Monday November 19, 2018
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President Of Sri Lanka Suspends The Parliament, Political Turmoil

Under his government, dozens of journalists were killed, abducted and tortured and some fled the country fearing for their lives.

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Sri Lanka's former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, front left, is sworn in as prime minister before President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA
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Sri Lanka ’s president suspended parliament Saturday even as the prime minister he fired the previous day claimed he has majority support, adding to a growing political crisis in the island nation.

Chaminda Gamage, a spokesman for the parliamentary speaker, confirmed that President Maithripala Sirisena had suspended parliament until Nov. 16.

The suspension came while ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was holding a news conference in which he asserted that he could prove his majority support in parliament.

Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet Friday and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, creating what some observers said could be a constitutional crisis in the South Asian island nation.

 

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Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reacts during a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, VOA

 

Constitutional crisis

Wickremesinghe said parliament should be allowed to resolve the political crisis.

“As far as the prime ministership is concerned, the person who has the majority support in parliament has to be the prime minister, and I have that majority of support,” he said. “When a motion of no confidence was moved (in the past), we defeated it showing that the house has the confidence in me.”

“It is not necessary for us to create a crisis. It is not necessary for the people of the country to suffer,” Wickremesinghe said.

Tensions have been building up between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, because the president did not approve of some of the economic reforms being introduced by the prime minister. Sirisena was also critical of police investigations into military personnel accused in the abductions and disappearances of civilians and journalists during Sri Lanka’s long civil war, which ended a decade ago.

 

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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

Strongman returns

Rajapaksa ruled Sri Lanka as president for nine years beginning in 2005, accumulating immense power and popularity among the country’s majority ethnic Sinhalese after overseeing the military’s brutal defeat of ethnic Tamil rebels in May 2009, ending the 25-year civil war. Some supporters hailed him as a king and savior.

But he also was criticized for failing to allow an investigation into allegations of war crimes by the military. Under his government, dozens of journalists were killed, abducted and tortured and some fled the country fearing for their lives. He lost a bid for re-election in 2015 amid mounting allegations of corruption and nepotism.

Also Read: Asian Farms Tackle Drug Resistance With Apps And Dictionary

His return to power as prime minister could signal that Sri Lanka is sliding back to an era of violence against political opponents, critics and journalists, observers said. (VOA)

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Small Farmers in Asia Miss Out On Climate Change Resilient Seeds

East-West Seed has built a successful business focusing purely on smallholders

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pollution, seeds
Women farmers use sticks to make holes in the soil for seeds, on a farm near Pangalengan, West Java, Indonesia. VOA

Millions of smallholder farmers in South and Southeast Asia are missing out on new, resilient seeds that could improve their yields in the face of climate change, according to an index published Monday.

The 24 top seed companies fail to reach four-fifths of the region’s 170 million smallholder farmers for reasons such as poor infrastructure, high prices and lack of training, the Access to Seeds Index found.

Access to seeds bred to better withstand changing weather conditions such as higher temperatures is vital as farmers battle loss of productivity due to climate change, said Ido Verhagen, head of the Access to Seeds Foundation, which published the index.

Egypt, pollution, seeds
A farmer burns rice straw at his field in Qalyub, causing a “black cloud” of smoke that spreads across the Nile valley, near the agricultural road which leads to the capital city of Cairo, Egypt. VOA

“We see increasing demands for new varieties, because [farmers] are affected by climate change,” Verhagen told Reuters.

“If we want to feed a growing population, if we want to tackle climate change, if we want to go towards a more sustainable food system, we have to start with seeds,” he said.

Smallholder farmers managing between one to 10 hectares of land provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asia, said the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

 pollution, seeds
FILE – Farmer sifts wheat crop at a farm on the outskirts of western Indian city of Ahmedabad. VOA

But traditional methods of preserving seeds from harvests are not always sufficient to cope with a changing climate.

About 340 million people were hungry in 2017 in South and Southeast Asia, a number that has barely changed since 2015, according to latest figures from the United Nations.

“The question is how to get markets to provide the varieties [of seeds] that farmers want, at prices that they’re able to pay,” said Shawn McGuire, agricultural officer at the FAO.

Some smaller companies are leading the way in helping smallholders access more resilient seeds, Verhagen said, such as Thailand-based East-West Seed which topped the index ahead of global giants Bayer and Syngenta, which ranked second and third.

 pollution, seeds
Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan. wikimedia commons

East-West Seed has built a successful business focusing purely on smallholders, he said, while Indian companies Acsen HyVeg and Namdhari, ranked sixth and seventh respectively, have also reached small-scale farmers with seeds.

Also Read: Climate Change’s Fight Harder Than Thought: Study

The index, funded by the Dutch government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ranks companies based on seven areas including strategies to help small farmers and supporting conservation. (VOA)