ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka's newly-established Constitutional Council on Monday decided on Pujith Jayasundara, 56, as the country's next Inspector-General following a secret ballot and an intense debate over the propriety of the procedure.
At least one member of the council objected to their having to choose one out of three candidates nominated by President Maithripala Sirisena in contrast to the practice adopted in appointing the Attorney General in February.
"The Prime Minister tried to explain that this was an exceptional situation where the President had to choose a candidate out of three that included the head of his own security and village-mate," a source told Economynext.
He was referring to Senior Deputy Inspector-General S. M. Wickramasinghe who had aligned himself with President Sirisena after serving over a decade as head of security of his arch-enemy, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In the case of nominating an attorney general, the council returned the three names suggested for consideration by the President and asked him to make one nomination which he later did and which was ratified by the panel.
Following a brief but intense debate, the council decided to go in for a vote at the Speaker's chamber in parliament where only eight out of the 10 Council members were present.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha left their seats to mark a ballot under utmost secrecy and returned to the Speaker's chamber for the voting.
The results were not officially released to the public, but sources close to the process, which was also watched by two senior members of parliamentary staff, said there were five votes in favour of Jayasundara.
Senior DIG Wickramasinghe got one vote while another vote was "spoilt." Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who is the chairman of the council did not cast his vote.
Civil Society Let Down
Two of the three civil society nominees were absent from the historic landmark meeting to elect the first IGP following the 19th amendment that was designed partly to de-politicise the police department.
Mohamed Shibly Aziz, 70, eminent President's Counsel and Radhika Coomaraswamy, 63, a former under secretary general of the UN, were not present while A. T. Ariyaratne, 84, was the sole civil society voice.
"It is a tragic day for Sri Lanka that two thirds of the civil society representation was not there at this crucial meeting," a source linked to the process said. "At least they could have let their voices be heard.
"We have ended up with an IGP backed by one political party."
Both Wickramasinghe and Jayasundara had launched intense media campaigns to lobby for the top post while third placed Senior DIG Chandana Wickramaratne remained a dark horse.
Wickramaratne was seriously handicapped as politicians feared giving the top job to a younger man who could have held the post for seven years, longer than the term of the current government.
"He (Wickramaratne) was never really in contention because the two main parties feared that his tenure could guarantee that he could remain independent if he so desired," the source said shortly after Monday's vote.
IGP-elect Jayasundara and Wickramasinghe have the same seniority while Wickramaratne is seven months junior to them in service while being four years younger.
The Constitutional Council had been given the curriculum vitaes of all three officers who were asked to present themselves at the Speaker's chamber at 3.00 p.m. today.
The meeting started with a slight delay and the three officers were invited into the chamber and were told that the Council had made a "professional" decision.
They were not asked a single question nor invited to make any presentation, although it appeared that all three were prepared to make a case for themselves.
The Speaker invited them to have a cup of tea before thanking them for their presence. The president is expected to make a formal announcement of the new IGP shortly. (COLOMBO, April 18, 2016)