The Telegraph – Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot act as Prime Minister, says Sri Lankan court

On October 26, President Maithripala Sirisena had sacked Ranil Wickeremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa

Colombo – Sri Lanka, 03 December 2018. A Sri Lankan court on Monday barred Mahinda Rajapaksa from acting as Prime Minister. This comes as a major setback to President Maithripala Sirisena who had installed his former rival in place of Ranil Wickremesinghe in a controversial decision.

The appeal court issued notice and an interim order against Rajapaksa and his government, preventing them from acting as Prime Minister, cabinet and deputy ministers, Colombo Gazette reported.

The order was issued in a quo warranto case filed by 122 MPs against Rajapaksa and his government.

Lanka has been reeling under a political crisis since October 26 when President Sirisena sacked Wickeremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa.

Sirisena later dissolved Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered a snap election. The Supreme Court overturned Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament and halted the preparations for snap polls.

Both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa claim to be Prime Minister. Wickremesinghe says his dismissal is invalid because he still holds a majority in the 225-member Parliament.

The United National Front has moved three no-trust motions against Rajapaksa, who has refused to step down.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/world/mahinda-rajapaksa-cannot-act-as-prime-minister-says-sri-lankan-court/cid/1677471?ref=latest_home-template

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The Hindu – Sri Lankan Parliament disrupted again, adjourned until Monday

President Sirisena says he will not ‘prorogue Parliament under any circumstances’.

Colombo – Sri Lanka, 16 November 2018. Sri Lanka’s Parliament witnessed chaos for the second day on Friday as MPs loyal to disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa occupied the seat of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and shouted slogans, forcing him to summon police inside the House and adjourning the session until Monday.

The brawl occurred a day after the Speaker announced there is no prime minister or government following a no-confidence motion against Mr. Rajapaksa.

Friday’s proceedings were to repeat the floor test, which was disrupted on Thursday.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who installed Mr. Rajapaksa as prime minister last month in a controversial move, had agreed for a floor test with the leaders of ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s coalition during crisis talks last night.

Rajapaksa’s MPs take over Speaker seat

The MPs supporting Mr. Rajapaksa took over the seat of the Speaker, delaying the proceedings, officials said. They shouted slogans against Mr. Jayasuriya.

The Speaker summoned the police inside Parliament chamber after 45 minutes of disruption. One of the rioting MPs Arundika Fernando occupied the seat of the Speaker with more MPs surrounding it.

Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, a senior parliamentarian, was injured in the melee.

The rioting United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) members demanded the arrest of two legislators of the Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). They charged that Palitha Thewarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake were carrying knives during the Thursday brawl.

On Thursday, UPFA MP Dilum Amunugama was injured in clashes inside the chamber.

Police on Friday protected Mr. Jayasuriya from the rioting MPs as he called the Tamil National Alliance lawmaker MA Sumanthiran to propose the suspension of the standing orders.

Mr. Jayasuriya on the basis of a voice vote announced that the motion against Mr. Rajapaksa was defeated as physical voting could not take place due to the brawl.

MPs hurl books at police

The rioting MPs threw books at the police. Mr. Jayasuriya immediately suspended the sittings until November 19 and left the House surrounded by police.

President Sirisena said that he would not ‘prorogue Parliament under any circumstances’.

“I urge all parliamentarians to uphold principles of democracy parliamentary traditions at all times. I will not prorogue Parliament under any circumstances,” he tweeted.

Trouble erupted in Parliament on Thursday when the Speaker agreed to a request from ousted Mr. Wickremesinghe’s UNP that a vote be taken on a statement made by Mr. Rajapaksa demanding fresh polls.

Mr. Jayasuriya allowed Mr. Rajapaksa to make a statement as a lawmaker after stating that he does not recognise the claim of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) leader who lost a no-confidence motion on Wednesday.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s side has disputed the no-trust motion, saying proper procedure was not followed and accused Mr. Jayasuriya of bias towards his own party.

No-confidence motion

Parliament on Wednesday passed the no-confidence motion against Mr. Rajapaksa after the Supreme Court overturned the presidential decree to dissolve the House and hold snap polls on January 5.

