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Sri Lanka’s president seeks to expand power in parliamentary election

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Sri Lanka’s president seeks to expand power in parliamentary election


Power

Colombo, Aug. 1, 2020  Sri Lankans are scheduled to vote in a crucial parliamentary election on Wednesday, as the country’s president looks to consolidate his power with a majority for his party.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is urging voters to give his party, the Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPP), a two-thirds majority in the 225-seat parliament.

“I need a strong mandate from the people to implement my promises given during the presidential elections,’’ Rajapaksa said during his campaign meetings.

He was elected president in November.

The president’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the current prime minister of the caretaker government, is running as the prime ministerial candidate for the SLPP. He already served as president for two consecutive terms between 2005 and 2015.

A rift in the main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), has helped the Rajapaksas’ party gain the confidence they will pull off a victory and secure the seats needed for constitutional changes.

After the split in the UNP, led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, most of its popular members, including deputy leader Sajith Premadasa, formed a new party and are competing separately in the election.

The division of the main opposition has given an added advantage to the SLPP.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa told voters that voting for parties with divisions is futile.

“Vote for a party which is stable.

“It is easy to serve the people if the president and the parliament are from the same party,’’ he said.

During the former government, in office from 2015 to 2020, Sri Lankans witnessed a rift between the president and government and its consequences.

Halfway through his term, former president Maithripala Sirisena decided to support Rajapaksa instead of working with former premier Wickremesinghe’s UNP.

This led to several issues including security lapses, which contributed to the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings by extremists group that claimed 268 lives.

Sirisena is now competing in the elections for the Rajapaksas’ SLPP.

President Rajapaksa argues that with a two-thirds majority in parliament, he could amend the constitution to remove certain provisions, for instance, regarding the appointment of key officials.

He said that appointing key officials has been an obstacle to ruling the country.

Rajapaksa has already appointed several former army officers for top civil administration positions.

He is a former military officer, who played a key role as defence secretary in defeating the Tamil rebels in 2009, ending a 26-year conflict.

The coronavirus adds some uncertainty to the election, as this year’s campaign has been curtailed due to the threat of the virus spreading.

Health officials restricted the number of persons attending election rallies to 500, while house-to-house to campaigns were restricted to three people.

“We are calling on voters to come out and vote after assuring them all health precautions have been taken,’’ Mahinda Deshapriya, Chairman of the Election Commission, told dpa.

Election monitoring groups fear that the voter percentages will drop, as many of the elderly may not come out to vote.

Over 16 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots on Wednesday from 7.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m. (0130-1130 GMT).

Polling has been extended by one hour, as voting will take longer with the coronavirus health restrictions in place.

The counting of votes has been delayed until Thursday, enabling officials to carry out the count under the safety procedures.

Due to the strict health procedures to be followed, electoral spending has doubled to 10 billion rupees ($54 million).

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

Babatunde Abdulfatah: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

General news

Sexual violence: Mrs Akeredolu pledges to partner stakeholders

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The wife of Ondo State Governor, Mrs Betty Akeredolu, has pledged her readiness to partner with relevant stakeholders to end cases of  sexual violence in the state.


Akeredolu spoke on Tuesday in Akure at a stakeholders meeting on gender-based sexual violence

According to her, an action plan must  aim at addressing the issue of rape in the state holistically.

The governor’s wife, therefore, advised stakeholders to collectively come up with a reasonable action plan that would end the menace.

Mrs Titi Adeyemi, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, said the essence of the meeting was to have a follow up forum on the previous meeting with stakeholders on rape and gender based violence.

Adeyemi noted that the spate of rape cases and gender-based violence was becoming alarming.

“It has become so worrisome, especially during the coronavirus period, which concerns every individuals.

“There has been an upsurge on issue of rape and all hands must be on deck to curb it.

” That is the main reason Mrs Akeredolu and relevant authorities have shown great concern at this time.

“We have put a team of experts together, people who have technical knowledge on gender-based violence issues to look for a lasting solution.

“We have a whole range of stakeholders coming together to evolve an action plan to tackle the menace, and I believe that this move is going to assist the state and the society at large,” she said.

