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Sri Lanka cabinet resigns after anti-government protesters defy curfew

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The south Asian country is facing severe shortages of food, fuel and other essentials – along with record inflation and crippling power cuts – in its most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.

Sri Lanka’s entire cabinet aside from the president and his sibling prime minister resigned from their posts as the ruling political clan seeks to resolve a mounting economic crisis, with a social media blackout failing to halt another day of anti-government demonstrations.

All 26 ministers in the cabinet aside from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa submitted letters of resignation at a late-night meeting on Sunday, education minister Dinesh Gunawardena told reporters.

The move clears the way for the president to appoint a new cabinet on Monday – and some of those stepping down may be reappointed.

It came with the country under a state of emergency imposed after a crowd attempted to storm the president’s home in the capital Colombo, and a nationwide curfew in effect until Monday morning.

The South Asian nation is facing severe shortages of food, fuel and other essentials – along with record inflation and crippling power cuts –in its most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.

Intensifying demonstrations

Earlier, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Sri Lanka’s main opposition alliance, denounced a social media blackout aimed at quelling intensifying public demonstrations and said it was time for the government to resign.

“President Rajapaksa better realise that the tide has already turned on his autocratic rule,” SJB lawmaker Harsha de Silva told AFP.

Troops armed with automatic assault rifles moved to stop a protest by opposition lawmakers and hundreds of their supporters attempting to march to the capital’s Independence Square.

The road was barricaded a few hundred metres from the home of opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, and the crowd engaged in a tense stand-off with security forces for nearly two hours before dispersing peacefully.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka restricts social media access after curfew to quell protests

Internal rifts

The escalating protests have led to fissures within the government, with the president’s nephew Namal Rajapaksa condemning the partial internet blackout.

“I will never condone the blocking of social media,” said Namal, the sports minister.

He was among three members of the Rajapaksa family who later resigned, along with finance minister Basil and the eldest brother Chamal, who held the agricultural portfolio.

A junior party has also hinted it may leave the ruling coalition within a week.

The move would not affect the government’s survival but threatens its chances of lawfully extending the country’s state of emergency ordinance.

Western diplomats in Colombo have expressed concern over the use of emergency laws to stifle democratic dissent and said they were closely monitoring developments.

Sri Lanka’s influential Bar Association has urged the government to rescind the state of emergency, which allows security forces to arrest and detain suspects for long periods without charges.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka capital under heavy security following night of unrest

A critical lack of foreign currency has left Sri Lanka struggling to service its ballooning $51-billion foreign debt, with the pandemic torpedoing vital revenue from tourism and remittances.

The crisis has also left the import-dependent country unable to pay even for essentials.

Diesel shortages have sparked outrage across Sri Lanka in recent days, causing protests at empty pumps, and electricity utilities have imposed 13-hour blackouts to conserve fuel.

Sri Lanka is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.

READ MORE: Indebted Sri Lanka seeks further $1B credit line from India

Source: TRT World 

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Developmental projects of Maldives progressing substantially

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India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar has affirmed that the developmental projects of the Maldives carried out with the assistance of India have been progressing considerably. The remarks were made by the minister during the Confederation of Indian Industry (CIIs) Annual Business Summit.

Speaking at the summit, Minister Jaishankar stated that some developmental projects were slightly politically influenced, hindering the progress. However, he assured that the progress of the projects have propelled at a notable rate.

Following the Minister of Foreign Affairs Moosa Zameer’s official visit to India at the invitation of Minister Jaishankar, discussions were held highlighting the spectrum of initiatives across the nation has been kickstarted through loans and grants from the Government of India during the previous administration. He emphasised the current government’s commitment to prioritising the resumption and completion of these projects.

Meanwhile, the Government of India has reaffirmed its commitment to the development and prosperity of the Maldives by extending a budgetary support of USD 50 million to be repaid within a term of one year.

Source(s): PsmNews

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Police officers complete training to prevent maritime terrorism acts

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A team of 22 police officers has successfully completed a specialised training programme focused on thwarting maritime terrorism activities.

Entitled “Training on Strengthening Capabilities to Disrupt Maritime Crimes as Related to Terrorist Threats,” the program was conducted through a collaborative effort between the Maldives Police Service (MPS) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Running from May 13 to 15, the intensive training equipped participants with essential skills and knowledge crucial for combating threats in maritime environments.

The concluding ceremony, graced by the presence of Chief Superintendent of Police Ibrahim Adnan Anees, Head of Marine Police, along with senior officials from the Marine Police Department, UNODC’s Head of Office Enrico Boninsegna, and course instructor Kenneth Alferdo Pennington, highlighted the significance of such initiatives in enhancing national security.

Addressing the gathering, Adnan underscored the importance of ongoing education and skill development, urging participants to actively apply the knowledge garnered from the program in their professional endeavors.

The training, conducted at Dhoonidhoo, Kaafu Atoll, imparted vital insights into the prevention and detection of maritime terrorism activities, emphasizing protocols for safe navigation in high-risk areas. Furthermore, officers received guidance on investigative procedures essential for effectively addressing such crimes, thereby bolstering the nation’s capabilities in combating maritime threats.

Source(s): PsmNews

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President reverts land act amendment to parliament

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President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has reverted the Ninth Amendment Bill to the Maldives Land Act to Parliament for further consideration.

This bill, which seeks to establish criteria for recipients of residential land and mandates that land be allocated within three months of the publication of the permanent list of recipients in the gazette, was initially passed during the twenty-second sitting of Parliament’s first session this year and sent to the President’s Office for ratification on May 2.

In returning the bill, President Muizzu invoked Article 91(a) of the Constitution, which grants the President the authority to return legislation to Parliament for reconsideration.

The President’s Office has confirmed this, indicating the need for further review and potential revisions to the proposed amendment.

Source(s): PsmNews

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