Amid raucous scenes, Parliament on Wednesday met for the first time since October 26, when Mr. Sirisena sacked Mr. Wickremesinghe, installed Mr. Rajapaksa in his place and suspended the House, plunging the island nation into an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

The vote of no confidence against Mr. Rajapaksa has further complicated the political crisis. It is not yet clear whether he will resign or whether Mr. Wickremesinghe, who has the support of 122 lawmakers in the 225-member House, will return to power.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lankan-parliament-disrupted-again-adjourned-until-monday-amid-political-crisis/article25517341.ece?homepage=true

The Hindu – Sri Lankan parliament votes against Rajapaksa government

Sri Lanka has been in political turmoil since President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister last month.

Colombo – Sri Lanka, 14 November 2018. In a landmark vote, the Sri Lankan parliament on Wednesday passed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya ruled that a majority of the 225-member assembly supported a no-confidence motion against Mr. Rajapaksa who was made prime minister on October 26 in place of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The motion was moved by United National Party (UNP) member Lakshman Kiriella.

Just before the vote was taken up, Mr. Rajapaksa walked out of the chamber, escorted by his son and MP Namal Rajapaksa, after which MPs backing him tried disrupting the vote. The members loyal to Mr. Rajapaksa attempted to grab the mace, to disrupt the vote, but Mr. Jayasuriya went ahead.

“According to the voice, I recognise that the government has no majority,” Mr. Jayasuriya announced as Mr. Rajapaksa’s backers protested.

Several ministers in Mr. Rajapaksa’s cabinet came out of parliament accusing the speaker of violating parliamentary norms by holding the crucial vote against their wishes.

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed President Maithripala Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament and restrained the Election Commission from preparing for snap elections.

President Sirisena’s November 9 decision to dissolve Parliament came shortly after his party publicly admitted to lacking a majority in the House, heightening a political crisis that began on October 26.

In a snap move, Mr. Sirisena fired his PM Wickremesinghe, installed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place, and swiftly swore in a “new cabinet”, in the face of strong local and international criticism.

In exactly two weeks, Mr. Sirisena dissolved Parliament, preventing a vote on the House to test the rival camps’ claims to majority. Almost all political parties, except those aligned to the Sirisena-Rajapaksa front, petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday, challenging the “illegal” action. One independent election commissioner joined them.

With inputs from Meera Srinivasan in Colombo

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lankan-parliament-votes-against-rajapaksa-government/article25491585.ece?homepage=true

The Hindu – Sirisena dissolves Sri Lanka Parliament, polls on January 5

Move comes hours after UPFA-led front admitted to being short of majority

Meera Srinivasan

Colombo – Sri Lanka, 09 November 2018. Evading a resolution to Sri Lanka’s political crisis through Parliament, President Maithripala Sirisena late on Friday dissolved the House.

The move came just hours after his political front admitted to lacking the majority needed for its controversially installed Prime Minister to be declared legitimate.

Mr. Sirisena signed an official notification dismissing the 225-member House with effect from midnight, clearing the way for a snap election nearly two years ahead of schedule.

According to the gazette notice, the election will be held on January 5, the new Parliament would be convened on January 17 and nominations to contest the polls would be taken between November 19 and 26, AFP has reported.

Political crisis

The development comes a fortnight after the country plunged into a political crisis that many hoped would be addressed through a floor test in Parliament. However, days before Parliament, earlier suspended, was scheduled to reconvene, Mr. Sirisena announced its dissolution.

Since October 26, Sri Lanka has been facing an unprecedented power struggle with two rival Prime Ministers claiming legitimacy.

Embroiled in a conflict with his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with whom he joined hands to form the government in 2015, Mr. Sirisena sacked him abruptly and instead appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Trust vote sought

The move drew considerable domestic and international criticism for its apparent defiance of the Constitution. Mr. Wickremesinghe refused to accept the decision and sought a vote in the House to test the competing claims to majority.

Shortly after, Mr. Sirisena prorogued Parliament for about a fortnight, possibly to muster strength, but as of Friday, the Sirisena-Rajapaksa group had 104 MPs, nine short of the 113-mark required to prove majority. in the 225-member House.

