Police Dept politicised over past few decades:
‘Sidelining’ advantageous to Jayasundara in the long run
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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.
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
“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
“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.