Sri Lanka’s ‘historical error’ in choosing new IGP: activists
Posted on April 23rd, 2016

Courtesy The Island


The Constitutional Council’s selection of a new IGP through a secret ballot carried out in the absence of two of the three civil society representatives was slammed Saturday as a “historic blunder.”

An activist group known as Decent Lanka 2015 which includes journalist Kusal Perera and lawyer Srinath Perera accused the CC chaired by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya of “bluffing” the people.

Jayasuriya did not vote when the Council met on Monday (April 18) in parliament to decide a nominee to be the new IGP from among three candidates — S. M. Wickramasinghe, Pujith Jayasundara and Chandana Wickramaratne.

Jayasundara, 56, was chosen through a secret ballot in sharp contrast to the procedure adopted in choosing the Attorney General in February by the same Council.

Objections by JVP representative Vijitha Herath that the Council’s  procedure was seriously flawed and against the constitution were overruled and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reportedly initiated the secret ballot following a meeting that lasted less than an hour.

“What the people need from the Council is not a majority decision in appointing a person to a high position, but the appointment of the right person through a credible, open procedure,” the activists said while expressing their “disgust.”

They were also critical of two out of the three civil society representatives in the Council — Mohamed Shibly Aziz, 70, eminent President’s Counsel and Radhika Coomaraswamy, 63, a former under secretary general of the UN.

Both were absent while while only  A. T. Ariyaratne, 84, was the sole civil society voice.

“It is… disturbing how the three members who are included in the Council to represent the ‘People’ compromise their responsibility.

“Though numerically outnumbered, they have to represent the people and stand for a transparent procedure in selecting persons to high positions in the state.

“This particular decision (of appointing IGP) carries with it, lot more heavy blunders that make it a historical error. An error that should never again be allowed over selections and recommendations in the future and this corrected IF possible through public demand.

“All publicity about requesting CV’s (curriculum vitaes) for scrutiny from the three nominees sent in by the President and inviting them for a viva voce that never happened was nothing but sheer political bluffing.”

The activists demanded that the Council publish the CV’s it received from the three candidates and explain why they the three officers were not allowed to make a case for themselves before the Council.

They also wanted the council to declare the criteria for choosing Jayasundara over the other three and spell out the procedure adopted in deciding he was better than the other two.

At least one member of the council objected to their having to choose one out of three candidates nominated by President 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 said.

He was referring to Senior Deputy Inspector-General Wickramasinghe who had aligned himself with President Sirisena after serving over a decade as head of security of his arch-enemy, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Double Standards

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 only one nomination which he later did and which was ratified by the panel.

Following a brief but intense debate on double standards, the council through a majority 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.

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.

Both Senior DIGs 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.

Jayasundara and Wickramasinghe have the same seniority while Wickramaratne is seven months junior to them in service while being four years younger.

All three officers were invited to parliament on Monday, but 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.

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