Cop’s tale
Posted on June 7th, 2019

Editorial Courtesy The Island

IGP Pujith Jayasundera, currently on compulsory leave, dropped a bombshell, on Thursday, while testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), which is probing the Easter bombings and allied issues. He revealed an abortive attempt by President Maithripala Sirisena to make him the fall guy. He said the President had asked him to take the blame for the security lapses that had led to the Easter carnage, resign and accept a diplomatic post, or lose both his job and pension. His noncompliance had resulted in a presidential directive sending him on compulsory leave, he said.

If IGP Jayasundera has told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then the President has a lot to answer for. Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, who resigned over the Easter bombings, obviously under duress, also said, in his testimony before the PSC, that the President had made such an offer to the IGP. Parliament ought to probe this particular allegation separately.

Going by what transpired before the PSC, on Thursday, one wonders whether President Sirisena naively thought Jayasundera would do a Mahinda Balasuriya with no questions asked.

It may be recalled that in June 2011, the then IGP Mahinda Balasuriya took the full responsibility for an incident where police shooting left a youth dead and dozens of others injured during a workers’ protest in the Katunayake free trade zone. The protesters had taken to the streets against the Rajapaksa government’s decision to introduce a private sector pension scheme. Had that regime succeeded in railroading the workers into accepting that scheme, they would have had to settle for meagre amounts of money given by the government as pensions instead of EPF withdrawals.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa was very powerful at that time and Balasuriya fell in line for obvious reasons. President Sirisena, who was a senior minister in the Rajapaksa government, at that time, may have thought of doing something similar following the Easter bombings. He has been left with egg on his face.

In December 2016, IGP Jayasundera was shown on television talking to a minister over his mobile phone, in a servile manner, at a public function in Ratnapura; he was heard assuring the minister that he would not arrest someone. The Opposition called for his removal. About two and a half years on, the police chief, who used to kowtow to ministers, has plucked up the courage to stand up to the President himself! What has strengthened his backbone is anyone’s guess.

The IGP should be commended for refusing to give in to the President’s dictates, but he cannot absolve himself of the responsibility for the failure on the part of the police to prevent the Easter carnage by neutralising the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) threat. The intelligence warning at issue was an unusually detailed one, providing all necessary information about the terrorists and their movements. Jayasundera, as the police chief, should have given his subordinates specific instructions on how to handle the situation rather than merely acting as a post box to convey the warning.

The IGP ought to explain why his officers and men were not placed on red alert and ordered to clamp down on the NTJ. In February 2013, the police descended on a small schoolgirl who had stolen a few coconuts as she had no other way of raising funds to pay her school fees. She was produced in courts and released on bail. They also hauled up before courts another little girl for stealing five rupees from her neighbour, unable to bear the pangs of hunger. She was also enlarged on bail. Why the guardians of the law lacked that kind of urge to swoop on the NTJ terrorists and prevent the suicide bombings is an enormous question. Had they been under political pressure to steer clear of those extremists with links to some government politicians?

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