Depending on defectors

Addressing a press conference earlier in the day at the Prime Minister’s office, which Mr. Rajapaksa took over after he was controversially appointed, spokesman for the Sirisena-Rajapaksa front Keheliya Rambukwella said, “We have about 105 now.” eight lawmakers short of the 113-mark needed to prove majority.

Mr. Rambukwella’s remark, the first public admission by the “new government” of lacking majority, came days after Mr. Sirisena told a party rally “we have the majority.”

Asked how they hoped to command confidence, when all the members currently in their United People’s Freedom Alliance-led front had already been counted, Mr. Rambukwella said they were “relying on cross-overs,” which were “very common.”

Meanwhile, apart from local resistance to the changes widely termed “unconstitutional,” most international actors, including India, are yet to officially acknowledge the “new government.”

When President Sirisena prorogued Parliament until November 16, his critics said it was possibly to buy time for mustering strength in the House.

A few lawmakers from the Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP) and one from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have already pledged support to Mr. Rajapaksa and taken up ministerial positions in his new administration. One member from Mr. Sirisena’s camp has in turn joined the UNP. A few MPs crossed over to the rival camp and returned to theirs, defecting twice within days.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lanka-power-struggle-president-sirisena-dissolves-parliament/article25457395.ece?homepage=true

The Hindu – Colombo rocked by protest rally against Wickremesinghe’s sacking

‘Sirisena has broken his promise and taken executive powers into his hands’ says ousted PM

Colombo – Greater Colombo – Sri Lanka, 30 October 2018. Angry protests rocked Sri Lanka’s capital as thousands of demonstrators gathered on Tuesday for a mass rally organised by ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s party against what it said was a “coup” by President Maithripala Sirisena, even as the opposing sides were engaged in efforts to secure their numbers in Parliament to end the country’s political crisis.

“Sirisena has broken his promise and taken executive powers into his hands. He has sidelined parliamentary power,” UNP leader Wickremesinghe said, addressing the crowd.

Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) demanded that Parliament be convened immediately and democracy restored. The ousted premier alleged that President Maithripala Sirisena had assumed he would get his way.

However, he said the UNP and its partners in the United National Front will not give up and will continue to push for Parliament to convene immediately. The UNP claimed about 100,000 people thronged the rally, though police sources estimated the number at 25,000.

Sri Lanka was plunged into chaos on Friday when Mr. Sirisena sacked Mr. Wickremesinghe as prime minister in a surprise move. He also suspended Parliament in an apparent bid to shore up support for newly-appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr. Sirisena is under increasing political and diplomatic pressure to reconvene Parliament and resolve the Constitutional crisis. Earlier, ahead of the rally, Champika Ranawaka, a former minister said, “We are calling upon all sections of the society who believe in democracy and rule of law to gather and protest”.

Mangala Samaraweera, the ex-finance minister under Mr. Wickremesinghe said, “This was a Constitutional coup and it is our duty to protect democracy and sovereignty of people“. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya urged the President to let Mr. Wickremesinghe prove his majority support on the Parliament floor.

The supporters of Mr. Rajapaksa, a former President, are confident that he would be able to prove majority support in Parliament as they are sure that members of Mr. Wickremesinghe’s UNP would defect. “We are waiting for more UNP members to join us. We have the numbers,” Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, a Rajapaksa loyalist, said.

Mr. Wickremesinghe has said that he still commands a majority. However, he suffered a setback after four lawmakers from his party, who had pledged allegiance to him in public, took a U-turn and accepted ministerial positions in the Rajapaksa government.

“We have the majority despite four of them joining Rajapaksa,” Ranjith Madduma Bandara, an ex-minister, said. Speaker Jayasuriya has called for a meeting of all party leaders to assess the current political situation. At least 128 members had written to him calling for reconvening of Parliament.

Mr. Jayasuriya has insisted that the issue needs to be settled within Parliament. Both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa are working to secure their numbers in parliament.

The leaders of the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA), met Mr. Rajapaksa this morning to discuss the current political situation. TNA sources said R Sampanthan, who is also the leader of the main Opposition, was asked by Mr. Rajapaska to stay neutral in case of a floor test.

