10th October 1999

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Two top police officers in a fix over TV show

Police Chief Lucky Kodithuwakku has called for explanation from two senior officers H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya (DIG Crimes and Criminal Investigations) and SSP Bandula Wickramasinghe (Director Crime Detective Bureau) for taking part in TNL's Janahanda programme without his prior permission.

Police Headquarters sources said the two officers allegedly violated a directive from the IGP that 'no officers should make any interview with the electronic media without the specific permission of the IGP'.

Last Monday night's programme was focused on the underworld and its links to the police and politicians.

Chamuditha Samarawickrama, compere of the programme charged that two police officers, a DIG and an SSP of a division (both were named), were working in cahoots with underworld figures. He said in the TV programme that people were reluctant to visit police stations and make complaints because of such a nexus.

The role of the police in containing crime and dealing with criminal elements came in for severe criticism. Several telephone callers also posed queries from the two police officers and other participants of the programme.

One such question and comment was directed at SSP Wickramasinghe. This concerned the arrest of High Court Judge Mahanama Tillakeratne.

Mr. Wickramasinghe responded saying that in arresting the judge he only 'followed orders from the top'. He however did not disclose from whom such orders came.

The TNL news bulletin on Friday night which reported that the explanation of the two officers had been called for drew an angry retort from the Police Headquarters.

In a news release yesterday the Headquarters said:

"It is correct that the explanation of the Senior DIG H.M.G.M.Kotakadeniya and Senior Superintendent of Police Bandula Wickremasinghe had been called as they had appeared before the electronic media in contravention of Police Headquarters Circular Reference Number C7/1081/97 date 07.06.1999 paragraph (6) which reads thus: 'It should also be noted that no officer should make any interview with the electronic media without the specific permission of the Inspector General of Police.'

"This also contravenes the instructions laid down in the establishment code which applies to all Government officers. It is therefore to be clearly stated that his explanation has been called not for appearing before the TNL, but appearing before the electronic media without obtaining the prior approval of the Inspector General of Police as required for all officers.

It is necessary for the head of the department to know about any release as at times officers appear before the media unprepared and give wrong versions which would not only impair the image of the police force but, the images and reputations of other officers as well. Two senior officers have in fact complained to the I.G. P regarding this interview, and many officers have shown their displeasure on some utterances made at the interview."

Ravi proposes military training for village youth

With untrained homeguards protecting the most vulnerable border villages in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, former national security Advisor and son of President J. R. Jayewardene, Ravi Jayewardene, has stressed the need for an arms training programme for villagers a successful strategy practised in the mid 1980s.Ravi Jayewardene

"Each villager must be made a soldier so as to combat the present vulnerability of people living in border villages," Mr. Jayewardene said after the recent atack on Gonagala. "I don't think the Army can devote the time to defend villages."

"If massacre of villagers is to be stopped, the villagers will have to be taught to defend themselves," he said. "Villagers appear to be far more committed in protecting their own territory than the soldiers because they are defending their wives and their families."

He said though it would be a big operation, such a training programme would prove to be a good investment, given the rate civilians were dying in terrorist attacks

Even in 1984 when the training of civilians in border villages was initiated the effect of this program was felt by the gradual decrease in the number of incidences, he said

The villages were initially attacked with guns and subsequently with knives and axes and other cutting instruments because the terrorists realised that none of these villagers was armed and didn't want to waste ammunition. A series of attacks over a period on border villages compelled the initiation of new defence solutions for these areas.

The training programme was initiated by Mr. Jayewardene in his capacity as National Security Advisor in co-ordination with the then Defence Secretary General Sepala Attygalle.

Thus a training camp for civilians was set up in Minneriya, on the premises of an old textile mill. The training camp included practical shooting ranges and other military requirements.

And from each village, about 100 youths were brought for extensive training lasting about two months.

These youths were trained and sent back to the villages with two instructors who were ex-servicemen and remained with them for a few months.

A lot of discipline was instilled in the civilians while at the training camp and weapons had only been given to people who were trained so as to prevent arms being used to settle personal grudges.

"Unfortunately this training programme was abandoned, may be due to political reasons," Mr. Jayewardene lamented.

President orders sirens for areas under threat

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has issued directives to issue five sirens as an initial step to step up security in areas that face terrorist attacks.

In a letter addressed to Deputy Minister and Digamadulla district MP H. M. Weerasinghe, Presidential Secretary K. Balapatabendi has sought his assistance in the identification of five villages where the terrorist threat was most.

The programme to provide sirens which earned the wrath of the PA government as a political gimmick of the UNP at one time, has been recommended by clergy as well as local and foreign defense experts as an interim step until a thorough security network is worked out.