Adeyemi said her ministry had concluded plans with the Ministry of Budget to include funds for gender-based violence management in its budget.

She also said that a desk for management of gender based violence cases would be created while government would build the capacity of care givers as well as empower victims.

The commissioner commended the governor’s wife for contributing to the proactive measures put in place to curb the menace in the state.

Mrs Bola Ogundadegbe, the Chairperson of Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in the state, disclosed that the 112 rape incidents recorded since 2017 had been charged to court.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that stakeholders at the meeting included representatives from Ministries of Justice, Education, Health, Women Affairs as well as representatives of non governmental organisations specialising on rape cases.

Others were from National Council of Women Societies, Betty Anyanwu Foundation(BAAF), Nigeria Police Force and NSCDC.

(
Edited By: Muftau Adediran/Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)

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Foreign

Spain records lower unemployment in July

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The Spanish Government on Tuesday said the rate of unemployment declined slightly in July compared to the previous month, in spite drastic measures implemented to fight the spread of the coronavirus.


According to the Labour Ministry, the number of unemployed people declined by 2.3 per cent, or circa 90,000 people, to 3.8 million.

However, analysts were surprised by the result, as predictions had said the number would rise by 20,000.

The figures indicate the Spanish labour market was recovering after unemployment numbers rose by 302,000 in March and 283,000 in April, but only 26,500 additional people were reported unemployed in May and 5,100 in June.

This, they said, marked an ever smaller increase in the rate of unemployment in the country.

The impact of the coronavirus crisis was more apparent in comparison to 2019, however, unemployment in July was 25 per cent higher than in July 2019.

YI/ MNA

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)

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Foreign

Philippine capital, surrounding provinces return to lockdown

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More than 27 million people in the Philippines on Tuesday went back under stricter lockdown measures as the Health Department reported a record number of new coronavirus cases.


The department reported 6,352 additional coronavirus infections, pushing the country’s total caseload to 112,593.

The department added that death toll also rose to 2,115, following 11 additional deaths.

Meanwhile, almost half of the additional cases were confirmed in the Metro Manila region, which has been placed under what is locally called modified enhanced community quarantine for the next 15 days.

The protocol was also imposed in the four surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

Also, public transport, private and government offices and other commercial services were suspended in the five regions, while people were prohibited from leaving their homes unless for essential trips.

Dine-in services in restaurants were also suspended, and some of the 16 cities in Metro Manila re-imposed a ban on alcohol.

Catholic churches were once again closed to the public, as well as beauty salons and gyms.

Coronavirus cases in the Philippines have been increasing since the government began to ease restrictions in June in a bid to revive the economy.

The spike has prompted doctors, nurses and other health care workers to call on the government to recalibrate the response to the pandemic.

One of the doctors who joined the call warned that if the infections were not halted, the country would be the next New York City, where people die on stretchers due to lack of space in hospitals.

Health Undersecretary Maria Vergeire urged the public to follow minimum health standards of wearing face masks, frequent handwashing and maintaining physical distance.

“We all know the situation in the country. We all know that as long as there is no vaccine or cure, we have to learn to live with the virus.

“That is why we are always reminding the public to follow health protocols,” she said.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Maharazu Ahmed (NAN)

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COVID-19

Study shows number of COVID-19 cases in Italy higher than expected

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A study published on Tuesday in Italy showed that six times as many people as officially recorded could have been infected with the coronavirus in the country.


The study, which was conducted by the health ministry and the Statistics Bureau, Istat, found that 1.5 million people (2.5 per cent) of Italy’s population could have developed coronavirus antibodies.

The result is based on tests of 64,660 people, who were chosen as representative samples, between May 15 and July 15.

According to data by the United States Johns Hopkins University, only 248,000 million people were infected with the coronavirus in Italy and 35,000 people died.

Since March, the number of weekly new cases has drastically declined in the Mediterranean country.

The study also showed that there were drastic regional differences with regard to the antibodies.

However, in Lombardy, Italian Northern region that was one of the epicentres of the first outbreak, 7.5 per cent of people had antibodies, while in Southern Italy, the number stood at less than 1 per cent.

YI/

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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