Sri Lanka floods, landslides: Death toll rises to 100

Ninety-one people missing and hundreds of homes destroyed after heavy rain triggers devastating flooding and landslides.

The flooding on Friday is the worst Sri Lanka has seen in 14 years [Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP]

The flooding on Friday is the worst Sri Lanka has seen in 14 years [Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP]

by Al Jazeera

Floods and landslides in Sri Lanka’s southern and western regions have killed at least 100 people and damaged more than 800 homes, officials said on Saturday.

Ninety-one people were also reported missing and 40 others have been hospitalised after unusually heavy rain on Friday triggered a string of mudslides and caused rivers to burst their banks, according to the country’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC).

Indian medical teams and emergency relief arrived in the capital, Colombo, on Saturday to help Sri Lanka deal with the worst flooding in 14 years.

“Many thousands are displaced and are trying to come to terms with what has happened with this huge deluge of water,” Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from the southern town of Agalawatte, said.

“Some places received a year’s supply of rain in 24 hours. It has taken everyone by surprise.”

In Agalawatte, some 100km south of Colombo, rescuers pulled at least 11 bodies out from the mud and earth, while one person was found alive.

“It’s been 15-18 years since we’ve had so much water. It’s left people helpless”, a man told local media.

“We were moving things from 2am. Kitchen stuff floated off, and the roof shades were blown away,” a woman said.

Authorities issued fresh evacuation orders for those living downstream of two major rivers, citing a risk of flooding even though the rains had subsided.

Soldiers have fanned out in boats and helicopters to help with rescue operations. Residents said there are more people trapped in interior villages where boats have been unable to reach.

An Indian ship carrying medical supplies docked in Colombo on Saturday, after Sri Lanka issued an international appeal for help. Another ship is due to arrive on Monday.

The flooding is the worst since May 2003 when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful Southwest monsoon, officials said.

The DMC said the monsoon ended a prolonged drought that had threatened agriculture as well as hydropower generation.

Mudslides have become common during the monsoon season in the tropical Indian Ocean island as land has been heavily deforested to grow export crops such as tea and rubber.

Last May, a massive landslide killed more than 100 people in central Sri Lanka.

Burhan Wani’s successor Sabzar Bhat among nine killed in Kashmir, clashes erupt

Sabzar Bhat

Srinagar: Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, who succeeded Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, was killed in an encounter with government forces in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.

Bhat was among eight militants killed in two separate gunfights in north and south Kashmir. A civilian was also killed after forces opened fire on people marching towards the encounter site in Saimoh village of Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Six militants were killed after army claimed to have foiled an infiltration bid in Rampur sector of Uri in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

Two militants, including Sabzar Bhat – a lieutenant of slain Hizb commander Burhan Wani killed on July 8 last year – and Faizan were killed in an encounter in Saimoh.

The killing of Bhat has triggered protests and clashes across Kashmir valley. Dozens of people have been injured in the ensuing clashes.

(Greater Kashmir)

Ramadan: Saudi, 33 countries declare Saturday first day

Ramadan Mubarak! Saudi Arabia officially declares May 27 as the first day of Ramadan. Pakistan, India start on Sunday.

ramadan 2017

by Al Jazeera

Saudi Arabia’s High Judicial Court has announced that, based on confirmed sightings of Ramadan’s new moon crescent, the first day of Ramadan 1438 fasting will be Saturday, May 27.

Saturday was confirmed the first day of Ramadan in 33 other countries also, whereas Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Shia Muslims in Iraq declared Sunday May 28 to be their first day of Ramadan.

As per tradition, the sighting of the new moon marks the beginning of the Muslim lunar month of Ramadan.

Turkey and Muslim communities in America, Europe and Australia previously announced they would observe Ramadan fasting from May 27, based on astronomic calculations.

In Muslim-majority countries, offices are required by law to reduce working hours, and many restaurants are closed during daylight hours in Ramadan.

“Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” are common greetings exchanged in this occasion, wishing the recipient a blessed and generous Ramadan.

Moon sighting

Muslim lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, and depending on sighting of the moon on the 29th night of each month. If the moon is not visible, the month will last 30 days.