The TNA has 16 MPs in the 225-member assembly and can play a crucial role in deciding the legitimacy of the government. Mr. Rajapaksa needs 18 more MPs to give him a simple majority of 113 in the House of 225 members.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s tenure as president was marred by allegations of authoritarianism, corruption and human rights abuses, especially against the country’s Tamil minority. He was defeated in the 2015 presidential election when Mr. Wickremesinghe and Mr. Sirisena formed an unlikely coalition, and their government initiated several investigations into alleged Rajapaksa-era crimes.

Under Sri Lanka’s Constitution, the president, who maintains executive powers, can appoint a new prime minister once the current premier has lost control of Parliament. Mr. Wickremesinghe argues he cannot legally be dismissed until he loses the support of Parliament. His party was prevented from holding a vote when Sirisena abruptly suspended Parliament on Saturday until November 16.

Mr. Wickremesinghe claimed in a Facebook post on Monday that he had obtained the signatures of 126 MPs calling for Parliament to be reconvened immediately to end the political standoff.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/colombo-rocked-by-protest-rally-against-wickremesinghes-sacking/article25371808.ece?homepage=true

The Hindu – One dead in Sri Lanka shooting as political crisis deepens

Bodyguards for Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga fired live rounds at a mob loyal to President Maithripala Sirisena.

Colombo – Greater Colombo area – Sri Lanka, 28 October 2018. One man died and two others were injured when shots were fired on October 28 in Sri Lanka, as a constitutional crisis over the shock sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe turned violent.

Bodyguards for Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga fired live rounds as a mob loyal to Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena besieged the Cabinet member in his office, police said.

One of those shot in the melee, a 34-year-old man, died shortly after being admitted to the Colombo National, hospital spokeswoman Pushpa Soysa told AFP.

It was the first report of serious violence since Mr. Sirisena sacked Mr. Wickremesinghe on on October 26 and installed a former strongman as the new Prime Minister, triggering political chaos in the Indian Ocean nation.

Mr. Wickremesinghe has refused to vacate the Prime Minister’s official residence since being controversially deposed, declaring his dismissal illegal and demanding an emergency session of parliament to prove he still commands a majority.

Over 1,000 supporters and loyalists, including chanting Buddhist monks, massed outside the colonial-era residence in Colombo where a defiant Mr. Wickremesinghe has been holding crisis talks with allies.

Elsewhere his successor Mahinda Rajapaksa, a former President, sought blessings at a temple ahead of naming a new cabinet, as he jostles to consolidate his claim to the Prime Ministership.

Officials loyal to Mr. Rajapaksa said police will now seek a court order to evict Mr. Wickremesinghe from the residence, threatening to escalate the standoff.

Regional neighbours and Western nations have urged all sides to exercise restraint and respect the constitution.

Soldiers had been stationed near the Prime Minister’s residence, although his security and official cars were withdrawn on October 27, but the shooting at the Petroleum Ministry was the first reported instance of violence breaking out.

The embattled Mr. Wickremesinghe received a boost on October 28 as Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Speaker Karu Jayasuriya refused to endorse his sacking.

The Speaker backed the ousted Prime Minister’s request to retain his privileges and security until another candidate could prove a majority, saying it was “democratic and fair”.

Mr. Wickremesinghe called for a vote in Parliament to prove his right to hold office, but instead Mr. Sirisena shut Parliament for nearly three weeks to forestall any challenge against Mr. Rajapaksa’s appointment.

‘Serious consequences’

Speaker Jayasuriya warned the President that shuttering Parliament risked “serious and undesirable consequences for the country”.

Others feared the crisis could degenerate into street violence if the President did not immediately summon Parliament to end the impasse.

“Don’t try to create a civil war in this country,” Karunarathna Paranawithana, a legislator from Mr. Wickremesinghe’s party told reporters at the Prime Minister’s residence.

“If the President has the numbers he should immediately call Parliament and prove his majority.”

‘Wickremsinghe’s political conduct was unbecoming’

In his first address to the nation after the dramatic move to sack Mr. Wickremesinghe, Mr. Sirisena said that Mr. Wickremesinghe was sacked due to his “arrogant” behaviour, and asserted that Mr. Rajapaksa was made the new premier in strict accordance with the Constitution.