Meanwhile UNP parliamentarian Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena who has spearheaded a project of providing sirens to over 60 villages since 1995 told The Sunday Times that while it made him happy to notice that the government has recognized the importance of his scheme, every attempt has also been made to take the credit away from him by the same government.

"I was told that security could not be provided with a few sirens, but now they have seen the light. But the number of threatened villages have increased under the PA rule and it would be impossible to minimize threats with five sirens," he said, adding that he had no qualms about working with the government to assist the innocent villagers who face immense LTTE threats.

Deserters are cowards, says first Sri Lankan Army Chief

By Hiranthi Fernando

Major General Anton Muttukumaru, the first Sri Lankan Commander of the Ceylon Army as it was then called, is in Sri Lanka, to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Sri Lanka Army.

imageGen. Muttukumaru, a lawyer by profession, joined the Ceylon Defence Force as a volunteer officer in 1934 and was commissioned in the Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI). He was mobilised during World War 11, and commanded one of the battalions of the CLI. When the new Ceylon Army was inaugurated in 1949, he was selected to be Chief of Staff under the command of Brig. the Earl of Caithness. He was also entrusted with the formation of the Army Act. He assumed duties as the first Sri Lankan Army Commander in February 1955 and served up to December 1959.

Despite his 91 years, Gen. Muttukumaru has taken the trouble to travel all the way from Australia, where he is now resident, to be with the Army he helped to start, during its Golden Jubilee.

In an interview with The Sunday Times at Army Headquarters, he spoke about the transition of the Army from its early days to the present.

He was emphatic that the Army was never just a ceremonial outfit as it was often referred to before the outbreak of insurgencies in the 1980s.

"They had ceremonial duties but that was not all', he said. 'The Army at that time was confronted with one factor, which was internal security. The security of the country was of paramount importance. We were trained, geared and equipped to deal with threats to the security of the country."

However, Gen. Muttukumaru said he was convinced that the strength of the Army at the inception was insufficient.

"The Ceylon Army then had infantry, anti-aircraft guns and signals. We did not have field artillery to support the Infantry. I wanted to have armour. I wanted not tanks but scout cars and armoured cars. I created an armoured unit as a platoon in the CLI. This later became the first sub unit of the new Armoured Corps. I consider the greatest contribution I made to the Army was to establish Field Artillery, an Armoured Corps and Field Engineers. The present Army has several new units which were added on subsequently," he said adding that at the start "our Army was a small force of about 2,500 men."

Gen. Muttukumaru said one should not wait for a threat to prepare. "One must be prepared for a threat before it comes," he said.

"I was a humble Brigadier, promoted to Major General on retirement. The threats we had to confront were also small and non military. The only problems we had to deal with were internal problems. However, we were prepared for it. Today the conditions have changed. The Army is committed to a period of fighting. It is now a large force, which is well prepared and well equipped', he said.

It was pointed out that in 1949, the budget of the entire country was Rs. 557 million. The Army allocation was 0.24%. Today, the Army takes up 6.6% of the national budget.

Gen. Muttukumaru observed that the terrorist forces were not trained or organised to fight a well prepared army in the open field. "That is why, when they lost Jaffna, they took to the jungles," he said.

When asked about his view on the question of deserters and their involvement in criminal activities, Gen. Muttukumaru said that in his opinion the main reason they deserted the Army was their cowardice.

Gen. Muttukumaru said he had given much thought to the question of de-mobilisation of the armed forces in the event of peace. "It is a vast subject. More vast considering the strength of the Army. What to do with these soldiers who are functioning and are paid well. They cannot just be discontinued without any employment. They will argue that they were trained to fight for the country and lay down their lives," he said.

Police probe political links

By Leon Berenger

Police are probing a possible political link to the recent slaying of six underworld figures at Delkanda, Nugegoda following the arrest of a bodyguard of a top ruling party politician, detectives said yesterday.

They said they were now following up clues to ascertain whether the politician was aware of the alleged activities of his bodyguard, or whether the man was acting on his own. The bodyguard was arrested earlier this week while he was making arrangements to leave the country, the detectives said.

Investigators were led to the bodyguard after his name surfaced in the list of persons called from a cellular phone that was used by the gang shortly before they were gunned down in cold blood by a gang three weeks ago.

Police are also checking reports that suggest the politician was the chief guest at the wedding of the gang leader, identified only as Dilantha, according to the sources.

GMOA's choice for presidnetial advisor

The Government Medical Officers Association decided yesterday to propose to the Health Ministry to appoint Kandy General Hospital Director Dr. M.L. Beligaswatte as the advisor to the President on health issues.

The suggestion was made on the question of service extension of Dr. Beligaswatte as the director of the hospital. While appreciating the services of Dr. Beligaswatte towards improving the health sector and considering his experience in the field, the GMOA said he should take over as advisor to the President from Dr. Tara de Mel.

