Tuesday July 23, 2019
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Ruling UNF gets first seat in district of Galle

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Sweet mandarine
 Ranil Wickremesinghe
Ranil Wickremesinghe

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s ruling UNF led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday swept the parliamentary polls in the southern district of Galle, in a significant reversal of the 2010 result.

The first result released by the Election Department showed that the United National Front had obtained 33,798 votes in Galle while the main opposition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) got 19,613 votes, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) obtained 4,777 votes.

In the 2010 parliamentary elections, the opposition UPFA had won the Galle district with over 20,000 votes while the United National Party (UNP) had secured over 14,000 votes.

Initial postal vote results released early Tuesday for the eastern town of Trincomalee also showed the UNF leading with 5,212 votes while the UPFA polled in second with 2,894 votes.

But postal results for the southern coast of Hambantota, a stronghold of former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, saw the UPFA leading with 8,441 votes and the UNF with 5,955 votes.

More election results are expected to come in on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections were held on Monday to elect a new government in the island nation.

The main battle is between the two main political parties, the UNF led by Wickremesinghe and the UPFA, which includes Rajapaksa as its main candidate.

(IANS)

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Sri Lanka to Reduce Airline Charges to Help Tourism Industry

The government currently predicts $3.7 billion in revenue from tourism this year, down from an initial forecast of $5 billion

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srilanka, tourism
Buddhist monks take part in a prayer ceremony at a buddhist temple for the victims, three days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 24, 2019. VOA

Sri Lanka’s government announced Tuesday it will reduce ground handling charges for airlines and slash aviation fuel prices and embarkation fees to help the country’s vital tourism industry recover after Easter suicide bombings killed more than 250 people.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the decision will lead to an increase in flights to Sri Lanka and a reduction in ticket prices, which will attract more tourists to the Indian Ocean island nation, famed for its pristine beaches.

Seven suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, attacked three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and Britain. Tourist arrivals declined 57% in June from a year earlier, dealing a severe blow to the tourism industry, the country’s third-largest foreign currency earner after remittances from overseas workers and textile and garment exports.

sri lanka, tourism
Kandy Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka. Wikimedia Commons

The cuts in charges and fees will be in place for six months, said Johanne Jayaratne, head of the government’s tourism development agency. About 2.3 million tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2018, when 29 airlines offered 300 flights per week. After the April 21 attacks, 41 fights per week were canceled, amounting to a loss of 8,000 passenger seats. Several airlines have reinstated their normal schedules since then, but others have not.

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Dimuthu Tennakoon, chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives, said the government decision will encourage airlines to increase their capacity and offer attractive fares.
“That will definitely happen with this reduction because fuel and ground handling contribute a significant percentage of the total cost element of any airline,” he said.

Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka’s GDP. Around half a million Sri Lankans depend directly on tourism and 2 million indirectly. The government currently predicts $3.7 billion in revenue from tourism this year, down from an initial forecast of $5 billion. (VOA)