Athas among winners of coveted award
The Sunday Times Consultant Editor and Defence Correspondent Iqbal Athas is among a ten member team of journalists from the Washington based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who have won a coveted award for their joint report on "Making a killing - The Business of War."

The international award has been made by The Society of Professional Journalists - the United States' largest and most broad-based journalism organisation - for Online Investigative Reporting.

In a two-year long worldwide investigation, a team of ten reporters from the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) laid bare the role of mercenary groups worldwide during the probe on THE BUSINESS OF WAR. Their detailed eleven-part report was released in Washington.

The I CIJ was launched in 1997 as a project of the Centre to Public Integrity to extend globally the Centre's style of watchdog journalism in the public interest by marshalling the talents of the world's leading investigative reporters to focus on issues that do not stop at the water's edge.

Amid the military downsizing and increasing number of small conflicts that followed Cold War, this probe focussed on Governments turning increasingly to private military companies (PMCs) - a euphemism for mercenaries - to intervene on their behalf.
Iqbal Athas was the only Asian journalist to serve in the probe team. He examined the role of private military companies in Sri Lanka.

Christina Rocca to visit Sri Lanka
US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on May 12 and 13 at the invitation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. She is part of the delegation of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visiting Afghanistan, India and Pakistan and will visit Sri Lanka at the conclusion of those visits.

Mr. Armitage will lead the US delegation to the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka to be held next month which is being co-chaired by the US.

The present visit is a follow up to the successful Pre-Tokyo seminar held in Washington in April 2003 hosted by the State Department.

Ms. Rocca will discuss during the visit bilateral relations in the context of the deepening ties between Washington and Colombo. She is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and members of the negotiating team including ministers G . L . Peiris, Milinda Moragoda, and Rauff Hakeem among others.

Akashi to visit trouble spots in the east
The SLMC plans to take Japan's special envoy Yasushi Akashi to the Muslim community in the violence-hit Mutur and Toppur on Tuesday, General Secretary T. Hassan Ali said.

Mr. Akashi will be joined by officials of the Japanese Embassy. The Japanese delegation, along with SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem and several Muslim Congress MPs, is due to visit refugee camps.

Govt. harassing Police, says PA

By Harinda Vidanage
The opposition is preparing a document to be submitted to the United Nations Human rights commission in Geneva on the harassment of police officers by politicians of the UNF government.

Former Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva who is playing an active role told the Sunday Times that he would make his case to a committee appointed by the commission under the UN Human rights commission clause 1503.

"We decided to take such action due to the increased political involvement in harassing the officials who are in charge of maintaining law and order in the country, this has resulted in a total breakdown in law and order ", Nimal Siripala said.

He said that they were already documenting the evidence and recording statements from the parties who have become victims of this process and even had opened up a public evidence gathering process as well.

Mr. de Silva added that the letter written by president Chandrika Kumaratunge recently, highlighting this matter to the Interior Minister will add muscle to their case. The UN Human rights commission has already appointed a five member committee to probe the earlier case he had presented on the victimization of opposition party members by this government and had requested the Sri Lankan Embassy in Geneva to obtain an official response from the UNF government.

According to Mr. de Silva the embassy had requested the Attorney general to respond on behalf of the government . He said "I will meet the Attorney General next week to see the government's response.

Nimal Siripala said he hoped to present the police harassment case to the Human rights commission some time later this month.

Promoting professionalism in the Police Department
By Tassie Seneviratne
Depoliticising the Police Department, promoting professionalism within it while making the newly set up National Police Commission an effective body were the topics discussed at a recent seminar.

A National Seminar on Promoting Professionalism within the Police Department was held by the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute at its auditorium recently. Representatives at decision making levels of the Police Department, the A.G's Department, eminent legal practitioners, members of the Judiciary, members of the National Police Commission, retired Senior Police Officers, and a large gathering of serving Police Officers of varying ranks, participated in the seminar.

President's Counsel and National Police Commission Chief Ranjith Abeysuriya, speaking on the need for Institutional restructuring for professionalism in the Police service, reiterated that insulation of the Police Service from political influence is foremost in its role, and explained how some of its powers such as transfers of all Police Officers, recruitment to and promotions in the lower ranks had been delegated to the I.G.P with guidelines set by the Commission.

