Sri Lanka's new FM defends beleaguered police chief
By Our Political Correspondent
Aug 19, 2017 06:53 AM GMT+0530 | 1 Comment(s)
ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka's new Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana assumed office Friday defending embattled police chief Pujith Jayasundara who was enraged after an employee failed to participate in a mandatory meditation session.
Marapana dismissed the leaked video which showed police chief shaking a lift operator by the collar and making threatening gestures because he had not meditated for 15 minutes before starting work at headquarters.
"I don't consider it torture," Marapana said when asked by a reporter if Jayasundara's behaviour would strengthen allegations of rights groups that police routinely practice torture on suspects in custody.
"Torture is something that will severely injure a person," He said adding that what was seen on the video was "a person abusing a person. You can't equate it to torture."
During his tenure as Attorney-General from 1992 to 1995, Marapana had been defending the then government's dismal human rights record at international fora.
Marapana took exception to the questioning about the police chief's conduct and the fall out to Sri Lanka's international image saying: "There are much more important issues for us to give our attention."
However, he made it clear that any disciplinary action against the police chief was outside the authority of his ministry and expected the independent police commission to look into it.
Marapana was restored to the cabinet in May after he was forced to resign in 2015 after he defended in parliament the private Avant Garde Martime Services company which was accused of gun running.
The minister had been an attorney for Avant Garde and used the forum of parliament to declare that his client was not guilty of any wrong doing, a remark that raised howls of protests from his own colleagues.
Like Marapana, Jayasundara had also already caused a stir in February when he made daily meditation mandatory for the 85,000 officers and staff under his command. Work at all stations halted for 15 minutes every day because of the practice.
Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters on Wednesday that the incident risked further embarrassing Sri Lanka's police force, whose reputation has already been tarnished over allegations of abuses during the separatist war and thereafter.
"If our police chief is behaving like this, then we will have to accept when international organisations accuse our police of routinely using torture on suspects," Senaratne said.
Several news websites called for Jayasundara’s resignation and said he should be sacked if he did not step down on his own.
Jayasundara was the first police chief appointed by an independent commission set up in the aftermath of the civil war. He can only be removed by parliament. (COLOMBO, August 18, 2017)