Mr. Wickremsinghe’s political conduct since the victory in 2015 was unbecoming. “He appeared to treat Sri Lanka’s future as a joy ride for a coterie of people around him who had no sense of the common man’s thinking,” he said.

Loyalists to Mr. Rajapaksa, whose controversial decade-long rule was marked by grave allegations of rights abuses, the crushing of the Tamil Tiger uprising, and growing authoritarianism, still control the headquarters of two state-run television channels.

The controversial new Prime Minister travelled to a highly venerated Buddhist temple on October 28 in the central district of Kandy to seek blessings from monks.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s aides said he was likely to name a few Cabinet Ministers before the end of the day and begin work on October 29 — he is yet to make a formal statement since being elevated to the new post.

The strongman is seen as being closer to China than Mr. Wickremesinghe, who had sought to re-establish stronger ties with India.

China’s ambassador to Colombo met separately with Mr. Rajapaksa and Mr. Wickremesinghe on October 27, officials said, while Colombo-based Western diplomats met with Mr. Wickremesinghe.

‘Constitutional coup’

Privately-run newspapers on October 28 described Mr. Sirisena’s move as a “constitutional coup”.

However, Rajapaksa loyalist and former Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris said there was nothing illegal about sacking Mr. Wickremesinghe and challenged him to prove his majority when Parliament returns on November 16.

The falling out between Mr. Wickremesinghe and Mr. Sirisena has come to a head since the President this year backed a no-confidence motion against the man he had handpicked to lead the government.

The two allied against Mr. Rajapaksa in the 2015 election, but their relationship steadily soured.

Mr. Sirisena initially said he would be a one-term President but has since indicated he will seek re-election next year, pitting himself against Mr. Wickremesinghe who also has presidential ambitions.

This is the second time that a President has ousted Mr. Wickremesinghe from office. In 2004, the then head of state sacked him and called snap elections.

After winning the premiership a third time in August 2015, Mr. Wickremesinghe amended the constitution to remove the President’s power to sack Prime Ministers to prevent a repeat of his earlier ouster.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/shots-fired-as-sri-lanka-political-crisis-escalates/article25352641.ece?homepage=true

BBC News – Sri Lanka: Mahinda Rajapaksa, former president, named as PM

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has named his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the country’s new prime minister after the collapse of the governing coalition.

Colombo – Sri Lanka, 26 October 2018. He sacked Premier Ranil Wickramasinghe after the president’s United People’s Freedom Alliance party (UPFA) quit the government.

Mr Sirisena beat Mr Rajapaksa in the 2015 presidential election. Opponents say the move is unconstitutional.

Mr Wickramasinghe helped the president triumph in the 2015 poll, but the pair reportedly clashed in cabinet recently over government plans to lease a port to India.

The prime minister and his United National Party (UNP) came to power promising accountability for alleged atrocities committed in Sri Lanka’s civil war and during Mr Rajapaksa’s administration.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera called his leader’s sacking “an anti-democratic coup”, saying Mr Wickramasinghe remained leader as he could not constitutionally be removed by the president.

And Cabinet spokesman Raitha Senaratne told the BBC that Mr Wickramasinghe remained the country’s prime minister. President Sirisena had been an ally of and minister under Mr Rajapaksa before turning against him.

Mr Rajapaksa ended the civil war in 2009, but faced criticism for the means by which he achieved victory, many thousands of Tamil civilians are thought to have been killed by government forces in the final months of the fighting.

Over the 26-year conflict, between 80,000 and 100,000 people are estimated to have died, with both sides alleged to have perpetrated war crimes.

Moreover, the former president is also accused of corruption on an epic scale, along with his inner circle.

President Sirisena told the BBC shortly after his election victory that he planned to set up a domestic inquiry into the alleged civil war atrocities.

But poor headlines have dogged the president in recent weeks, tarnishing his image.

Mr Sirisena had to call India Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month after reports that he said the Indian secret service was plotting to kill him at a cabinet meeting.

And in September he railed against national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines for serving him sub-par cashew nuts.

