Good news and bad news from overseas

The good news is that Ireland has voted to remove the crime of blasphemy from its constitution, with young people leading the way.

Until recently, Ireland was deeply conservative, dominated by the Catholic church, but the country has legalised gay marriage and abortion in popular votes, and is now led by an openly gay taoiseach.

Reflecting the speed of changes in Ireland, the strongest support for ending the ban came from younger voters, exit polls suggested. Four in five voters under 35 backed the change, according to the Irish Times, while over-65s only approved it by a narrow margin, with 52% in favour and 48% against.

The government had already laid out legislation to remove the offence of blasphemy from the constitution and all relevant laws, should the referendum be passed.

It has been over 150 years since anyone was prosecuted for blasphemy in Ireland, but the country had passed a blasphemy law in 2009.

The bad news is that Brazil has elected a far-right, Trump-like figure as president who ahs promised to ‘purge’ the country of leftists and that they should leave the country or be jailed.

Other bad news is from Sri Lanka which is still in a standoff state with two people (Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa), claiming to be the legitimate prime minister, and mobs supporting either side occupying the government media and offices. Meanwhile, the bodyguard of one cabinet minister had fired on a crowd blocking the entrance to the ministry, killing one person and wounding two others. The minister and bodyguard were arrested and released on bail.

As usual, there are all kinds of shenanigans going on with members of parliament switching allegiances for who knows what reason, and militant Buddhist clergy also heavily involved.

Supporters of Wickremesinghe as well as Rajapaksa have paid high-profile visits to influential Buddhist monks in recent days trying to court popular legitimacy for their rival sides.

Behind the scenes, both camps are also working to secure their numbers in parliament, with loyalties shifting back and forth unpredictably. One MP, Vasantha Senanayake, pledged his support for Rajapaksa on Saturday, then switched to Wickremesinghe on Sunday – and was then named in Rajapaksa’s cabinet on Monday night.

It is going to be a chaotic few weeks.

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