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New species of horn-lizards discovered in Sri Lanka’s Salgala forest

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By Ifham Nizam

A new species of the genus Ceratophora (horn-lizards) found in the Salgala forest in the Kegalle district in the northern part of the wet bioclimatic zone, has been named to honour a renowned scientist in Sri Lanka.

The species, which is new to science, has been named Ceratophora ukuwelai sp. Nov., in honour of Dr. Kanishka Ukuwela for his remarkable contribution to science here and South Asian herpetofauna.

Ceratophora ukuwelai is an elusive species known to exist only in the Salagala forest in Kegalle district. Considering rapid habitat destruction in the area, experts have recommended the species be listed as Critically Endangered (CR) following IUCN criteria.

The scientific team comprises Suranjan Karunarathna, Nature Explorations and Education Team, Nikolay A. Poyarkov and Vladislav A of Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskiye Gory, GSP–1, Moscow, Russia, Andrey V. Bushuev, Joint Russian-Vietnamese Tropical Research and Technological Center, Vietnam, Thilina Surasinghe of the Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, USA, Majintha Madawala of Victorian Herpetological Society, Victoria, Australia and Dr. Anslem De Silva, Amphibia and Reptile Research Organization of Sri Lanka.

Horn-lizards comprise six species, all of which are endemic to Sri Lanka. The new species most closely resembles Ceratophora aspera Günther, 1864, but can be distinguished by its body proportions.

More than two decades ago, Sri Lanka’s foremost authority of biodiversity, Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda and his deputy, Dr. Kelum Manamendra-Arachchi, discovered two more species of Ceratophora from the southern part of Sri Lanka.

Scientist Ranjan Karunarathna told The Sunday Island that their analysis demonstrated that the Salgala population is indeed a new species sister to C. aspera, but these lineages have diverged a long time ago, most likely since the late Miocene, which is much earlier than the split between C. stoddartii and C. erdeleni, for example. This divergence is concordant with differences in body proportions and scalation.

Nikolay A. Poyarkov says during the evolution of Sri Lankan agamids the rostral horn suddenly appeared or disappeared in certain lineages, and the drivers behind this saltorial evolution are still poorly understood.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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