Rajpaksha Brothers Sweep Sri Lankan Elections

Rajapaksa brothers’ Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party secured a landslide victory in the country’s parliamentary elections by winning 145 seats.

According to Colombo Page, the SLPP received 6,853,693 votes and secured 128 electoral seats and with the 17 national list members totalling 145 seats in the parliament although just shy of the two-third majority as was expected by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Meanwhile, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa came in second with 2,771,984 votes, thus, winning 47 electoral seats. His party received seven national list slots totalling 54 seats.

Premadasa will reportedly be the Opposition Leader of the new parliament.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Mahinda Rajapaksa to congratulate him.

During their telephonic conversation, the leaders agreed to remain in close touch as both countries address the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic and resolved to take bilateral relations to newer heights in the coming days.

A PMO release said the Prime Minister commended the government and the electoral institutions of Sri Lanka for effectively organising elections despite the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also appreciated Sri Lankan people for their enthusiastic participation in the elections and said this reflected the strong democratic values shared by both countries.

“Prime Minister Modi noted that the incoming results of the elections indicate an impressive electoral performance by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party and conveyed his congratulations and best wishes to Mahinda Rajapaksa in this regard,” the release said. (ANI)

Manoj Sinha Takes Oath As J&K Lieutenant Governor

Former Union Minister Manoj Sinha on Friday took oath as the new Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Kashmir is the heaven of India. I have been given an opportunity to play a role here. August 5 is an important date. After years of isolation, Jammu and Kashmir came to the mainstream. Several projects started here after years. My priority is to take those projects forward,” Sinha said while addressing media persons.

He further said that there will be no bias against anyone and constitutional powers will be used for people’s welfare.

“There would not be any bias against anyone. Constitutional powers will be used for people’s welfare. I assure the people that their genuine grievances will be listened to and we will try to find a way to the solution. It is my aim to take forward the development here,” he added.

Meanwhile, outgoing LG Girish Chandra Murmu has been appointed as the new Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.


US Senate Passes Bill To Ban Chinese App Tik Tok

The United States Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bill banning the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok on government devices.

“Just passed my bill banning TikTok on government devices on the Senate floor. Unanimous,” Senator Josh Hawley posted a message on Twitter.

The bill will now go to President Donald Trump to be signed into a law, which will prohibit federal employees from downloading or using TikTok – and all other apps developed by its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance – on any device issued by the US government or government corporation.

Senator Hawley tweeted his special thanks to Senator Rick Scott, his “first and original cosponsor on this legislation, for his leadership and for joining me on the floor to see the bill adopted.” Hawley had introduced the bill first in March this year.

Senator Scott also hailed the Senate for the unanimous verdict, which called as a “a powerful message” to companies run by the Chinese Communist Party.

“Today the US Senate sent a powerful message to all companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Companies like TikTok, under the control of Communist China, are obligated to spy, steal user data and censor any content the Government wishes,” Scott said in a statement he attached along with his message applauding the Senate’s decision.

“I am glad that the Senate agreed to pass my bill with Senator Hawley today to ban this app on government devices, eliminating a threat to US networks and to national security,” he added further.

US President Donald Trump had set September 15 as deadline for TikTok to find a US buyer, failing which he said he will shut down the app in the country.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday said that the Trump administration is “working hard” to protect Americans from the threats of “untrusted vendors” such as Tik Tok and WeChat, which it wants to remove from US app stores like those operated by Apple and Google. Pompeo on Wednesday also announced a five-pronged “Clean Network” that aimed to check potential risks to US national security from China.

Also, US politicians have repeatedly criticised TikTok, owned by Beijing-based startup ByteDance, of being a threat to national security because of its ties to China. China and the US are at loggerheads on a variety of issues including Hong Kong national security law, the South China Sea, the novel coronavirus and trade.

