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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Sri Lanka police in dire straits as three-times lucky IGP gets extension: focus

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s police chief has got this third service extension, but the move by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to retain Chandana Wickramaratne also underscores the serious leadership crisis in the 157-year-old organization.

Granting another extension to Inspector-General Wickramaratne appears to be an affront to those appalled by the crime wave gripping the country, but not many know that the police chief has absolutely no disciplinary control over his officers because of the recent bureaucratic layer that has wrested the police chief’s powers.

While it is natural to hold the head of the police responsible for the prevailing pathetic state of law and order, the deepening crisis is a direct result of institutionally subverting the command-and-control structure, the Police Commission.

No Action Against Officers Coming Under Police Commission

“The Police Commission, which was intended to protect officers from politically motivated actions and transfers, may have ended up insulating them from any disciplinary action.”

The setting up of a Police Commission to handle all disciplinary matters and transfers of policemen and women has taken away the authority of the police chief to put such issues into effect himself. In fact, the IGP can only address the Police Commission through the secretary to the ministry of Public Security, a political appointee.

For example, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday attacks recommended disciplinary action against several top officers, including the then intelligence chief Nilantha Jayawardena and Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) Deshabandu Tennakoon, but nothing has been done to-date thanks to the ineffectual Police Commission.

The police chief’s authority extends only to men below the rank of sergeant and two lower-level constables have already been dismissed from the service for failing to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks. But, not a single senior officer has been disciplined to date because of procrastination by the Police Commission.

The same applies to police transfers. While the primary courts, the Attorney General and the police chief himself have called for the arrest/removal of officers such as Deshabandu Tennakoon from the Western province, the Secretary to the ministry of Public Security has blocked action.

Immediate and Comprehensive Reforms

It is clear that the current state of the Sri Lankan Police Department calls for immediate and comprehensive reforms. For a start, empowering the police chief, whether Wickramaratne is retained or not, is a crucial step towards addressing the issues plaguing the department.

In the current hierarchy, the officers directly in line to replace Wickramaratne have serious blemishes that preclude them. The first is current SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena who has been fined by the Supreme Court over his role in the Easter Sunday attacks. Next in line, SDIG Lalith Pathinayake and number three, SDIG Deshabandu Tennakoon have adverse findings against them and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry wanted them disciplined as well as criminally prosecuted.

Sources close to President Wickremesinghe said neither of the three contenders for the top job were considered and hence the extension to low-profile Wickramaratne.

Any change of guard in the leadership, however, may not change the law and order situation in the country given the disciplinary structure following the establishment of the Police Commission. The commission was intended to eliminate political interference and make the department more efficient, but successive commissions have repeatedly revealed their partisanship, which has effectively blocked any decisive action.

Politically Motivated Appointments Continue

The direct interference by the Ministry of Public Security has further compounded the issue. This interference has led to the appointment of politically motivated individuals in charge of police stations, many of whom have proven to be ineffective and ineffectual.

The consequences of this practice were evident after the violence that occurred on June 9, 2022, exposing the inefficiency of officers in charge of maintaining law and order and security.

Yet, there has been no significant shake-up in police leadership within high-crime areas. This lack of accountability not only perpetuates the problem but also raises serious questions about the integrity and effectiveness of law enforcement.

The IGP should be given the authority to lead the 80,000-plus men and women in the force and restore discipline and order. However, this reform must be part of a broader restructuring effort to make the entire police system more transparent, accountable, and responsive to the needs of the public.

The path to reform will be challenging, but it is necessary to restore public confidence and ensure the safety and security of the nation, especially in high-crime areas where drive-by shootings have become a grave concern.

The recent International Monetary Fund governnance diagnostic report went into a number of revenue agencies and suggested an internal affairs unit to probe misconduct of officials. Ironically police support was recommended for key agencies, including the anti-bribery commission.

However no mention was made of problems within the police, or the lack of an effective disciplinary mechanism or internal affairs unit within the police department itself. (COLOMBO/Oct 15/2023)

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  1. Yosuf says:

    Like any other state sector, political interference made the Police Dept inefficient and corrupt thereby causing lack of professionalism. God save this country

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  1. Yosuf says:

    Like any other state sector, political interference made the Police Dept inefficient and corrupt thereby causing lack of professionalism. God save this country

Sri Lanka police chief appointment against constitution: Opposition Leader

Samagi Jana Balavegaya leader Sajith Premadasa addresses the rally

ECONOMYNEXT – The appointment of Sri Lanka’s new police chief Deshbandu Tennakoon is against the constitution as the decision lacked required votes at the Constitutional Council, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday (26) appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the 36th Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the country after the Constitutional Council (CC) cleared the official who along with three other police officers were asked by the Supreme Court to compensate 2 million rupees in a fundamental rights case last year.

