Court blocks impeachment
The appeal court on Friday blocked parliament from voting to impeach the country’s chief justice, the latest step in the case that risks a destabilizing clash between President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government and the judiciary. Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was found guilty by a parliamentary panel earlier this month of financial irregularities and a failure to declare assets, after the Supreme Court head and opposition parties withdrew from the proceedings citing unfair process. The US, the UN and the Commonwealth have raised concerns and called on Rajapaksa to ensure the independence of the judiciary. Parliament was to vote next month to impeach Bandaranayake. Rajapaksa can use his more than two-thirds majority in the legislature to remove Bandaranayake from her post. The appeal court ruling stops parliament voting on impeachment while it decides whether her appeal against the charges by the parliamentary panel is justified.
Carbon monoxide poisons 16
Sixteen people suffered slight carbon monoxide poisoning after a building in Yanan, a city in China’s northwestern Shaanxi Province, caught fire early yesterday morning, China National Radio reported. The fire has been brought under control and none of the people injured are in critical condition, the radio station reported yesterday on its Web site without saying where it got the information. About 1,700 residents have been evacuated, according to the report. The 14-story building hosts retailers, offices and a hotel where about 50 people were staying, according to the report which did not disclose the cause of the fire.
Lhasa’s heart to be preserved
The government of Tibet’s capital city has begun a seven-month, 1.2 billion yuan (US$196 million) project to help preserve Lhasa’s ancient heart. State-owned China Tibetan News, citing a government news conference from Friday, said the project will update the Barkhor area’s infrastructure, including water, sewerage and electrical lines. The government will also build heating facilities, remove fire hazards, improve sanitation services, regulate signs and dismantle illegally built structures. The official Xinhua news agency said the government will preserve cultural relics in the area, including Tibet’s most sacred shrine, the Jokhang Temple. The temple has been a symbolic center of ongoing Tibetan protests against authoritarian Chinese rule, and the Barkhor was a center of Tibetan unrest in 2008 that left at least a dozen people dead. In recent months, more than 90 Tibetans have self-immolated to protest China’s rule of the region.
Chinese arrested for fraud
Police in Sri Lanka have arrested 100 Chinese nationals for currency fraud in a string of raids in and around the capital Colombo, officials said yesterday. Police said that the 74 men and 26 women were arrested on Friday at their residences in and around the capital following a court order. Those arrested were due to appear in court later yesterday. Thousands of Chinese work in Chinese-funded development projects across the island. Many more arrive on tourist visas and work in the hospitality industry. China has been investing heavily in Sri Lanka as it enlarges its presence in South Asia. In June, the tropical island nation opened Sri Lanka’s first Chinese-built port, for which China loaned money. The port was seen as a strong symbol of Beijing’s investment and interest in the region.