Astronomic predictions indicate that the new moon crescent should be visible either with the naked eye, or with a telescope from around the world on Friday evening.

Moon sighters in the UAE posted a photo showing the new moon crescent during the day on Friday.

Last year in May, member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, at the International Hijri Calendar Unity Congress held in Istanbul, voted in favour of adopting a single unified lunar calendar.

However, local sighting continues to be the default policy in each country.

End of Ramadan

Ramadan lasts either 29 or 30 days, depending on sighting of the moon on the 29th night of Ramadan, on Saturday June 24.

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate breaking their fast with the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr, but holidays differ by country.

This year, Saudi Arabia announced holidays from the 25th of Ramadan until the 7th of Shawal, the lunar month after Ramadan.

As per astronomic calculations, Turkey and Muslim communities in the US and Europe expect the first day of Eid al-Fitr on Sunday, June 25.

Tendulkar’s film mints Rs 8.40 cr on opening day in India


Mumbai: “Sachin: A Billion Dreams”, a documentary drama on ace Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, registered an opening day collection of Rs 8.40 crore, according to the makers.

The film released on Friday in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and English.

“Sachin: A Billion Dreams creates history as docu-drama. Biggest opening in the genre with Rs 8.40 crore in India in all languages,” read a statement issued on behalf of the film’s makers.

According to trade analyst Taran Adarsh, it is an “impressive” opening for a film in this genre.

The movie takes viewers through Tendulkar’s journey in his personal and professional life. It features the master blaster himself as he lets his fans into parts of his life they may not have known yet.

Members of the film and sports fraternity have already given the tale a thumbs up.

Responding to the praise coming his way on Twitter, Tendulkar wrote in one post: “For me, it’s always about intention rather than expectation. We gave it our 100 per cent. So glad you liked it.”


Pro-Kannada Outfits Call for Statewide Bandh on June 12

vatal nagaraj

Bengaluru: “Kannada Okkuta called for Karnataka bandh on June 12 demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene to resolve Mahadayi water issue immediately,” said Vatal Nagaraj, president of a pro-Kannada outfit, Kannada Chalavali Vatal Paksha in a press meet held in Bengaluru on Friday. The issues including Kalasa Banduri and Mahadayi haven’t yet solved, therefore prime minister and chief ministers of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka should move forward to solve the issues immediately, he urged.

A protest march will be held from town hall to Freedom Park in Bengaluru on June 12 as part of the state wide bandh. Meanwhile, a separate protest March will be organised from Bengaluru to Kanakapura via Ramanagar on May 6 urging the state government to implement Mekedatu project and to give information on its stand on Mekedatu issue.


Centre’s ban on cattle sale for slaughter is unconstitutional: Opposition


Thiruvananthapuram: The CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala and the Congress-led UDF today attacked the Centre for the ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Centre’s decision was “surprising” which was unsuitable for a democratic nation.

“It is not right that a government decides the choice of food of the people. With this decision, the Centre is destroying a sector which employees thousands of people,” Vijayan said in a strong reaction to the Union government’s decision.

The notification was part of Centre’s attempt to implement “RSS agenda”. The Centre should have consulted with the states and sought their opinion before coming with the notification, Vijayan said in a statement here.

While state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said the decision was ‘illogical’ and the state would introspect what it could do legally, Local Administration Minister K T Jaleel and Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar felt it was an infringement on the powers of the state and the decision cannot be accepted.

“This was a state subject and the Centre cannot infringe on the state’s rights”, Jaleel told reporters here.

Sunil Kumar said the notification was a challenge to the country’s federal system. India is a democratic nation and the centre’s decision to impose the ban without consulting the states amounted to violation of the federal system, he said.

Animal Husbandry Minister K Raju opined that the decision will destroy the federal structure and will have far reaching consequences.

CPI(M) state secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said in his Facebook post that the government led by Narendra Modi, who was an RSS Pracharak, has come out with the notification at a time when the country was all set to celebrate Ramzan.