The Regional Director of Health, Matale who was initially chosen for the post of Director at the Kandy hospital should be appointed to that post, a GMOA spokesman said.

He said the GMOA would set a deadline to the ministry to obtain Treasury approval to solve the problem of doctors serving in Jaffna.

Lanka may follow India's pattern

By Faraza Farook

Political analysts reacting to the victory of the BJP coalition in the Indian elections concluded this week predict that future Sri Lankan governments too will be faced with no choice but to form coalitions if they are to come to office.

While the BJP gained control with a coalition of 24 parties, analysts said that as the PA Government is made up of coalition parties, in the event of an election, opposition parties may have to form their own coalitions in a bid to win more votes if they are to come to power.

Opinion is, however, divided as to whether this would lead to a more stable or shaky government.

Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, while congratulating the Indian government on an 'outcome that was never a surprise', noted that 'this election is also the start of a realignment of political forces of India around two major blocks', the BJP and the Congress and said that this outcome was good for stability.

Analysts however recognised the emergence of a viable third force, the JVP, which they agree would considerably change the political scenario by requiring the two main parties, the PA and the UNP, to seriously consider more effective vote gaining strategies.

SLMC spokesman Rauff Hakeem said the SLMC would be happier if the PA Government came into power with a close margin, 'as this would give the SLMC a better leverage'. He said that 'going by a JVP's performance at the last provincial council elections, it seems as if they will be able to secure at least four to five seats, and so should be a force to contend with'.

Political analyst Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said that when considering the proportion of votes each main party had, an alliance seemed to be likely. The alternative, he said, was that in the case of a marginal victory, the smaller parties would pledge to support the government, while shying away from a coalition.

'A coalition would be a good thing as long as the parties come to a common agreement on basic principles instead of engaging in destructive politicking', he warned.

Meanwhile media person Mohan Samaranayake said that the situation in Sri Lanka differed to that in India as all the three major Indian parties are alliances, while in Sri Lanka the Opposition was made up of one party. He said that if the UNP was gaining ground in a General Election, the smaller parties might pledge to support the PA Government, which would again lead to a coalition.

EPRLF Secretary General K. Premachandran expressed the hope that the new BJP government would initiate fresh steps towards finding a peaceful and just solution to 'the long suffering Tamil people of Sri Lanka'.

Terrorists, US says again

The United States has extended its ban on the LTTE for a further two years.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last Friday designated 28 organisations worldwide as foreign terrorist organisations. Of these 27, including the LTTE, were re-designations

Bulls on six bills; seventh may follow

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

During the past 12 months, government has proposed and subsequently shelved or withdrawn as many as six bills either due to strong opposition or the unconstitutionality of the proposed legislation, and a seventh may follow with the likely withdrawal of widely criticised Equal Opportunities Bill.

The Government has been accused of a lack of foresight and making opportunistic moves to obtain votes, in trying to rush ill-conceived bills through Parliament.

The Universities Amendment Bill seeking to empower the Minister of Education to make university appointments and two Provincial Council Bills, one seeking to empower the central government to make appointments to the provinces and another enabling the government to substitute names on the provincial council election list were all declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The Draft Constitutional Reforms Bill, the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, the Postal Corporation Bill and now the Equal Opportunities Bill were shelved due to strong opposition.

UNP MP Tyronne Fernando has criticised the government for what he called a 'lack of good governance and muddle-headed planning.'

Mr. Fernando said it showed that the government was trying to rush ahead with badly planned legislation in a bid to win the confidence and votes of the people without taking time to evaluate the impact they would have.

SLMC spokesman Rauff Hakeem however commended the government for its good governance and democratic policies, and willingness to consider the views of other parties when introducing legislation.

He said it was a good remedy against ill-conceived bills such as the Universities Amendment Bill, being rushed through Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Equal Opportunities Bill is likely to be withdrawn in the face of widespread protests by both Government members, opposition parties and other groups.

The Bill known to be the brainchild of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris is seen by some Buddhist groups as a political ploy to offer redress to minority grievances, instead of the promised political package which is stuck in a political quagmire.

Protests within government ranks have come mainly from ministers Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and Richard Pathirana who see the Bill as being detrimental to Sinhala interests.

The SLMC led by Minister M.H.M. Ashraff is also opposing the bill on the basis that as it stands it won't mean much to the man on the street but will benefit only the educated elite.

SLMC spokesman Rauf Hakeem told the Sunday Times that the party had serious reservations about the bill in its present form and saw some clauses of it as being self-defeatist.

"It is important that the government does not consider this bill to be a substitute for extensive constitutional reforms nor as administrative relief for minority grievances," he said.

The strongest opposition is coming from the National Movement Against Terrorism. Its spokesman Champaka Ranawaka said the Bill was anti-Buddhist and intended to obtain minority votes at upcoming elections.

