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Sunday, 24 April 2016





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Police Dept politicised over past few decades: 

‘Sidelining’ advantageous to Jayasundara in the long run

Pujith Jayasundara, now a household name, made history last week as the first Sri Lakan Police Chief appointed by the Constitutional Council set up under the provisions of the 19th Amendment.

The Police Department, an efficient and a well-respected body at the time Sri Lanka received Independence from British rule, was systematically politicised over the past few decades and the Rajapaksa administration, in its ten-year rule, took this issue to a whole new level.

Sometimes, police officers were handpicked for certain positions in the department based on their ‘political loyalty’ and the willingness to go out of the way to pander to the needs of their political bosses.

Under the past administration, the Police Department was at the centre of some major controversies and the public considered it a mere tool in the hands of those in power.

It is in this backdrop that the Constitutional Council making a decision on the new IGP became an event of great significance.

Three front-runners

There were three front-runners for the IGP’s position, Senior DIGs S.M. Wickremasinghe, Pujith Jayasundara and C. Wickremaratne. While Wickremesinghe functioned as the acting IGP after the former DIG’s retirement President Maithripala Sirisena sent all three names to the Constitutional Council.

The new IGP Pujith Jayasundara talks to the media.
Pic: Wimal Karunathilaka

The Constitutional Council, however, initially expected the President to nominate only one candidate for the post. When the President previously suggested three names for the Attorney General’s position, the Council requested the President to recommend only one name. Accordingly, the President suggested Jayantha Jayasuriya’s name as the new Attorney General.

In this case, the President could not resort to the same procedure as one of the three candidates – Senior DIG Wickremasinghe – was in charge of the President’s security and he was, in fact, the most senior officer in the IGP race. Seniority, however, was not the only factor concerning the new appointment, and there were other key areas that needed to be taken into consideration.

On the other hand, Wickremesinghe hailed from Polonnaruwa – the electorate of President Sirisena. The police officer is the son of one of the famous farmers in the district who earned the title govi raja for his prowess in farming.

The officer, therefore, had a long-standing association with the President who represented the Polonnaruwa district in Parliament since 1989.

This was the main reason why the President decided to propose three names to the Constitutional Council, without naming one candidate. This was in stark contrast to the practice followed by the Rajapaksas when making vital appointments. On the other hand, there was no Constitutional provision barring the President’s move.

After the President’s decision, the ten-member council informed all three candidates to be present before it on Monday.

As the council was entrusted with the task of selecting an IGP, it decided to conduct three separate interviews with the nominated candidates.


According to many political critiques, Wickremasinghe’s main disadvantage was his earlier engagement with former President Rajapaksa.

He was the security chief of the former President and as a result he had to take a lot of flak from some sections of the media.

Certain members of the former President’s security wing are already under investigation and some good-governance activists assumed that Wickremasinghe’s appointment, as the IGP, would pose a threat to those investigations. One such high-profile investigation was the CID inquiry into former rugby player Wasim Thajudeen’s death which has become a hot topic for the media.

There was another incident that stood in Wickremesinghe’s way in the IGP race. On April 25, last year, Army Commando Cpl. Senaka Kumara, who was detailed to protect former President Rajapaksa, entered the room where a meeting was being addressed by President Sirisena at Angunukolapelessa, allegedly armed with a 9 mm pistol.

MP Namal Rajapaksa, with whom the soldier had arrived at the event, however, later claimed that Kumara was carrying only a water bottle. Although the Police media spokesman said it was a firearm, two PSD officers,who were in charge of the security of the event, released the soldier.

Although the solider was later taken into custody by the CID, the incident created a controversy at that point as it posed a threat to the President’s personal security. Wickremesinghe, as the head of the President’s security, was also at the receiving end of criticism over the matter.Jayasundara, on the other hand, had no disadvantages of that nature. He was popular among the public mainly due to his friendly relations with the media and community-development projects.

His first appointment as Superintendent of Police (SP) took him to Ratnapura in 1991, where his work extended beyond ordinary affairs of the police service. He took to police community activities in Balangoda, Opanayake, Kahawatte and Kuruwita working with youth clubs, Grama Sevaka divisions and the Civil Defence Committees, organising shramadana campaigns.

He saw immense value in such activities in bridging the gap between the community and the police, to build greater trust between them and fight social issues such as corruption and crime.

