Posted on April 17th, 2022


JR meddled in appointments. He engaged in nepotism. Brother HW was sent to the UN where he did excellent work for Sri Lanka on the UN Convection on the Law of the sea.   Brother RP was appointed as Chairman Nation Science Council.  JR’s sister in law, Dr. Gladys Jayewardene was appointed Chairman, State Pharmaceutical Corporation, replacing Senaka Bibile who had done valuable pioneering work there on the rationalization of drugs.

JR interfered with the judges of the Supreme Court, their powers and their judgments. Judges were appointed afresh when the1978 Constitution came into force. JR overlooked the sitting judges and appointed a senior lawyer,’ Neville Samarakoon as Chief Justice.  Samarakoon was the first Chief Justice to be appointed directly from the unofficial bar

Then things went sour. Chief Justice Samarakoon   disliked what JR was doing as President and criticized him heavily at speech at Raja Sinnathurai Tutory in 1984. JR wanted him removed from office.

During the attempted impeachment it was argued that the investigation and determination by Parliament of the allegations against Samarakoon was unconstitutional.  Summoning of judges of the Supreme Court before select committees of Parliament, with a view to disciplining or removing them, was something new, said critics. It had never happened before in independent Sri Lanka.

The First amendment of 1978 was brought to subvert the courts, said critics. The Amendment provided that the jurisdiction conferred on the Court of Appeal with regard to some cases shall be exercised by the Supreme Court and not by the Court of Appeal.

Then JR turned to the public service. JR made a radical change in the appointment of Permanent Secretary and this was continued by his successors.

Until JR, the Permanent Secretary to a ministry came from the senior cadres of Sri Lanka Administrative Service. The Permanent Secretary to a Ministry was responsible for the efficient function of that Ministry. He needed to be an experienced administrator, who knew the ropes, could assess situations, take sound decisions and give good advice to the Minister. SLAS officers were highly educated, with much experience in the field.

J. R. Jayewardene broke this tradition and appointed Ananda Tissa De Alwis as Secretary to the Ministry of State.  Ananda Tissa was the first Permanent Secretary appointed from the private sector. Anandatissa was a journalist, who then went on advertising. He went to the post of Permanent Secretary straight from advertising.  Anandatissa had been a long standing supporter of the UNP.

Merril Gunaratne, former Deputy Inspector of Police said that the deterioration of the once proud Police Service began in 1977. The year 1977 was a watershed         in the fortunes of the police. I saw a huge difference in the days following 1977 when compare with the 1960s, he said.

The Police Service became politicized in 1977. UNP MPs dictated to the police.   Senior police officers had to take orders from them. There arose links between police, politicians and lawbreakers, said Merril.

UNP interfered in appointments and promotions. The cadre of DIGs was once expanded to included one person. He got the cadre inflated to include him.

 UNP MPs interfered with appointments of police officers to key positions. Most ASPs and OICs of police station then shifted their loyalties from police superiors’ to politicians. The police high command became mute. The junior ranks lost respect for their superiors.

A major cause for decline in the police was the violation of seniority. This started in 1977. This seriously demoralized the police force. The good officers were over looked and favorites of the politicians were given recognition. Pliant officers were promoted over senior officers, thought they did not have the necessary qualifications.The police at the high levels did nothing to stop this. Officers in line of seniority who had been overtaken lost enthusiasm, and were thrown into a state of despair and frustration.

Thanks to politically inspired promotions, politicians on the other hand were able to get what they wanted done. Police started to look to those outside to succeed, rather than the IGP.

Politicians in high power expected the police to be complicit when the MPs instigated an attack. UNP politicians incited violence against political rivals with police watching passively, or not arriving on the scene in time. 

Merrill speaks of an encounter with Minister Cyril Matthew in Kelaniya in 1977-78. In 1978, Matthew had called Merrill, who was senior superintendent of Police, Kelaniya, and asked him to come with a police squad to Dasa Industries at Dalugama, Kelaniya.

 Dasa was a supporter of Sirimavo. Cyril was also there with a set of supporters, about 50. Dasa workers came out and were attacked by Mathew’s thugs. Merrill arrested the thugs. Matthew vanished. This   was the typical tactic after UNP victory in 1977. Police were summoned to protect the politician’s thugs and police did so in many instances.

Merrill observed however that mobs and thugs were not prepared to confront police if police stood firm. There was a fabricated clash at University of Kelaniya   in March 1978. An external student who was also a reserve constable arrived at Peliyagoda Police station and reported that he had seen a large body of thugs of the UNP invading the campus and assaulting students with sticks.

Merrill went there, and found Mathew at the entrance of the road leading to the campus, with 3 or 4 buses with his supporters inside. A large mob had been assembled by Mathew with more reinforcements to invade the campus and exact revenge. Mathew asked Merrill, who asked you to come there. He wanted police withdrawn.  Merrill refused.

Merrill took charge and the Minister left but the busload of thugs remained.  Had I not intervened, many undergrads of Kelaniya may have been seriously injured since the lorry load of thugs was poised to invade the campus at that moment, said Merril.

There was an investigation. Merrill saw to it that the inquiry went through. Mathew sent two witnesses with a fabricated story. Merrill got the constable who had been there to give the genuine version. That constable was then dismissed from his post.

Merrill was transferred to Kurunegala in 1978. Kurunegala police district covered 14 electorates. Merrill praised DB Welagedera of Kurunegala, S.B. Herath of Hiriyala, Sirisena of Bingiriya, and three members from Pannala for non-interference in police matters.

But he named MP Ratnayake of Panduvasnuwara, GM Premachandra of Mawatagama,                                                        Abeyratne of Yapahuwa, DM Jayatilake of Kuliyapitiya and Ranjan Jayakody of Polgahawela as MPs who expected the police to dance to their tunes. (Merril Gunaratne. Perils of a profession. P32-38) 

MP Abeyratne of Yapahuwa used to call up police including ASP and abuse them in public. MP Ratnayake has wanted Panduvasnuwara electorate which was under Kurunegala brought under Hettipola police station.

Merril objected. Panduvasnuwara electorate was at the time covered by 4 police stations. It was impossible for one police station to cover such a vast area. Even four were not enough, said Merrill. Ratnayake wanted Panduvasnuwara brought under Hettipola as OIC Hettipola was weak. Ratnayake wanted to make life uncomfortable for his political rivals within the district.

MP Sunil Ranjan Jayakody of Polgahawela had been a private in the army serving as a dispatch rider before entering politics. He won at the 1977 election. He wanted police to do as he said.  He tried to create a confrontation at a Hindu Kovil. Several soldiers had died the previous day at Batticaloa, due to LTTE landmine. He had wanted the Sinhalese to storm the kovil and create backlash.

 Merrill had received an anonymous phone call about this. When he went to deal with the matter, he found the   ASP and OIC in the office of the MP.  He later requested the transfer of OIC Polgahawela.  Merrill was transferred instead.   (Continued)

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