Wednesday July 24, 2019
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Sri Lanka poll results by midnight

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_84273279_0f16c6ad-1406-44f4-be98-10a9a6bc9de9The results of Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections, which started today morning, are expected to be announced by midnight, the authorities said.
Polling will conclude at 4.00 p.m., following which the ballot boxes will be taken to the counting centres, the Daily Mirror reported.

The counting will begin with the postal votes.Polling commenced at 7.00 a.m and has been peaceful so far with no major incidents of violence being reported from any part of the country, polls monitors said.

However, two people believed to be the brothers of a candidate in Sabaragamuwa province’s Rambukkana district were arrested for distributing leaflets bearing the the candidate’s number near a polling booth, police said.
An estimated 75,000 police officers and special task forces have been deployed across the country to maintain law and order. Over 50 foreign observers are present at various polling booths.

Around 15 million people are expected to cast their votes at over 12,000 polling centres.President Maithripala Sirisena announced the parliamentary elections in June after he dissolved parliament just six months after being elected.

A close battle is on the cardds between the United National Front (UNF) coalition and the opposition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).The UNF is led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while the UPFA has former president Mahinda Rajapakse contesting as its main candidate from Kurunegala province.

(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)