Sri Lanka, Oct 27 (AP/UNB) — Sri Lanka's president suspended parliament on Saturday even as the prime minister he fired the previous day claimed he has majority support, adding to a growing political crisis in the island nation.
Chaminda Gamage, a spokesman for the parliamentary speaker, confirmed that President Maithripala Sirisena had suspended parliament until Nov. 16.
The suspension came while ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was holding a news conference in which he asserted that he could prove his majority support in parliament.
Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet on Friday and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, creating what some observers said could be a constitutional crisis in the South Asian island nation.
Wickremesingh said parliament should be allowed to resolve the political crisis.
"As far as the prime ministership is concerned, the person who has the majority support in parliament has to be the prime minister, and I have that majority of support," he said. "When a motion of no confidence was moved (in the past), we defeated it showing that the house has the confidence in me."
"It is not necessary for us to create a crisis. It is not necessary for the people of the country to suffer," Wickremesingh said.
Tensions have been building up between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of some of the economic reforms being introduced by the prime minister. Sirisena was also critical of police investigations into military personnel accused in the abductions and disappearances of civilians and journalists during Sri Lanka's long civil war, which ended a decade ago.
Rajapaksa ruled Sri Lanka as president for nine years beginning in 2005, accumulating immense power and popularity among the country's majority ethnic Sinhalese after overseeing the military's brutal defeat of ethnic Tamil rebels in May 2009, ending the 25-year civil war. Some supporters hailed him as a king and savior.
But he also was criticized for failing to allow an investigation into allegations of war crimes by the military. Under his government, dozens of journalists were killed, abducted and tortured and some fled the country fearing for their lives. He lost a bid for re-election in 2015 amid mounting allegations of corruption and nepotism.
His return to power as prime minister could signal that Sri Lanka is sliding back to an era of violence against political opponents, critics and journalists, observers said.
Beijing, Oct 27 (AP/UNB) — The death toll in an eastern China coal mine collapse has risen to 11, with 10 miners still trapped underground, state media reported.
One week after the disaster, rescue crews were clearing fallen rock from the shaft, with the remaining miners believed to be located 74 meters (242 feet) below the surface, the official Xinhua News Agency said late Friday.
It said that rescuers were making progress but gave no indication of when they expected to break through. More than 300 people were inside the mine at the time of the collapse.
China long had the world's deadliest coal mines but safety has improved considerably with more modern equipment, better training and the closure of most of the smallest, most dangerous mines.
China is by far the world's biggest consumer of coal.
Srinagar, Oct 26 (AP/UNB) — Eight rebels and two Indian soldiers were killed in gunbattles in disputed Kashmir that sparked violent anti-India protests by residents seeking an end to Indian rule in the region, officials said Friday.
Indian troops laid siege to a village in northwestern Sopore area on Friday, leading to an exchange of gunfire in which two militants and a soldier were killed, police said.
Government forces engaged militants at two places in the contested region on Thursday after troops launched counterinsurgency operations resulting in the death of six militants, the Indian military said. One soldier was wounded in the fighting.
The gunbattles triggered large anti-India protests and clashes as thousands of people marched near the sites of the fighting in solidarity with rebels for a second day Friday amid funerals of the rebels attended by tens of thousands of people.
Government forces fired warning shots, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters, injuring at least a dozen people.
Militants also attacked an army camp in southern Tral area, killing a soldier and wounding another late Thursday.
Violence has escalated in the region since last week, with daily fighting between Kashmiri rebels and Indian troops that triggered protests and clashes against Indian rule. Anger exploded in the region after the killing on Sunday of seven civilians in an explosion after three rebels died in a gunfight in the southern Kulgam area.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Jakarta, Oct 26(AP/UNB) — Organizers of an Indonesian movement to promote a moderate brand of Islam have canceled a mass rally after its youth supporters burned the flag of an outlawed hard-line Muslim group, sparking allegations of blasphemy.
The rally in Yogyakarta, predicted to draw 100,000 people, was canceled to prevent violence, said Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Muslim organization.
Video of members of Nahdlatul Ulama's youth arm burning the flag of the outlawed group, Hizbut Tahrir, has stirred controversy in Indonesia because the flag is also emblazoned with the Islamic declaration of faith. Their uniforms indicated they're part of the youth organization's militia.
At least 1,000 people protested the flag burning in Jakarta and Bandung on Friday, demanding prosecution of those responsible.
Demonstrators in white Islamic robes snarled traffic outside the security ministry in Jakarta, waving flags with Arabic text professing belief in one God and chanting "God is great" and "No God except Allah."
Staquf said Hizbut Tahrir "operatives" disrupted the youth wing's celebrations and exploited religious symbols, which led to the flag burning incident.
He said the campaign of "provocation and sabotage" was widely believed to be directed by political forces hoping to influence the outcome of Indonesia's presidential election in April.
Some 70,000 members of Ansor, Nahdlatul Ulama's youth arm, had been on their way to Yogyakarta for the rally to coincide with the launch of an inter-faith movement that aims to counter extremism globally.
"Further incidents of provocation were planned. Our members would find it difficult to control their anger in the face of such flagrant exploitation of our religious symbols," said Staquf.
The image of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, as being religiously moderate was undermined last year when the minority Christian governor of the capital, Jakarta, was imprisoned for blasphemy following street protests against him that drew hundreds of thousands.
Hizbut Tahrir, which seeks a global caliphate, was banned by the Indonesian government last year.
New Delhi,Oct 26 (AP/UNB) — India's top court on Friday ordered an autonomous federal anti-corruption commission to quickly complete a probe of two top officials of the country's investigative agency who have been sent on leave amid an internal feud.
The Supreme Court took up a petition by Alok Verma, the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, who challenged the government for divesting him of powers amid an agency inquiry of his deputy, Rakesh Asthana.
The late night personnel changes on Tuesday are seen as an embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government with the agency's internal feud becoming public.
Three judges ordered India's Central Vigilance Commission, which had recommended the removal of both Verma and Asthana from their posts, to complete the probe within two weeks. They also said that M. Nageswar Rao, whom the government named as interim CBI chief, could not take any major decisions.
Under Verma, the federal agency filed a case against Asthana on allegations that he took bribes from a meat exporter.
Rahul Gandhi, the main opposition Indian National Congress party chief, has accused Modi of removing Verma in order to quash a probe into the purchase of 36 French Rafale aircraft for the Indian air force. Gandhi appears bent on making the aircraft purchase an election issue ahead of national polls due early next year.
On Friday, Gandhi led a protest by his party workers outside the New Delhi office of the CBI, demanding an investigation by a parliamentary panel into the Rafale deal Modi's government signed with the French government in 2016.
Gandhi has accused the government of buying the aircraft at nearly three times the price the Congress party had negotiated before losing power to Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014. Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has refuted the claim, but declined to disclose the value of the deal, citing a secrecy clause.
Gandhi also accused Modi's government of favoring the company owned by industrialist Anil Ambani, Reliance Group, when choosing an Indian partner for Dassault, the French manufacturer of the Rafale aircraft. India's government has denied any wrongdoing.
Dassault said earlier this month that it has "freely chosen to make a partnership" with India's Reliance Group.