On Monday, Microsoft had announced its decision to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event, completing these discussions no later than September 15. (ANI)

Will Eat Grass But Raise Pak Army Budget: Shoaib Akhtar

Former Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, known for his blistering deliveries on the cricket field, recently baffled many with a deadly off-field bouncer by claiming he is willing to eat grass if it enabled an increase in budget for his country’s Army!

“If Allah ever gives me the authority, I will eat grass myself but I will increase the budget of the army,” said Akhtar in an interview with ARY News.

The ‘Rawalpindi Express’, considered the fastest bowler in history said he does not understand why the civilian sector cannot work in collaboration with the Armed forces.

“I will ask my army chief to sit with me and make decisions. If the budget is 20 per cent, I will make it 60 per cent. If we insult each other, the loss is ours only,” the once feared fast-bowler said.

Akthar had also claimed to ARY News interview that he was willing to take a bullet for his country and had turned down a county stint just because he wanted to fight the 1999 Kargil War.

Ties between India and Pakistan have been strained in the recent months over several issues, the latest being Pakistan’s attempt to broach in the UNSC the issue of Kashmir on the first anniversary of the India’s move to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and to split the erstwhile state into two union territories .

Pakistan also has not been in a good financial position and under prime minister Imran Khan, himself an all rounder cricketer, has added nearly USD 22 billion, that is 35 per cent to the nation’s international debt pile in the last two years, according to an Asia Times report in July.

While Pakistan recently received USD 1.39 billion from the IMF to cushion the economic shocks caused due to COVID-19 outbreak, Akthar had a few months ago proposed that a joint cricket match be played between India and Pakistan to raise funds to fight the coronavirus. The suggestion that was put down by cricketers in India.

Meanwhile the ‘Pindi boy’ whose deadly pace and bounce was once dreaded by batsmen had recently taken to Twitter to deny former India cricketer Virender Sehwag’s claim of sledging him.

Sehwag along with other Indian crickerters such as Harbhajan Singh and even Rahul Dravid had been at the receiving end of Akthar’s sledging and antics during their playing days.

“Yes, totally self made story by him. Mujhe yeh bol k bach k jana kidhar tha us nay,” Akthar tweeted to a report in which Sehwag claimed that he had sledged the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ by telling him that Sachin Tendulkar was his father.

During an awards ceremony Sehwag had recounted that fed up with Akthar’s sledging and retaliated by telling him to say the same things to Tendulkar, who smashed the ‘Pindi boy’ for a six. Sehwag quipped that he told Akthar then that “Baap baap hota hai”.

In the recent ARY interview, asked about the allegation made against him by former India cricketer Virendra Sehwag that he makes pro-India comments for greater following on social media channels, Akhtar said, “I cannot talk on the basis of hate.” (ANI)

Trump Signs ‘Buy American First’ Pharma Executive Order

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order directing some federal agencies to prioritise purchasing certain drugs and medical materials when made in the United States.

The scope of the order issued on Thursday (local time) remains unclear, reports CNN, because it will direct the Food and Drug Administration to produce a list of ‘essential medicines, medical countermeasures and critical input’ that will be covered by the new requirements.

China has been the dominating global player in the production of personal protective equipment (PPE).

And in the United States, 90 per cent of all prescriptions are filled by generic drugs and, one in every three pills consumed is produced by an Indian generics manufacturer, according to a study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and KPMG in April.

And ironically, India gets around 68 per cent of its raw materials — known as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) — from China.

But Trump’s order comes after an initial scramble within the United States to obtain medical supplies and equipment at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, much of which has been produced or sourced from abroad.

Earlier in the pandemic, Trump invoked the Defence Production Act to compel American companies to produce medical supplies and equipment.

Thursday’s order marks what the US administration sees as a solution in the case in case there’s another spike in demand for medical supplies. CNN said the move will undoubtedly mark a shift in the way the US sources its drugs and medical supplies moving forward.

“The executive order will require that US government agencies purchase all the essential medicines that we need from American sources,” said Trump during a speech at a washing machine plant in Ohio.

