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Parliament In Sri Lanka Gets Dissolved, President Calls For Election

The U.S. State Department tweeted that it is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved

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Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena waves to supporters during a rally outside the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

ri Lanka’s president dissolved Parliament and called for elections on Jan. 5 in a bid to stave off a deepening political crisis over his dismissal of the prime minister that opponents say is unconstitutional.

An official notification signed by President Maithripala Sirisena announced the dissolution of Parliament effective midnight Friday. It said the names of candidates will be called before Nov. 26 and the new Parliament is to convene Jan. 17.

Sri Lanka has been in a crisis since Oct. 26, when Sirisena fired his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both say they command a majority in Parliament and had been expected to face the 225-member house Wednesday after it was suspended for about 19 days.

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Sri Lanka’s sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe holds a copy of the constitution of Sri Lanka as he attends a media briefing at his official residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Foreign Minister Sarath Amunugama told The Associated Press Saturday that the reason for the president to dissolve Parliament was the need to go to the people to find a resolution to the crisis.

“On the 14th there was to be a lot of commotion and unparliamentary activities sponsored by the speaker,” Amunugama said. “The speaker was not planning to act according to the constitution and standing orders of Parliament.”

Sirisena’s supporters had been irked by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s announcement that he was going to call for a vote for either party to prove their support.

Miscalculation

“The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament,” said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at U.S.-based analyst group Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. “At the end of the day, he is a victim of his own homegrown crisis.”

Sri Lanka, parliament
Sri Lankan civil rights activists hold placards during a demonstration outside the official residence of ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Wickremesinghe has insisted his firing is unconstitutional. He has refused to vacate his official residence and demanded that Parliament be summoned immediately to prove he had support among its members.

Tensions had been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.

Sirisena was critical of investigations into military personnel accused of human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s long civil war against a Tamil separatist group, which ended in 2009. Rajapaksa, who ruled as president from 2005 to 2015, is credited as a hero by the ethnic Sinhalese majority for winning the conflict. But he lost a re-election bid in 2015 amid accusations of nepotism, corruption and wartime atrocities.

Constitutional question

Wickremesinghe’s camp is likely to contest Sirisena’s move because of constitutional provisions stating a Parliament can’t be dissolved until 4 ½ years after its election. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

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Sri Lankan former President Mahinda Rajapakse addresses journalists at his residence in Colombo, Sept. 22, 2018. Rajapakse has been appointed the Sri Lanka’s new prime minister. VOA

“It’s totally unconstitutional,” said Harsha de Silva, a member of Wickremesinghe’s United National Party and a former minister. “Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper. We will fight this dictator to the end.”

The party said in a Twitter message that it will meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of Sirisena’s move.

US urges caution

The U.S. State Department tweeted that it is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, “further deepening the political crisis.”

Also Read: Once a Hostage, Sri Lankan Sailor Now Helps Battle Somali Pirates

“As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity,” the statement said.

Earlier, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and two other lawmakers wrote to Sirisena warning that actions circumventing the democratic process could impact U.S. assistance, including a planned five-year aid package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars. (VOA)

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World Class Zoo Worth Rs 500 Cr to Come Up in Mumbai

The proposed site in Aarey Milk Colony was inspected by a CZA team in 2014 which recently gave its clearance

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World, Zoo, Mumbai
The zoo, estimated to cost around Rs 500 crore. Pixabay

An ultra-modern zoo of global standards, spread across 100 acres, is expected to come up in the lush green environs in the suburban Goregaon in Maharashtra, officials said here on Wednesday.

The zoo, estimated to cost around Rs 500 crore, will have a host of unseen wild animals, trails and jungle safaris, nature education centre, a separate breeding centre and other facilities as per guidelines of Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

The proposed site in Aarey Milk Colony was inspected by a CZA team in 2014 which recently gave its clearance, and the new zoo will be virtually adjacent to two tourism centres like the famed Film City and nearby the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).

On Wednesday, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Maharashtra Forest Department and BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) whereby 100 acres of the 190-acre government land will be given for setting up the zoo.

World, Zoo, Mumbai
An ultra-modern zoo of global standards, spread across 100 acres, is expected to come up in the lush green environs in the suburban Goregaon in Maharashtra. Pixabay

The BMC will soon appoint a project management consultant and prepare a comprehensive master plan for the zoo which will be executed from its own resources. However, the net revenues shall be shared by the civic body and the forest department.

The MoU documents were signed and exchanged in the presence of Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray and Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.

As per the MoU, the forest department will provide technical expertise in procuring various animals for the zoo and other facilities which would showcase the rich biodiversity of the state and the country.

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Since there is no space to expand the existing 50-acre zoo in Byculla, an alternative site inside the Aarey Milk Colony was explored. (IANS)