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Sri Lankan president vows to fight corruption


Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has said that the battle against corruption will continue even as a new united government began work on Tuesday.

Addressing parliament which convened after the August 17 elections, Sirisena said he will continue with the work he started after winning the January 8 presidential election, Xinhua news agency reported. “My government will continue to crack down on corruption and punish those who exploit national resources no matter who they are. There will be no political interference in the appointment of officials,” he said. He added that the new government would focus on an Asia-centric foreign policy and would aim to maintain good relations with all countries.

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He extended an open invitation to Sri Lankan professionals working overseas to return to the country and contribute to its economy. Sirisena arrived in parliament to officially inaugurate the sessions and was greeted by the new speaker, Karu Jayasuriya. Earlier, 225 members took oath before the speaker. The United National Party (UNP) of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe won the parliamentary polls to form a new government. The UNP defeated the main opposition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) by winning 106 seats. The UPFA got 95 seats.


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Modi meets Bhutan PM, Sri Lanka president

photo credit: www.thehansindia.com

New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued his round of neighborhood diplomacy by meeting Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena and Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on Friday to discuss economic cooperation.

On Thursday he met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. There were no plans to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has canceled his visit to New York because of violent protests at home against a new constitution.

Modi complimented Sirisena on the successful and peaceful completion of parliamentary elections and said it showed a deep-rooted commitment to democracy, a trait shared with India.

About a recent UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) report calling for special courts with international participation to try those charged with war crimes during the civil war, Modi said that he supported the quest for justice, but also respected Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. He added that a way could be found for a consensus between Colombo and the UNHRC.

Sri Lanka opposed UNHRC proposals for so-called ‘hybrid courts’ that had both Sri Lankan and international judges and investigators, and said it would only accept advice from outside. The United States is drafting a resolution on the subject, and according to media reports, it would call for ‘hybrid courts’ and Sri Lanka is trying hard to block it.

Modi and Sirisena also discussed the bilateral development projects that include the building of 57,000 houses in areas ravaged by civil war, railway infrastructure and power generation.

Development projects figured prominently in discussions between Tobgay and Modi, according to Swarup. The hydroelectric projects India was building for Bhutan would export power to India in a large enough quantity to save 11 million metric tons of carbon by not using fossil fuels to generate that amount of electricity. That would be a contribution to sustainability.

Tobgay suggested extending the Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal connectivity project beyond the motorway to other types of links.

Both Sri Lanka and Bhutan backed Security Council reforms. Tobgay said that it was an anomaly that India was not a permanent member of the Council.


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Rajapaksa concedes defeat, UNF claims victory


Colombo: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was on Tuesday set to take oath again after leading his UNF to a victory in parliamentary elections, defeating the opposition led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa who conceded defeat.

“Let us together build a civilized society, build a consensual government and create a new country with equal opportunities for everybody,” Wickremesinghe said as results from Monday’s keenly fought battle for 225 parliament seats showed the  inching towards a win.

Ranil Wickremesinghe

Election officials said Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), the main constituent of the UNF, had got 93 seats to the 83 of United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of Rajapaksa.

UNP leaders expressed confidence that it would reach the figure of 113 MPs needed to form the next government with the help of smaller parties.

Minister Karu Jayasuriya, who led the election campaign for his party, said the UNF was confident of winning 105-107 seats and secure the help of friendly parties to take office, the media reported.

“We intend to keep our promises and develop the country,” UNP leader John Amaratunga said after netting the Gampaha seat. He said Wickremesinghe would take oath as prime minister later on Tuesday.

It is the first time in 14 years the UNP wrested Gampaha, indicating a major mood swing in the country where Rajapaksa reigned supreme for over a decade until his dramatic loss in presidential election in January.

Referring to that election when Maithripala Sririsena defeated Rajapaksa after quitting his cabinet and revolting against him, Wickremesinghe said he planned to “continue the January 8 revolution”.

A sombre Rajapaksa conceded defeat in Monday’s elections.

“My dream of becoming the prime minister has faded away,” Rajapaksa told AFP. “I am conceding we have lost a good fight.”

The former president also told his aides that he expected Wickremesinghe to lure some of his MPs to cobble a majority in parliament.

Election officials said the UNP had bagged 11 of the 22 districts from where results were available. The UPFA had won eight while the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main Tamil party, finished on top in three districts in parts of the Tamil-majority northeastern province.

Mahinda Rajapaksa

The UPFA’s victories came from Sinhalese-majority areas including Hambantota, the bastion of the Rajapaksa family. But the UNF made inroads in districts where Rajapaksa had the upper hand in the January contest.

The main battle was between the UNF led by Wickremesinghe and the UPFA, which had Rajapaksa as its main candidate although its leadership is with President Sirisena.

Both Jaffna and Vanni districts, which saw thousands of deaths in the end stages of armed conflict that ended in 2009, voted for the TNA, which is expected to ally with Wickremesinghe, media reports said.

Wickremesinghe urged Sri Lankans not to divide themselves as winners and losers and work together as one family for the betterment of Sri Lanka and to introduce a new political culture to the country.

He said in a statement that people had given a mandate for good governance and consensus-based politics.

President Sirisena showed he intended to take control of the UPFA when he sacked, after the polling ended on Monday, several key leaders known to be close to Rajapaksa and replaced them with his loyalists.


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Sri Lankan President sacks members from party’s central committee

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked 13 members from his party’s central committee hours after a parliamentary election was concluded on Monday.
The move came after speculations that some senior Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members may attempt to remove Sirisena from the party following the election results on Tuesday, reported Xinhua news agency.

The president has already appointed new members to the central committee to replace those who have been sacked.

The president sent the list of the members removed to Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya late on Monday.