Devolution of police powers to provinces: A recipe for disaster
Posted on December 27th, 2016

by Gamini Gunawardane Retd. Snr. DIG Courtesy The Island

A proposal to devolve police Powers to the Provinces has been made again. Under the yahapalana government’s constitutional reform project, the strict implementation of the provisions for devolution of police powers under the 13th Amendment and more is proposed by the Sub-Committee on Police, Law and Order, setting out how it would be done. The purport of this article is to warn that these recommendations are fraught with the danger of leading the country up a blind alley and causing further confusion in law and order maintenance. In short, it will spell disaster for the country.


Undermining the Unitary concept

Conceptually, the implementation of this provision under the 13th Amendment undermines the very essence of the unitary concept spelt out in Article 2 of the ’78 Constitution, because unitary policing of the country is the main instrument that characterises the government’s hold on the entire country. That devolution of power/power sharing with the provinces can be done within a unitary state is mere hogwash. This is an exercise in deceiving the people.

Although J. R. Jayewardene was coerced into adopting 13th Amendment in July 1987, he did not devolve police powers to the provinces because he knew it would mean the disintegration of the territorial integrity of this country. Nor did the other four Presidents who followed him. They all understood they would lose control of the country if they devolved the police powers to the arbitrarily demarcated provinces. For, law and order of the country is the primary responsibility of the President/Parliament to the citizenry because the preservation of order is the pre-condition for a country to function smoothly. How could the President or Parliament possibly discharge this primary responsibility, when the police chiefs of the provinces report to the respective Chief Ministers of different political parties? This lack of cohesion is a sure prescription for disorder and havoc.

This becomes critical in a crisis. Thus, although the government insists that the concept of the unitary character of the state will not be touched, the effective devolution of police powers as envisaged in the proposed constitutional reforms, demolishes the unitary foundation of the Constitution from within. The ‘unitary’ label will be a mere embellishment or sheer eyewash in such an eventuality.

Demolition of Police Command structure

Whatever the criticisms there are against the police, the secret of their efficient functioning as an organization is due to their well-oiled unitary command structure that has held the department together for 150 years, and withstood three insurrections and a conspiracy to overthrow the government. The Police Department built on a fine conceptual and organisational foundation, with a sound accountability chain. It may be one main reason that it is consistently attacked by the political authority to undermine it. (The recent controversial telephone call to the IGP by a government big wig is the latest example.)

Although the British colonial government arbitrarily divided country into provinces to suit their requirement thus paving the way for the present chaos, the establishment a unitary policing model benefited this country, because of its smallness and since it is an island of 25,000 sq. miles.

The efficiency of the unitary command system was seen last year in the gang rape case of a schoolgirl in Kayts. The fleeing main accused, who lived in France, was caught at the Katunayake Airport overnight together with the video recording of the incident. How could this have been possible without a well co-ordinated unitary command structure in action?

The Police command structure consists of two arms, Functional Command and Territorial Command under the IG Police, who is responsible for the effective policing of the whole country.

Functional Command consists of the Administrative, Personnel, Logistics and the many specialised and technical support services, which is the machinery that runs the police organisation coherently.

The Territorial Command is the crime fighting, order maintenance and people serving arm of the police. Because it is this arm that is outwardly visible and is flamboyant, politicians are salivating at the thought of gaining control over this arm. They do not understand that it is the smooth co-ordination of these two arms that delivers an efficient service. They do not understand that it is the efficacy of the unitary command structure that provides the functional support to the Territorial Command by arms such as 119, Automated Fingerprint Identification System, the Kennels Division, Riot Police and Command Control Room, STF and many others that provide silent support to the fighting fronts to facilitate efficient service delivery. This is how the total machinery works. These are all time tested methods of policing, taken for granted by politicians and others of their ilk without understanding how this system has worked for 150 years.

When the British colonial government arbitrarily divided the country, first into five provinces and later to nine provinces for their administrative convenience, they maintained the police as a unitary structure to ensure an effective and uniform Law Enforcement System. Although we do not have to adopt the colonial methods that are inimical to our interests we must not throw away the baby with the bathwater.

The Indians imposed a province based devolution system on us to appease Prabhakaran, to wean him away from terrorism, to offer an arrangement they thought might be acceptable to him. He rejected devolution lock, stock and barrel. What the Indians offered was modeled on their own quasi-federal system, which they mistakenly thought could be applicable in a country which is smaller than the smallest Indian state. Now that Prabhakaran is no more and there is no terrorism, it will be foolish to adapt a system designed to meet a situation that is no longer existent.