All that sounded very good. Achilles Joseph, former D I G and presently an expert in Human Resources Management, informed the Chairman, N.P.C. that the rank and file still had reservations about depoliticisation of the police when it came to practice, and suggested the NPC sends out a circular informing all ranks of its independence from politicians.

A document spelling out its role in black and white will enable Police officers to take up with the NPC any deviation from its guidelines. The NPC Chairman, however, was not in favour of committing it to a document. S B W de Silva, taking it up from there, drew attention to a question that he had raised at the previous seminar on 26th March in regard to absorption of Police Reservists to the Regular Police.

His question was simply whether the NPC was aware of such steps presently underway. The Chairman did not respond to the question and it was obvious he knew nothing about it. When the question was repeated several times it was the IGP who responded stating that "modalities are being worked out in regard to absorption of reservists".

To illustrate his point that the NPC does not know all what is happening in the Police Department as regards recruitment and promotions, S.B.W cited a question by NPC member, Mrs S. L. Ebert that very evening in regard to recruitment and promotions of women police officers and the answer given by S/DIG Chandra Fernando, which answer one would expect NPC members not only to be aware of but also to have approved.

Having reminded the Chairman NPC of his question on March 26, S B W brought to his notice a General Order signed by the IGP on the same March 26, 2003, wherein 94 Police Reservists had been absorbed to the Regular service.

It is now revealed that the absorptions had been ordered by the early as 15th March 2003 but these facts were withheld by the IGP when the question on 26th March 2003. Of the 94 Reservists thus absorbed.-- 40 are from the President's Security Division, 24 from the Ministers Security Division, 05 from the Prime Minister's Security Division, 08 from Police HQ, and the balance 17 from different Police Stations. No criteria for absorption had been published and no applications called to enable others to apply.

It is not clear whether the IGP had assumed the powers of absorption under powers delegated to him for recruitment. But then, the Director recruitment has had no hand in the selection process. Mr S B W de Silva went on to explain the magnitude of the anomalies that are bound to arise in the way of displacement of the Regulars from their seniority placements etc.

For instance, reservists who had joined with lesser qualifications, and had lesser training, but received promotions faster on lower standards will now be placed above them. There was no reply from the Chairman NPC as to whether these absorptions had the approval of the NPC or whether the NPC had laid down guide lines for absorption.

His response was that any affected police officer could appeal to the NPC and that the NPC would look into the appeals at that stage. Mr Mahesan Selvaratnam, former Senior D I G joined in to ask, why wait for the negative outcome? He too went on to explain the disparity between Reservists and Regulars and the inherent anomalies that lie ahead when absorptions are done on parallel levels. Mr Mithra Ariyasinghe, former Senior D I G adding his bit stressed on the importance of the NPC having an effective monitoring mechanism to ensure that its policies and guidelines are followed.

It is as important that policies and guidelines are sought in areas where there are none. Good intentions and high hopes of the NPC alone are not enough. The above mentioned observations came from hard boiled professional former Senior Police Officers who now have no stakes in the Police other than public interest and the image of the police, who can now stand aloof and give the best insight into the workings in the Police and on Human Resources Management as concerns the Police.

A probe on the order absorbing the 94 Reservists alone will show that political influence is still very much alive and that the NPC is deliberately being kept in the dark. The attitude of the NPC just formulating policies, laying down guidelines and expecting things to happen smoothly reminds me of the three wise monkeys who said "I see no evil", "I hear no evil", "I speak no evil". That policy is good enough for monkeys. But the enormous task before the NPC is no monkey-business.

Mr K. Udugampola, ASP Kandy, informed the Chairman NPC how the authority of the OIC Stations and ASP Districts is undermined when subordinate officers are transferred to stations stipulating the branch and position they are to function.
He explained how the team spirit is broken by this and attributed this practice to political influence.

It is known that members of the NPC are engaged full time in other pursuits, and find little time to devote to affairs of the Police Service. A question privately aired by many interested observers is, whether the NPC working only one evening a week can fulfill its enormous task.

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