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Sri Lanka PM defends police chief accused of tampering

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday objected to the Constitutional Council discussing the controversial conduct of police chief Pujith Jayasundara.

Wickremesinghe told parliament that there was no formal complaint against Inspector-General Pujith Jayasundara who was caught on camera allegedly interfering in a Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) investigation.

"If there is any complaint against the IGP let us know. Right now, there is no such thing," the Prime Minister said in response to an announcement by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya that he as the chairman of the Constitutional Council will convene next week to discuss the IGP.

"Today there are several big threats of strikes.  At this time, reducing the powers of the IGP will not do. We need to ensure law and order in the midst of these strikes.

"We will discuss (at the CC) about this (IGP’s conduct) only if there is a direct allegation. Otherwise I will tell you straight away that there is no need to discuss it here (at the CC) and we will resolve this elsewhere."

The Premier’s response came after the Speaker made it clear that the Constitutional Council which appointed the IGP will decide his fate next week.

"The President has spoken about this. The Prime Minister has spoken about this. We met the Chairman of the Police commission. We are meeting the minister (Sagala Ratnayaka). Next week, the Constitution Council will meet. We will take a decision.

"There are different allegations. We will see. The Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition are in it (CC). There is a representative from the JVP… There are civil society representative in it. We will take a right decision," The Speaker said.

The IGP was nominated by a divided Constitutional Council in April and since then IGP Jayasundara had been censured by the Speaker over his conduct including a contentious statement that he could "bend the law."

On Thursday, President Maithripala Sirisena condemned the action of Jayasundara who was caught on camera assuring an unidentified telephone caller that he instructed the FCID not to arrest a "Nilame."

A local television network had been filming Jayasundara at a public event in Ratnapura when he stepped aside to answer the call. The cameraman kept recording Jayasundara and one part of the conversation is heard clearly.

The police chief is heard assuring the caller he repeatedly addressed as "sir, sir" and stressed that he had given "very clear instructions to the director of the FCID not to arrest the Nilame."

President Sirisena who addressed parliament Thursday during the committee stage debate of the budget said he watched the video and condemned Jayasundara’s behaviour.

Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella made light of the controversial conversation saying the IGP may have been talking to one of his school teachers and hence the reference to "sir."

However, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said it was Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka at the other end of the conversation with the IGP. The JVP leader said the telephone call was a public display of the government’s interference in FCID investigations.

The "Nilame" was identified by Dissanayake as Devinuwara Vishnu temple custodian Dishan Gunasekara, a former chairman of the Mineral Sands Corporation who faces several allegations of financial fraud during the former regime.

In his response Saturday, the Prime Minister said there was no attempt to influence the FCID investigation.

However, the embarrassing video recording also strengthened President Sirisena’s recent outburst against the FCID that it as well as the CID were working according to a political agenda.

The president also said he had remained silent for too long, but has now decided to speak out and take action.

(COLOMBO, December 3, 2016)

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