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Taxonomists discover new ‘true frog’ genus from South-east Asia



by Ifham Nizam

Discovering new species is fundamental for the expansion of knowledge of the endangered biodiversity of the planet, a large part of which still remains unknown to science.

It is rare to discover a completely new genus or higher taxon. Most new species discovered nowadays are part of well-known genus.

A group of taxonomists discovered a new genus of ‘true frogs’ and ‘ranid frogs’, which scientifically belong to Family Ranidae, according to a research article in the latest edition of the Journal of Asian Biodiversity, ‘Taprobanica’.

The new genus is named as “Bijurana” in honour of Prof. Sathyabhama Das Biju of the University of Delhi, India, for his enormous contribution towards amphibian research and conservation in the Indian subcontinent.

Prof. Biju is renowned as “the frogman of India” for bringing fresh fascination for Indian amphibians. He has discovered hundreds of new species new genera as well as new families. This world renowned taxonomist has been working very closely with many Sri Lankan amphibian taxonomists for decades.

The research of discovering new genus was conducted by three expert herpetologists and taxonomists in the Asian region, S. R. Chandramouli, an Indian researcher at Pondicherry University, Amir Hamidy, an Indonesian researcher at Indonesian Institute of Sciences and Thasun Amarasinghe, a Sri Lankan researcher at University of Indonesia.

The frog family Ranidae comprised 26 genera in the world. Among these, 15 genera, namely Abavorana, Amolops, Chalcorana, Clinotarsus, Huia, Humerana, Hydrophylax, Hylarana, Indosylvirana, Merystogenis, Nidirana, Odorrana, Papurana, Pseudorana and Pterorana are in the Oriental Region.

The first systematic classification of true frogs of the genus rana was carried out by world- renowned, most senior amphibian expert in the world, Alain Dubois in 1992. Prof. Dubois placed the sub-Saharan African Ranid frogs into the genus Amnirana and placed the unique species, Hylorana nicobariensis found in Nicobar Islands in South and Southeast Asian genus, Sylvirana, considered the most appropriate placement for the species at the time.

However, subsequent researchers from different parts of the world reallocated the species into different genera during the past two decades from Sylvirana to Hylarana, Hylarana to Amnirana and thereafter from Amnirana to Indoylvirana.

Actually since the discovery of Hylorana nicobariensis in 1870, the taxonomists were unable to find the correct generic position of this species. Therefore, its generic position has changed more than 10 times during last 150 years.

The tree experts reassessed the systematic position of Nicobarese species based on an integrative approach of both phylogenetic and morphological affinities and described a new genus to solve the long disputed taxonomic issue of true frogs.

The team observed these animals during last decade in Nicobar and Indonesian Islands with the support of their respective institutes and governments. They also recorded calls of Nicobarese frogs and analyzed the sounds. The description of the new genus will shed new light on the conservation of the species, as the new genus is now endemic to Southeast Asia, which earlier considered distributed up to sub-Saharan Africa.

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Appointment of GM led to CEB chief’s resignation?



By Ifham Nizam

Amidst further deterioration of the power crisis, the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) M.M.C. Ferdinando has tendered his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

In a letter to the President, the Attorney-at-Law said that he is quitting due to personal reasons. Ferdinando will resign as Chairman/Member of the Electricity Board with effect from Feb. 1.

Sources close to Ferdinando said that the incumbent CEB Chairman did not want to be in that position following the appointment of Eng. Dr. D.C.R. Abeysekera as CEB General Manager. Abeysekera received his letter of appointment from Ferdinando on Tuesday (25).

Abeysekera received the appointment at the expense of Dr. Susantha Perera, whose designation as the GM on a temporary basis was resisted by the engineers’ union as he is a retiree.

Retired public servant Ferdinando was brought in as the CEB Chairman on July 19, last year soon after Sri Lanka entered into what was called a framework agreement with the US energy firm, New Fortress Energy. The agreement now challenged in the Supreme Court was finalised on 17 Sept, last year with Ferdinando endorsing it as an Advisor to the Finance Ministry.

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UK indicates sanctions against Lanka military



By Shamindra Ferdinnado

Close on the heels of UK Foreign Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad’s three-day visit here, the House of Commons has been told that measures were being contemplated as regards the Sri Lankan military.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Amanda Milling has told Parliament that the government regularly engaged with the US and other partners on issues relating to Sri Lanka. She has further said: “The UK government keeps all evidence and potential designations under the UK Global Human Rights sanctions regime under close review, guided by the objectives of the sanctions regime. We would not normally speculate about future sanctions targets, as to do so could reduce their impact.”

The Conservative Party member was responding to Labour Party’s Siobhain McDonagh on Tuesday (25). MP Milling was responding to a query McDonagh posed to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Elizabeth Truss, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the sanctions imposed by the US on General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan army.

The US in Feb 2020 imposed a travel ban on General Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Recently, the US extended its action against the Sri Lankan military by issuing travel ban on retired Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera.

The UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has commended the British stand.

Concerned Lankan military sources said that the UK in its capacity as the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was planning further measures ahead of the next human rights sessions.

UK based sources told The Island that that type of written parliamentary question was usually answered by a government minister from the FCDO.

Sources explained as this particular question dealt with Sri Lanka, the minister responsible was Lord Tariq Ahmad, but as he represented the House of Lords he couldn’t make statements in the Commons chamber.

Sources added that it would be rare that a question on Sri Lanka would be directly responded to by the Foreign Secretary Truss

Commons member Amanda Milling is Minister of State for Asia, therefore her portfolio closely matches Tariq Ahmad’s brief.

Incidentally, the FCDO now has a British Tamil in a senior position. Maya Sivagnanam is South Asia Deputy Director for the Indian Ocean Region at the FCDO.

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JCPSM token strike cripples hospitals in Western Province



Strikers want Health Ministry to solve their problems within 10 days

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Joint Council of Professions Supplementary to Medicine (JCPSM) launched a 24-hour token strike yesterday (26) at 7 am at all hospitals in the Western Province. It consists of 16 unions.

The JCPSM has urged the government to address its members’s grievances including salary anomalies and issues related promotions. The strike had crippled hospitals in the province, Health Ministry sources said.

The JCPSM said emergency care, essential services and the treatment of COVID patients had not been affected by the strike.

President of the Government Nurses’ Association and former UNP National List MP Saman Rathnapriya said they had been urging the government to solve their problems for the past two months.

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island that they would end the token strike by 7 am today m(27) and thereafter give the government 10 days to address their demands.

“We will launch a continuous strike if the demands are not met within 10 days,” he said.

President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that most unions seemed to have lost the ability to solve disputes through negotiations.

“The unions have become too politicised, and the people are suffering as a result.”

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