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Sri Lanka PM offers resignation after protesters storm president’s house

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  • Thousands of protesters storm president’s house, office.
  • Prime minister says willing to step aside.
  • Protesters demand president’s resignation over crisis.

COLOMBO, July 9 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is willing to resign to make way for an all-party government, his office said in a statement on Saturday, after thousands of protesters stormed the president’s official residence in Colombo.

Soldiers and police were unable to hold back the crowd of chanting protesters demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation, as public anger grows over the country’s worst economic crisis in seven decades.

Protesters also forced their way through heavy metal gates into the Finance Ministry and the president’s seafront offices.

Rajapaksa left the official residence on Friday as a safety precaution ahead of the planned weekend demonstration, two defence ministry sources said. Reuters could not immediately confirm the president’s whereabouts.

Wickremesinghe held talks with several political party leaders to decide what steps to take following the unrest.

“Wickremesinghe has told the party leaders that he is willing to resign as Prime Minister and make way for an all-party government to take over,” his office said in a statement.

Wickremesinghe had also been moved to a secure location, a government source told Reuters.

Leaders of several opposition parties have also called for Rajapaksa to resign.

Police use tear gas to disperse demonstrators near Presidents residence during a protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa , amid the countrys economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 9, 2022. — Reuters
Police use tear gas to disperse demonstrators near President’s residence during a protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa , amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 9, 2022. — Reuters

“The president and the prime minister must resign immediately. If that does not happen political instability will worsen,” said Sri Lanka Freedom Party leader and former president Maithripala Sirisena, speaking before Wickremesinghe had offered his resignation.

Presidential pool

A Facebook live stream from inside the president’s house showed hundreds of protesters, some draped in the national flag, packing into rooms and corridors.

Video footage showed some of them splashing in the swimming pool, while others sat on a four-poster bed and sofas. Some could be seen emptying out a chest of drawers in images that were widely circulated on social media.

Hundreds milled about on the grounds of the colonial-era whitewashed residence, with no security personnel in sight.

At least 39 people, including two police officers, were injured and hospitalised during the protests, hospital sources told Reuters.

The Indian Ocean island of 22 million people is struggling under a severe foreign exchange shortage that has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine, plunging it into the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Soaring inflation, which reached a record 54.6% in June and is expected to hit 70% in the coming months, has heaped hardship on the population.

Political instability could undermine Sri Lanka’s talks with the International Monetary Fund as it seeks a $3 billion bailout, the restructuring of some foreign debt and fund-raising from multilateral and bilateral sources to ease the dollar drought. 

“This is a dicey situation. If a clear transition is not put in place the president and prime minister’s resignation will create a power vacuum that could be dangerous. The Speaker can appoint a new all-party government but whether they will be accepted by the protesters remains to be seen,” said political analyst Kusal Perera.

Economic crisis

The crisis comes after COVID-19 hammered the tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from overseas workers.

It has been compounded by the build-up of hefty government debt, rising oil prices and a ban on the import of chemical fertilisers last year that devastated agriculture. The fertiliser ban was reversed in November.

However, many blame the country’s decline on economic mismanagement by Rajapaksa and there have been months of largely peaceful protests demanding his resignation.

Before breaking into the government buildings on Saturday, the protesters dismantled several police barricades in Colombo’s government district.

Police fired shots in the air but were unable to stop the angry crowd from surrounding the presidential residence, the witness said.

A demonstrator celebrates after entering the Presidents House during a protest, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled, amid the countrys economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 9, 2022. — Reuters
A demonstrator celebrates after entering the President’s House during a protest, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 9, 2022. — Reuters

Despite a severe shortage of fuel that has stalled transport services, demonstrators packed into buses, trains and trucks from several parts of the country to reach Colombo for the weekend demonstration.

Discontent has worsened in recent weeks as the cash-strapped country stopped receiving fuel shipments, forcing school closures and rationing of petrol and diesel for essential services. 

Sampath Perera, a 37-year-old fisherman, took an overcrowded bus from the seaside town of Negombo 45 km (30 miles) north of Colombo, to join the protest.

“We have told Gota (Rajapaksa) over and over again to go home but he is still clinging on to power. We will not stop until he listens to us,” Perera said.

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Today is the observance of World Day Against Child Labor.

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Today, the World Day Against Child Labour is being commemorated globally, including in Pakistan.

The goal of celebrating this day is to promote awareness about child labour and inspire efforts to eliminate this societal injustice.