Today, with the revolutionary development of road, railway and air transport systems, telephone and IT communication systems daily advancing at a rapid rate, crime and criminals and their methods are advancing equally fast. We are told that the world is daily shrinking into a ‘global village’. How can we now go back to an arrangement based on a provincial division made in 1833, when more decentralisation is the answer? There is no way now to micro manage systems when we are in an integrated whole. We need to plan for the future, not for the past.

Under the proposed devolution concept, the National Police with IG as the head and 9 other Provincial Police organisations headed by a DIG each, will be reporting not to the IG but to the Chief Minister. The National Police are going to be only the Functional Command under the IG, and possibly the Metropolitan area police of Colombo. Under the latest recommendations, there is going to be 9 Police Ordinances and possibly 9 IGPs, all for this small country!

Whenever the National Police need to do any work in the provinces, those officers will have to be in civil clothing. This arrangement removes the present Police Ordinance enabling provision to the effect that any police officer is empowered to function in any part of the country at any time. How would this facilitate the intelligence gathering function which is the mainstay of national security?

National Police Commission

Besides, in this anomalous situation, what will be the function of the National Police Commission in the context of 9 Provincial Police Commissions in the country? The NPC will thus be looking over only the functional Command and the Metropolitan area police, which is not the purpose for which it was created. It will have no say over the provinces. And probably will be redundant.

Provincial policing

Under these circumstances, policing the provinces will be the responsibility of each province. They will be in watertight compartments as per the political segregation. But, the real situation on the ground with the rapidly expanding physical communication, especially propelled by the super highway system etc. criminals and crime will be moving across the different provincial entities, while the police will be hamstrung as regards responding to ‘cross-border’ crime as every time they want to move into other provinces, they will have to obtain permission of the relevant Chief Ministers. Thus the criminals will have a field day enjoying the patronage of the local Chief Ministers! Thus, this chaotic situation in ineffective policing will be promoting lawlessness in the country, over which there will be no collective responsibility. The final victim will be the helpless citizen who is already in a mess.

Thus, the dismantling of a well-functioning time tested organisation merely to accommodate the ‘aspirations’ of a bunch of politicians is a recipe for disaster.

11 Responses to “Devolution of police powers to provinces: A recipe for disaster”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Without going into semantics of why or why not police powers should be granted to the Provincial Councils what is incumbent on the general populace is to find out how practical it will be to administer and police the island if these powers are granted to the provinces. They should be mindful of what would happen to our age old Buddhist culture. They should be mindful of what will happen to the security of the island when the sea shore and the sea adjoining will become part of the provinces. What will happen to the 12 Mile and 200 mile economic maritime jurisdictions and the resources there in?

    If land and police powers are granted there will be endless border disputes as well as cross border crime. It will be easy for criminals to move freely across borders while it will be almost impossible for law enforcement authorities to function. Knowing the status of politics in Sri Lanka and especially among the minorities – the Tamils and the Muslims – there will be endless jaw-jawing before criminals can be apprehended or if at all.

    There will be disputes over water sharing across almost every little waterway that cross the provincial boundaries, and Sinhalese will be robbed of their land by force and through terrorism. This could well be the beginning of civil war right across Sri Lanka.

    What has to be understood is the mentality of those who propose these deadly proposals. What do they aim to gain by going into these highly theoretical exercises. Have they even got a iota of brain matter to realise what a mess Sri Lanka will end up as? As for the recipients of these powers it is manna from heaven to indulge in dismembering Sri Lanka and ultimately driving Sinhalese to extinction wiping out an entire civilisation that has existed since time immemorial. Some of those aspirations of contending forces could be as follows:

    * Make Sri Lanka a colony of India / Tamil Nadu
    * Make a Muslim nation as had been done to a multitude of former Buddhist Countries in Asia
    * Make Sri Lanka subservient to the Christian West and ultimately a Christian country like South Korea

    Under the current proposals for devolution of power they are envisaging powers that even go beyond those that are given to different states in the Indian Federation. Sri Lanka a country which is only a third the size of Tamil Nadu and smaller than West Virginia in the US is to be administered as 9 separate states with full parliamentary and legislative powers.

    The politicians in power are only interested in staying in power and enriching themselves. It is up to the general population to stand up to the great crime that is to be perpetrated before their very eyes. If we given into these unscrupulous politicians only certainty is Sri Lanka could very well end up as another Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria!

  2. S.Gonsal Says:

    All these writers more or less contribute to a debate that should not have been there at all. Since 2009 we should not have “PRAOVINCES” at all.
    All these writings are WRONG and contribute bit by bit towards ELAM.

