ahead of Wednesday’s poll, 10 international rights groups – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders – called on Sri Lanka’s government to “end the targeted arrests, intimidation and threats against the lives and physical security of lawyers, activists, human rights defenders and journalists”.


#Newsworthy…

WHO declares Maldives, Sri Lanka free from Measles

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Measles and rubella have been eradicated from Sri Lanka and the Maldives after decades of immunisation programmes, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

“Coming at a time when the entire world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, this success is encouraging and demonstrates the importance of joint efforts,” WHO regional director Khetrapal Singh said in a statement.

The Maldives recorded its last endemic case of measles in 2009 and rubella in October 2015, the global health body said.

Sri Lanka’s last endemic cases of measles and rubella were reported in May 2016 and March 2017 respectively, it added.

There has been no evidence of endemic transmission of the two viruses for over three years “in the presence of a well performing surveillance system,” the WHO said.

Bhutan, North Korea and East Timor were also declared to be measles-free.

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The declarations came amid measles outbreaks in developed countries, including the United States.

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

An anti-vaxxer movement in the US and elsewhere has surged with the social media-fuelled rise of conspiracy theories.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted healthcare systems in South Asia and Southeast Asia, the WHO added, including immunisation and surveillance programmes.

It said it was committed to supporting member countries and partners “fully revive” such activities.


#Newsworthy…

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ICPC gets permission to arrest 2 Sri Lankans.


The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said it has secured a bench warrant to arrest two nationals of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka for their failure to appear in court to take their plea in a criminal matter.

ICPC Spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa who disclosed this in a statement yesterday in Abuja said the warrant was issued by Hon. Justice O. O. Goodluck of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court 4, sitting in Maitama, Abuja.

According to Okoduwa, the two Sri Lankans, Messrs Saththiyaraj Kantharasa and Vinith Ukantharasa and a Nigerian national Anthony Adetokunboh who are the 1st, 2nd 3rd accused persons respectively, were scheduled to appear before the court on allegations bordering on forgery of travel documents and criminal conspiracy.

The Spokesperson added that Kantharasa and Ukantharasa were accused of forging the passports, national identity card and driving license of the Republic of Malaysia.

She continued: “However, when the case was mentioned for arraignment, only the 3rd defendant announced his appearance in court, while the 1st and 2nd defendants were conspicuously absent”

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“Their lawyer, Nonso Nzedebe, informed the court that his clients were fully aware of the rescheduled date for their arraignment which is today Wednesday, May 13th 2020, saying that he was not informed of any reason for their absence in court”

“The prosecution counsel, Eniekan Ekong, had earlier prayed the court to grant the Commission a bench warrant for their arrest to compel them to attend their trial.”

In granting the warrant, Okoduwa noted that the trial judge expressed disappointment in the two foreign nationals that despite their knowledge of the rescheduled date for their arraignment, they chose to abscond without any reason.

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Adding that Justice Goodluck also ruled that a bench warrant be issued against their surety, Mr. Olanrewaju Olayiwola Olusola, a Deputy Director with the Federal Ministry of Finance, as to why he should not be remanded in prison custody pending the time the suspects are found.

The case has been adjourned to May 27th 2020.


#Newsworthy…

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50 Nigerians, 7 Sri Lankans and 2 Ghanaian Arrested

…for illegal dealings


Seven Sri Lankans, two Ghanaians, and over 50 Nigerians have been paraded by the Nigerian Navy after being arrested during the festive period for illegal activities on Nigerian waters.

Commander, NNS Beecroft, Commodore Ibrahim Shettima who confirmed the arrest said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) have been invited to collect data that would aid in prosecution of the suspects.

Nigerian navy arrests 7 Sri Lankans, 2 Ghanaian for illegal activities

MV Zebrugge, said to be one of the seven vessels intercepted by the Nigerian navy had petroleum products without proper documentation and seven Sri Lankans onboard.

MT Jonko, another vessel intercepted by the Nigerian navy on December 21 had 11 Nigerians onboard and 1077 metric tonnes of crude oil.


#Newsworthy…