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Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to pen a book on current political crisis

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Maithripala Sirisena, addressing a public gathering on Friday, said the book will be titled ‘My unsuccessful political marriage with Ranil’.

 

Colombo| Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who last month abruptly sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, will write a book on his “unsuccessful political marriage” with the ousted premier.

Sirisena’s controversial action on October 26 led to a political crisis in the country with both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa claiming to be the legitimate prime minister.

Wickremesinghe termed his dismissal as invalid and said he still holds a majority in the 225-member Parliament.

Sirisena, addressing a public gathering on Friday, said the book will be titled ‘My unsuccessful political marriage with Ranil’.

“I know that people are criticising me right now. I will tell them to wait until I release my book,” the President said.

Sirisena claimed that despite his action, he had not been isolated.

“I know that right-thinking people are with me on this battle against the corrupt and the traitors,” he added.

Sirisena’s announcement came hours after Wickremesinghe’s alliance won control of a powerful panel in Parliament, dealing a major blow to him and his prime ministerial appointee Rajapaksa.

Former president Rajapaksa, who ruled Sri Lanka for almost a decade, was unexpectedly defeated by his deputy, Sirisena, in the presidential election in January 2015 with the support from Wickremesinghe’s United National Party.

However, the power-sharing arrangement between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe became increasingly tenuous on several policy matters, mainly on economy and security.

The country is witnessing a political stalemate since Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe on October 26.

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

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya then ordered a floor test in the 225-member assembly to end the ongoing political crisis, a move which invited the wrath of the government of Rajapaksa.

The United National Front led by Wickremesinghe has already moved three motions of no trust against Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa, however, has refused to step down.

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‘I can’t breathe’ were Jamal Khashoggi’s final words: Reports

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Washington | Jamal Khashoggi‘s final words were “I can’t breathe”, CNN has said, citing a source who has read the transcript of an audio tape of the final moments before the journalist’s murder. The source told the US network the transcript made clear the killing was premeditated, and suggests several phone calls were made to give briefings on the progress.

CNN said on Sunday Turkish officials believe those calls were made to top officials in Riyadh. Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, was killed shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The transcript of the gruesome recording includes descriptions of Khashoggi struggling against his murderers, CNN said, and references sounds of the dissident journalist’s body “being dismembered by a saw.”

The original transcript was prepared by Turkish intelligence services, and CNN said its source read a translation version and was briefed on the probe into the journalist’s death. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Sunday meanwhile rejected demands to extradite suspects connected to the murder of Khashoggi as sought by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has repeatedly called on Saudi Arabia to hand over suspects in the killing. According to Turkey, a 15-member Saudi team was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia, however, holds that it was a “rogue” operation gone wrong — a claim undercut by the reported transcript.

For his part US President Donald Trump has refrained from blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, even though the CIA reportedly concluded that he ordered the assassination. The murder has damaged Riyadh’s international reputation and Western countries including the United States, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals.

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Macron to address nation on ‘yellow vest’ crisis Monday: French presidency

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Macron, also set to meet trade unionists and business leaders Monday, is expected to announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to the crisis.

 

Paris| French President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation on Monday, the Elysee said, following the four weeks of “yellow vest” anti-government protests, which have turned violent.

The president’s office said he would address the nation at 19.00 GMT, but did not provide other details. Macron, also set to meet trade unionists and business leaders Monday, is expected to announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to the crisis, according to Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud.

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Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou facing US extradition, appears in court

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Vancouver | A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to a Chinese executive at the heart of a case that is shaking up US-China relations and worrying global financial markets. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei and daughter of its founder, was detained at the request of the US during a layover at the Vancouver airport last Saturday — the same day that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China agreed over dinner to a 90-day ceasefire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.

The US alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of US sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran. The surprise arrest, already denounced by Beijing, raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world’s two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.

“I think it will have a distinctively negative effect on the US-China talks,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an economic adviser in President George W Bush’s White House.  “There’s the humiliating way this happened right before the dinner, with Xi unaware. Very hard to save face on this one. And we may see (Chinese retaliation), which will embitter relations.” Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing on Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng’s arrest in New York August 22.  He said Meng, arrested en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.

Gibb-Carsley alleged that Huawei had done business in Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom. Meng, he said, had misled US banks into thinking that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, “Skycom was Huawei.” Meng has contended that Huawei sold Skycom in 2009. In urging the court to reject Meng’s bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to bolt: She’s facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.

Meng’s lawyer, David Martin, argued that it would be unfair to deny her bail just because she “has worked hard and has extraordinary resources.” He told the court that her personal integrity and respect for her father, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, would prevent her violating a court order. Meng, who owns two homes in Vancouver, was willing to wear an ankle bracelet and put the houses up as collateral, he said. There was no bail decision by the judge on Friday so Meng will spend the weekend in jail and the hearing will resume Monday.

Justice William Ehrcke said he would think about proposed bail conditions over the weekend. Huawei, in a brief statement emailed to the AP, said that “we have every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach the right conclusion.” The company is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies and long has been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services. “What’s getting lost in the initial frenzy here is that Huawei has been in the crosshairs of US regulators for some time,” said Gregory Jaeger, special counsel at the Stroock law firm and a former Justice Department trial attorney.

“This is the culmination of what is likely to be a fairly lengthy investigation.” Meng’s arrest came as a jarring surprise after the Trump-Xi trade cease-fire in Argentina. Exact details of the agreement are elusive. But the White House said Trump suspended for 90 days an import tax hike on USD 200 billion in Chinese goods that was set to take effect January 1; in return, the White House said, the Chinese agreed to buy a “very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial” and other products from the United States.

The delay was meant to buy time for the two countries to resolve a trade conflict that has been raging for months. The US charges that China is using predatory tactics in its drive to overtake America’s dominance in technology and global economic leadership. These allegedly include forcing American and other foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market and engaging in cyber theft.

Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidising Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors. The United States has imposed tariffs on USD 250 billion in Chinese goods to pressure Beijing to change its ways.

Trump has threatened to expand the tariffs to include just about everything China ships to the United States. Beijing has lashed back with tariffs on about USD 110 billion in American exports.

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