    What is the point arguing for or against “devolution” when province DO NOT EXIST. In that case why not have each household a HOUSEHOL COUNCIL and devolve power to each home ? Where is the limit ?
    10 people ?
    100 people ?
    1000 ? or land area of 10 km2 ?
    100,000 ? or land area of 1000 km2 ?
    1,000,000 ? or land area of 10000 km2 ?

    Look at all other countries with such systems and see how smaooth they run and the LAND AREAS or POPULATION of each “division”.

    It is WORNG to discuss about DIVISIONS.

    Please write against Proincial Councils and abolishion of Indian forced cancer.

  3. S.Gonsal Says:

    No other country in the world has a system based on ethnicity, including India. In India, if there is a province with the same population as the North, they will get only 1 or 2 parlimentary seats. That is all.

  4. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Traitor tamils, mussies want their dreamlands now. This is the best time to start the project since catholic-run
    UNPatriotic party is at the driving seat. Traitor chief die hard catholic token Buddhist Batalande Wadakaya pol pot
    r@nil wickramaSinhalakiller is running Sri Lanka is an added bonus the traitor lot knows. Traitor alugosuwa (to
    Sinhalese only) thambi mudiyanselage jr@ put the foundations to break up Sri Lanka by introducing 13 and 13A.
    (Did any Sinhala modaya wonder why royal college should be so ashamed of producing the biggest traitor ever in Sri
    Lanka – r@nil, and the second biggest traitor jr@; shame on royal college. Not just one, two of them. And the
    biggest two).

    Tamil Nadu Alliance (TNA) and the Sri Lanka Multiplying Community (SLMC) know this is the best time when the
    anti Sinhalese, anti Buddhist, anti Sri Lankan catholic-run UNPatriotic party ruling Sri Lanka. The rubber stamp puppet
    maru (hora) sira is just a pussy cat in front of die hard catholic token Buddhist Batalande Wadakaya pol pot r@nil
    wickamaSinhalakiller. He gave half the country on a plate to his catholic buddy hitler mala paharan in 2005. This
    time he is going to make it official to please his ardent supporters tamils and mussis.

    Land and police powers will be
    the first step to break up the country. Once that is done there will be eternal border wars with the traitor tamils and
    mussies. The two traitor lots will see Sinhalese as the common enemy and will be eternal blood bath trying to expand territories. Traitor chief
    die hard catholic token Buddhist Batalande Wadakaya pol pot r@nil can put his feet up and enjoy the demise of
    Sinhalese, Buddhism and Sri Lanka. His life time’s ambition! Sinhala modayas put up a statue of Batalande Wadakaya
    in Galler Face Green? Maybe the world’s tallest? Arjunaya Durjanaya will do it with different money, can’t be used
    for any other purpose, of course!

  5. Samanthi Says:

    මේ තරම් ද්‍රෝහී පවාදීමක් කවදාවත් වෙලා නෑ…..රට බෙදන තුරු ඉවසන්නේ නම් අපි මිනිස්සුද?

    ආණ්ඩුව නව ව්‍යවස්ථාවක් සඳහා ඉදිරිපත් කර ඇති කමිටු යෝජනා දෙස බැලූවිට මහජන ඡන්දයෙන් පත්වූ රජයකට මේ තරම් ද්‍රෝහී පවාදීමක් කළ හැකි දැයි විමතියක් ඇති වන බව ගෙවිඳු කුමාරතුංග මහතා පවසයි.

    ඒකීයභාවය අහිමි කර රට ෆෙඩරල් කරනවාට අමතරව මෙතෙක් පැවති සියලු සම්ප්‍රදායන් කඩ කරමින් සියලුම අංශයන් අවුලෙනුත් අවුලට යන යෝජනා මේ ව්යවස්ථා යෝජනා වල අඩංගු බව ඔහු පෙන්වා දුන්නේ යුතුකම සංවාද කවය මගින් පසුගිය 19 වනදා සංවිධානය කරන ලද “ෆෙඩරල් සංහිඳියා නිරුවත” සම්මන්ත්‍රණයේ මුඛ්‍ය දේශනයක් සිදු කරමිනි.

    මේ ව්‍යවස්ථා සම්පාදන ක්‍රියාවලියේ සෑම කමිටුවකම පාහේ අරක් ගෙන සිටින්නේ ජයම්පති වික්‍රමරත්න , එස් සුමන්තිරම් වැනි කුප්‍රකට බෙදුම්වාදී චරිත බව පෙන්වා දෙන ගෙවිඳු කුමාරතුංග මහතා රණවිරුවන් දිවිපුදා රැකි ඒකීය රට මෙලෙස පාවාදෙමින් බෙදුම්වාදීන්ගේ මනදොළ සපුරා බෙදා වෙන් කරන තුරු ඉවසන්නේ නම් අප මිනිසුන් දැයි ප්‍රශ්න කරයි.

