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Church slams promotion of tainted officer

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Deshabandu Tennakoon has been indicted in presidential inquiry for failing to prevent the Easter Sunday bombings

(UCAN) The Catholic Church officials along with rights activists have criticized the appointment of an officer accused of negligence during the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings as new Inspector General of Police (IGP).Deshabandu Tennakoon was promoted to the post of Acting IGP by President Ranil Wickremasinghe on Nov. 29 after the retirement of C. D. Wickramaratne from the post.

“We strongly reject the appointment as the biggest insult to the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.

The condemnation was conveyed to the media by Father Cyril Gamini, official media spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Colombo, at a press conference on Nov. 29.

In the violence that shocked the island nation, bombs exploded inside three churches and three luxury hotels killing 273 people and more than 500 injured. The victims included foreigners.

“If people like the new IGP had done their duty properly, those 273 innocent people would still be alive today,” Gamini told the media.

The Police Media Division stated the appointment was made by President Wickremasinghe exercising the powers vested in him. The decision was made after Wickramaratne’s retirement on Nov. 25, following four service extensions.

Gamini, who is also the spokesperson for the Easter Attack Committee of the Sri Lankan Church, described the decision as a “barbaric act.”

“The Presidential Commission of Inquiry has indicted Tennakoon for failing to prevent the Easter Sunday bombings, but till now, no such investigation has been carried out [against him],” the priest said.

Critics, including church and rights activists, also raised concerns about other charges against the police officer, such as his failure to prevent a mob attack on the Aragalaya (people’s struggle) in July 2022.

“It is evident that the President’s appointment is geared towards safeguarding the interests of several power-hungry individuals within his circle, including the minister responsible for public safety and police,” alleged Gamini.

He reminded the media of the accusation that Tennakoon had allegedly used undue influence to transfer money found inside the President’s House to the minister of public safety and police without placing it under court custody.

As reported in the media, millions of rupees in cash were left behind by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he fled his official residence in the capital in July 2022.

Protesters discovered 17.85 million rupees (about $50,000) in crisp new banknotes but turned it over to police after storming the Presidential palace.

The cash was taken over by the police and was to be produced in court but Tennakoon reportedly instructed the officer-in-charge at Fort Police Station to hand over the cash to the minister.

“We observe that the President, by appointing an individual accused of such actions as the IGP, demonstrates a lack of concern for the safety of the people in the country,” Gamini remarked.

Cardinal Ranjith and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka had urged the president, through letters and petitions, to refrain from nominating Tennakoon for the position of IGP.

They highlighted that widespread opposition to the appointment exists across among rights activists, professionals including lawyers, and citizens.

“The issue lies not with an individual but with the quality and trust associated with the position,” said Father Rohan Silva, an Oblate Priest who has been fighting for justice for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks.

He said the appointment of Tennakoon “will be a disaster for the country.”

The appointment now needs to be approved by a Constitutional Council, a ten-member body including the parliament’s Speaker, Prime Minister, Opposition leader and representatives from civil society.

After his appointment, the new IGP attended a religious ceremony at the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo and spoke to the media afterward.

 “Dealing with national security is top on my priority list. The second priority is to eliminate the drug situation in the country,” Tennakoon said.



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“Operation ‘Yukthiya’ will persist despite pressure” – Minister of Public Security

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(PMD)

 

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