The number of child laborers in Pakistan has surpassed 20 million as a result of poor legislation and inadequate remedies. The prevalence of child labor in Punjab is 14 percent.

Child labour is on the rise, despite governments’ announcements of measures to address the issue, they have failed to take significant action.

The head of a non-governmental organization (NGO) stated that the issue of child labor necessitates the implementation of a comprehensive and enduring strategy.

Over 10 million children in Punjab are currently not attending school and are instead forced to engage in laborious work.

Additionally, the provincial minister for education has declared intentions to offer exclusive remuneration for enrolling children in schools, while also ensuring that pupils receive instruction in practical skills.

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TikTok plans to introduce an image search capability in order to directly compete with Google.

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TikTok, a Chinese short video platform, is now conducting a trial of a novel functionality that enables users to capture or submit images in order to discover comparable products within the TikTok Shop, as reported by TechCrunch.

TikTok, the current leader in social media, is now aiming to enter Google’s domain in the field of search, indicating a direct competition against Google’s control in visual search.

The functionality, originally observed by user Jonah Manzano, is presently accessible to users residing in the United States and Southeast Asia. Users that have access to the feature will see a camera symbol that is integrated.
This feature allows users to effortlessly search for products by capturing or uploading photographs, eliminating the requirement for written descriptions.

For example, if you are eating at a restaurant and like the dish that is presented on a certain plate, you can take a fast photo using the TikTok app to discover comparable goods that you can buy.

Similarly, if you come across an expensive item while shopping online, you can save its image and use TikTok’s image search feature to locate similar, more affordable options.

Although TikTok Shop has previously utilized conventional search methods, this new advancement represents a notable deviation by harnessing the capabilities of visual search, similar to Google Lens.

TikTok’s decision is a calculated maneuver aimed at not only attracting users’ interest in finding new products but also promoting sales within its e-commerce network.

This development is not only a criticism of Google or Amazon; it is a more extensive effort to rival other participants in the field of visual search and e-commerce, such as Klarna and rising businesses like Cherry.

TikTok’s shift towards e-commerce is apparent in its recent announcement that TikTok Shop accommodates more than 15 million vendors worldwide, including a significant presence in the United States.

The company has made significant investments in platform safety, dedicating more than $400 million and establishing a staff of 7,500 personnel to guarantee the integrity of TikTok Shop.

TikTok continues to pursue its e-commerce goals, while encountering regulatory obstacles, especially in the United States.

TikTok’s momentum remains unaffected by President Biden’s recent measure, which indicates a possible prohibition if ByteDance does not divest the platform.

However, the corporation regards e-commerce as a strategic source of income and a method to maintain consumer involvement within its ecosystem.

TikTok is continuously expanding and improving its TikTok Shop to encourage more user interaction and spending. This will help establish TikTok as a strong competitor in the e-commerce industry.
in the search bar of TikTok Shop.

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The Traffic Response Unit in Lahore was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Punjab.

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On Wednesday, the Traffic Response Unit was inaugurated in Lahore by Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz.

During this event, the chief minister examined the motorcycles of the traffic response team. She engaged in a discussion with the wardens and questioned about the training and other related topics.

In addition, she monitored the message via a public address system in the event of a traffic congestion. Following the establishment of the Traffic Response Unit, a dedicated meeting was convened to discuss traffic management, with CM Maryam Nawaz presiding as the chairperson.

The chief minister established a specific time limit to enhance the movement of vehicles in Lahore. Maryam Nawaz instructed to offer an alternative location for wheel-carts to ensure the smooth movement of traffic.

In addition, she oversaw the implementation of measures to enforce lane discipline in all situations and initiated an awareness campaign targeting rickshaws and motorbikes to encourage them to stay inside their designated lanes.

The discussion involved an evaluation of the installation of the Intelligence Traffic Signal Management System in Lahore. She instructed relevant agencies to develop efficient and enduring strategies to address the problem of encroachments on highways.

CM Maryam also instructed the restoration of the screens that were established for traffic instruction. During the meeting, CTO Ammara Azhar provided a briefing stating that the specialized traffic response team will promptly respond to traffic congestion within 15 minutes of receiving a call.

The specialized unit, comprised of 50 robust motorcycles and 100 enforcers, would promptly undertake measures to alleviate the traffic congestion. In order to fulfill this objective, the Traffic Response Unit has undergone a specialized training program lasting one month.

Additionally, the Chief Technology Officer stated that the Traffic Response Unit received first aid training from the Red Crescent. Each motorbike will be equipped with a public address system and a first aid box. The traffic wardens will also capture footage using a specialized camera.

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