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Study identifies distinct frog species not belonging to generic ‘hourglass’ classification



by Ifham Nizam

A study on the abnormalities and polymorphisms of amphibians found within and outside the Horton Plains National Park has identified a distinct frog species that does not belong to its generic “hourglass frog” classification.

The study was conducted by graduate research assistant Praneeth Silva of Sri Jayewardenepura University’s Department of Zoology under the supervision of Prof. W. A. D. Mahaulpatha, senior lecturer and head, Department of Zoology.

“Our study on amphibian abnormalities and causes found that Taruga eques species is faced with bigger threats in both localities in comparison to other amphibian species”, Silva told The Sunday Island.

Within and outside regions of the Sri Lankan Plains, habitat modifications due to human activities were the main threat on Taruga eques. The study also found that natural predators were the main cause for formation of amphibian abnormalities found within the Plains.

The study revealed a novel pattern polymorphism of Taruga eques in that a variety of the species without the hourglass was identified within and outside the Plains, indicating that the common name Taruga eques cannot be broadly classified as an “hour-glass frog”. At the end of the study, new six dorsal colour variations and five dorsal pigment patterns of Taruga eques could be newly introduced to the science.

Amphibian body colouration and pigment patterns play a vital role for their survival in the environment. Polymorp-hism (happening together in the same habitat of two or more distinct species results in rarest of them getting mutated to be like the main species) has probably led Taruga eques to be seen as hourglass tree frog though in reality the situation is likely to be rather different.

Silva said that a total of 694 amphibians belonging to four families and 11 species were recorded in five lentic water bodies which were studied. Five hundred and eleven (511) individuals were examined inside the Plains and 183 outside the region. Of the 511 individuals, only 4.5 percent of the amphibians had abnormalities. Of the 183 individuals examined outside the Plains, 80.87 percent had abnormalities.

Of the 511 inspected amphibians within the Plains, 0.59 percent suffered from ectromelia and four percent had cysts. Of the 183 amphibians examined outside the Plains, 80.33 percent had cysts and 0.55 percent had femoral projections. Cysts accounted for most of the abnormalities in both environments. Most of the infections (60 percent) recorded in the amphibians inside the Plains were mild. In contrast 77.55 percent of the infections recorded in the amphibians outside the Plains were moderate.

A research associate attached to the University of Indonesia Research Centre for Climate Change Thasun Amarasinghe said that not only hourglass tree frogs but almost all amphibians in Sri Lanka are under threat.

“They are called hourglass tree frogs as they have a colour pattern like an hour glass mark on their dorsum (back). They are highland species, and are very sensitive to temperature and humidity so in addition to habitat loss and forest fragmentation, there will be a future threat to them due to climate change”, he warned.

The major conclusion of the study was the natural selection results in the ‘polymorphisms’ to face the threat of predation. Moreover, colour and pattern polymorphisms manifest due to strong selection by visually oriented predators and the polymorphisms are highly valuable for the species to ensure their survival in the environment, while helping them to avoid abnormalities.

(Pix courtesy Praneeth Silva)


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EC: HC judgment won’t bar Premalal from contesting



… former, present polls monitors differ

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday (3) said that the recent Ratnapura High Court ruling, in respect of the 2015 January Kahawatte killing, wouldn’t bar SLPP candidate Premalal Jayasekera from contesting the parliamentary polls on August 5.

 Deshapriya said so when The Island asked for comment on the Ratnapura, High Court sentencing the SLPP candidate, along with two others, to death, over the killing of a person backing the then common candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

At the time of the incident, Jayasekera held the post of Deputy Minister in the SLFP-led UPFA government.

Deshapriya said that there had never been a similar case before though there had been cases of elected lawmakers being unseated after being found guilty by courts.

 “We’ll discuss the issue at hand after the election and decide what to do,” Deshapriya said, adding that there was no change in the status quo as a result of the Ratnapura HC ruling.

The EC consists of Mahinda Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

CMEV (Center for Monitoring Election Violence) spokesman Manjula Gajanayake told The Island that the top SLPP leadership should have considered all aspects before accommodating the former lawmaker on the Ratnapura nomination list. The SLPP could have easily avoided what Gajanayake called unnecessary complication by fielding another in place of Jayasekera, Gajanayake said. The polls monitor pointed out that the SLPP was aware that the Kahawatte case had been heard and the ruling was pending.

Responding to another query, Gajanayake said that the EC as well as political parties, especially those represented in parliament would have to address the issue.

Ratnapura District SLPP list comprises Vasudeva Nanayakkara (leader), Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi, Janaka Wakkumbura, John Seneviratne, Premalal Jayasekera, Dunesh Gankanda, Akila Ellawala, Sanee Rohana Kodituwakku,  Ranjith Bandara, Gamini Waleboda, Muditha Prishanthi, Hettiarachchige Lakshman Premaratne, Athula Kumara Rahubadda and Miyuru Bhashitha Liyanage. SLPP’s 14 candidates, include six former lawmakers. Of them, Dunesh Gankanda was elected from the Ratnapura district on the UNP ticket at the last parliamentary polls in August 2015.

