UK PM Boris Johnson clears way for Brexit ‘Russian meddling’ report

An investigation was launched in November 2017, in response to concerns about attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election and fears of meddling in Britain’s referendum vote the same year to leave the European Union. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 09 July 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson clears way for Brexit ‘Russian meddling’ report

  • The committee finished the 50-page report in March last year
  • Report was cleared by intelligence agencies in October

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson cleared the way Thursday for a long-awaited parliamentary report into alleged Russian interference in British politics to be published “as soon as possible.”
A government spokesman said parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) will be re-formed next week, and will then be free to publish its findings into concerns about disinformation and meddling in the 2016 Brexit vote.
The committee finished the 50-page report in March last year and the report was cleared by the intelligence agencies in October.
But Johnson failed to authorize its publication before the committee was disbanded ahead of the December general election, and it was then delayed until the committee was restored.
The nominations for the new committee members are expected to be published later Thursday and put to a vote by lawmakers next Monday and Tuesday. The new members will then elect their own chairman.
Committee members have to be approved by the PM.
Johnson’s spokesman said publication of the Russia report “will be a matter for the new committee but we would encourage them to publish it as soon as possible.”
The ISC launched the investigation in November 2017, in response to concerns about attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election and fears of meddling in Britain’s referendum vote the same year to leave the European Union.
Then prime minister Theresa May had accused Russia of “planting fake stories” to “sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.”
The 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury, which London and its Western allies blamed on Moscow, only added to the ISC’s concerns.
Former ISC chairman Dominic Grieve had accused Johnson of deliberately delaying the report until after the election — something Downing Street denies.
Politicians in the main opposition Labour party have alleged the report could contain evidence of links between Johnson’s Conservative party and Russian billionaires.


Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

Updated 06 August 2020

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

  • Security crackdown as more than 7,400 candidates contest twice-delayed election

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect 225 members to its 9th Parliament amid tight security and health precautions to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The polls were twice-delayed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the assembly in March and postponed polls scheduled for April due to the outbreak, before finally deciding on Aug. 5 as the date for general elections.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Sri Lanka Elections Commission (EC), said police had been given “shooting orders” in case of security breaches and strict health protocols had been introduced at polling booths.

Deshapriya said that all 12,985 polling booths had been sanitized as a preventive measure.

The elections were completed at an estimated cost of $48.6 million, up from the $37.8 million spent during last year’s presidential polls.

Speaking to Arab News on Wednesday, Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole, an EC member, said that a 60 percent turnout by noon was a “good sign of voters’ response.”

“Our voters are matured and informed now, and they will choose whom they want irrespective of any racial or religious differences,” he said, adding that there were fewer poll-related complaints this year compared with previous elections.

There were 46 registered political parties and 313 independent groups vying for the 225-seat parliament, with a total of 7,452 candidates in the fray – 3,652 fielded by 46 parties and 3,800 representing 313 independent groups.

According to the EC, nearly 16,263,885 registered voters could make their choice at the elections.

At this election, 196 members are to be elected at the district level under the proportional representation system to the 225-member parliament, while 29 members will be chosen from the National List. Under the 1978 constitution, the members are elected to the 9th Parliament.

Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni, general director of health services in Colombo, credited the voters for “lending their cooperation in full to make it a grand success.” At the same time, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said there were no reports of violence from any part of the island.

“There were minor scuffles on the eve of the polls in some parts of the island which were settled then and there,” he added.

Ismathul Rahman, 57, from the coastal town of Negombo, told Arab News that this year people were “keen to elect the right people” for their respective electorate as it was “crucial for the country’s economy.”

“It was a peaceful poll without any remarkable incidents of violence. The EC has managed the show well,” said Khalid Farook, 70, former president of the All-Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, Wednesday.