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The Situation Report

30th August 1998

Sweeping changes in the top brass

Lakdasa (Lucky) Kodituwakku new Police Chief

Out going Chief may not get diplomatic posting

By Iqbal Athas

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President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, demonstrated once again last week she was holding the reins of the country's defence establishment and was very much the Commander-in-Chief.

Last Thursday, she called in DIG Lakdasa (Lucky) Kodituwakku to Temple Trees, her official residence, to tell him he would be Sri Lanka's new Inspector General of Police. He will assume office on Thursday.

The move brought the curtain down on a drama of guessing games and wild speculation over the outgoing controversial W. B. Rajaguru.

His extended term of office had expired on July 31 and he sought a further year in office. However, he was allowed to continue until August 31. From early this week, there was speculation at the highest levels at Police Headquarters that Mr. Rajaguru would continue until the end of this year.

A powerful and influential section of the government with whom Mr. Rajaguru was closely associated was pressing for a further extension to him till year end.

If that was difficult, they sought a four or five day extension so Mr. Rajaguru could take part in the Police Day celebrations at Police Park on September 4 where Deputy Defence Minister, General Anuruddha Ratwatte, is due to take the salute.

If he did not receive an extension of his term, Mr. Rajaguru was hopeful that Kingsley Wickremasuriya, DIG will take the salute. The outgoing Police Chief had in writing recommended to the Ministry of Defence that Mr. Wickremasuriya be appointed next Inspector General.

Today Mr. Rajaguru is expected to host a farewell cocktail party at the Senior Officer's Mess. Tomorrow, his last day in office, he will make his farewell calls on the Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force. All three service chiefs have lined up separate farewell parades to give him a warm send off.

Although Mr. Rajaguru had made known his wish for a diplomatic posting, the government is not likely to give him an overseas posting. This is particularly because government leaders feel that the foreign service should not be packed by retiring armed services or police officers. Instead, a high ranking government source said, he may be appointed to the directorate of a state corporation or statutory body.

A Government Information Department news release on Friday morning announced the appointment of Mr. Kodituwakku as the new Police Chief.

On Thursday anonymous telephone callers purporting to be from Police Headquarters made calls to the media to say Mr. Rajaguru had already been granted a further extension. The Sunday Times news desk received such calls. One caller said a front page report in The Sunday Times of July 26 that Mr. Kodituwakku was to become the new IGP was wrong. He said Mr. Rajaguru would continue in office.

But Mr. Rajaguru's status was formally defined by Government's official spokesman, Media Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, when he addressed the weekly news briefing on July 23. He said the IGP's term would expire on August 31.

At least four Cabinet ministers were opposed to Mr. Rajaguru being given an extended term. It was also opposed by the so called Mulberry Group of government parliamentarians, by some, on the grounds that the country's highest courts had made indictments on him for human rights violations.

Mr. Kodituwakku who takes over on Tuesday joined the Police Department as a probationary Assistant Superintendent of Police in 1986. His first stint was as ASP Nugegoda and has served in many parts of the country. Promoted as Senior Superintendent of Police on January 1, 1981, he was forced to leave the service for political reasons.

He re-joined the service in 1996 and was promoted DIG on October 1, last year and later as Senior DIG on August 2, 1994. He is presently in charge of Range (I).

Mr. Kodituwakku's appointment as Inspector General of Police has led to two other DIGs who are senior to him submitting their papers for retirement.

They are Kingsley Wic-kremasuriya, Senior DIG (Presidential Security, Intelligence and Security) and Gamini Gunawardena, (Crimes, Criminal Intelligence and Range II). Police Headquarters officials said that they expressed their intention to retire after Mr. Kodituwakku was named as the Police Chief. These two DIGs are third and fourth in line of seniority before Mr. Kodituwakku.

The first on line is Senior DIG Dharmadasa Silva (Administration).

He is currently on an official assignment with the Commonwealth Secretariat which has put together an international team to re-organise the Police force in Sierra Leone. Fifth on line is Senior DIG, Merril Gun-aratne, (Support Services) who is currently on compulsory leave followed by the sixth, Senior DIG, A.S. Seneviratne (Operations Command).

The appointment of an Inspector General of Police, Defence Ministry officials explained, is not solely on the basis of seniority. Successive governments have appointed those down the seniority ladder for the post.

The then UNP government, they pointed out, appointed G.A.D.E.A. (Ana) Seneviratne to be the IGP over DIG Rudra Raj-asingham, who was senior then. Similarly, an SLFP government brought in non serving police officer (M.W.F. Abeykoon) to serve as IGP. Aleric Abe-ygunawardena was also appointed IGP over DIG, A.C. Dep, who was then senior.

If the retirement papers of the two Senior DIGs, Mr. Wickremasuriya and Mr. Gunawardena are accepted, they are likely to quit office in the coming week. In such an event, the two senior most SSPs are likely to be named as successors.

President Kumaratunga's decision to appoint Mr. Kodituwakku as the new Police Chief comes weeks after she gave approval for the setting up of a Joint Operations Command (JOC) for the armed forces and the Police to collectively conduct counter terrorist operations. A JOC complex is now shaping up in the precincts of the Army Headquarters.

Defence Ministry officials say that the proposed JOC will become fully operational by mid October. This is soon after the conclusion of the 50th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Army, due to be formally celebrated on October 10.

With this over, Lt. Gen. Rohan de S. Daluwatte, is expected to relinquish office as Army Commander and function only as General Officer Commanding the joint command. He is to be succeeded as Army Commander by Major General Srilal Weerasuriya.

Some of the other major changes due next month are:

From Tuesday, several Regimental Command changes have been effected by the Army Headquarters.

Major General Lionel Balagalle takes over the Artillery Regiment from Major General Siri Peiris.

Brigadier J. Jayawardena takes over Women's Corps from Major General Asoka Silva.

Brigadier Nihal Marambe takes over the Armoured Corps from Major General P.A. Karunatilleke.

Major General Shantha Kottegoda takes over the Ceylon Light Infantry from Major General Asoka Jayawardena.

Brigadier Sunil Tennekoon takes over the Military Intelligence Corps from Major General Lionel Balagalle.

Army sources said there would also be changes when some senior officers retire beginning this month.

Major General Siri Peiris is due to retire in September this year, Major General P.A. Karunatillke in November this year, Major General Asoka Silva at the end of November, Major General S.V. Jayakody in December this year, Major General S.T.T. (Sathis) Jayasundera in February next year and Major General Patrick Fernando in April next year.

Major General Asoka Jayawardena will take over as the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff on September 6 when Major General Jaliya Nammuni, now on leave, retires on that date.

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