Bad news for Sri Lanka, Bad news for democray
Man-in-Blue

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45991919

The Hindu – Congress defends Rahul’s warning against exclusion

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 23 August 2018. The Congress on Thursday strongly defended party president Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Germany where he had argued that excluding large sections of people from the development narrative could lead to insurgency in any part of the world.

On Wednesday, Mr Gandhi told the Bucerius Summer School at Hamburg (Germany) that the BJP government has excluded tribals, Dalits and minorities from the development process and that could be a “dangerous thing”.

He said that in 2003 after the USA attacked Iraq and defeated Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, they brought a law that stopped a particular tribe in Iraq from getting jobs in the government and in the army.

“It took the United States a couple of months to defeat Saddam Hussein’s Army, hardly any American soldier died. A few months after the invasion, the network that was excluded from jobs in Iraq, the Tikriti tribal network, linked up with the cellphone network in Iraq and with the network of artillery shells that were left in villages.

And you got an insurgency that caused massive casualties to the Americans. It didn’t end there. That insurgency slowly entered empty spaces. It entered the empty space in Iraq and in Syria and then it connected with…a horrific idea called ISIS,” Mr. Gandhi said

“If you don’t give people a vision in the 21st century, somebody else will. And that’s the real risk of excluding a large number of people from the development process,” Mr. Gandhi said.

After being attacked by the BJP, the Congress explained the context of the party chief’s comment. “Unemployment is the biggest issue and Mr Gandhi explained how this sort of anger, not just in India but across the world, can lead the youth to the wrong path, violence and hatred.

But the BJP doesn’t even acknowledge joblessness as a problem,” said former Union Minister R P N Singh at a press briefing.

At the Hamburg speech, the Congress chief linked the lynching incidents in India to joblessness as well and the lack of opportunities for the poor. He claimed lynchings were the result of the anger emanating from joblessness and destruction of small businesses due to the note ban and a flawed Goods and Services Tax.

Asked about his now famous hug to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament, the Congress chief revealed that many of his party colleagues didn’t like it. He said it is “foolish to respond to hate with hate” and alleged that the Prime Minister had made hateful comments against him.

Mr Gandhi said he disagreed with the suggestion that India was the worst place for women in the world but admitted incidents of violence against women in the country were rising.

Asked how can the rising violence be tackled, he said through non-violence and forgiveness. “And for forgiveness, you need to understand where it is coming from. My father was killed by a terrorist in 1991.

When the terrorist died a few years later, I wasn’t happy. I saw myself in his children,” he said, referring to LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakaran, responsible for the killing of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, being shot dead by the Sri Lankan Army in 2009.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cong-defends-rahuls-warning-against-exclusion/article24762521.ece

BBC News – Kabul bombings: Journalists targeted in blast which killed 25

At least 25 people have been killed in two bombings in the Afghan capital Kabul, including several journalists documenting the scene.

AFP chief photographer in Kabul, Shah Marai, is among the victims.

The first explosion was carried out by an attacker on a motorbike. A second followed about 15 minutes later after a crowd, including several reporters, had gathered at the scene.

The Islamic State group (IS) said it had carried out the attack.

It was one of several fatal incidents on Monday.

BBC reporter Ahmad Shah was also killed in a separate attack in the Khost region.

And in a third attack, 11 children were killed in a suicide bombing intended to target Nato troops in Kandahar province.

Bomber ‘disguised himself”

In the Kabul attack, the AFP news agency said the second blast had deliberately targeted the group of journalists, including its photographer Shah Marai.

“The bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd,” AFP quoted a police spokesman as saying.

At least eight journalists and four police officers were among the dead, interior minister spokesperson Najib Danish told the BBC. So far, 45 people have been reported injured.

– Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty confirmed that three of its journalists were killed in the attack. Abadullah Hananzai, a journalist and cameraman, had been working on a story about narcotics, while Maharram Durrani worked on the weekly women’s programme. Sabawoon Kakar had earlier been listed as injured, but died later in hospital.
– Tolo News said its cameraman Yar Mohammad Tokhi was among the victims
– Afghanistan’s 1TV said reporter Ghazi Rasooli and cameraman Nowroz Ali Rajabi had been killed

The intelligence services headquarters had been the target, IS said in a statement released through its self-styled news outlet Amaq.