“CC didn’t approve IGP’s appointment. Votes: 4 for; 2 against; 2 abstentions. At least 5 votes are required for a decision,” Premadasa said in his X (Twitter) platform.

“Speaker has a casting vote only in case of a tie. 4/2 is not a tie! Constitution is being blatantly violated for the second time. Shame on you speaker!”

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena was not reachable for a comment on the Opposition Leader’s claim.

The President Media Division (PMD) said the President appointed Tennakoon “as the IGP in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”.

The island nation’s Supreme Court on December 14 ordered Tennakoon when he was the Acting IGP and three other officials to pay a compensation of 500,000 rupees each for the violation of the fundamental rights of an individual.

The Supreme Court also instructed the Police Commission to take disciplinary action against the said Police officers including Tennakoon after it considered the petition filed by W. Ranjith Sumangala who had accused the Police officers of violating his fundamental rights during his detention at Mirihana Police Station in 2011.

The Supreme Court held that the four police officers violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner by his illegal arrest, detention and subjection to torture at the Mirihana Police Station, which was under the supervision of Tennakoon at the time of the arrest. (Colombo/Feb 27/2024)

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All major party leaders Sri Lanka remained unpopular in January: poll

ECONOMYNEXT — All major party leaders in Sri Lanka continued to show negative favourability ratings in a January 2024 poll indicating continued unpopularity, with leftist leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake increasing his favourability by 12 points to -10.

The poll, run by the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), showed that favourability of opposition leader Sajith Premadasa declined by 9 points to -53 in January, while President Wickremesinghe’s also dropped by 9 points to -77.

The IHP said in a statement on February 22 that favourability estimates for each month are based on 100–500 interviews conducted during that month and during a few weeks before and afterward to ensure a minimum set of responses. The January 2024 estimates are based on 376 (Premadasa), 346 (Dissanayake), 361 (Wickremasinghe), and 121 (former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa) interviews.

According to the IHP, its Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey (SLOTS) surveys a national sample of adults (ages 18 and over) reached by random digit dialling of mobile numbers, and others coming from a national panel of respondents who were previously recruited through random selection.

SLOTS tracks favourability by asking respondents if they have a favourable or unfavourable opinion of a public figure or institution: net favourability being the average of the positive (+100) and negative (-100) responses. All
estimates are weighted to match the national population with respect to age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sector, province and past voting preference. Monthly estimates are based on samples of 100+ interviews pooled from interviews in each month and from weeks before and afterwards. As the January update uses a more recent data set than the previous update, there are small changes in estimates of favourability ratings for previous months.

According to the institute, the SLOTS survey has previously been funded by the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, the UK National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), The Asia Foundation in Sri Lanka, and others.

“Current field work is financed by the IHP Public Interest Research Fund and others. The sponsors play no role in the study design, analysis, or interpretation of findings. Furthermore, the survey findings do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of past and present funders. Interested parties can contact IHP for more detailed data and results,” it said in the statement. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Sri Lanka to seek private investments in water sector

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is looking to form public private partnerships in the water sector, specifically to focus on rural water supply, Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Jeevan Thondaman has said.

“Not privatization, but public private partnerships,” Thondaman said at a press briefing on Monday. “When we enhance private sector participation, we create a more competitive industry with better quality and cheaper prices.”

A water tariff formula, which will be reviewed annually or bi-annually, has been formulated and will be submitted to the cabinet, parliament and COPE committee, he said.

“Once this is in place, we will be able to attract investors to come on board. The water sector till now has not had a PPP model. We want to bring in private public sector partnerships in rural communities’ water supply; we believe they will be able to work hand in hand with community-based organizations to provide water to those who need it.

“I can give you one example, when you look at the water bottle that is being manufactured by the Water Board, you will see it’s from the Hanthana Estate; but people in Hanthana Estate still don’t have drinking water. There has been a top to bottom approach. Now we want to go rural first.

Most projects in the water sector had stalled post-crisis, Thondaman said, and the priority now was to resume them before attracting further investment into the sector. The minister said that there had been discussions with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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