Sri Lanka postpones parliamentary poll for nearly 2 months due to COVID-19 outbreak 1

Sri Lanka postpones parliamentary poll for nearly 2 months due to COVID-19 outbreak

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 2 dissolved the Parliament, six months ahead of schedule. Sri Lanka has postponed the parliamentary elections by nearly two months to June 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak that has killed seven people and infected 295 others in the island nation. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 2 dissolved the Parliament, six months ahead of schedule and called a snap election on April 25. A gazette notice signed by the three members of the National Election Commission announcing June 20 date of the election was issued on Monday. The decision was taken after much deliberation with health and security authorities. Related News The EC has written to President Rajapaksa asking him to seek the highest court’s opinion on a possible constitutional standoff arising from the postponement of the election. It said that the postponement meant that parliament would not be able to meet on June 2, which is three months from the dismissal of last parliament on March 2. However, Rajapaksa asserted that it was the election commission’s job to fix the polls date and as such no need for the Supreme Court’s intervention. Earlier, the election commission met with the government officials and reviewed the pandemic situation affecting the election machinery. On Monday, the government dropped its decision to relax the nationwide curfew and extended it to April 27 following a sudden spike of 41 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. On Sunday, the goRead More…

Coronavirus ‘disaster in the making’ in war-torn Syria 2

Coronavirus ‘disaster in the making’ in war-torn Syria

The outbreak has infected more than 1.8 million people and killed more than 112,000 around the world. As Europe and the United States struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic, experts warn that disaster looms in war-torn Syria, where hospitals are unable to meet existing needs and hygiene conditions are dire. The outbreak has infected more than 1.8 million people and killed more than 112,000 around the world since emerging in China in December last year. In Syria, the Damascus government has closed borders, forbidden movement between provinces and shut schools and restaurants in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. Official numbers are low with two deaths and 19 confirmed cases, but only 100 patients are being tested daily, with half of the testing carried out in the capital Damascus. Related News And while the government has regained control of most of the country after almost a decade of civil war, some areas are still held by pro-Ankara rebels and Kurds. Experts accuse Damascus of minimising its death toll for political motives. “Medical staff believe that there are many people who are dying in Syria with the symptoms of the virus,” said Zaki Mehchy, senior consulting fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House. “But the security agencies ask them or order them not to mention it, especially to the media,” he added. Aid groups are sounding the alarm on the potentially devastating consequences of a severe outbreak in Syria, where nine yeaRead More…

Bangladesh executes ex-Army officer for assassinating Sheikh Mujibur Rahman 3

Bangladesh executes ex-Army officer for assassinating Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Abdul Majed was hanged at 12.01 AM (local time), Law Minister Anisul Huq said. Bangladesh has executed a former military captain for his involvement in the 1975 coup in which the country’s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated, nearly four-and-a-half decades after the massacre.Abdul Majed was hanged at 12.01 AM (local time), Law Minister Anisul Huq told PTI. An official of the Dhaka Central Jail at Keraniganj on the outskirts of the capital said that a doctor declared Majed dead at 12.15 AM. Inspector General of Prisons Brigadier General AKM Mostafa Kamal Pasha at a media briefing in front of the jail said that the body would now be handed over to the family members for burial.“Concerned officials who were required to witness the execution under law were present,” he said, adding this was the first case of execution since the Dhaka Central Jail was relocated at the newly-built facility at Keraniganj two years ago. Related News Jailor Mahbubul Islam later said that the officials present included Dhaka’s deputy commissioner who is the district magistrate as well, police superintendent and the civil surgeon and the deputy inspector general of prisons.A number of people gathered in front of the jail at the midnight, defying COVID-19 restrictions. He said that Mazed was executed by hanging. Majed was arrested in Dhaka on Tuesday after hiding in India for nearly two-and-a-half decades. On Friday, Majed’s wife and four other relatives metRead More…

Coronavirus Lockdown: Pope Francis to livestream Easter mass to locked down world 4

Coronavirus Lockdown: Pope Francis to livestream Easter mass to locked down world