“The executive order will also sweep away unnecessary regulatory barriers to domestic pharmaceutical production and support advanced manufacturing processes that will keep our drug prices low and allow American companies to compete on the world’s stage.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said the United States is “dangerously over-dependent on foreign nations for our essential medicines, for medical supplies … and medical equipment like ventilators.”

The order “establishes a base level of demand to attract a level of investment sufficient to provide for the needs we have for these things we need in times of trouble,” said Navarro. (ANI)

India Rejects China’s Attempt To Raise Kashmir At UNSC

India on Thursday ‘firmly rejected’ China’s attempts to raise Kashmir issue at the United Nations Security Council and asked Beijing to draw proper conclusions from such “infructuous attempts”.

Hours after Beijing backed an attempt by Pakistan to discuss the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, said this is not the first time China has sought to raise a subject that is solely an internal matter of India.

“We have noted that China initiated a discussion in the UN Security Council on issues pertaining to the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.

“This was not the first time that China has sought to raise a subject that is solely an internal matter of India. As on such previous occasions, this attempt too met with little support from the international community. We firmly reject China’s interference in our internal affairs and urge it to draw proper conclusions from such infructuous attempts,” it said.

Meanwhile, a source told ANI that at the UNSC meeting the United States had taken the lead and stood strong for a “no outcome” meet, for which there was a consensus among member countries with agreement by even the Chinese.

The 15-member UN body on Wednesday held a closed-door informal meeting under ‘Any Other Business’ category, which means literally anything can be brought up by any of the members.

No record is maintained and there is no press statement issued for closed-door informal meetings and neither is any formal outcome or resolution taken by the UNSC. Typically, no country objects to a discussion under the ‘Any other Business’ category. China, which is a permanent member of UNSC also could not stop a discussion on Hong Kong last May.


RBI Keeps Repo Rate Unchanged At 4%

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday kept the key repo rate unchanged at 4 per cent in view of rising inflation and faint signs of economic growth amid the gradual lifting of coronavirus (COVID-19) countrywide lockdown.

The central bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) began its three-day meeting on August 4 and maintained the stance as accommodative. It also kept the reverse repo rate unchanged at 3.35 per cent.

Repo is the rate at which RBI lends funds to commercial banks when needed. It is a tool that the central bank uses to control inflation.

While there are some signs of a pick up in activity due to the staggered easing of a lockdown, there is a large degree of uncertainty amid a surge in virus cases.

“The MPC voted unanimously to leave the policy repo rate unchanged at 4 per cent and continue with the accommodative stance of monetary policy as long as necessary to revive growth, mitigate the impact of COVID-19 while ensuring that inflation remains within the target going forward,” said RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das.

The headline inflation has breached the 6 per cent level, beyond the comfort level of the central bank. The RBI is tasked with keeping inflation at 4 per cent in the medium-term with a 2 percentage point leeway on either side.

Das said the headline inflation prints of April to May are obscured by a spike in food prices and cost-push pressures. Meanwhile, the cumulative reduction of 250 basis points is working its way through the economy, lowering interest rates in money, bond and credit markets, and narrowing down spreads.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding the inflation outlook and extremely weak state of the economy in the midst of an unprecedented shock from the ongoing pandemic, the MPC decided to keep the policy rate on hold, while remaining watchful for a durable reduction in inflation to use available space to support the revival of the economy,” he said.

On the economic growth, Das said India’s real gross domestic product (GDP) will contract in the first half of FY21 as well as full financial year. He did not put any number to it.

“We shall remain alert and watchful and collectively do whatever is necessary to revive the economy and preserve financial stability. Courage and conviction will conquer COVID-19.”

Significantly, the RBI also decided to allow lenders to provide a restructuring facility on some loans that were standard as on March 1. An expert committee will be set up under K V Kamath to work out thrash out modalities and look into resolution plans of eligible borrowers.