The Equal Opportunities Bill which Minister Peiris says seeks to end discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste, gender or other factors was scheduled to be taken up in parliament on Thursday but Minister Wickramanayake moved that it be deferred for another date.

Police Problems

Political cops going over the top

Floodgate for police dirty tricks widens

Political victimization is a much-abused term in the police set-up. It came to being supposedly to grant redress to public servants victimized on political grounds.

But in practice it is being used by too many unscrupulous policemen and politicians as a means to serve their nefarious ends. The horrendous side of the story is that the abuse is allegedly resorted to mostly by the senior ranks and by the defence establishment driven by political expediency.

Who then is the real political victim? Not only is it the honourable policeman who has to bear the brunt of the police work and face untold humiliation while his unscrupulous colleagues and juniors play dirty politics and climb over him. image

Most importantly, the victim is the ordinary citizen, as I shall expose in the following analysis of terrifying facts.

Political promotions in the Police service had been there since the sixties. But a flood-gate was opened in 1977/78 undercover of redress for political victimization. This was supposed to be a just and fair exercise to grant redress to public servants who had been victimized on political grounds. But in practice it went far beyond this goal as far as the police service was concerned, much to the detriment of the law and order situation as experienced today. Much publicity was given by the UNP during the campaign leading to the 1977 general elections that redress would be given to public servants victimized by the government on political grounds.

Many an errant police officer who had been punished or sidelined on disciplinary grounds rushed to join the UNP bandwagon. The UNP thereby built a strong force for their election campaign with these errant policemen resorting to active politics and doing much of the dirty work for the party. It was mainly these policemen who were rewarded with promotions or double promotions under cover of redress for political victimization when the UNP came to office.

I also recall visiting the Public Administration Ministry to find out from the Political Victimization Committees appointed by the UNP regime whether police officers victimized on political grounds but who had no political tie-up with the UNP could obtain redress. (I was chairman of the Police Inspectors Association at the time). I was told quite categorically that the committee was only interested in "Our People". And that is how it happened. Thereafter not only those who joined the UNP prior to the general elections but those who toed the line to favour the UNP after it came into power, unethically and even illegally, also used the same means to climb over their colleagues and seniors. In many instances the grounds urged for claiming political victimization have been false, but facts were never relevant.

Better administration in the Police service was expected with the change of government in 1994. But political promotions under cover of redress for political victimization continued regardless of facts or ethics reaching the height of absurdity.

Not only officers within the force but several senior officers who had retired on their own and were very lucratively employed also came back through the same opening, gained promotions and would retire again with enhanced pensions (from public funds). There is another category smart enough to benefit from both sides. This is proof that what many politicians want are experts in the game.

A case in point is an officer who received massive monetary rewards unlawfully and was promoted over 18 officers senior to him by President Premadasa, without the recommendation of the lGP, now in grander style continuing on a contract as well. The President is well advised to beware of these elements.With the machinations in the Police service working as narrated above, and the Defence Secretary himself backed by enough and more stooges in the senior police ranks joining the fray, the ground is well set for absolute mayhem of the law and order situation. Violation of fundamental rights of political opponents and media men on the part of the Defence hierarchy is proof enough of this serious and sorry situation, recent Supreme Courts Judgements not withstanding. My mind goes back with nostalgia to the period prior to the 1960s when discipline and knowledge of the law and police orders, were given the utmost emphasis. Even when a new constable was censored by a magistrate's court, or an accused discharged on account of his evidence, he was immediately interdicted and charges framed against him.

Notes in Police information books were closely scrutinized and it was a must that the purpose or allegation was explained to the suspect at the time of a search or arrest and a note made to that effect. Such purpose or allegation explained to him had to be reflected in the statement of the suspect as well. Officers who served at the Galle Police station in the late fifties will recall Sub Inspector Nanayakkara, a tall gaunt weather-beaten policemen, with a handle-bar moustache. He was in charge of training. He would check the information books meticulously and mark any mistakes or shortcomings with a red or blue pencil with a marking similar to the question mark or the "Kombu", in the Sinhala alphabet.

Imposition writing and adverse entries in the personal files which affected their conformation and seniority in the service, followed. The "Kombus" were very much feared by Police recruits and so was the OIC training, that SI Nanayakkara himself; earned the name "Kombu". Coincidentally his moustache too resembled a "Kombu".

Today we find senior police officers allegedly driven by political expediency, conveniently forgetting the basics of law and procedure. Who then is there to pass down proper instructions to the policemen on the ground? Dreadful portents are ahead.

* The writer served as Director, Special Investigations (IG's Secretariat), Director, Special Branch, PSO to IGP, Director, handling Grievances of Policemen, the Vice Squad and in several key posts in the Police Service.

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