Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as the prime minister for the fourth time Sunday.
His party secured a landslide victory in parliamentary elections that cemented his family’s hold on power, reports AP.
Rajapaksa took oath before his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at a prominent Buddhist temple on the outskirts of the capital Colombo.
Mahinda Rajapaksa served as the island nation’s president from 2005 to 2015 and is highly popular among the ethnic majority Sinhalese for ending the country’s 25-year civil war against Tamil rebels in 2009.
He was first elected prime minister in 2004 and again appointed for brief periods in 2018 and 2019.
Sri Lanka People’s Front — the party led by the Rajapaksa brothers — won 145 seats in the 225-member Parliament in the election last Wednesday. Its main opponent obtained only 54 seats. A party representing ethnic minority Tamils won 10 seats, and 16 others were split among 12 small parties.
The victory gave the Rajapaksa brothers nearly the two-third majority of seats required to make constitutional changes that could strengthen dynastic rule in the country.
This time, five members of the Rajapaksa family have been elected as lawmakers— Rajapaksa, his son Namal, the eldest brother Chamal and his son Sashindra, and a nephew, Nipuna Ranawaka.
The brothers need 150 seats to be able to change the constitution. At least four small parties collaborate with the Rajapaksas’ party, so they appear to have mustered that support.
However, analysts say any attempt by Gotabaya Rajapaksa to push for changes that will strengthen presidential powers at the expense of the prime minister may trigger sibling rivalry.
Sri Lanka had been ruled by powerful executive presidents since 1978. But a 2015 constitutional amendment strengthened Parliament and the prime minister and put independent commissions in charge of judiciary appointments, police, public services and the conduct of elections.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected president last November after projecting himself as the only leader who could secure the country after the Islamic State-inspired bombings of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday that killed 269 people. Since being elected, he has said he had to work under many restrictions because of the constitutional changes.
However, Mahinda Rajapaksa is unlikely to cede any of his powers that might shrink his influence as he works on promoting his son Namal as heir. Namal and three other members of the family are likely to control key functions in the new administration.
The landslide victory also raises fears of weakening government institutions such as independent commissions.
India’s total covid-19 cases rose to 2,153,010 with the death of 43,379 people, said the latest data issued by the federal health ministry on Sunday.
According to the data, 64,399 new cases were reported while 861 new deaths were recorded during the past 24 hours, recording one-day jump in the number of coronavirus cases.
Sunday is the 10th consecutive day when a single-day spike of over 50,000 fresh cases has been recorded, and the third day with over 60,000 new cases.
There are said to be a total of 628,747 active COVID-19 patients admitted in different hospitals across the country, as 1,480,884 people have been successfully cured and discharged from hospitals, according to the ministry.
The recent surge in fresh COVID-19 cases is mainly attributed to ramping up of the samples testing in the country.
Till Saturday a total of 24,106,535 COVID-19 samples were tested, out of which 719,364 samples were tested on Saturday alone, said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
British radio host Sideman quit the BBC on Saturday over the corporation’s decision to include a racial slur in a news report about a racist attack which he said felt like "a slap in the face to our community", reports AP.
In a video posted on Instagram, 1Xtra presenter Sideman, real name David Whitely, said, “with no apology (from the BBC) I just don’t feel comfortable being aligned with the organization.”
The BBC included the word when reporting last month on a violent attack on a young Black man in Bristol, a city in southwest England. The attackers are reported to have yelled the offensive term as they ran into the 21-year-old with a car.
The victim needed hospital treatment for a broken leg and other injuries.
The BBC has defended the decision to use the word, saying it wanted to convey the racist nature of the attack and “gave adequate warnings that upsetting images and language would be used.”
More than 18,000 people have complained to the BBC over the broadcast.
Seven Covid-19 patients were killed in a fire which broke out at a hotel being used as a temporary Covid hospital in Vijayawada, south-east India early Sunday.
The fire broke out at Swarna Palace, in the city of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh state around 5 am, reports BBC.