Echoing similar sentiments, Opposition leader in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala said the ban was an attempt to usurp the human rights of citizens.

“The Modi Government’s effort from the beginning was to curb the constitutional rights and the ban was the latest example of the alleged fascist moves of the government,” he said.

KPCC President M M Hassan also criticised the decision saying it was against the Constitution and encroachment on the fundamental rights of the citizens.

The notification banning cattle trade for meat was unconstitutional and violation of federal principles, Dr Varughese George, National General Secretary of Janata Dal(U).

However,Justifying the Centre’s decision, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan, blamed the mediafor “distorting” the notification.

The notification had only restricted the sale of animals for slaughter which were used for agricultural purposes, he said attributing “political motives” on the part of media in hiding.


Yeddyurappa will be BJP’s CM face in Karnataka, confirms Amit Shah again


New Delhi: Former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa will be the BJP’s chief ministerial face in the Assembly polls scheduled early next year, party president Amit Shah said today.

During an interaction with PTI, Shah also indicated that Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani would be the party’s choice for the top post in the state, asserting that it would win more than 150 seats in the Assembly polls slated later this year. The Assembly has 182 seats.

He, however, said the party has not yet decided on its chief ministerial face in Himachal Pradesh, which goes to polls along with Gujarat.

“It (Karnataka election) will be fought under Yeddyurappa,” Shah said.

Asked if it meant that Yeddyurappa, who is the BJP’s Karnataka unit chief, will be the chief ministerial face, he said, “He will be.”

The Karnataka unit has been facing factional fight with a group headed by former deputy chief minister K S Eshwarappa targeting Yeddyurappa’s leadership.

To a question on the party’s state of affairs in Karnataka, Shah said he would visit the state soon. The party had recently taken action against some leaders, suspected to be behind the internal wrangling.

Asked whether Rupani will be the party’s CM face in Gujarat, Shah said, “He is already the chief minister.”
“What does it mean that he will be the chief ministerial face…,” he said in a lighter vein.

Yeddyurappa (74), an influential Lingayat leader, had led the saffron party to its maiden victory in the southern state in 2008, but was forced to resign following charges of corruption against him.

He floated his own outfit in 2011. Though his party performed poorly in the 2013 Assembly polls, it managed to wean away a substantial chunk of the BJP votes, leading to a rout of the saffron party.

He returned to the BJP fold ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.


Hindus, Christians hold ‘beef fests’ across Kerala to protest cattle sale ban


Kasaragod: ‘Beef Fests’ were held in various parts of Kerala on Saturday to protest the Centre’s decision of banning sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter, even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he would approach the prime minister in this matter.

Hindus, Christians and atheists cooked and swallowed beef on the road side in various cities of the state. However, Muslims did not take part in the ‘beef fest’ due to the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan.

Activists of the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF, opposition Congress-headed UDF and their youth wings took out marches and organised these fests across the state, where beef is widely consumed.

The central government has banned the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter, a move that is expected to hit export and trade of meat and leather.

Demonstrations were held outside the secretariat in the state capital. “We will eat beef to show our protest against the central government. We want to tell this to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” DYFI national president Mohammed Riyaz, who led the protest, said.

In Kollam district, a group of Congress workers cooked beef in front of the DCC office to register its opposition to the Centre’s decision.

District unit chief of Congress, Bindu Krishna told reporters that “beef delicacy will be packed and sent to head post office for delivery to Modi ji.”

Chief Minister Vijayan said he would be sending a letter to the Prime Minister this evening.

In Kochi, Tourism and Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran participated in a ‘beef fest’, where bread and beef curry was served, even as Youth Congress activists took out a protest march in the city.

In Thodupuzha in Idukki district, protesters took out a march with the head of a buffalo.

The Union environment ministry has notified the stringent ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017’ under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan yesterday said the new rules are very “specific” and aim to regulate animal markets and sale of cattle.

Reacting to the Centre’s decision, senior Congress leader and former Union minister A K Antony said the notification should be “torn to bits” and “dumped in a dust-bin”.

