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25,000 party members to Colombo for the SJB conference

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The annual party conference of Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) is scheduled to be held today (Dec. 11).

General Secretary of SJB, Ranjith Madduma Bandara stated that the conference will be held at 01.00 p.m. in the Borella Campbell Park, adding that nearly 25,000 people will take part in the conference.

The leaders of many other friendly parties will also participate in the conference, he said.

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India’s BJP leads in 3 of 4 states in key regional elections

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India’s Hindu nationalist party was headed for a clear win in three out of four states Sunday, according to the election commission’s website. The crucial poll has pitted India’s opposition against the ruling party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of next year’s vital national vote.

Ballot counting showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, was poised to wrest control of the states of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan from the Indian National Congress, India’s main opposition party. The BJP was also likely to be re-elected in Madhya Pradesh in for a record fifth term.

The Congress was comfortably leading in Telangana state which is ruled by the strong Telangana Rashtra Samithi, known for opposing BJP in the state.

Final results are expected later Sunday.

Vote counting in a fifth state, Mizoram, is set for Monday where BJP’s regional ally, Mizo National Front, is in power.

Elections in the five states were held last month where more than 160 million people, or a sixth of India’s electorate were eligible to vote in the polls. Polling in India is generally done in phases owing to the large population.

Modi thanked voters for “their unwavering support” in the states his party was leading.

“The results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan indicate that the people of India are firmly with politics of good governance and development, which the @BJP4India stands for,” Modi wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader, conceded defeat in the three states where his party was trailing behind the BJP. “The battle of ideology will continue,” he wrote on X, formally known as Twitter, and thanked the people of Telangana where his party was winning.

Modi and his party remain popular on a national level after nearly a decade in power and surveys suggest he is expected to win a third consecutive term in 2024. But a new alliance of 28 opposition parties, called INDIA, is expected to challenge Modi’s party nationally. The acronym, which stands for Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, comprises India’s previously fractured opposition parties and is led by the Congress party.

Both the Indian premier and the Congress leader Gandhi flew across the five states to woo voters as they campaigned to support their parties’ candidates. The charged-up voting campaigns witnessed both leaders promising voters subsidies, loan waivers and employment guarantees.

Modi will seek reelection next year at a time when India’s global diplomatic reach is rising. But in recent polls, Congress has dented his party’s image of invincibility by toppling local BJP governments in state elections in southern Karnataka and northern Himachal Pradesh.

The elections come at a time when India is facing multiple challenges; rising unemployment, attacks by Hindu nationalists against the country’s minorities, particularly Muslims, and a shrinking space for dissent and free media.

Source: The Associated Press

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New evidence surfaces on health ministry’s controversial emergency procurement scheme

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More documentary evidence has emerged on the Health Ministry’s disastrous “fast-track” emergency procurement scheme that led to counterfeit drugs entering public sector hospitals.

Letters between key officials show the plan was in place as early as September last year. That month, a Health Ministry Additional Secretary wrote to the Deputy Director General of the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) stating that it was decided at a meeting chaired by former Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella to buy drugs using the Indian credit line (ICL) through private suppliers.

The purchase would be under an “emergency procurement method”, it said, adding that pending orders must be disregarded.

This meant that, even if required stocks were on the way, the Health Ministry would farm out additional contracts under the ICL to handpicked suppliers. And it would be done through a new system that a small coterie of officials—with the Health Minister’s endorsement—had floated to facilitate walk-in, unsolicited offers from unvetted suppliers, bypassing the national drug regulatory process.

Source -sundaytimes.lk

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Tsunami Alert Lifted 

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The Philippines lifted a tsunami alert early on Sunday as waves receded from a magnitude 7.4 earthquake that struck the south of the country, triggering coastal evacuations and some waves in there and in Japan.

There were no initial reports of casualties or serious damage from the quake in the Mindanao region, although some residents reported damage to buildings in the area, which is less populated than some parts of the archipelago.

More than 500 aftershocks were recorded, and the Philippines’ Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) urged caution as people resumed normal activities.

“The tsunami threat associated with this earthquake has now largely passed the Philippines,” Phivolcs said in a statement but advised people in threatened communities to heed the instructions from local authorities.

It had earlier urged people living near the coast of Surigao Del Sur and Davao Oriental provinces to move inland.

The national disaster said it was assessing the impact of the quake, with a team on the ground collating information.

The Philippine Coast Guard put all its vessels and aircraft on alert for potential dispatch.

“We started going back to our homes early on Sunday, although we are still shaking because of aftershocks,” Julita Bicap, 51, a front desk staffer at GLC Suites hotel in the seaside town of Bislig, said after power was restored around 5 a.m. (2100 GMT)

“There are aftershocks even now. Last night we were at the evacuation centre including my two foreigner guests. One of them came back to the hotel already,” Bicap told Reuters, adding that she noticed a small crack in the hotel’s front wall.

The largest aftershock was magnitude 6.5, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

Earthquakes are common in the Philippines, which lies on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is prone to seismic activity.

Scores of residents were seen in an evacuation centre in photographs posted on social media by the authorities in Hinatuan province, 30 km (20 miles) from the quake’s epicentre.

Philvolcs’ Hinatuan-Bislig Bay station recorded maximum waves of 0.64 metre (2 feet). Japan’s Hachijojima island, some 290 km (180 miles) south of Tokyo, recorded waves of 40 cm (1.3 feet), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The U.S. Tsunami Warning System had initially warned of waves of up to 3 metres (10 feet) above the usual high tide level.

The quake, which struck at 10:37 p.m. (1437 GMT) on Saturday, was at a depth of 25 km (15 miles), Philvolcs said.

James Soria, who owns a small hotel in Hinatuan, said there had been significant damage to his home. “It’s shaking again here now,” he told Reuters before the call was disconnected as another aftershock hit.

Cosme Calejesan, 47, said there had been damage to his house in Surigao City 185 km (115 miles) from the epicentre, but the structure was intact.

“I was already asleep, but I was woken up by the creaking sounds of my cabinets when the tremor occurred,” he said. “It was frightening. It was sudden and abrupt and I was worried for my children.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by srilankamirror staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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