Retired Police Heads of Sri Lanka say “Do Not Devolve Police Powers to the Provinces”
Posted on December 4th, 2017

Shenali D Waduge

If anyone is qualified to speak on law & order in Sri Lanka it is these former Chiefs of Police with years of service, experience and now able to deduce aspects of law & order and its consequences as a result of political decision making. Therefore, their opinion against the Interim Report of the Steering Committee recommending the complete devolution of Law & Order to the Provinces is not only timely & important but one that cannot be ignored. It is therefore the duty of the Government & Interim Committee to peruse the 14 point resolution passed on 25 November 2017 at the AGM of retired Chiefs of Police of Sir Lanka.

The then Government of JR Jayawardena is faulted for agreeing to the insertion of law & order as a provincial subject included into Indo-Lanka Accord & 13amendment following the clandestine creation of armed militancy by India. The Government & advisors should have known the consequences of devolving law & order to newly created provinces when the North already having groups of men bearing arms & ammunition.

 

Successive Governments chose not to devolve police powers knowing the ground realities if police powers were to be devolved. What successive governments with parliamentary clout did not do was to take legal measures to remove land & police powers from the 13th amendment leaving no room for tantrums by those demanding it including high profile political analysts.

The retired police heads caution against devolution of police powers yet continue with decentralization as is being done.

The key areas of caution highlighted in the resolution passed by the former Police chiefs are

  • Dividing Sri Lanka’s Police Service into 9 Provincial Police Services is conceptually flawed, impractical & unnecessary in a country that is 25,000 sq.miles and a population of 21m
  • Dividing Sri Lanka’s Police Service into 9 Provincial Police Services undermines the unitary & unified command structure as it dismantles the police command structure making national accountability impossible especially in a national crisis or disaster affecting more than one province as no province can be held accountable to the nation. A good example is the recent petrol crisis & the responsibility fell on the Minister in charge of Petroleum and the CPC. That was so because control was under the Centre. Another example was the Ginthota clashes. The IGP had powers to directly give directions to the area police. If powers had been devolved the IGP would not have been able to do so. Another example is the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 as the Central Government was unable to take action until it had obtained the official approvals to send commandos to quell the terrorists and the delay cost many lives.
  • As per the Unitary model the Sri Lanka Police Service command & control structure conforms to the Police Ordinance with the IGP as head. The 13a envisages dividing this into two entities creating a National Police & Provincial Police. IGP will only hold a title role as head of the National police with authority only in the Metropolitan Police area which heads of the Provincial Police will exercise direct control over their allocated provinces. IGP therefore cannot be held response by the Minister in charge of Law & Order of the entire country while the Minister himself cannot be answerable to Parliament for the preservation of law & order in the country as it is the Chief Ministers to whom the heads of the Provincial Police will be directly reporting. This is not only creating problems and red tape but is a colossal waste of time and money to have two sets of police with everyone eventually passing the buck.
  • Another important area highlighted by the retired police chiefs is the fact that the Provincial Councils will have powers to enact legislation pertaining to law & order the danger of which is that the country will not have one uniform penal legislation despite having a common Criminal Procedure Code.
  • The retired chiefs have also highlighted how coordination, prevention, detection and investigation of crime will become not only complicated but cumbersome as well. They cite the 119 system where anyone can make a report by dialing 119 from any part of the island. Under devolved powers this system will not apply. They give the example of the recent gang rape case in Kayts where the main suspect tried to escape through the BIA with the alleged aid & abetting of the Northern Range S/DIG. However, he was nabbed at the airport before escaping because of this centralized system. In a devolved set up anyone committing a crime in one province will immediately escape to another province and there will be no system to arrest him. These pitfalls are presently prevalent in federal states of US, India too. Some people have married multiple times in different provinces too.
  • Another important aspect highlighted by the retired police chiefs is that the National Police will not be entitled to wear the police uniform in Provincial Council areas. They will be confined to ceremonial status only.
  • IGP that had been in charge of and in control of the entire police force will only be able to provide standards and guidelines without any guarantee that the Provinces will follow them
  • The police chiefs have also highlighted that recruitment to the police will be on provincial basis thus securing loyal to local politicians. No police officer could be transferred out of the province on disciplinary grounds even in cases of serious dereliction of duty. The retired heads feel that this would result in a thriving relationship among criminals and corrupt police and local politicians – a troika that would be a menace to the people living in a province.
  • Another important aspect highlighted by the retired police chiefs is the concern of national and public security where they point out the difficulties in collecting national intelligence by creating 10 separate police divisions (9 provincial police and the Metropolitan police) They predict anarchy and destability for the entire island nation.
  • The retired police heads make reference to the Election Manifesto of President Maithripala Sirisena on 19th December 2014 giving firm commitment to the Police Service to be depoliticized and promotions granted on basis of merit and performance. However, they point out that with devolution of police powers the police officers and the Provincial Police Commissions will come under direct control and directions of the Provincial Chief Ministers & Governors which will make that assurance a non-reality.

The points highlighted by the retired police chiefs cannot and should not be discarded by people who have no experience in running a police service as these retired police chiefs have. They are unanimous in their declaration that police powers SHOULD NOT be devolved under whatever circumstances or conditions and should remain with the Centre and under Central control in a unified & centralized system that has been functioning.

They have submitted copies of the Resolution to the President of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister, Minister of Law & Order, the Speaker & the National Police Commission for perusal and action. The President of the retired Police Service heads is H M G B Kotakadeniya.

The manner that LTTE was commemorated openly & ashamedly even by the Jaffna University & TNA is ample reason to completely refuse to devolve police or land powers to the provinces. This government is insane to be devolving complete powers to the provinces with dangers clearly envisaged by the retired police chiefs and the ground realities of how a banned terrorist movement was even commemorated inside a state university – Jaffna University and all that the present government could do was absolutely nothing. The TNA Northern Province Head had the audacity to even publicly say that the present government had given them assurances to do what they liked. Is this how a country is to be governed?

Shenali D Waduge

 

 

4 Responses to “Retired Police Heads of Sri Lanka say “Do Not Devolve Police Powers to the Provinces””

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    Thank you Shenali,

    Are they releasing it to the Public by giving copies of their resolution to the news papers??

    Then only it will have a weight. Otherwise Yahaps will throw it to the Dust Bin.

  2. SA Kumar Says:

    13A & 16A is Law of the Mother Lanka , Why Our CM NPC (Saiva TE) not gone to court to fully implement yet ???
    last three years in his job only job he done is just wind up Sinhala people waster than our Thasiya Thalaivar VP.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Many thanks to Shenali for this article.

    ————

    The Rtd Police Heads are quite right in their assessment here.
    The Tamil folk have been guided by their leaders and the CASTE erasing deals attempted in Lanka into some kind of unethical Hell, and any high powers given at this point in time would be a serious mistake.

    The worst part is when the North gets destabilised, it is the South that has to run and bring balance to those parts, for which the South gets the flak from the international community.
    This modus operandi of pasting the blame on the South and the ‘divide & rule’ must stop if the Tamil Community was true Peace & Progress for all in Lanka.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Read as : “. …. wants true Peace & Progress for all … “.

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