The UDF will observe ‘black day’ on Monday against the ban, opposition leader in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala said at Thrissur. Front workers will wear black badges and take out protest marches, he said.


Corbyn: We have to admit ‘war on terror’ is not working

As election campaigning restarts following Manchester attack, UK opposition leader addresses root causes of ‘terror’.

Corbyn is a veteran socialist and anti-war campaigner [File: Darren Staples/Reuters]

Corbyn is a veteran socialist and anti-war campaigner [File: Darren Staples/Reuters]

by Al Jazeera

Britain’s foreign policy and intervention in wars abroad had fuelled the threat of “terrorism” at home, the leader of the UK’s main opposition party said on Friday, as a political truce after a Manchester suicide attack came to an end.

Less than two weeks before a general election, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also vowed to reverse Prime Minister Theresa May’s police cuts and give the security services more resources if they needed them, saying Britain could not “be protected on the cheap”.

Although Corbyn said he did not want “to make a narrow party political point”, opponents accused him of exploiting Monday’s bombing by Salman Abedi, a Briton born to Libyan parents, who killed 22 people, including children, at the Manchester Arena after a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

“No government can prevent every terrorist attack. But the responsibility of government is to minimise that chance, to ensure the police have the resources they need, that our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country,” Corbyn said in a speech in the capital, London.

“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services pointed out the connections between wars that we’ve been involved in or supported … in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home.”

Corbyn edges higher in polls

May’s Conservatives are leading in the opinion polls ahead of the June 8 election, and were widely expected to cruise to a landslide win when she called the vote in April.

But one survey on Thursday suggested their lead had been cut to just five points after she was forced to backtrack on a plan to force elderly people to pay more for their social care.

Corbyn, a socialist and veteran anti-war campaigner, said foreign policy was not solely to blame for “terrorism” but he would shy away from the interventionist approach that has seen Britain join military action in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan in recent years.

“We must be brave enough to admit the ‘war on terror’ is not working,” he said, vowing only to deploy troops when there was a clear need and a plan to secure a lasting peace.

His stance puts him not just at odds with May, who says he would put Britain’s security at risk if he won power, but also many in his own party, including former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair who led Britain into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think his timing is incredibly disappointing and crass given there is a live police operation,” Security Minister Ben Wallace told BBC radio. “I don’t think the substance of what he says is correct at all.”

Corbyn, who has already pledged 10,000 extra officers, also promised to reverse police cost-saving measures, many brought in by May in her former role as interior minister. Britain now has fewer officers than in 2001.

Amber Rudd, the interior minister, rejected suggestions cuts had hindered the authorities’ ability to prevent Monday’s attack.

“We must not imply that this terrorist activity wouldn’t have taken place if there had been more policing,” she said.

Egypt: Gunmen attack vehicles carrying Christians

Masked attackers open fire on vehicles travelling to Minya monastery, killing and wounding dozens, before fleeing scene.

An image grab taken from Egypt's state-run Nile News TV shows the remains of the bus that was attacked while carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province [AFP/Nile News]

An image grab taken from Egypt’s state-run Nile News TV shows the remains of the bus that was attacked while carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province [AFP/Nile News]

by Al Jazeera

Masked gunmen on Friday attacked two buses and a truck carrying Coptic Christians in Egypt, killing more than 20 people and wounding dozens, according to officials.

The attackers arrived in three pick-up trucks and opened fire on the vehicles carrying visitors to the Saint Samuel Monastery in the Minya province, about 220km south of the capital, Cairo, before fleeing the scene.

The interior ministry said at least 26 people were killed and 25 wounded in the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Pictures of a bus at the scene aired by state TV showed its windows shot out.

“They used automatic weapons,” Essam el-Bedawi, Minya governor, told state media.

Security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road.

Following the attack, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for a meeting with security officials.

Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up about 10 percent of the country’s population, has repeatedly been targeted by armed groups.

In April, at least 45 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in two separate suicide bomb attacks on churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria during Palm Sunday ceremonies.

The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group.

Following the Palm Sunday bombings, Sisi declared a nationwide three-month state of emergency.

A bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49 in December 2016, including many women and children.