  6. Gunadasa Says:

    සටන් කල යුත්තේ පලාත් සභා නැති කර දැමීමටයි.

  7. Samanthi Says:

    බෙදුම්වාදී රනිල්-මෛත්‍රී ව්‍යවස්ථාවට එරෙහිව…

    “අද බලයේ සිටින බොහෝ දෙනා කියන්නේ එකක්‌ කරන්නේ තවත් එකක්‌. රට, ජාතිය, ආගම ගැන කැක්‌කුමක්‌ නැති පිරිස්‌ අද රටේ සම්පත්වලින් නිසි ප්‍රයෝජන නොගෙන ඒවා විකුණමින් මුදල් සෙවීමට උත්සාහ කරනවා…..” යෑයි අස්‌ගිරි පාර්ශ්වයේ මහානායක අති පූජ්‍ය වරකාගොඩ ඤාණරතන හිමියෝ පැවසූහ.

    නව ව්‍යවස්‌ථා සංශෝධනය පිළිබඳව රටේ ජනතාවට නිසි අවබෝධයක්‌ නැති බවත් ත්‍රස්‌තවාදයෙන් මුදාගත් රට යළි විනාශවීමට කිසිසේත් ඉඩ දිය නොහැකි බවත් උන්වහන්සේ ප්‍රකාශ කළහ.විදෙස්‌ රටවල වෙසෙන ශ්‍රී ලාංකීකයන් පිරිසක්‌ එක්‌ව ඇතිකරගත් ශ්‍රී ලංකා ගෝලීය සංසදයේ නියෝජිත පිරිසක්‌ පෙරේදා (27 දා) රාත්‍රියේ අස්‌ගිරි මහ නාහිමියන් බැහැදැක ආශිර්වාද ලබාගත් අවස්‌ථාවේදී උන්වහන්සේ එසේ පැවසූහ.

    මෙම අවස්‌ථාවේ අදහස්‌ දැක්‌වූ අස්‌ගිරි පාර්ශ්වයේ ලේඛකාධිකාරී මැදගම ධම්මානන්ද හිමියෝ ආණ්‌ඩුක්‍රම ව්‍යවස්‌ථා සංශෝධන හරහා බෞද්ධ සංස්‌කෘතියට රටේ භෞමික අඛණ්‌ඩතාවට සිංහල ජාතියට අයහපතක්‌ වෙනවා නම් සෑම පුරවැසියකුම ඊට එරෙහිව ක්‍රියාමාර්ග ගත යුතු බවත් එය සෑම ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයකුගේම යුතුකමක්‌ හා වගකීමක්‌ බවත් අවධාරණය කළහ. ශ්‍රී ලාංකීය ජාතියක්‌ ලෙස මෙම මාතෘ භූමිය තුළ අපට ඇති ස්‌වාධීනත්වය අහිමි වුවහොත් ලෝකයේ අසරණ ජාතියක්‌ බවට පත්වීමේ ඉඩකඩ ස්‌ථීරවම ඇතිවන බව ද උන්වහන්සේ පැවසූහ”

  8. Ananda-USA Says:


    Yes indeed, the GOAL should be to ABOLISH the Provincial Councils COMPLETELY!

    DISSOLVE the Provincial Councils

    INTRODUCE a DISTRICT SYSTEM of Administration under the National Government using ONLY OFFICIALS, including a District Governor, APPOINTED by the NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.

    DEMOLISH SEPARATISM completely and finally on Sri Lanka!

  9. Ananda-USA Says:


    I meant “Gunadasa: “!

  10. Dilrook Says:

    Now I hear a proposal to abolish the parliament, and that the legislators of the provincial councils elect parliamentarians from among them. Strangely this comes from a well known patriot who contributes to this website too.

    It seems that stuck with 13A some of us are fast losing our bearings and hope. We must not worsen the predicament. At the very least we should try to lessen the impact of 13A and save at least the 7 Sinhala majority provinces. At the highest level we must strive to abrogate 13A.

  11. Gunadasa Says:

    Please write articles to this web site in support of total abolition of all kinds of divisions ( i.e. complete removal of 13A and NO ALTERNATIVE DIVISION). More articles is the better. This is the time for it. These “well known Patriots” are out of minds. No one needs to call oneself a “patriots”, action will show it.
    First step will be to avoid writing in praise of ANY POLITICIAN. All have contribute to disaster, knowingly or unknowingly.

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