The community work he initiated covered six main areas including health, education, culture, sports, shramadana and religious activities.

He also initiated the ‘police star’ program, an event to empower and engage youth; the torchbearers of tomorrow. Such events were also supported through donations by people and businesses, with the community’s civil defence committees functioning in charge of finances.

It was common knowledge in police circles that Jayasundera was sidelined under the Rajapaksa administration for some reason or the other. This ‘sidelining’, in a way, was advantageous to him in the long run as his name was not linked with any serious allegation under the Rajapaksa rule. As a result, when he vied for the IGP’s post, he could project himself as an officer with a clean track record.

Social media

In fact, Jayasundara was the most popular ‘IGP candidate’ on social media platforms. He was an active member of Facebook for more than eight years and as a result, he had a significant social media following. His social media presence earned him great support from the youth.

The other contender in the race, Senior DIG Wickremaratne was the most junior officer of the three and he did not pose serious competition to the main contenders.

But, many recognised Wickramaratne as an efficient and a highly capable officer with an unblemished career record. From the perspective of the council, however, it was a choice between Wickremasinghe and Jayasundara.

Unexpected issue

Meanwhile, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, a member of the Constitutional Council, faced an unexpected issue with some critiques saying that he should distance himself from the process of selecting the IGP as he was facing a police investigation.

The Minister faced a police inquiry over an accident where a 25-year-old youth was critically injured. They said the minister’s involvement in the process would amount to “conflict of interest.”

However, Ranawaka was present at the council session on Monday and none of the members raised any objection against his presence. Therefore, the Minister could take part in the ‘IGP selection process’ without any obstacle.

According to informed political sources, seven out of ten Constitutional Council members were present when they interviewed the three candidates. CC members Shibly Aziz and Radhika Coomaraswamy were absent on Monday.

After the interviews, the Council decided to take a vote and Jayasundara received five votes in his favour. Wickremasinghe received only one vote and another vote got rejected.

The appointment of the IGP was one of the most important decisions made by the Constitutional Council since its appointment in October, last year. Therefore, the absence of the two civil society representatives was conspicuous and some even raised questions about their lack of involvement in the entire process.

Under attack

However, the manner in which the Constitutional Council selected the new IGP came under attack from the Rajapaksa group. UPFA parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila told a briefing at his party headquarters that according to Section 42 of the Constitution, the CC only has the authority to either approve or disapprove a nomination submitted by the President.

Gammanpila said the President acting against the Constitution had presented the CC with three nominations.

“The same mistake was committed by President Maithripala Sirisena when the Attorney General was appointed two months ago, by nominating three names for the post. But the CC informed the President to call off the nominations as they have the authority to either approve or disapprove one nomination given by the President and not to do any selection,” Gammanpila said.

The CC, surprisingly, had forgotten their standpoint within two months and had selected one name of the three nominations sent by the President, he said. According to Gammanpila, the CC had to take this measure as there were two nominations - one from the President and the other from the Prime Minister for the post.

“The CC might have taken such a decision due to its uncertainty that the most suitable name would not be nominated by the President,” he added.

It was evident that the parliamentarian was trying to create a tension between the President and the Prime Minister over the IGP’s appointment. However, Gammanpila’s argument did not gather momentum among political circles as many thought the council had enough teeth to select a suitable candidate through a transparent process.

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapksa, countering Gammanpila’s argument said, the Constitutional Council never acted beyond its mandate when selecting an IGP.

“The individuals concerned are also responsible for his security, so he did not want to make a final decision and preferred to let the CC make a collective decision on the selection of the next IGP,” he said.


Referring to the provisions in the Constitution, the minister argued that the CC has been empowered to make a selection when more than one name has been put forward by the President for the posts listed in the schedule, which includes the post of the IGP.

“According to the Constitution, provisions have been made for the Council to make a selection,” Rajapakshe, a member of the council, said.

However, when President Sirisena forwarded two names for the appointment of the Attorney General, the CC sought a clarification and requested the President to put forward one nomination for approval of the Council. Commenting on the issue surrounding Ranawaka, Minister Rajapakshe claimed that no member of the Council raised any concerns of conflict of interest in Ranawaka being involved in the selection process.

“These are common issues. None of the nominees was involved in the investigation. The investigation is being conducted by ordinary officers in the police force,” Rajapakshe said.