Fear and confusion in the face of a disease whose official death toll has soared past 100,000. Pope Francis will break with centuries of tradition and livestream Easter Sunday mass to allow the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics celebrate their holiest holiday under a coronavirus lockdown. Fear and confusion in the face of a disease whose official death toll has soared past 100,000 – but whose real one is feared to be higher still — are reshaping society and transforming the way religion is observed. Even such hallowed traditions as the pope’s messages to the faithful on Saint Peter’s Square have been replaced by prayers that Francis reads into a camera from the seclusion of his private library. His only audience is the camera and the 83-year-old Argentine has admitted that the entire experience makes him feel “caged”. Related News Francis cut a lonely but striking figure when he slowly entered a dark and starkly empty Vatican square in his white robe for a torch-lit Good Friday procession. It had taken place around the Roman Colosseum in the presence of at least 20,000 faithful for more than 50 years. But Rome and the rest of Italy have been living under forced confinement since early March. His Easter Sunday Mass and “Urbi et Orbi” blessing drew 70,000 to Saint Peter’s Square last year. The Vatican’s entrance is now sealed off by armed police wearing facemasks and rubber gloves. The pope has openly admitted that he was struggling along with eRead More…

Donald Trump announces visa sanctions on countries refusing to repatriate their nationals 5

Donald Trump announces visa sanctions on countries refusing to repatriate their nationals

Addressed to the Homeland Security Secretary and Secretary of State, Trump said the US must be able to effectuate the repatriation of foreign nationals who violate the laws of the United States. (Reuters photo) US President Donald Trump on Friday announced a new visa sanction norm, providing for visa denial to citizens of countries which either deny or dilly-dally in repatriating their citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump issued the memorandum for visa sanctions, which would be effective immediately and valid till December 31, this year, saying the countries “denying or unreasonably delaying” the repatriation of their citizens would be deemed to be causing “unacceptable public health risks for Americans”. Related News ”Countries that deny or unreasonably delay the acceptance of their citizens, subjects, nationals, or residents from the United States during the ongoing pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 create unacceptable public health risks for Americans,” Trump said in his memorandum. Addressed to the Homeland Security Secretary and Secretary of State, Trump said the US must be able to effectuate the repatriation of foreign nationals who violate the laws of the United States. The process in this regard would be initiated by the secretary of Homeland Security who would identify the countries which do not accept America’s request of repatriation of their citizens, if that is impeding their operations to the ongoing pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2Read More…

Drowned out by pandemic, a muted victory for Joe Biden 6

Drowned out by pandemic, a muted victory for Joe Biden

Biden’s conquering moment in the national spotlight has not materialized. (Reuters photo) Barack Obama celebrated the kickoff of his “historic” White House challenge before thousands of ecstatic supporters. Hillary Clinton also marked her “milestone,” as the first woman nominee of a major US party, to thunderous applause. And what of Joe Biden? The resurgent Democrat has been denied the climactic rollout that his predecessors enjoyed.Like most Americans he is under stay-at-home orders due to coronavirus, and therefore marked becoming the party’s de facto 2020 nominee this week with a press release and comments broadcast online from his basement. Related News Obama delivered the best of his soaring rhetoric in June 2008 in a passionate speech upon clinching the Democratic Party’s nomination, a barrier-busting feat for a man who would become the nation’s first black president. He told a packed Minnesota arena that the moment marked “the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another.” It was the launch pad for an unprecedented and victorious campaign, a “huge celebration,” his former advisor Dan Pfeiffer recalled on a recent podcast. Biden’s conquering moment in the national spotlight has not materialized. Some 15 state primaries have been postponed, and there is no triumphant rally to send him off on his challenge against President Donald Trump. An anxiety-provoking pandemic does not lend itself to campaign jubilees. Biden, tRead More…

Donald Trump fires fresh salvo at WHO; accuses chief of ‘politicising’ COVID-19 pandemic, siding with China 7

Donald Trump fires fresh salvo at WHO; accuses chief of ‘politicising’ COVID-19 pandemic, siding with China

