Sri Lanka police rush to learn sign language amid tapping claims

ECONOMYNEXT – Senior police officers were scrambling to learn sign language following disclosures that the Inspector General of Police was tapping their phones and snooping on digital communications, officials said on Wednesday.

More than 100 public servants, including a large number of police, completed an Australian-funded signing course on Monday and more were joining the next batch.

Officers said the course had suddenly become attractive to even the senior Deputy Inspectors of General (SDIGs) who have been targeted by police chief Pujith Jayasundara for telephone surveillance.

Several DIGs said their phones and e-mails had been compromised according to testimony before the Police Commission last week where it was revealed that communications of some 48 top cops were being listened to.

"Alternative ways of communication have become an urgent need because of the risk of phone tapping," a senior officer said. "We thank the Australian government for this timely intervention to improve internal communications of the Sri Lanka police.”

Senior officers have also told the police commission that Jayasundara does not speak to them, but was only trying to listen to their phone conversations and read text messages and e-mails which had nothing to do with police work.

Jayasundara recently flew into a rage when he found that many of his officers did not follow his orders to meditate every morning to start the day with equanimity.

The sign language training began in Matara district, the home constituency of Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake. It also comes two months after the government presented a bill to make signing an official language.

"The (sign) training will help to bridge the communication gap between the hearing-impaired community and wider society, enabling a more inclusive and supportive environment," the Australian High Commission said.

Second Secretary Nicholas Burnett said his country was a "firm believer in disability inclusive development – including people with disabilities."





A 2012 census has shown that there were 389,077 people in Sri Lanka with hearing disabilities.

A top official at a certificate awarding ceremony for the first batch of 120 men and women who completed a six-month sign language course said the orders could be passed down to the rank and file using sign language to avoid incriminating digital finger prints.

(COLOMBO, November 29, 2017)

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