However, the firefighter brought the fire under control in half an hour and all surviving patients have been moved to another hospital in the city, officials said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "anguished" by the blaze, the second fire at a Covid centre in days.
It is not clear what cause the fire and police are investigating the incident.
The cause is unknown and an investigation has been launched.
Vijayawada Police Commissioner B Srinivasulu told BBC News Telugu that more than 30 people were at the hotel and the death toll was likely to increase.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that his thoughts were with those affected.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has already announced that the victims' relatives will receive compensation of five million rupees (£51,000).
The fire comes after eight patients died at a Covid hospital in Ahmedabad on Thursday after a fire broke out inside its critical care unit.
India has the third-highest number of Covid cases in the world, with more than 2.1 million infections recorded. More than 43,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
On Sunday, the country recorded 64,000 cases, a new single-day record.
The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Sunday marked its 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing, with a call to the world leaders including their own to do more for a nuclear weapons ban.
At 11:02 a.m., the moment the B-29 bomber Bockscar dropped a 4.5-ton (10,000-pound) plutonium bomb dubbed “Fat Man,” Nagasaki survivors and other participants stood in a minute of silence to honor more than 70,000 dead.
At the event at Nagasaki Peace Park, scaled down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Tomihisa Taue read a peace declaration in which he raised concern that nuclear states had in recent years retreated from disarmament efforts.
Instead, they are upgrading and miniaturizing nuclear weapons for easier use, he said. Taue singled out the U.S. and Russia for increasing risks by scrapping the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
“As a result, the threat of nuclear weapons being used is increasingly becoming real,” Taue said. Noting that the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty entered into force 50 years ago, Taue urged the U.S. and Russia to show a (asterisk)workable way(asterisk) towards their nuclear disarmament at the NPT review process next year.
He said that “the true horror of nuclear weapons has not yet been adequately conveyed to the world at large” despite struggle and efforts by hibakusha, or atomic bombing survivors, to make Nagasaki the last place of the tragedy.
He also urged Japan’s government and lawmakers to quickly sign the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly refused to sign the treaty, saying Japan’s approach is not to take sides but to serve as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear states to encourage dialogue to achieve a total nuclear ban. Survivors and pacifist groups say Japan is virtually siding with the U.S. and other nuclear states.
On Sunday, Abe repeated Japan's position, citing "severe national security environment and a wide gap between the two sides on nuclear disarmament.”
“Among the nuclear-weapon states and countries under the nuclear umbrella, there have been voices stating that it is too early for such a treaty. That is not so,” Taue said. “Nuclear arms reductions are far too late in coming.”
The Aug. 9, 1945, bombing came three days after the United States dropped its first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the world’s first ever nuclear attack that killed 140,000. On Aug. 15, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.
While Tokyo renounces its own possession, production or hosting of nuclear weapons, as a U.S. ally Japan hosts 50,000 American troops and is protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The post-WWII security arrangement complicates the push to get Japan to sign the treaty as it beefs up its own military to deal with threats from North Korea and China, among others.
An aging group of survivors have expressed a growing sense of urgency to tell their stories, in hopes of reaching younger generations to continue their effort toward establishing a nuclear-free world.
“There is not much time left for us survivors,” said Shigemi Fukabori, 89. He was a 14-year-old student mobilized to work at a shipyard when Nagasaki was bombed.
“I'm determined to keep telling my story so that Nagasaki will be the last place on Earth to have suffered an atomic attack.”
Fukabori, who almost instantly lost four siblings, said he never forgets the pile of charred bodies, bombed-out street cars and the badly injured desperately asking for help and water as he rushed back to his house in the back of the Urakami Cathedral, which was also nearly destroyed.
“We don’t want anyone else to have to go through this," he said.
Many peace events, including survivors' talks leading up to the anniversary, were canceled because of the coronavirus, but some survivors have teamed up with students and pacifist groups to speak at online events.