Trump’s allegation comes a day after the US President threatened to put a “very powerful” hold on US’ funding to the WHO. (Image: Reuters) US President Donald Trump has fired a fresh salvo at the World Health Organization, accusing its chief of siding with China and “politicising” the coronavirus pandemic while repeating his threat to freeze the UN agency’s funding. Trump’s allegation comes a day after the US President threatened to put a “very powerful” hold on US’ funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) and criticised it for having “missed the call” in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Related News Trump slammed the Geneva-based global health agency for its early guidance aimed at countering the international spread of the coronavirus The president’s fresh allegation comes after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against politicisation of COVID-19 and said that such a move will only result in “many more body bags”. “If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you [politicize the virus]. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it,” Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday. Hours later at the White House conference, Trump agreed that the COVID-19 should not be politicised, but alleged that the WHO chief was doing exactly that and was siding with China.“When he (Ghebreyesus) says politicizing, he’s politicizing. That shouldnRead More…

‘Wuhan virus’ no more: US and China in truce 8

‘Wuhan virus’ no more: US and China in truce

“We know that this is a global pandemic, and this is the time for every country to work together to resolve that,” Pompeo told reporters Tuesday when asked about China. (Reuters photo) Suddenly, it’s no longer the “Wuhan virus.” The United States and China have reached a truce in a vitriolic feud over the coronavirus pandemic, with the two powers each seeing at least a tactical interest in cooling down. President Donald Trump, hardly known for the delicacy of his word choices, has dropped his provocative term “Chinese virus” and held back from criticizing Beijing’s response since a telephone call, on March 26 US time, with his counterpart Xi Jinping. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who so insisted on saying “Wuhan virus” that the Group of Seven foreign ministers could not issue a joint statement — has been talking of cooperation. “We know that this is a global pandemic, and this is the time for every country to work together to resolve that,” Pompeo told reporters Tuesday when asked about China. Beijing infuriated the United States last month when a foreign ministry spokesman spread a conspiracy theory that US troops brought the virus to Wuhan. Cui Tiankai, China’s gentlemanly ambassador to Washington, struck a highly different tone in an op-ed in The New York Times in which he spoke of his affection for Americans and promised China would do “whatever it can to support the United States.” Related News State Department spokesRead More…

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II delivers special COVID-19 address, says ‘we will succeed… and we will meet again’ 9

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II delivers special COVID-19 address, says ‘we will succeed… and we will meet again’

“The Prime Minister and Her Majesty the Queen have been speaking regularly and No. 10 and Buckingham Palace have been speaking throughout about Her Majesty the Queen’s address,” a Downing Street official said. (Reuters photo) Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, in a rare televised address to the nation, invoked a war-time spirit of self-discipline and resolve to fight the coronavirus pandemic which has killed nearly 5,000 in the country and about 70,000 people globally, assuring Britons that “better days will return”. The 93-year-old British monarch and Head of the 54-member Commonwealth of nations which includes India, acknowledged the grief, pain and financial difficulties being faced the world over during this “time of disruption” and expressed the hope that the whole world was uniting in a “common endeavour”. Related News “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” she said on Sunday, in a four-minute speech recorded earlier this week at Windsor Castle. “And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country,” she said. The Queen, who has been based at Windsor Castle with her 98-year-old husband Prince Philip since last month, called on the British public to draw on their inherent traits as she exhorted them to Read More…

Little impact so far on global food supply chain but anxiety-driven panic could change that: WFP 10

Little impact so far on global food supply chain but anxiety-driven panic could change that: WFP

A grain market analyst at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), quoted anonymously in the report, said the problem is not supply, but “a behavioural change over food security”. (Reuters photo) The rapidly growing novel coronavirus pandemic is so far having little impact on the global food supply chain, but that could change for the worse ? and soon ? if anxiety-driven panic by major food importers takes hold, the World Food Programme (WFP) has said. In a new report, “COVID-19: Potential impact on the world’s poorest people: A WFP analysis of the economic and food security implications of the pandemic”, the UN agency said global markets for basic cereals are well-supplied and prices generally low. Related News However, given the highly globalised nature of food production and supply, commodities need to move from the world’s ‘breadbaskets’ to where they are consumed and the novel coronavirus-related containment measures are starting to make this more challenging. “Disruptions are so far minimal; food supply is adequate, and markets are relatively stable,” WFP Senior Spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs said, noting that global cereal stocks are at comfortable levels and the outlook for wheat and other staple crops is positive for the rest of the year. “But we may soon expect to see disruptions in food supply chains,” she said, explaining that if big importers lose confidence in the reliable flow of basic food commodities, panic buying could Read More…