When the new Police Chief assumed duties, the CID made a significant breakthrough in the Thajudeen investigation launched nearly 13 months ago. The CID made the first arrest in the much-talked-about case by taking into custody former Crimes OIC of the Narahenpita police station,Sumith Chinthaka Perera. He was arrested on charges of concealing information and presenting ‘misrepresented’ information to court.

Following Perera’s arrest, the CID is conducting inquiries to arrest four other senior police officers on the same charges. Among them are a serving ASP and a retired Senior DIG who played an important role in the initial investigations into Thajudeen’s death.

The serving ASP facing imminent arrest was also an OIC of a police station in the Colombo district at the time of the rugby player’s killing.

The CID has now established that the officers of the Crime branch of the Narahenpita police station had handled the investigations into the incident and had determined the rugby player’s death as an ‘accident’.

“Although they determined that the death as an accident, the traffic branch of the police station was never involved in the investigation.

If it was an accident, the traffic unit should have handled the investigation,” a highly placed source of the Police Department told the Sunday Observer.

He said there was evidence to suggest that the death was described as an accident following instructions from a very senior police officer involved in the inquiry. The officer, apparently, had strong links with the top-brass members of the previous administration.

Closed door meeting

The same officer had allegedly held a closed door meeting with Thajudeen’s father a few days after the killing and exerted pressure on the family to prevent them from pursuing the matter further.

“He had said it was an accident and there was no point in probing into the death. There was, however, prima facie evidence to suggest that it was a crime because Thajudeen’s wallet was found 1.5 km away from the place where he was killed,” a source close to the rugby player’s family said.

A highly placed Police source said, “the entire inquiry has been handled in a flawed and suspicious manner. No proper procedure has been followed and there are loopholes everywhere! There is enough evidence to suggest that they had attempted to cover up a heinous crime.”

In an interesting development, however, former OIC Perera had told the CID that he received instructions from his higher authorities to refrain from conducting further investigations into the player’s death.

Filing a report in Colombo Magistrate’ Court, the CID said its detectives were able to record a statement from former Narahenpita Crimes OIC Sumith Champika Perera prior to his arrest for allegedly covering up evidence in connection with the murder of Wasim Thajudeen.

The former Narahenpita Crimes OIC had further told the CID that he was compelled to conduct investigations, with the pre-determination that Thajudeen’s death was due to an accident, on the instructions of high-ranking police officers.

According to the B report filed by the CID, the former Crimes OIC will face several charges under Section 296 of the Penal Code, for fabricating false evidence, concealing a design to commit an offence and causing disappearance of evidence.

It was widely reported that the CID teams handling the investigation had already traced the suspects who allegedly committed the murder. According to media reports, among the possible suspects in the case are several bodyguards of the former First Family.

Cabinet ‘drama’

The Cabinet meeting this week had its own share of ‘drama’ as President Sirisena sounded stern on some of the new taxes imposed by the government.

“It is not a wise move to impose taxes in a manner that would affect the poor and the less privileged. I got to know about some new taxes through the media,” the President said, starting the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

“Hereafter, financial decisions cannot be taken in a haphazard manner. A committee comprising the President, Prime Minister and the Finance Minister will make such decisions,” the President said.

His claims were supported by Minister S.B. Dissanayake who said the UNP and the SLFP should be on the same page when it comes to matters relating to the finance sector.

Several other SLFP ministers too were seen grumbling about keeping them in the dark about important policy matters of the country.

At this point, Minister Rajitha Senaratne, a politician who has strong links with both camps, said the matter should be viewed with an open mind, without jumping to hasty conclusions.

“We need to learn to operate within the framework of a coalition government. For instance, some ministers are talking about forming an ‘SLFP government’ in two years. Fortunately, ministers representing the UNP haven’t made such remarks so far. Statements of that nature disappoint our voters.

They may think we are only greedy for power and we have no interest in developing the country,” Senaratne said, directing his criticism at some of his Cabinet colleagues.

The President, at this point, shared his views on some statements by the pro-Rajapaksa group on forming a government.

“How can they form a government with less than 50 MPs. They first need to find a simple majority in Parliament.

I have given them bullet-proof vehicles and Army security, even without any potential security threat. But, they still attack me,” he said. Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, responding to the President’s remark, said even the former Defence Secretary had been given Army Security. “This has never happened in other countries. This sets a bad precedent,” Fonseka said.


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