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UK to welcome a greater number of Sri Lankan students as Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine rolls out

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Sri Lankan students pursuing their higher studies in the UK will be able to access the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that is being rolled out across the country. The UK government has expressed its commitment to support international students during COVID-19, with universities’ minister Michelle Donelan writing an open letter to students thanking them for their patience at provisions introduced to tackle the spread of the virus. She has confirmed that the students will not be charged to apply for testing or treatment for COVID-19.

Speaking about the vaccine announcement, James Pitman, UK and EU Managing Director at Study Group said, “We are anticipating some positivity for the forthcoming academic year and would like to take this opportunity to thank our students for showing patience throughout the global pandemic. This vaccine, combined with effective treatments, will be significant in making COVID-19 a manageable disease, thereby allowing us to return to normality soon, so that, going-forward, we can welcome a greater number of Sri Lankan students to the UK.”

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of this vaccine overall – enough to immunise up to a third of the population. In fact, the government has secured early access to over 357 million vaccine doses through several vaccine developers. This will enable international students to access these vaccinations, just as they can access healthcare, including older international students or those with underlying medical conditions who will fall into priority categories.

The UK is consistently increasing in popularity to international students, with thousands of ambitious students choosing to pursue their qualification in one of the many world-class UK universities. According to 2018/2019 statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), there are currently 485,645 international students pursuing their degree in the UK. In the wake of the global pandemic and locked international borders, UK universities and their International Study Centres have been offering blended learning to students this year, which is a mix of face-to-face and virtual teacher-led learning. With access to Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Sri Lankan students can now be reassured and expect to return on-campus earlier by next year.

Study Group partners with 39 universities worldwide, to deliver academic pathway programmes (e.g., Foundation Year, International Year 1/Diploma and Pre-Masters courses), which broaden access to high-quality, global Higher Education opportunities for thousands of international students every year, across all subject areas.

 

 

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Lawyers request CJ to decide if political victimisation PCoI report amounts to contempt of court

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by A. J. A. Abeynayake

Four lawyers yesterday complained to Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, requesting an investigation to determine whether the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which probed political victimisation under the previous government, amount to contempt of court.

The four petitioners, Senaka Perera, Achala Seneviratne, Namal Rajapaksa and Thambiah Jeyaratnaraja have, in their complaint, stated they are of the view that the final recommendations of the Commission, which probed the period from January 8, 2015 to November 19, 2019, amounted to contempt of court and were inimical to the judicial system.

The lawyers have also requested that the Chief Justice pay attention to the recommendation by the commission that R. Duminda Silva be exonerated from all charges against him and the recommendation that Attorney General request that a full bench of the Supreme Court conduct a judicial review of the death sentence passed on Silva.

The lawyers pointed out that if an accused is not satisfied with a judgement delivered against him, he could request for a fuller bench to hear his case, but a third party cannot request a review of the verdict. The petitioners have also said that the Commission with its recommendations has caused an affront to the dignity of the court, its independence and the trust of the people.

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Amaraweera plans to ban certain types of plastic, polythene

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Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera examining some eco-friendly products that can be used in place of polythene and plastic.  Picture shows some such products.

Been there, heard that – environmentalists

By Ifham Nizam

The Environment Ministry yesterday reiterated that steps would be taken to ban the use of several types of plastic and polythene in the country from the end of this month.

Contacted for comment, environmentalists said that they had heard similar pledges to ban those products by previous Environment Ministers, but there had been no bans.

Previous Environment Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who even promised to ban asbestos besides harmful types of plastic and polythene had done absolutely nothing, they said adding that “He as the President of the country failed to ship back even the toxic garbage containers dumped here by the UK”.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday said the items to be banned would include disposable polythene and plastic, PET bottles (Poly Ethylene Terephthalate), lunch sheets thinner than 20 microns, sachets, excluding Food and Drug packaging, cotton buds, and inflatable plastic toys.

Amaraweera said that the focus of businesses on new alternatives to plastics and polythene was seen as a way to protect the environment.

The release of excessive amounts of plastics and polythene materials into the environment caused environmental degradation, the Minister said.

The Environment Ministry is having discussions with various stakeholders to introduce eco-friendly alternative products.

Amaraweera last week had a meeting with several private sector entrepreneurs.

Some industrialists also presented to the Minister some of the eco-friendly products they were using.

Plans are afoot to prepare a list of several plastic and polythene products, to be banned from March 31. About 350 products would be banned before the end of the current year, the Minister said.

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Fishing cats victims of mistaken identify 

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Villagers kill them as they resemble leopard cubs

By Ifham Nizam

The killing of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) is on the rise countrywide mainly because they resemble leopard cubs. They also end up as road kill.

The Sinhala term for fishing cats–– ‘Handun Diviya’––gives the jitters to many villagers who fear that the animals are leopards and a threat to them, according to researcher cum conservationist Chaminda Jayasekara.

Following the death of a farmer in a leopard attack recently, fishing cats are also being increasingly targeted and killed especially in some parts of the hill country.

“In some parts of Nawalapitiya, children fear to go out when word gets around that ‘Handun Diviyas’ were lurking in the vicinity,” Jayasekera said.

The killing of fishing cats happen primarily because some people assume that they could harm them as the animals are often misidentified as leopard cubs. This happens especially in the tea plantation areas due to the lack of knowledge of the species, Jayasekera stressed.

A large number of reptiles, small mammals and birds continue to perish on roads because when highways and other roads are built, only the safety of humans is taken into consideration, according to Jayasekera.

Naturalist cum author, Rajika Gamage yesterday told The Island that when highways were constructed here unlike in other parts of the world green highway concept was ignored. “There should be tunnels to give safe passage for small animals,” he said.

More than dozens of fishing cats were being killed recently in road accidents or in attacks by villagers, he too said.

A dead fishing cat had been found last week near the Log Hill tea estate belonging to the Mayfield estate in Kotagala, Hatton, Dimbula Police said.

Police believe the animal may have died in a road mishap.

 

 

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