Among other key measures announced by the RBI, additional special liquidity facility of Rs 5,000 crore each will be provided to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and the National Housing Bank (NHB).

The RBI will also amend priority-sector lending guidelines to remove regional disparity. “An incentive framework is now being put in place for banks to address the regional disparities in the flow of priority sector credit,” said Das.


CBI Files FIR Against Rhea In Sushant Rajput’s Death Case

After getting the notification from the Government of India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday registered case against Rhea Chakraborty, Indrajit Chakraborty, Sandhya Chakraborty, Showik Chakraborty, Samuel Miranda, Shruti Modi, and others in connection with Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case.

The investigating agency booked 6 accused and others in sections including criminal conspiracy, abetment of suicide, wrongful restrain, wrongful confinement, theft, criminal breach of trust, cheating and criminal intimidation. CBI said it is also in touch with Bihar Police.

“… A case is, therefore, registered under section 341, 342, 380, 406, 420, 306, 506, 120B IPC against (I) Rhea Chakraborty and her family members (2) Sh. Indrajit Chakraborty (3) Sandhya Chakraborty, (4) Showik Chakraborty, (5) Samuel Miranda, (6) Shruti Modi & others and entrusted to Anil Kumar Yadav, Additional SP, CBI, AC-VI, SIT, New Delhi for investigation,” read from content from FIR by CBI.

The investigating agency booked 6 accused and others in sections including criminal conspiracy, abetment of suicide, wrongful restrain, wrongful confinement, theft, criminal breach of trust, cheating and criminal intimidation. CBI said it is also in touch with Bihar Police.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had sent a recommendation to the Central Government to investigate the case filed in Patna based on the complaint of Sushant’s father KK Singh against Rhea Chakraborty under sections including abetment of suicide on July 25.

In Supreme Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the central government, submitted before a single-judge bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy that the Centre has accepted the Bihar government’s request recommending a CBI inquiry into the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.

The apex court was hearing a petition filed by Chakraborty seeking directions to transfer the case registered regarding the late actor’s death in Bihar’s Patna to Mumbai.

When asked about on Mumbai Police not relieving Patna SP Vinay Tiwari from quarantine, Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey said: “Mumbai Police isn’t even following orders of Supreme Court. They must give in writing if they don’t want to obey the Supreme Court order or they should state clearly that they have arrested him.”

Tiwari, who reached Mumbai for probe in Rajput case, has been quarantined by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials till August 15. (ANI)

PM Performs Bhoomipujan For Ram Temple At Ayodhya

After laying the foundation stone for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the ‘bhoomi pujan’ event as an “emotional moment” for the entire country and added that “every heart is illuminated today”.

“Every heart is illuminated; it is an emotional moment for the entire country… A long wait ends today… A grand temple will now be built for our Ram Lalla who had been living under a tent for many years,” said Prime Minister Modi at foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Ram temple.

“With the construction of this temple, not only history is being made, but is being repeated. The way boatmen to tribals helped Lord Ram, the way children helped Lord Krishna lift Govardhan mountain, similarly, with everyone’s efforts temple construction will be completed,” he added.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Modi conducted ‘bhoomi pujan’ for the construction work of Ram temple.

All in attendance sat around the havan fire maintaining social distancing norms while wearing masks, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

The priests chanted vedic mantras and hymns as per the rituals of the ‘yagya’.

Besides, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Governor Anandiben Patel and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat among several others were present at the site for the ceremony.

Earlier today, PM Modi planted a ‘parijat’ sapling in the temple premises, considered a divine plant, ahead of the foundation stone-laying of Ram Temple.

PM Modi arrived at Ram Janmabhoomi site after offering prayers at the Hanuman Garhi Temple in Ayodhya.

The Prime Minister is also scheduled to unveil a plaque to mark the occasion and also release a commemorative postage stamp on ‘Shree Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir’. (ANI)