 The SLPP should blame itself for the crisis, Gajanayake said.

 On Feb 26, 2019 four suspects who had been charged with killing of an individual in Kahawatta during the 2015 presidential polls campaign were acquitted and released by the High Court of Ratnapura. However, Jayasekera and two others remained as accused.

 Executive Director of PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Election) Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Island that at the time Jayasekera received nomination he hadn’t been found guilty by High Court of Ratnapura. Therefore, there couldn’t be an issue in voters exercising their franchise for Jayasekera tomorrow, Hettiarachchi said. However, the EC would have to seek legal advice before Jayasekera received oaths as a member of parliament. 

 The police arrested Jayasekera in the Beruwela police area while he was hiding after the high profile Kahawatte killing.

 CaFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections) head Ahamed Manas Makeen told The Island that the electorate should exercise their franchise for those who had clean records. Those who abused women and children or encouraged such practices, bribery and corruption and engaged or promoted violence or extremism shouldn’t be encouraged. Makeen said that the CaFFE stand was relevant to all districts not only Ratnapura where a candidate was sentenced to death.

 However Makeen’s predecessor, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, in a letter dated Aug 2 addressed to the EC, on behalf of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said that in terms of the Article 89 of the Constitution a convicted murderer is automatically deprived of the right to exercise his franchise. Therefore, Jayasekera couldn’t vote at tomorrow’s general election, Tennakoon said, pointing out that in terms of Article 91 of the Constitution, a person disqualified to vote at the general election couldn’t contest. Tennakoon urged the EC to advice the Returning Officer of Ratnapura accordingly without delay.

 Keerthi functions as the SJB representative at the EC.

 SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris said that they were watching the situation.


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Police initially believed in what Sampayo told them about Negombo Prison



Image grabbed from video footage of Sampayo speaking to the media on Sunday at Kurunegala

by Norman Palihawadane

The Negombo Police, probing the alleged links between prison officials and inmates serving time there for drug offences, said that there had been numerous complaints about drug cartels operating from the Negombo Prison but former Superintendent (SP) of the Negombo Prison, Anuruddha Sampayo, always told them that there were no such rackets.

SP Sampayo was of the opinion that some elements were spreading such stories to tarnish the good name of officers attached to the Negombo prison.

Sampayo, who was evading arrest after being issued warrants, surrendered, on Sunday

Following directions of the Attorney General, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on July 22 obtained arrest warrants, from the Negombo Magistrate, on Sampayo and three other officials of the Negombo Prison .

Sampayo is the first suspect in the case filed over committing irregularities in the Negombo Prison. The three other suspects in the case – Chief Jailor of the Prison Upali Sarath Bandara, Second Tier Jailer Nishantha Senaratne and Jailer Prasad Kalinga Kaluaggala – surrendered to the police earlier and they were remanded until Aug 04 by the court.

Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police Jaliya Senaratne said Sampayo had been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department after recording a statement.


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President says he will build people-centric economy



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa says he will build a people-centric economy. The government’s goal, he says, is to create a national economy that would help the local entrepreneurs, instead of selling national resources and country’s assets to foreigners.

Rajapaksa says it is important to come to terms with the harsh economic reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economically empower the people instead of talking about the cost of living.

The President made these remarks at rallies he attended in support of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna in the Hambantota District on Sunday (August 02).

The President attended a meeting at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Shopping Complex, Middeniya, and inquired from the public about their needs. The gathering was organised by the SLPP candidate Kapila Dissanayake. In response to a request for repairs to the roof of a building in Middeniya Maha Vidyalaya, the President ordered the Army Commander to look into the matter immediately.

The President also heeded a request by the public to develop the Middeniya Hospital.

Maha Sangha present at the public rally in Walasmulla Public Playground requested the President to carve out a Pradheshiya Sabha area for Walasmulla. The rally was organised by the SLPP candidate Lionel Subasinghe.

Some issues pertaining to the Walasmulla Hospital, bus stand and market were brought to the President’s notice. People requested the President to convert a school closed down in the Yahamulla, area for want of students, into a factory.

President Rajapaksa was warmly welcomed at a public rally near the Beliatta Pradheshiya Sabha organised by the SLPP candidate Namal Rajapaksa.

The President also attended a public rally, organized by candidates Namal Rajapaksa and D.V. Chanaka, near the Tangalle Municipal Council, and inquired from the crowd about their needs.

That was the last public gathering President Rajapaksa attended in the country-wide election campaign in support of the SLPP candidates, contesting tomorrow’s general election.


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