The Shashdarak district also houses the defence ministry and a Nato compound.

“This is the deadliest day for Afghan media in the past 15 years,” the head of Tolo News TV, Lotfullah Najafizada, told the BBC.

“We went, all of us, to the blast site. We said: ‘If you killed an entire line of journalists reporting here, in five hours time we’re back here; the line is longer; the queue is longer and the resolve is greater.”

Bombings in the Afghan capital are not uncommon.

Earlier in April, a suicide bomb at a voter registration killed almost 60 people and injured 119, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

The Taliban also remain active in the country, only 30% of which is under full government control, according to BBC research published earlier this year.

AFP paid tribute to Shah Marai, who it said had six children, including a newborn baby.

“This is a devastating blow,” global news director Michele Leridon said.

“We can only honour the extraordinary strength, courage and generosity of a photographer who covered often traumatic, horrific events with sensitivity and consummate professionalism.”

Who was the BBC’s Ahmad Shah?

A shooting in Khost province resulted in the death of a BBC reporter.

“It is with great sadness that the BBC can confirm the death of BBC Afghan reporter Ahmad Shah following an attack earlier today,” said Jamie Angus, director of the BBC World Service.

“Ahmad Shah was 29. He had worked for the BBC Afghan service for more than a year and had already established himself as a highly capable journalist who was a respected and popular member of the team.

“This is a devastating loss and I send my sincere condolences to Ahmad Shah’s friends and family and the whole BBC Afghan team.

“We are doing all we can to support his family at this very difficult time.”

Local police are investigating a motive.

What happened in the Kandahar attack?

Also on Monday, a suicide bomb attack in the Kandahar region killed 11 schoolchildren and injured many more.

The bomber appeared to have been targeting a military vehicle convoy in Daman district, but the explosion struck a nearby religious school. In addition to the dead, more than a dozen children were reported injured in the blast.

Nato forces operate from a base in the area, and Nato officials confirmed that some of its people had been injured, as had Afghan police.

Eight of the injured were of Romanian nationality, Nato said, but all were in stable condition.

No group has yet said it carried out the Kandahar attack.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43946539

Dawn – Explosion, arson in Sri Lanka despite emergency

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

Kandy – Central Province – Sri Lanka, 08 March 2018. One person was killed and several others injured in an explosion on Wednesday evening, as the government struggled with the risk of communal tension escalating in the hill capital for the third consecutive day. A 24-hour police curfew was re-imposed in the district from 4pm until Thursday.

The explosion took place in an area called Pujapitiya in Kandy. The ethnicity of the deceased was not immediately clear. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said it was not certain if the explosive was a grenade or not.

Moreover, mobs torched Muslim-owned businesses in Kandy on Wednesday as hundreds of police and troops struggled to restore order after days of rioting.

Meanwhile, leaves of all police personnel have been cancelled until further notice on the instruction of the inspector general of police.

Under the state of emergency declared by President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday, the military is enabled with sweeping powers to conduct cordon and search operations anywhere and carry out arrests.

The historical district, a much-loved tourist spot, was dominated by fear of the cycle of violence continuing amid reports that mobs in certain areas were lying in wait to carry out attacks. Schools in the district remains closed until further notice.

Meanwhile, the Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka has begun monitoring social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Viber, WhatsApp and YouTube as part of the government’s effort to prevent the spread of ethnic and religious based hate speech.

Sirisena rushes to Kandy

Meanwhile, in a bid to calm the unrest in Kandy, Sirisena rushed to the riot-torn district on Wednesday and held a special meeting with all religious and political leaders and officials, urging them to bring peace back to the Buddhist heritage city.

The Buddhist Mahasangha, led by the Anunayaka Theros of Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters, and Muslim, Hindu and Catholic religious leaders took part in the discussion alongside, ministers, government officers, and chiefs of security forces.

The Sri Lankan president appealed to all gathered to avoid divisive statements and actions. The religious leaders pointed out that exaggeration of minor incidents through various social media platforms had been a main reasons for the conflict.

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